Even though it’s now Sunday night so I’m 24 hours late, I decided to do the Saturday Night challenge. The question on Genea-Musings Saturday Night Genealogy fun was to decide which of my genealogy research adventures in 2011 was my “very best” and to write about it.
My most exciting find of 2011 was discovering a newspaper article that validated my family’s oral history that my great great grandmother, Eliza Allen and her daughter Mary came off of the plantation of Colonel Edmund Harrison. My cousin Margaret and I looked for years for something to prove the connection without any luck. You can read all about it in my blog post here. My only regret is that Margaret is no longer here to share my find.
Yesterday someone sent me a small newspaper item about my great grandmother on the Cleage side, visiting her children in Indianapolis in 1914. Then I read a blog post on Reclaiming Kin about breaking down a brick wall with a newspaper article. This sent me searching newspapers on The Genealogy Bank. I expected to find more of the little society items about teas and meetings I have found in the past. I found several interesting articles, One about a horse owned by Victor Tulane putting it’s hoof through a car window and a photograph of my mother selling tickets to a church dance in 1951. I started putting in the names I don’t usually look for, like my grandmother Fannie Turner. I found two articles about her which I will share later. Then I put in Edmund Harrison’s name.
Oral history tells us that Col. Edmund Harrison of Montgomery owned my 2x great grandmother, Eliza, during slavery. My cousin Margaret McCall Thomas Ward searched for decades to find something that would prove this. I joined her search in 2002 but we were unable to find anything … until I came across the article below about Margaret’s father, James McCall. It is that written record! I really, really wish I could call Margaret and tell her what I found but she has been gone for almost 4 years now. This is just a short part of the article, it was a very long article with many poems included.
James Edward McCall, A Montgomery Negro Boy, Is an Intellectual Prodigy
“Blind Tom” of Literature Writes Clever Poetry, None of Which Has Ever Before Been Published—Lost His Eyesight by Hard Study.
The Montgomery Advertiser, March 28, 1904. “Young McCall’s thoughts are high. He is a muscian as well as a poet, and his happiest hours are spent in solitude with his thoughts which are ever bright and cheerful nonwithstanding his affliction. James Edward McCall is the oldest son of Ed McCall, for twenty-three years a cook at the Montgomery police station and one of the best known and most respected negroes in Montgmery. Ed McCall was owned by W.T. McCall of Lowndes County. His aged master is still living on the old plantation and he has no truer friend or more devoted servant than Ed McCall. The mother of the young poet was Mary Allen, daughter of Doc Allen, for many years a well to do negro carpenter of Montgomery. She was owned before the war by the late colonel Edmund Harrison of this county.”
My mother wrote this as part of her family history memories for my sister and me in 1980. I am putting the whole piece here then I will reprint each sister’s section with the new information I found and corrections that needed to be made after I found descendants for most of them. My mother’s grandmother was Jennie Virginia Allen Graham. The women she writes about are her grandmother’s sisters, her great aunts. When “grandmother” is mentioned that is Jennie Virginia.
Now a word about her sisters….Aunt Willie was the oldest….married well…Victor Tulane (Tuskegee trustee and owner of a general store and many houses). He was not what you’d call a “faithful” husband, but Aunt Willie (the family said) looked the other way because he always took such good care of his wife and only child, a daughter Naomi, who was sent to Howard, married a doctor and went to live the high life in New York. Aunt Willie had a beautiful apartment over the store. Always had a maid and never worked. She was living like this when Grandmother was a struggling widow. She was the last sister to leave Montgomery. She died in New York. Her son-in-law had died, left her daughter wealthy with apartments in NY paid for, insurance, money for the education of the four children in the bank, etc. I remember shoes hand made in Italy being in the boxes of impossible things she sent mother. They were always distant “rich relations”. Don’t remember even seeing any of the children except one young woman who came to Detroit briefly, stayed with Margaret McCall. Saw Aunt Willie once. She and Aunt Abbie came to visit us when I was small. Don’t remember her saying much or ever smiling while Aunt Abbie was as you remember her, friendly.
