Tag Archives: #McCalls

Victoria McCall interviews Eleanor Roosevelt in 1945

This article is from my Grandmother, Fannie Turner Graham’s scrap book.  It was printed in the Detroit Tribune on November 24, 1945.  Victoria’s parents, James and Margaret McCall, were the owners and operators of the Tribune. My grandmother wrote the date and my mother wrote the identifying information.

The postcard on the left shows the Book-Cadillac Hotel, where the interview took place, in the 1940.

Part of the article is missing.  I think my grandmother trimmed one side and part 2 was on the other side. I combined her pink article with a scan from online.

You can read more about the Tribune and the McCalls in this post “James Edward McCall, Poet and Publisher“.


Here is another article I found recently on Genealogy Bank about Edward McCall and his family.  I appreciate the information I find in these articles, I had been unable to find the date of Annie Belle’s marriage to Jefferson Martin before.  I appreciate the atmosphere of the times that I get but I find the condescending racism very grating.  At any rate, this article certainly gave me a picture of their large house decorated with lights and flowers and glowing for their oldest daughter’s wedding.  Annie Belle was the first of the McCall children to marry and the first of Eliza’s grandchildren to marry.  Mary Allen McCall was a fine seamstress and I’m sure the wedding gown was beautiful.  Maybe one day a photograph will surface!

Daughter of Faithful Negro Presented With Watch at her Wedding.

As a mark of respect for Ed McCall, the faithful negro who has served more than thirty years as cook at police headquarters, nineteen patrolmen and Police Captain Miles Smith attended the wedding of his daughter, Annie Belle McCall, to Jefferson Martin of Nashville, Tenn. Wednesday evening at 7 o’clock, at the residence of McCall, 336 South Jackson Street.

“Uncle Ed” McCall, as the veteran patrolmen affectionately call the old negro has reared a large family.  He owns a comfortable home and he has educated his boys and girls.  When time came for his daughter to be married he celebrated the occasion in his own pecullar way.  He signalized the approach of the event by surprising the patrolmen with a fine dinner in their honor at headquarters Wednesday evening at 6 o’clock.

The wedding was to take place at 7 o’clock at the home of the old negro on South Jackson Street, and the patrolmen had reserved a surprise for “Uncle Ed”.  They had purchased a handsome diamond encrusted watch for the daughter of the old negro on her wedding day.

When the patrolmen reached the residence of McCall they found it brilliantly lighted and decorated with artistic effect.  Annie Belle McCall has been a teacher in the State Normal School and Principal W.B. Paterson of that institution had sent exquisite flowers from his own gardens to make the residence fragrant and beautiful.

Before the wedding ceremony John W.A. Sanford, Jr, as spokesman for the police, presented the watch to the young woman.

A large number of white citizens of Montgomery attended the wedding and warmly congratulated the bride, whom they said was well worthy of every happiness that life holds.

“Uncle Ed” McCall, who is the father of James Edward McCall, the blind poet now at school in Michigan, was grateful for the kindness shown him upon this important occasion to his household.  He said that the incident merely demonstrated that where a negro was faithful to his trust he would earn the respect of the best citizens of his community.

This article appeared in The Montgomery Advertiser, November 9, 1906
For photographs and more information about Annie Belle McCall Martin and her family click Their Own Marching Band and More About Annabell’s Family.

Interview With Mignon Walker Brown & 3 Hats

This photograph is dated September 1, 1919. The people from left to right are – my Grandfather Mershell C. Graham (aka Poppy), Mrs. Hicks from Chicago and Moses L. Walker. They seem to be having a picnic. I don’t know who Mrs. Hicks is. She only appears in the photos from this day. Uncle Moses wasn’t actually our uncle. He was the uncle of our cousins and an old friend of my grandparents from Montgomery, Alabama. My grandparents roomed with the Walkers when they first moved up to Detroit in 1918 and they were my Aunt Mary V.’s Godparents.

