In 2011 a genealogy friend of mine, Megan Heyl of Hunting Down History, was helping me find the death date and place for my great grandfather, Louis Cleage. She wrote to the Indianapolis Public Library and asked librarian Mike Perkins if he could tell us anything. At the time, he could not. However, on October 6, 2015, he sent a copy of Louis Cleage’s death notice from the Indianapolis Star. That is 4 years later!
I wondered what was happening on the day he died. Using Newspapers.com, I was able to locate the full issue of The Indianapolis Star for February 7, 1918 and find out. The first thing I noticed when looking at the full list of deaths for that day, was that 6 of the 11 people that died, died of pneumonia. Below is a collage made from articles and advertisements in that day’s issue of The Indianapolis Star.
In 1880 my great grandfather Louis Cleage was 28. His wife Celia (Rice) Cleage was 24. They were farming in Loudon County Tennessee. They had been married for 8 years and were the parents of four children – 7 year old Josie, 5 year old Jacob, 3 year old Henry and 1 year old Edward. Louis’ 20 year old sister, Tennessee lived with them along with 5 year old Louseny. Their 5th child, my grandfather Albert, would not be born until 1882. None of the adults could read or write. The children were too young to attend school.
The 1880 Agricultural Census Schedule that includes Louis Cleage are in poor condition. Parts of it are unreadable because they are blackened. Other parts are pale and blurry making them difficult to read. This is the information I could make out. He rented his land for shares of his crops. He had 15 tillable acres and 5 acres in woodland and forest. The farm, buildings, land and fences were worth $150. Farm implements and machinery were worth $125. The livestock was worth $125. He had 1 milch cow and produced 25 lbs of butter in 1879. I was unable to read if he had any swine, chickens, mules or horses, I hope he did. He had no working oxen. He planted 25 acres of Indian corn, yielding 100 bushels. He planted 5 acres of oats, yielding 25 bushels and 5 acres of wheat that yielded 25 bushels.
As I was going over the 1880 Agricultural Census for Louis Cleage, I noticed some differences with my 2X great grandfather on my mother’s side, Joe Turner in Lowndes County, AL. When I compared population censuses, farmers who owned enough land to be included in the agricultural census were further apart in Lowndes County. There were many farm laborers enumerated in between. The farmers in Loundon County TN were right next to each other in the population schedule. Farm holdings were also smaller in Loudon County than in Lowndes County, AL. I may go into this more in a future post.
By 1991, The Cleages were back in Athens, McMinn County. This post Louis Cleage – Work Day Wednesday follows Louis through the following decades as he worked in the mines of Birmingham, AL and as a railroad hand.
Police brutality was a problem in 1963, as it is today. Today I am sharing an issue of the Illustrated News that covered a demonstration held in front of the Detroit police station, then at 1300 Beaubien. The protest was against the killing of Cynthia Scott, an unarmed woman. She was shot in the back. The demonstration was peaceful and there was no interference by the police. The article says there were 2,500 people at the protest. Also “We wonder if a grand jury investigation might not clear the air and throw some light upon the police brutality practiced on Negroes and why such shootings never come to trial.” And that is something people are still wondering today. There was no investigation and the officer was not charged. Click on all pages to enlarge enough to read them.
My Great Great Grandfather, Frank Cleage, was born around 1816 into slavery, in North Carolina. By 1834, Frank was enslaved on the plantation of Samuel Cleage in McMinn County, TN. Samuel Cleage and his traveling group of family and slaves passed through North Carolina moving from Virginia to Tennessee in the 1820s. Perhaps he picked up Frank as payment for one of the fine brick houses he sold along the way. After Samuel’s death, Frank went to his son, Alexander Cleage, as part of the estate. The photographs of the slave owners came from my cousin. I do not know their original source. I do not have a picture of Frank Cleage and have no stories about him. I decided to use a photograph of my Grandfather Albert B. Cleage Sr and his siblings – the first generation of black Cleages to be born free, next to some of the bricks from a Cleage building, built during savery, in McMinn County as the header for this story.
The earliest mention I have of Frank is in a work agreement between Samuel Cleage and his overseer in – “Article of Agreement – 1834“. It includes the paragraph below which mentions Frank. Click on any of the images below to enlarge. Click on links to see full document.