Aunt Abbie married a Mississippi Riverboat gambler, swarthy and handsome and no good, who stayed home on two visits long enough to give her two sons and then sent her trunks of fine clothes to wear or sell to take care of herself and the boys. Whenever she talked about him she sounded like she hated him. She resented the lack of money. Said once the oldest boy Earl (named for his father) screamed for days with toothache and she could not take him to the dentist who didn’t want any fancy clothes or jewelry. She resented raising the children alone. I got the feeling she hated them and they hated her and she resented him being off having a good time while she stayed home with the problems. She talked about him In a completely different way than she talked about her Jewish policeman who bought her a house on Ripley St. and spent much time there, for whom she loved to cook and keep house.
She came to live with Mother to take care of Daddy (!) so Mother could come to Springfield and help me when Kris was born. In later years when they lived on Fairfield, Mother and Daddy used to argue about this and they would call me in to referee. He’d say he took Aunt Abbie in out of the goodness of his heart like all the rest of her family, and that she was not supposed to stay on them forever but was to go live with Aunt Margaret. Mother would say Aunt Abbie came to take care of him because (here she would make a mouth at me) he could not take care of himself and work even tho he could cook better than she and do everything else in the house too. I think we are always angered at the way men can say this is the limit. I can’t or I won’t do this or that and we seem to have lives where you do what is to be done since you have no one who will hear you if you say you can’t or won’t…hold my hand Charlie Brown! And that he knew very well she was going to live with them and visit Margaret occasionally. Mother was right. He said Aunt Abbie came to have cataracts operated and to be taken care of. He was wrong. Her eye operations came years later. He said to me once that he had always taken care of Mother’s people and she would have nothing to do with his. I know how Grandmother depended on him to fix things around their house and he was most agreeable and I always thought he loved it. They made over him when he came with his box of tools. I was always there as helper, but he got very tired and mistreated about having both Alice and Aunt Abbie to take care of. He didn’t like either one. But I never could get him to send them to a nursing or residence home to live. He always said what would people say if I did that. When people talk like that I give up because they are obviously making the choice they prefer.
Back to Aunt Abbie. She loved to cook and do everything else about the house. Mother would not let her do anything except clean her own room and do her own washing and ironing and Mother hated everything about housekeeping except cooking, but she said her husband expected her to take care of him and his house and (she didn’t say this) she’d be damned if she’d let anyone else do it as long as she could. I couldn’t talk to her about it.
Aunt Anna was the sister who went to Chicago, got a job as teller in a bank, married the bank manager who was a widower with children. He knew she was black but no one else in his family ever did. I’ve often wondered what they did for birth control. They were young when they married. He was well to do. She used to write Mother and Mother would write back c/o general post office. Said she loved him but felt very lonely all the time not to be able to see her family and knew the children would have nothing to do with her if they knew. She was supposed to look like Margaret McCall. She got sick. Wrote Mother she was not to live long. That there might be no more letters. That she would dearly love to die with her family He had died years before…had left his money to her…had asked her to promise to stay near the children to pass so they would not be embarrassed…and leave the money to them. She promised and told mother she had made her bed and would lie in it to the end but would surely see them in Heaven. Mother was the only one she wrote to. The rest would not answer letters. That was the last letter.
Aunt Mary married someone named James McCall whom I never knew. Also never heard anyone say who he was or what he did. As I write this it strikes me that the men these sisters married were for the most part very shadowy creatures. I’ve seen a picture even of only one. Strange. Aunt Mary looked rather like Aunt Abbie but was quiet and rather grim, I thought. Lived with Aunt Margaret and her son Uncle Jim all her life as far as I know. I think Aunt Mary helped with money although I don’t know where she got it. Uncle Jim, her son, was blind. There were two children, Margaret and Victoria, and no help from the state. He caned chairs and wrote poetry for a living. I think they were very poor but did better when the state helped blind people And they got enough money from somewhere to buy the Detroit Tribune and make money.