I have transcribed below an interview my cousin Margret did with Uncle Moses daughter, Mignon.

Interview With Mignon Walker Brown

Margaret McCall Thomas Ward

Today is May 15, 1986. I am going to interview Mignon Walker Brown, my cousin, about her mother and her mother’s interest in cosmetics.

Margaret: You know, Victoria and I were over here one day about a month ago and in the conversation you described a recipe your mother used to make a face cream. Can you remember what it was she used to put in the face cream?

Mignon: Yes it was really not her recipe, it was her sister’s recipe who was a beautician in Chicago. She used lanolin, which was lamb fat. You bought the big pieces of lamb fat and you rendered them in the oven under a very slow fire (can’t understand several words) get too brown. You keep turning the fire off so it wouldn’t cook. And then when you had enough…there was a preparation called Palmer’s Skin Success. Now my aunt had a… the reason she used this in it, was she had a big beauty parlor down in the loop in Chicago…

Margaret: What was her name?

Mignon: and she had a rich Jewish cliental and they wanted their skin kind of bleached. Palmer’s Skin Success was a bleach. It was a green preparation came in a small jar that we bought, that my mother bought and you beat the lanolin with a rotary beater until it got very, very light and then you added this Palmer’s Skin Success, enough for whatever, you know, I don’t remember the proportion of that but enough to bleach as much as you wanted to. And then you added perfume to that. And that was the cream. And my mother used it and my aunt told her she was way ahead of her time because she used to go to Sweden every year to study and she used to make up her face to go to bed at night like you make it up in the daytime and this was before they had night creams and things. And she said that your face got as dirty at night, even though you were sleeping, as it did in the day, so that you should make it up to go to bed and then make it up again in the morning, which is the same principle as using night preparations. And that’s been… I was a little bitta girl then.

Margaret: And that would have been about 1920?

Mignon: Well, I was five or six and I was born in 1909. Couldn’t have been more then seven, so that would have been 1916.

Margaret: What was your mother’s maiden name?

Mignon: Owen. Jeannette Armor Owen.

(pause) It was in Chicago but I don’t remember the name of the shop.

Margaret: Did you ever visit your aunt in Chicago?

Mignon: Yes, they lived in Hyde Park. They lived as white all their lives. My mother didn’t like being white so she went back to live with her grandmother in Memphis, but Aunt Susie, there was a brother, Joe who was my mother’s half brother too, but they were siblings, full siblings, Aunt Susie and Uncle Joe lived with my grandmother in Hyde Park and Aunt Susie really made a lot of money. They never…

Margaret: What was her maiden… what was her name?

Mignon: Mausby M-a-u-s-b-y. And I didn’t know much about her father except that he ran what they called… I’m trying to think of what they … like Ferris wheels and that kind of thing. You know. What do they call those?

Margaret: Circus sideshows?

Mignon: They used to have them in neighborhoods even when we were children.

Margaret: um hum.

Mignon: And he ran those through the South. Evidently was very well off and my grandmother had divorced him and so my mother finished high school in Chicago before she went back, you know, to Memphis. The story behind that really was that my Grandmother was born about a year before Lincoln freed the slaves and she was the daughter of the plantation owner. My great-grandparents were slaves in Virginia.

Margaret: Where in Virginia?

Mignon: I don’t know where in Virginia. When the Civil War… when Lincoln freed the slaves, the man who owned the plantation called my great grandmother and her husband, her black husband, to the house and said, my great grandmother’s name was Sally, “Sally, you and Armor are free. You may do whatever you want. You may stay here and work on the plantation or you may leave but you are not taking Vicki with you because she is my child and I intend to keep her. So they left Virginia under the cover of night and took my grandmother and took her to Memphis.

She was well educated. They sent her to Oberlin to school and she taught school in Memphis and she married my mother’s father, whose name was Owen. And that’s all I know about him because he was dead when I was born.