“… to keep the hands his Cleage’s negroes employed and make them work as would be right to correct them when they deserve but not to be cruel or abuse them but make them do their duty and not suffer them to run about from the farm at nights. The hands or negroes are Bill, Henry, Joe, Frank, Lea, Fannie, two little boys and Peter. Bill is not to be a hand until his master Cleage directs as he is stiller and is to remain in the still house which Cleage carrys (sic) on stilling. …”
My Great Great Grandmother, Juda is first mentioned in the Will of Jemima Hurst Cleage’s father, Elijah Hurst. He gave her 4 slaves, including Juda. Alexander Cleage and Jemima Hurst married November 22, 1832. Juda and Jemima would both have been about 19 years old. Although I have found no record proof at this time, I believe that Juda and the other slaves were part of Jemima’s dowery.
“Dec. 2, 1844
… 7th I will and bequeath to my daughter Jemima Cleage and her heirs forever the four negroes she has had possession of Big Anny, Judi, Jane, and Matilda together with all the other property I have given her …”
Frank is mentioned again in the 1852 Bill of Sale after the death of Samuel Cleage and the division of his slaves and property between his children and wife. David Cleage, Walter Nutter and Elizabeth Cleage Nutter sold Frank to their brother, Alexander Cleage.
“Know all men by these presents that one David Cleage and Walter Nutter and his wife Elizaeth H. Nutter, have this day bargained and sold to Alexander Cleage and his heirs and assigns forever, Joe forty four years of age, Tom Eighteen, Lynd eleven, Frank thirty nine, Phillip forty, Lewis twenty six, Sam two, Martha twenty one, Lea thirty four, Julian forty three, Patey five.
For five thousand two hundred and fifty dollars being his distribution share out of the proceeds of the slaves of Samuel Cleage deceased, We warrant said negroes to be slaves for life and that we as the heirs, at law of Samuel Cleage have a right to convey them.
Given under our hands and seals this 20th day of March 1852.”
In 1860, Alexander Cleage wrote his Will. He leaves to his wife, Jemima Hurst Cleage, 13 slaves. Frank and his wife Juda and 5 of their children are in that group. Because he didn’t die until 1875, all of them were free before the will was executed.
“Second; I give and devise to my beloved wife Jemima Cleage for and during her natural life the following described negro slaves – to wit: Amy and her child a boy called Jeff, Juda and her five children to wit: Charles, Angelen, Lewis, Laura and Frank, Jane and her child Adaline and a negro man called Tom, they all being negroes that came to my said wife from her father and from her father’s estae and the increase of each negroes as she received from her father and from his estate. Also I give and devise to my wife Jemima Cleage for and during her natural life my home farm upon which I now live containing about eleven hundred and twenty five acres in addition to the negros above given to my wife for life. I also give and bequeath to her for her natural life a negro man called Frank the husband of Juda and another negro man called Tom known as Tom Lane, I also give to my said wife all my household and kitchen furniture, farming tools and farming implements, all of my livestock and provisions which may be on hand …”
The Commercial has a special dispatch from Nashville, which says:
“The Tennessee State Convention have unanimously passed a resolution declaring slavery forever abolished, and prohibiting it throughout the State.
The convention also pasted a resolution prohibiting the Legislature from recognizing property in man, and forbidding it from requiring compensation to be made to the owners of slaves.”
In 1866, soon after the end of the Civil War, Frank and Judy Cleage were legally married in Athens, TN.
In the 1870 Census Frank was living with his wife, Juda and six children, including my great grandfather, in Athens, Tennessee. I had been looking for my grandfather’s father, Lewis Cleage and found this census record on Ancestry.com. Although this Lewis was the right age, and there were no other Lewis Cleages anywhere in the right age range, I had no name for his father and relationships are not specified in the 1870 census. He could have been living with his uncle and aunt, I didn’t know.
Frank, age 54, worked as a laborer, was born in N. Carolina and nobody in the household could read or write. Juda, age 56, was keeping house. Their personal estate was worth $300. Juda and all the children were born in Tennessee. The children were Adaline 14, Lewis 16, Laura 11, Phillip 9 and Andy 7. There was no Charles or Frank mentioned, although there was a Charles Cleage living elsewhere in Athens, TN, I don’t know for sure if he was the Charles mentioned as one of Juda’s children in Alexander’s Will. Aside from Lewis Cleage, I cannot find family members again after this census. Did they change their names? Die in one of the several epidemics of cholara and yellow fever that swept the county during the 1870s? Believe me, I’ve tried every permutation of “Cleage” and searched page by page the McMinn County 1880 Census and the one for Louden county, where I find Lewis and Celia and their children living in 1880.
