Perhaps an answer to the mystery photograph from Sepia Saturday #303, also pictured below. Cliff was my grandfather M.C. Graham’s play brother and their families first roomed together and after the first children were born, they both occupied a two family flat, 1 family per flat. Their children were born close together. Looking at the little pal in the first photograph with my grandfather Mershell, I think he could be the child in the other photograph. He is several years older in the line in the second photo. His ears in all three pictures bend a bit at the top. Perhaps the woman was his mother, Gwen pictured in the last photo. Or maybe I need to keep looking for her.
Another fine friend of my grandfather. Unfortunately also another unlabeled photograph. I think it was taken in Montgomery, Alabama around 1917 or so. You can see the scotch tape my grandmother used to fasten the pictures in the black paged album.
This photograph of my grandfather was taken in the same place as the one of his friend above. Wherever that may be is lost in the mists of time.
When I started looking for signatures, I thought it would be easy because I have many letters through the generations. The problem was that they did not sign letters with both first and last names. Some repeatedly used nicknames. I was able to find most signatures by searching through documents – marriage licenses, social security cards, deeds, bills of sale and group membership cards. I finally found my sister’s signature in the return address on an envelope and if I’d thought of it sooner, might have found others in the same place.
My paternal grandmother Pearl Reed Cleage. I found her signature on some legal papers because all of the letters I have from her were signed “Mother”. I know that she graduated from high school in Indianapolis, IN and received all of her education in Indianapolis but I do not know the names of the schools. Her signature came from a Marion Indiana Probate record for her older brother’s will in 1946.
My paternal grandfather, Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr. He attended the Athens Academy in Athens TN, Knoxville College and the Indiana Medical School in Indianapolis, IN. His signature came from his marriage license in 1910.
My maternal grandmother, Fannie Mae Turner Graham. Jennie’s daughter, she was educated in Montgomery, AL at State Normal which was a school from elementary to high school, started by the Congregational Church for Black students. Her signature came from the 1910 Montgomery Census form via ancestry.com. She was an enumerator.
My maternal grandfather Mershell C. Graham. My mother said he taught himself to read. The 1940 census said he finished 8th grade. From Coosada, Elmore Countty, Alabama. His signature came from his WW1 Draft registration card in 1917 via ancestry.com.
My father Albert B. Cleage Jr. His nickname was Toddy and he often signed his letters home Toddy. He attended Wingert elementary, Northwestern High, Wayne State in Detroit and Oberlin University in Ohio. His full signature came from a Purchaser’s recipt in 1957 for a building Central Congregational Church wanted to buy.
Doris Graham Cleage, Fannie’s daughter, my mother was born in 1923 in Detroit, MI. She attended Thomas Elementary School, Barbour Intermediate, Eastern High and Wayne State University in Detroit. Her signature came from a State of Michigan Teacher Oath in 1964. The “Doris” came from a letter home from Los Angeles in 1944.
My younger sister Pearl Michell Cleage is Jennie’s great granddaughter. She attended Roosevelt Elementary School , McMichael Junior High School and Northwestern High School in Detroit. She also Howard and Spellman Universities. Her signature came from the return address on a letter in 1991.
My own signature. Another great granddaughter of Jennie, I was raised in Detroit and attended Brady and Roosevelt Elementary Schools, Durfee and McMichael Junior High Schools, Northwestern High School and Wayne State University, all in Detroit. The bottom signature came from my third daughter’s birth certificate in 1976. The top one came from a deed for the sale of the house on Oregon where I was a witness in 1968.
Clifton Graham was the son of my Grandfather Mershell Graham’s “play” brother, that is they were not blood relatives but considered each other brothers because they were both Grahams from Montgomery, AL. I don’t have much information about him and was unable to find much online. He was born May 28, 1919 in Montgomery, Alabama. By 1920 he and his family were in Detroit, Michigan. Below is a photograph of John Clifton (always called Clifton) and his brother Lewis with my Aunt Mary V. and my Uncle Mershell Graham, as children. They were all living in Detroit and I would guess it was taken on Memorial Day or the 4th of July at Belle Isle, a park in the middle of the Detroit River. My mother was probably a baby at the time and too young to be in the photograph. Read more here V…-mail.