Margaret: Who? Mr. Owen?

Mignon: Mr. Owen.

Margaret: You don’t know his first name?

Mignon: I don’t remember his first name.

Margaret: But he lived in Memphis?

Mignon: He lived in Memphis. She finally left. She, my grandmother taught school in Memphis. She finally married Mr. Mausby and moved to Chicago.

Margaret: And then by Mr. Mausby she had two children?

Mignon: She had more then two. The others died. Because I was named for one of those.

Margaret: I was going to ask you that. How did you get that beautiful name, Mignon?

Mignon: Well, she… my grandmother named one of her daughters Mignon and my mother named me that for her half sister who died when she was quite young.

Margaret: So now where did your mother and father meet?

Mignon: In Memphis.

Margaret: And how did that come about? Have you any idea?

Mignon: Yes. My father was from Montgomery but he went to Tuskegee to School. And he became a protégé of Dr. George Washington Carver and he wanted to go to business school so Dr. Carver made arrangements for him to get a job at Iowa State University to go to the business school for a year.

Margaret: George Washington Carver?

Mignon: George Washington Carver.

Margaret: Not Booker T. Washington?

Mignon: George Washington Carver.

Margaret: I never knew that.

Mignon: As a matter of fact, my father was very disappointed when I was born that I wasn’t a boy because I was to be named George Washington Carver. (Laughter.)

At any rate, Daddy went to Iowa and stayed the year. He did not graduate because he thought he had made an A in one course and they gave him a B and he would not accept the diploma. But he left there and his older sister lived in what was then Indian Territory before it became the State of Oklahoma.

Margaret: Which sister was that? Susan?

Mignon: His oldest sister Annie.

Margaret: Annie?

Mignon: Not Annie, Susie, his oldest sister Susie who was married and living there. And his occupation was to….he had a mule that he rode and sold Bibles to the Indians. And in his last illness we were sitting… there used to be a program on television (Oh dear my, cut it off I don’t want you to hear that.) He would look at this town and say “My goodness, the people who did these sets certainly knew what they were doing because it looked exactly like that town because he had traveled throughout the West.

He came back and went to Mississippi and worked for a man who had a grocery store. A general store, and he used to go to Memphis to buy for the store and in those days he had just come from the West and he wore his hair like Buffalo Bill, long and cut short and they used to tease my mother about her boyfriend with the curls. But anyway, this is how she met him because he went to Memphis to buy for the store.

Margaret: And what did she do? What was she doing then?

Mignon: My mother?

Margaret: Umm humm.

Mignon: Just living with my grandmother. She didn’t do anything.

Margaret: Where did she go to school?

Mignon: Chicago. She finished high school in Chicago.

Margaret: I see.

Mignon: And she became a milliner. Then she decided to go back to Memphis and she didn’t have to work.

Margaret: Now they married in Memphis?

Mignon: They married in Memphis and went to Washington to live. They married in 1908. At that time my father was working in the Treasury Department in Washington.

©Margaret McCall Thomas Ward May 2, 2003


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Finding Eliza part 3

Mattie Saffold Harris with family. Sayde little girl, front. Her mother, Mattie, is on the far right.
Mary Allen McCall on left. Granddaguthers Victoria and Margaret, front.

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.

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.

Milton Saffold. Mattie’s family photos.

As it is late, I will have to take in all that you have written tomorrow.

Date:    Thu, 16 Oct 2003 22:58:25 EDT
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.

Date:    Fri, 17 Oct 2003 10:09:29 -0700 (PDT)
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.

James and Margaret McCall visit his sister Tillie Howard in Chicago.

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.

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.

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.