After searching a variety of spellings of Cleage, I was able to track Lewis Cleage from job to job and location to location up through the 1910 Census. I could find no death certificate for him. I finally found him living at the same address as his daughter, Josie Cleage and her family in Indianapolis, IN in 1918, while researching at the Indianapolis Library where I could check each Directory, year by year, on microfich. Frank Cleage’s name appears on my great grandfather, Louis Cleage’s death certificate. Jacob Cleage, my grandfather’s older brother was the informant. He did not remember Louis’ mother Juda’s name or where his grandparents were born. This, along with the Will of Alexander Cleage of 1860, documnted the names of my Great Great Grandparents, Frank and Juda Cleage.
The two photographs below were taken in 1918 and feature my father, two of his younger brothers and a family friend. The water in the background of the second photo made me think they were taken on Belle Isle or perhaps across the Detroit River in Canada. I thought that I would be able to place the photos by using the cannon in the second picture. I was able to find several cannons in the Detroit area, unfortunately none looked like the one in the photo. The presence of a family friend makes me think it was taken in Detroit and not on a family trip to another state. At least it was labeled with names and dates.
In 1940 my grandparents and family were living at 6429 Scotten at the corner of Moore Place. They owned the house and it was worth $5,000. They had lived in the same place in 1935 and in fact had been there for over 20 years as all the girls in the family were born in that house. My grandfather was a medical doctor in private practice at the Cleage Clinic. The amount of money he made in 1939 was a crossed out number, replaced with “0”. He was the informant, that is he is the one that talked to the census taker and gave them the information on the form.
My grandfather was 56 years old, born in Tennessee with plus 5 years of college. My grandmother was 50, born in Kentucky with 4 years of high school. My father was 28, born in Indiana, had plus 5 years of college and was absent from the home. All the other children were born in Michigan. Louis was 26, had plus 5 years of college and absent from the home. Henry was 24 and had 5 years of college. Hugh was 21 and had 2 years of college. Barbara was 19 and had completed 1 year of college. Gladys was 17 and had completed 4 years of high school. Anna was 15 and had completed 2 years of high school.
All of the children were in school. Anna was still attending Northwestern High school. Gladys had graduated in 1939 and was a freshman at Wayne State University. Henry, Hugh and Barbara must have been at Wayne. Louis graduated from Wayne State medical school in 1940 and was doing a residency at Homer Philips in St. Louis. My father graduated from Wayne in 1938 and was in the seminary at Oberlin College.
Source: 1940 U.S. Census. State: Michigan. County: Wayne. City: Detroit. Ward 14. Enumeration Districe: 84-787. Sheet number: 11-A. Head of household and informant: Dr. Albert B. Cleage. To see the census sheet for the Albert Cleage family click HERE.
I hadn’t realized that one of my grandmother sisters and all of my grandfather’s living siblings lived within walking distance of their house. I have labeled their houses, Northwestern High School, Wingert Elementary School and the Cleage Clinic. I sort of knew this, but I didn’t realize it until I mapped it out after finding everybody in the same neighborhood. In future posts I will share what I learned about each household in 1940.
Lewis Cleage is one of my ancestors that I do not have a photograph of. Below is a photograph of his wife, Celia Rice Sherman holding their granddaughter Barbara Cleage Martin.
This photograph includes their five children. In the front are Albert B. Cleage Sr. (my grandfather), Josephine (Josie) Cleage and Edward Cleage. Behind Albert is Henry and behind Edward is Jacob (Jake).
Below are several descriptions and stories of Lewis by grandchildren who never met him.
Lewis Cleage and Celia were married and had young children. One of them was grandfather Cleage. Lewis C. worked all day for 50 cents. Celia worked all week for 50 cents. He often spent his on good times before he got home. Many nights he spent in jail – drunk – playing the guitar and singing! One evening she waited for him where he worked so she could get him and the money home before he spent it. He had had a drink or two and was cussing and threatening her as they went down a country road toward home. She was hanging on to him and crying. A passing white man stopped them, cursed Lewis, told him to stop abusing his wife, etc. And if he heard in future about him abusing her, he would find him and kill him. They never saw him again, until…
About twenty years later Celia was on the train going to see her children – who were now grown with children of their own. A white man on the train spoke to her. Asked if she wasn’t the same woman he had seen on the country road, etc., etc., and asked how she was!
