Mershell Cunningham Graham Jr was born at 7:45 pm on June 10 in 1921, a Friday, He was the first son and second child of Mershell and Fannie (Turner) Graham. He was delivered at Dunbar Hospital by Dr. Turner. Mershell was a big baby, weighing 8 1/2 pounds. He joined older sister, 14 month old Mary Virginia. Twenty months later his younger sister, my mother Doris, was born.
Mershell was an active boy, falling down the clothes chute and breaking a window during a game of “who can hit their head against the window the hardest” with his younger sister, Doris. In family photographs, he shows no fear of the ferocious puppy or the family chickens.
On November 1, 1927, he was hit by a truck on his way back to school after lunch. He died just after midnight on November 2. My sister, cousins and I grew up with warnings to be careful crossing the street and to remember what happened to Mershell.
My mother wrote on the page of practice writing above “Mother teaching him to write his name.”
1920 was the first election that my grandmothers, Fannie Mae Turner Graham and Pearl Doris Reed Cleage, were able to vote. It was also the first election in which my grandfather Mershell C. Graham was able to vote. Before that election he lived in Alabama, where black people did not have the vote until the 1960s.
My grandfather Albert B. Cleage had been living in the north since 1907, and so would have been able to vote in the 1908, 1912, 1916 and 1920 elections.
Family members who still lived in Tennessee and Alabama, men or women, still could not vote in the 1920 election.
With all the voting rights and demonstrations happening during the 1960s, I cannot believe I never talked to my grandparents about how they felt when they could finally vote.
The 1920 election seemed to be about as confused and contentious as today’s election.
This has been some cold day, but we went to church this A.M. and heard a splendid sermon on “Thanksgiving.” Rev. Scott never spoke better. He’s really great. The people never will appreciate him until he’s gone. Last Sunday was Harvest and it was fairly good. Might have been better but for the flu. They realized $12.50 from it. Our club held it’s first meeting last Friday evening at Madaline’s. She put on a strut, too. We certainly had a good time. We are all feeling okay. Mama is so much better, though she complains yet.
Now, Shell, about your question. Willie Lee and several others have been telling me that we were to get married for a month or more. I’ve been wondering where it all came from. I know you wrote me some time ago that you had “something to tell me,” but I never dreamed it was on this subject. It’s all okay though and if you will overlook my deficiencies, I’ll say yes. You know you like good cooking and I’d have to learn to do that, even after working in a grocery store all my life. Ha, ha! Now that you know about my inability as a cook does it shock you? Just let me know what you think about it.
Now, Shell, please don’t write any of this to any one, for it’s our own business and we can keep them guessing awhile longer. What do you say? Do this for me as a special request.
Well, dear, I’m so sleepy that I can’t write longer so you must let me off tonight with just one kiss. Ha, ha!
Being in the middle of the corona pandemic 2020, I decided to look back at my family history and see if anything was mentioned about the spanish influenza pandemic of 1918. I remembered that my grandmother wrote in a letter to my grandfather that church attendance was down because of the flu.
Because my grandmother was living in Montgomery, Alabama at the time, I took a look to see what the Montgomery newspaper’s were saying about the flu in November, 1918.
The article below came out the same day as the Sunday service mentioned in the letter.
Click for more about Dr. Bell’s Pine-Tar-Honey mentioned in the advertisement above.
Time passed and ten years after yesterday’s 1939 Thanksgiving dinner, we find that Jennie Turner is in a wheelchair, having broken her hip in a fall. Her sister, Abbie Allen Brown is in town, the Graham’s are there with their daughter Mary Virginia, her husband and two children.
“Three generations were present at the festive board of Mrs. Jennie Turner on Harding ave. A delicious Thanksgiving dinner was served, which Mrs. Turner who has been an invalid for several years, enjoyed in her wheel chair, while surrounded by her daughters, Misses Daisy and Alice Turner, and her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. M. C. Graham; granddaughter and son, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Elkins, and their two children, and Mrs. Turner’s sister, Mrs. A. Brown.”
Actually Four generations were present – my great grandmother Jennie Turner and her sister Abbie, her daughters (which included my grandmother), my aunt Mary V and her daughters DD and Barbara. My mother Doris and her family (including me) were in still living in Springfield, Mass, and missed this dinner.
This year I am going through an alphabet of news items taken from The Emancipator newspaper, published between 1917 and 1920 in Montgomery, Alabama. Most are about my grandparent’s circle of friends. Each item is transcribed directly below the clipping. Click on any image to enlarge.
“Mrs. Jenine Turner Wishes to announce the engagement of her daughter, Fannie Mae, to Mr. Mershell C. Graham, of Detroit, Mich. The Marriage to take place in the spring”
On Sunday, June 15th at four o’clock Miss Fannie Turner and Mr. Mershell Graham were happily united in marriage at the home of the bride on E. Grove St. The home was prettily decorated for the occasion.
Just before the entrance of the bridal party, Mr. Lowndes Adams sang a beautiful solo, immediately after which the groom entered the parlor to the strains of Mendelson’s wedding March, with Mr. Clifton Graham, his brother, as best man. The bride entered with her uncle, Mr. V.H. Tulane, who gave her away, gowned in white satin with real lace and pearl bead trimmings the hat, a beautiful creation of white Georgette, the bride made a very pleasing appearance. She carried a large bouquet of roses and fern.
The home was crowded to its fullest capacity, fully two hundred guests being present which bespoke the esteem and popularity in which the young couple are held.
The presents were many and varied, consisting of silver, cut glass, linen, wearing apparel, money, and many useful household articles.
Rev. E.E. Scott performed the ceremony and Miss Naomi Tulane presided at the piano.
The guests were served delicious refreshments.
The happy couple left Sunday evening for Detroit, Mich., their future home.
Everybody mentioned in these articles will appear in this years challenge, plus a few others.
I found this information on Ancestry.com in Census Records, Directories, Death Records, Military Records and Marriage Records. News items were found on Newspapers.com. I also use Google Maps. The photograph is from my family photos.
My maternal grandmother, Fannie Mae Turner Graham, was born 129 years ago on March 12, 1888, in Lowndes County, Alabama. She died on August 13, 1974 in Detroit, Michigan. You can read more about my grandmother in this post Fannie Mae Turner Part 1.
I am the same age as my grandmother was when we posed together on her back steps. Looking at the photograph below of me and my granddaughter made me think about the endless circle and the passage of time.
Another photograph that I am seeing for the first time, of my maternal grandmother Fannie Mae Turner soon to be Graham. Written on the back of the postcard type photograph, it says “Fannie M. Turner before marriage”
From Left to right My grandmother, Fannie Mae Turner Graham, peeking over my greatgrandmother’s, Jennie Virginia Allen Turner’s, shoulder. My grandmother’s sister Daisy Turner. Behind and between Aunt Daisy and Aunt Alice Turner, is my aunt Mary Virginia Graham Elkins, although she was not yet an Elkins. At the end, behind Alice, is my mother, Doris Graham Cleage, although she was not yet married a Cleage either.
They are posed in Grandmother Turner’s backyard on the East Side of Detroit at 4536 Harding. The house is gone now. They look like they just came from Church, at Plymouth Congregational, however the photo is dated July 4, 1939 on the back. July 4 was on a Tuesday that year. Maybe they went on a church picnic. My grandfather, Mershell C. Graham took the picture.