The two letters below were written to my Grandparents in March and July of 1945 by John Clifton Graham from Europe during WW 2.
March 29, 1945
Time permits me to drop you a line or two and let you know that I am well, even though I am somewhat in the inner confines of Germany, a country that has been completely pulverized and at present being subjected to the terror of our Air Forces.
There is much to tell but due to censorship, I am restricted to a great extent, which you no doubt know. The weather the past few days has been grand and spring is in evidence at ever turn in this war torn country. We are getting a rest for the time being but it is like the lull before a storm, thus by the time this letter reaches you much will have passed under the bridge.
I received a long letter from M.V. last week and will answer today, while time still permits. I must close now so as to time my correspondence due over a period of 2 weeks, My regards to Grandma Turner, Alice, Aunt Daisy,
Love Cliff Jr.
What was happening in March 1945
March 29: The Red Army enters Austria. Other Allies take Frankfurt; the Germans are in a general retreat all over the centre of the country.
March 30: Red Army forces capture Danzig.
March 31: General Eisenhower broadcasts a demand for the Germans to surrender.
June 25 1945
Received your letter of June 9th and appreciated the fact that you dropped me a line or two. I heard from M.V. yesterday and she is quite well, likewise my pin up gal Diane.
I have passed the convalescent stage and fit as fiddle once more. I have been transferred out of my present ward and now await transportation to a replacement depot, up somewhere near Paris from there, I shall be assigned to either my original unit or another unit altogehter.
I hope that I can come home from here but at present the outlook isn’t too optimistic but I shall keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best. Give my regards to Grandma Turner, Daisy and Alice and all my love to both of you. Write again soon.
Your nephew Cliff Jr.
June 5, 1945 – Allies divide up Germany and Berlin and take over the government.
June 26, 1945 – United Nations Charter is signed in San Francisco.July 1, 1945 – American, British, and French troops move into Berlin.
July 16, 1945 – First U.S. atomic bomb test; Potsdam Conference begins.
July 26, 1945 – Atlee succeeds Churchill as British Prime Minister.
Cliff did survive the war and return to make a life for himself in Detroit. I’m trying to find more specific information but so far I have only found several church booklets from Plymouth United Church of Christ in the 1960s that show he was very active in the church. There are even a few group photographs. Unfortunately they aren’t labeled so I don’t know which is him. Found a photograph of him in 1973 with my grandfather, Mershell Graham. Taken just a few months before my grandfather died.
My maternal grandparent’s names were Mershell Cunningham Graham and Fannie Mae Turner Graham. They were both born in Alabama in 1888. Mershell was born in Coosada Station, Elmore County. Fannie was born in Hayneville, Lowndes County. Both counties are near Montgomery.
Before moving to Detroit, Mershell worked on passenger trains in the dining car. After coming to Detroit in 1917 he worked on a Great Lakes Cruise ship as a steward and finally put in 30 years at Ford Motor Company in the parts dept at the River Rouge Plant, before retiring.
My grandmother Fannie, managed her uncle Victor Tulane’s store in Montgomery before her marriage. After their marriage in 1919, she didn’t work outside of the home. They both lived until I was in my mid-twenties. My grandfather died in 1976 at 86 years. I was 26. My grandmother died in 1977 at 87. They both died in Detroit. We spent every Saturday at their house when I was growing up and for the last year of college, they lived downstairs from us. They lived in that flat until they died. So I knew them and also research them.
My paternal grandparents were Albert Buford Cleage and Pearl Doris Reed Cleage. Albert was born in Louden county, TN in 1883. Pearl was born in Lebanon, KY in 1886. They were married in Indianapolis in 1910. My grandfather worked on a Great Lakes Cruise line summers until he finished Medical school and became a family physician.