Thought you would enjoy this. Louis remembers everything – knows lots of good stories.
Story by Louis Cleage (grandson) as told to Doris Graham Cleage. 1-29-79
Grandfather Louis: Tall, big-boned man in stature, heavy voice, coarse hair.
As described by Juanita Cleage Martin (granddaughter) in her writing “Memories to Memoirs” 1990
Lewis Cleage was a large, dark skinned man. He spent a lot of time playing his guitar, drinking and landing in jail. They could hear him in the cabin over at the jail, singing and playing the guitar. He’d get drunk, they’d throw him in jail.He was born in Louden, Tennessee and was shot early on, leaving Celia a widow.
As described by Henry W. Cleage (grandson) to Kristin Cleage Williams 1990s
According to his death certificate, Lewis Cleage didn’t die until 1918 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He died of Lobar pneumonia. I think I need to figure out how to find court records and see if I can find him there.
Louis Cleage was my paternal great grandfather. Lewis was born into slavery about 1852 in McMinn County Tennessee on the plantation of Alexander Cleage. I first found him in the 1870 Census in McMinn county, TN living with his family. His age was listed as 16 and he was neither employed nor in school. His father, Frank, was a laborer.
By 1880 Louis was married to my great grandmother, Celia Rice Cleage, and 4 of his 5 children had been born. My grandfather, Albert, would not be born until 1882. Louis’ age was listed as 28 and he was farming in Loudon County, Tennessee.
By 1900 Louis and Celia were no longer together. Celia lived in Athens, Tennessee with her second husband, Roger W. Sherman. The children lived with her and were attending school. Louis was working as a furnace laborer in the iron and steel industry that had grown up in Birmingham, AL. He had not been unemployed during the past year.
According to The Encyclopedia of Alabama: “The companies kept labor costs low by employing black workers, who came from depressed agricultural areas and supplied cheap labor. And the coal used to fire the furnaces was largely mined by forced convict labor leased to the companies at very low rates by the state and county governments.”
In the 1910 Census Louis Cleage was in the Chattanooga, Tennessee area working as a railroad laborer. He was enumerated in a railroad camp. He was listed as 54 years old and had been in his second marriage for 11 years. He was a wage worker and has not been unemployed during the past year, including the day before this census was taken, April 29, 1910. At age 54, there were only two men in the camp older than he was – 56 year old Lee McConnel and 70 year old Fate Parker. Most of the men are in their 20s and 30s with a good number in their late teens.
Louis could neither read nor write according to all the censuses. On his death certificate in 1918 his occupation is listed as laborer. His children all finished high school. Several of his sons graduated from college. My grandfather, grew up to be a physician. Uncle Edward was a barber with his own shop. Uncle Henry was a teacher and, after his move north, a postal worker. Uncle Jake (Jacob) was a teacher and, after moving to Detroit, a Wayne County deputy.
Several weeks ago Megan Heyl took this photograph of my great grandfather Louis Cleage’s burial spot in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana. He doesn’t have a headstone and neither do the people buried around him. I think it looks very peaceful. So many of my ancestors do not have headstones. I really appreciate Megan and her husband taking their time to photograph the burial spots for me.
I recently found out that my Great Grandfather Louis Cleage died in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1918 through a listing for Crown Hill Cemetery. I previously found him listed in the 1918 Indianapolis City Directory living son Jacob Cleage.
The death certificate says he died in Marion County, Indianapolis, Center Township at City Hospital and his full name is Louis Cleage. He was Colored and widowed. He was born in 1852 in Tennessee. He was a laborer. According to the informant, his son Jacob Cleage, Louis’ father’s name was Frank. Mother’s name unknown.
There was an autopsy performed and he died on February 7, 1918 in the P.M. of Lobar Pneumonia. His son Jacob lived at 925 Camp Street and Louis’ last address is listed as 828 Camp. He was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery Feb. 8, 1918.
What new information did I learn or have confirmed from this death certificate? I found that his father’s name was Frank Cleage. In the 1870 US Census Louis Cleage, born around 1852, was living with an older adult named Frank Cleage in Athens, TN. I assumed that Frank was Louis’ father, but relationships were not noted in the 1870 US Census.