Aunt Beulah who looked something like Grandmother, I’ve heard, married someone named Pope and went to Milwaukee. Don’t know what he did or what she was like. Never saw her. Sent one son through dental school Robert Pope. Very handsome, his twin sister, a beauty married well, had one child the one who kept pushing me around when they came to visit us. I must have been about four, so was he, and he wanted to follow MV everywhere and not let me come. I went anyway. I remember him banging my head against the wall beside the stairs. Strange. He especially hated me because I could cut up my own meat and his mother wouldn’t even let him try. Ha ha!!! Another son of Aunt Beulah was a teacher who married had one daughter who wrote once to Mother and Daddy about family history. Wonder what she got together. I keep hoping to find someone who has already done all the hard work. Back to Aunt Beulah, who was considered the least beautiful of the sisters. Her son Robert built her a beautiful home and stayed there with her until she died not too long ago. Ten or twelve years. They all spoke of her with envy.
This is an email conversation that took place between Janis M. and me. We shared a cousin, Margaret McCall. It was from information that Janis gave me from her mother that let me piece together the story of Eliza and her first daughter, Mary. It was so exciting to have the story unfold through her mother’s memories and the records I found online and things my mother had told me. Both Margaret and Janis’ mother Sayde have died. It was really one of those strange happenings where people are in the right place at the right time and can share the important information. Margaret and Sadye were related through the daughters Milton Saffold had with their grandmothers during and soon after slave times.
Date: Thu, 16 Oct 2003 Hi Janis,
You talked to my sister, Pearl, recently in Chicago at a book signing and gave her a chart. Have you ever been in touch with Margaret or Victoria? I can fill in the missing information for you from Mary McCall’s side. This past year I’ve been doing some research for Margaret about Milton Saffold. I found he married the daughter of Col. Edmund Harrison, who was the owner of Eliza Harrison who was Mary’s mother. Eliza’s mother was also named Annie and I remember my great-great aunt Abbie, who was Mary McCall’s half sister, saying that Annie was African but I can’t find a record yet of anyone before the 1870 census. Margaret and I have been trying to find some records to place Eliza and Annie on the Harrison plantation. I was wondering, after seeing your chart, if maybe they, or Eliza went with Harrison’s daughter (Eliza was also his daughter) when she married Saffold. Do you have access to any records from slave times for the Saffolds?
Eliza married Dock Allen and they raised 9 children. How do you know about Mary being a Saffold? Margaret said it was all very hush hush when she was growing up and it’s making it very hard to find information now.
Let me know if you want more complete info for Mary and descendants. I’m so glad you saw Pearl! I will pass on any information you send me to Margaret. Right now I’m at my daughter’s in Seattle helping her with her newborn twins and most of my information is back in Michigan but I’ve got all the basic info on Dock Allen and Eliza. Looking forward to hearing from you. Kristin
Date: Thu, 16 Oct 2003 22:45:31 EDT Hi, Kristin: Wow, I will have to contact my cousin in Birmingham. He is the family historian and if any information is forthcoming about the Saffolds it would be from him. I only know that Milton Saffold was my maternal grandmother’s father. Seems the judge “traveled” a lot! Will send my cousin your email and hopefully he can help us out.
As it is late, I will have to take in all that you have written tomorrow. Janis
Date: Thu, 16 Oct 2003 22:58:25 EDT Kristin: Forgot to tell you that I talked to Pearl at a reading in Bowie, Maryland. No, I haven’t talked to any other member of your family. My mother, Sadye Harris James told me that you have a relative who lives near me in a neighborhood called Kettering. She is the daughter of Hugo Howard. If this is accurate, I would like to contact her. My Mom got this information from Margaret Ward this past August. Until then I never knew that Milton Saffold had any children other than Mattie (my grandmother), and Frank. I look forward to you filling in the blanks in my chart. Janis
Date: Fri, 17 Oct 2003 10:09:29 -0700 (PDT) Janis, That would be great if your cousin can give me some more information. I’ll get the information I have together and email it later today. I’ll also check with another cousin of mine who grew up in Chicago and might know about the daughter of Hugo Howard and let you know. Kris
Date: Sat, 18 Oct 2003 10:03:20 EDT Hi Kristin, I spoke with my mother, Sadye Harris James, the last surviving child of Mattie Saffold Harris. Mom told me that in l933 she visited her sister Blanche in Chicago. Blanche was living in an apartment building owned by Tillie and her husband Dr. Howard. Tillie and her husband lived in a unit of the building. Blanche told my mother that Tillie’s mother, Mary McCall, was visiting from Mississippi, and that she looked like their mother, Mattie. She was described as a little “white lady” dressed in a long white old-fashioned looking dress. (My mother only saw her from a distance). When Sadye returned home to Birmingham, she told her mother about Mary McCall. Mattie said she knew about a Mary McCall, and that she was her half sister. Mattie decided to visit Mary in Chicago and confirmed that indeed she was Mary Saffold McCall.