Eliza’s story – Part 1

Mary Allen McCall back row left, her son James, his wife Margaret. Grandaughters Victoria and Margaret in front. Late 1920’s. Jennie Allen Turner seated left, Mary Vee, Fannie, Doris.Back Mershell holding Howard. Early 1930’s. Detroit, MI

“My mother was the first child of my grandmother who was one of seven children born to Dock Allen, a free man and Eliza, a woman freed from slavery at seventeen. Before being freed this woman, my mother’s grandmother had been trained as a seamstress in the “big house” of the white master, Colonel Edmund Harrison, who was her father. Her mother, Annie, was the slave seamstress in the “big house”. For three generations, in slavery and in freedom, each mother taught her daughters to sew. My grandmother earned her living as a seamstress for white folks in Montgomery, Alabama. But she never taught my mother or her other two daughters to sew.”

My mother wrote me this as part of a piece she was writing about her own mother, Fannie Turner Graham. We grew up hearing it. There was also the part about Colonel Harrison’s wife. She was so angry about her husband having this child, my great great grandmother Eliza, with a slave that she was cruel to both Annie and and Eliza. Col. Harrison, the story went, finally freed both of them and married Eliza to a free man, Dock Allen, who was a carpenter in Montgomery, Alabama.

Because he was always referred to as “Colonel Harrison of Virginia” I pictured him driving Annie and Eliza in a carriage from Virginia to Montgomery, finding a free carpenter and arranging a marriage between his daughter and the carpenter before returning to his plantation in Virginia. I wasn’t really clear on the distance or terrain between Virginia and Montgomery, AL but I wondered why he took her all the way to Alabama. Later I read that freed slaves had to be taken out of the state they had been enslaved in.

In 1980 my mother began writing down her memories and stories of all her great aunts, Eliza’s daughters. She wrote about her mother and about herself growing up too. She made duplicates and sent my sister and myself both copies.

In one she mentioned a strange phone call from her cousin Margaret McCall Ward, who was a librarian and a genealogist and a founder of the Fred Hart Williams Geneological Society in Detroit. The first black genealogical group in Michigan. My mother wrote:

“Note of recent strange happening here: Teen (note: a longtime family friend) is still working on her family tree and sees Margaret who works in that dept. of the library. Margaret kept sending word to me by Teen that she would be happy to help if I wanted to get the family history together….I never called….but finally did one day when Teen insisted….somewhere in the conversation Margaret said of course you know our grandmothers were not really sisters (Aunt Mary and Grandmother Turner whom I had always thought were Dock Allen’s children…had never heard a suggestion of anything else)..I said o really…how…she mumbled…I mentioned Dock…she said you’ve seen the sisters you know how different they looked…I knew she meant some were light like her grandmother and some were dark like mine… they had different mothers? I said..she mumbled again (I have never heard her mumble before …different fathers? I said, really intrigued by this deep family secret now to be uncovered…more mumbles..at any rate, I said, if they weren’t sisters, we aren’t cousins, right?…more mumbles…I let it go, said good-bye and crossed her off the family list….who needs her?…. then a few weeks ago (the other conversation on the phone was months ago) she sends word by Teen that as she was helping someone search records she came across a record pertaining to our family and it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that our grandmothers were sisters and we are cousins. I told Teen off again on again cousins I do not need and have heard no more…but I’m curious about what she was talking about in the first place and what she found in what records…I mentioned it to MV who had never heard it…she called Aunt Gwen (the only one left in that generation to talk to) who is the gossip of the group who said as far as she knew they were all full sisters and brothers (there were two of these.) I await further developments but not with baited breath…”

In 1982 my mother died of ovarian cancer. I inherited her photographs, scrapbooks and letters which she had inherited from her mother. In 1991 I wrote to my aunt, my mother’s only sister, Mary Vee and asked her to tell me about her parents and grandmother. She told me the little she knew and suggested I write to cousin Margaret asking for help with the family tree. I did. A year later I received a reply filling in blanks in the tree. She wrote that my letter revived her interest in looking at this branch of the family again, and be sure to look her up if I got to Detroit.

For other parts of the story