We lived down the street from them for several years when I was 5 and 6 years old. We saw them often. My grandfather died in 1957 after being ill for awhile. He was 73. I was 11. My grandmother lived until 1982. She was 96. I was 35. I knew both of them. I also research them.
Below are links to some of the many posts about my grandparents on this blog.
Both of my grandfathers worked on the Great Lakes steam ships. My maternal grandfather, Mershell Graham, worked as a steward for the Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Company when he first came to Detroit in 1917. He had previously worked in the dining cars of passenger trains. After several years he got a job at Ford Motor Co. where he remained until his retirement 30 years later.
My paternal grandfather, Albert B. Cleage, Sr, worked for the same company in 1909. He was a medical student in Indiana and earned money during the summer by working on the Eastern States cruise ship as a waiter. The excerpts in this post are from his letters.
Most of the photos and clippings about the Eastern States were found in the Great Lakes Maritime Database.
June 19 1909
I left Indianapolis last night at 7:25. Stayed all night in Hamilton Ohio. Am now in Toledo at 10 AM. Will leave for Detroit 2: 15.
June 20, 1909
Arrived in Detroit yesterday at 4:00 PM, and left for Buffalo via “Eastern States” Star. on which I am at work. Was lucky. Am well, found two old school friends on same boat!
June 20, 1909
I am sitting in an old ware-house door on the wharf at Buffalo, – tell me there isn’t an element of romance in my location to say the least. I will be in Detroit again tomorrow and will see many of the boys whom I know there. You can imagine how worn out I am – just stopped traveling this morning, and if the boat ever comes into dock again I shall go immediately to bed. I went uptown to get some things and it went up the Lake and left me, but it will return soon.
June 24, 1909
Lawrence has come and we are working together.
June 27, 1909 (On board the Steamer “Eastern States” – Lake Erie)
This is Sabbath night about 10:00 o’clock and we are about six hours ride out of Detroit and about twelve miles from land in the shortest direction. Surroundings are such as to impress one with his insignificance and emphasize the fact that he is indeed kept by Jehovah’s care. I shall first endeavor to acquaint you with the boat on which I am working. It’s name is “The Eastern States” and runs from Detroit to Buffalo. We leave Detroit one day at 5 PM and arrive in Buffalo the next morning at 8 o’clock, staying in
Buffalo all day we leave again for Detroit in the Evening at 5 PM you see we spend one day in Detroit and one in Buffalo. Today we were in Detroit and would it interest you to know how I spent it? Well, if it will interest you; after breakfast was over about 9 am, I went down to our “quarters” (I suppose you have only a faint conception of what that word means – I describe it later.) and slept until 11:30 – served lunch, after which Aldridge and I walked up town for about 2 hours – smoked some cigars, came back to the boat and took a couple of hours more of sleep. So you see I am putting in plenty of time sleeping. This stuff I’m sure does not interest you and I will not bore you longer but as I promised to say something about our “quarters”
It is one large room about 35 x 40 ft. in which are 32 beds – just think of it!! Those beds or better bunks are arranged in tiers of three and I at the present time am sitting on my bed (the top one) and there are two other fellows below me. What ventilation we get comes through six small port holes the diameters of which are about 6 in.
The fellows are a cosmopolitan aggregation, men from everywhere and at any time you can hear arguments and discussions on all subjects – Sensible and nonsensible. There are several students on board – boys from Howard University, Wilberforce University, Oberlin University, Michigan, and Indiana and out of them there are some very fine fellows to know… I could talk all night about the desirable and the non-desirable features of my Steamboat experience.
July 3, 1909 (Enroute to Buffalo, Steamer Eastern States)
Yesterday while Lewis and I were walking up the street in Buffalo, whom did we see standing on the corner (as if lost) but Miss Berry of Indianapolis, her brother and his wife and a Miss Stuart an Indianapolis teacher. Well to be sure we were surprised and they too seemed agreeably so. We spent the day with them taking in the zoo and other points of interest. They visited our boat and we showed them through it. That was experience number one.