This seems to be in conflict with your information. According to your records, Mary McCall was the child of Eliza Harrison and Dock Allen. Perhaps Milton Saffold fathered Mary and Dock Allen reared her as his own. By the way, Mattie was born in Selma, Alabama. Janis
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2003 22:05:05 -0800 (PST) Hi Janis, Today I decided to look for Eliza in the 1860 census as a free person in Dallas county. I searched by her first name since I have looked in Montgomery and Lowndes county before with various last names. I found a 25 year old Eliza Williams with a 3 year old Mary Williams in Dallas county living with a 27 year old woman named Nancy Morgan and several of her children. All are listed as white. But Williams is the last name of Anne, Eliza’s mother and they are the right ages. It wouldn’t be the first time family members were listed in the census as white.
Now I need to find out who Nancy Morgan is and connect her with the Saffolds or Harrisons. Another day. Nancy Morgan appears in the 1860, 1870 and 1880 census. She is listed as single in the first two but always has another child or two and in the last one she’s listed as widowed. She doesn’t have any occupation listed. Eliza Williams isn’t listed again as Eliza Williams but appears as Eliza Allen with her husband, Dock Allen. Her mother, Annie Williams lived with them in 1870 and with Mary McCall in 1880.
Anyway, I’m going to bed. Just wanted to share that. Kris
2005 – Janis taped an interview with her mother Sayde. In it she talked about her mother and Mary McCall being half sisters and their meeting in Chicago.
“Sadye: Okay. It was the summer of 1933 when Walter, my brother and I drove in his V-8 Ford (It was red) to Cincinnati where he married Edna Gaither and from that we went to Chicago to visit Blanche, my sister, and there she said to me, “Sayde, there’s a little old lady up on the third floor and she sits on the back porch and I think she looks a lot like Mama. And I’d like for you to meet her.” So I went out in the backyard and looked up on the 3rd floor and there she sat in her long white dress and white hair, but I don’t remember ever being introduced to her. However her granddaughters Margaret and Victoria McCall, they came to visit their Aunt Tillie Howard and I got to meet them, but I never did meet Miss Marry Saffold McCall. No her name was not McCall….her name was McCall. So Mama went up to Chicago, not just to see this woman that was one of the highlights of her visit to Blanch. I don’t think it was that summer, but may have been the next summer. And they had quite a delightful celebration because they were half sisters. And I remember Mama telling me she had a half sister named Mary in Mississippi. And I could not understand a half sister in Mississippi, but as time progressed I realized that her father, Judge Saffold, made visitations involving his work as a circuit court judge and this took him to a part of Mississippi. Now who the mother was of Mary, I have no idea. Perhaps Victoria or Margaret will have some information as to who was the mother of Mary.”
I still haven’t found out who Nancy Morgan is. I did find a marriage certificate between a Nancy Wiggins and an Isom Morgan in Dallas County. William Wiggins was the overseer of Edmund Harrison in the 1850 census but I haven’t found any records connecting William with Nancy yet.
When I attended cousin Victoria McCall Davenport’s 90th birthday celebration in Detroit she told me that her grandmother Mary told her she was about 10 at freedom. This fits in with the child Mary in the 1860 census.