Secondly – our boat was in a storm last night I awoke last night amid great excitement in our quarters and found that it was only possible for me to lie in bed with quite a great deal of effort. The old boat was being mightily tossed and driven and the angry waves were rising a high as your house or higher. We were sometimes on top of them and again between them at all times with a feeling that we would every minute be swallowed up by them. Great excitement prevailed. Most of the waiters got up and put on life preservers thinking they would have need of them. I neither was afraid or sick. Nothing serious happened and we arrived in Detroit only a few hours late this morning.
We are tonight taking over to Buffal0 a 4th of July Excursion. A large crowd is aboard. A great number of extra waiters are aboard and an extra amount of noise is present and unfavorable to letter writing accept the effort…
After WW2, automobile travel replaced steamer travel and gradually the ships were retired, burned and scrapped. Here is a timeline for the Eastern States from the link above.
- Laid down as EMPIRE STATE.
- 1902, Jan Launched Wyandotte, MI.
- 1909 Owned Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Co, Detroit, MI.
- 1930 Owned Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Co., Detroit.
- 1950 Laid up, Detroit.
- 1956, Jun 21 Owned Lake Shore Steel Co & Siegal Iron & Metal Co, Detroit.
- 1956, Dec 12 Burned as spectacle, Lake St. Clair.
- 1957, May 6 Scrapped.
While looking for summer photographs, I came across this photograph of my grandfather Graham and this poem by Edgar A. Guest that my my grandmother Graham saved in her scrapbook.
This photograph was taken about two years after the one of my grandmother Fannie at Sugar Island. Grandma Graham was my grandfather, Mershell Graham’s adopted mother. Mary Virginia was born in April 1920 so she would be 2. Clifton was the son of my grandfather’s adopted brother, Clifton. Mershell Jr was born in June of 1921 so he must be about 1 year old. My mother was born in February, 1923 so my grandmother may have been just pregnant with her here. The park tables and benches are so unanchored. They are all cement now.
This is my 22nd post for the April A-Z Challenge. I have been writing about my grandfather, Mershell C. Graham’s possible family several times during this challenge. At times it is a very confusing search. I have put the various documents into a collage, which you can enlarge by clicking on it, to see if that would make it easier to understand. What do you think?
The Search – Step by Step
- I found a little New Testament in my grandfather, Mershell C. Graham’s things.
- I wondered who the Jacob Graham that the Bible was dedicated to and how he was related to my grandfather.
- Since I had Jacobs birth date I looked for him in the 1900 US Census in Elmore County, Alabama.
- I found him. Although there were two other children and an adult, none of them were my grandfather or the people he named as his parents. I thought I remembered a sister named Annie.
- I sent for Jacob’s death certificate. Unfortunately it did not name his parents.
- I wondered if perhaps the other boy in the household in 1900, name of Abraham, was, perhaps, my grandfather identified by another name. I searched for Abraham and sent for his death certificate. His descripiton on the WW1 and WW2 draft registration forms matched my grandfathers. The names of his parents on all documents was the same as those given by my grandfather. He wasn’t my grandfather, I soon found out, because he had a complete life of his own.
- I decided to follow the girl in the 1900 household. She had 4 children and the youngest was named Michele, which was my grandfather’s original name. I found she lived on the farm as a servant of the woman who was the daughter of the people I thought may have been the slave holders of my grandfather’s mother, Mary Jackson. I found a photograph of some children taken on the Oscar Barron farm ( husband of woman I mentioned above, from slave holding family.)
- Although I found much interesting information and some things that seem to tie this household to my grandfather, I have no proof that they are related. They never appear in documentation in the same place.
- I don’t know what to do or where to look next.
This is my 21st post for the April A-Z Challenge. Featuring a photograph from 1918 of my grandfather Mershell C. Graham with a huge umbrella. I used this photo in 2011 for a Sepia Saturday post. There are several others that go with it. If you want to see them go here – Poppy Was Cool. I think that for my next A-Z challenge I will use all family photographs that go with the letter, minus much writing. This is really wearing me out! Hard to believe there are only 5 left.