Tag Archives: #Mershell C. Graham

S is for Possible Sibling, Annie Graham

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This is the 19th post for the April A-Z Challenge.  Finding a small New Testament inscribed to Jacob Graham in my grandfather Mershell C. Graham’s belongings raised questions that I am still trying to answer. To read what I wrote earlier, follow these links, Jacob Graham, Abraham Graham, and William Graham and Mary Jackson. I have been unable to connect any of them with my grandfather with more than circumstantial evidence.

Annie Graham

Today I’m going to write about Annie Graham, another possible sibling of my grandfather Mershell C. Graham. Annie was born in 1885 in Elmore County, Alabama.  She first appeared in the 1900 Census with Zacharies, Abraham and Jacob in Robinson Springs, Elmore County, Alabama.  She was 15 years old, was literate and attended school within the last year.

Annie’s first son, Clyde Graham was born in 1905. William was born in 1906 and Emma Mae was born in 1907. In the 1910 Census Annie and her children were living in the household of Oscar P. Barron and his wife Emma (Jackson) Barron. as servants. Annie was listed as a cook.  She was listed as a widow and she and her children all used the surname Graham.  The Barrons were identified as white and the Grahams were listed as mulatto.

Emma B. Jackson Zimmerman Barron

Emma was the daughter of Absalom Jackson.  He owned a large plantation in Autauga County, Alabama.  In 1865, Elmore County was made from part of Autauga.  In 2002 I wrote to a descendent of Absalom asking for a copy of the names of slaves owned by James Jackson and divided among his heirs after his death in 1832.  I thought that these Jacksons may have enslaved my Jacksons.  I wasn’t able to make a connection between the Mary Jackson that may be my grandfather Mershell’s mother and the list at the time but I think I should take another look. That was 11 years ago!  In 1860 Absalom Jackson held 62 slaves and lived in Robinson Springs.

Emma Boling Jackson married John Zimmerman in 1867.  They had two children. He died in 1873.  In 1879, she married Oscar P. Barron. They lived in Robinson Springs, AL.  It was in their household that Annie and her children were living in 1910.

Back to Annie Graham

In 1911 Annie gave birth to her fourth child, a son named Michele. Another story, my mother told us that her father, Mershell, had been named Michele by his mother but that when he was a child he was a servant to a little white girl. He had to sleep on the floor outside of her room in case she needed anything. She said Michele was a foreign name and she changed it to “Mershell”.  So, Annie’s youngest son was named Michele, the same as my grandfather.

Who are they?
Who are they?

This is an unidentified photograph from my Graham Photographs. I don’t know if any of Annie’s children are in the photo. A few years ago I tried to make out what was written underneath, which isn’t easy.  For more information about the camera used to take this photo follow this link to the Photo-Sleuth’s post about the Autographic camera.

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“13/2/18 on Barrons farm.”

In 1920 Annie and her four children – Clyde 15, William 14, Emma 13 and Michele 9 were again living in the household of Oscar Barron and his wife, Emma. The household has swollen to include a daughter and granddaughter, husbands and children. Annie is listed as a servant working on her own account. That means she’s not getting wages, but in this case I don’t know what that even means. Her three oldest children are listed as “helpers”, the boys as farm labor.  Michele is listed as an “errand boy”.  Once again the Grahams are all identified as “mulattoes” and the Barrons as white.  All of the Barrons are literate or in school. Annie is literate but none of her children are and none of them are in school.

From Grahams to Jacksons – 1930 to 1940

In the 1930 Census Annie is living with two of her sons next door to the Barrons.  Emma Barron is dead but her daughter, Emma Powers, is running the house and Annie is working as her servant. Clyde, 25 and Michiel 16 are both working as laborers doing general farm work.  Both are still illiterate and both are now using the surname of “Jackson”. Annie is listed as single and still a Graham.  William is not to be found. Emma is now married to Captain Reeves and still living in Elmore County.  Emma is also using the name “Jackson” on her marriage record.

I cannot find Annie, William or Michele in the 1940 census. Clyde 35, is married to Edith 29. They have four children, Hettie May Jackson 8, Clyde Jackson 7, William Jackson 4 and Alice Lee Jackson 4/12.  He’s never attended school and earned $250 the previous year in the private sector working 52 weeks. They are still living in Robinson Springs, Elmore County.

Emma remains married to Captain Reeves and they have no children surviving. Their one son, Clyde Junius Reeves lived one month, born in November 1927 and dying in December the same year. Emma had zero years of schooling and her husband had three. She is keeping her own house, for no pay. He is farming his own land.

The Wrap Up

Annie died in 1964 of a stroke. Her parents are listed as William Graham and Mary Jackson. Her daughter, Emma is the informant. She died in Elmore County and is buried in the Jackson Cemetery in Coosada, Elmore County.

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Emma died in Columbus Ohio in 1993. Her work was cleaning houses. She was an 86 year old widow. Her father’s surname was “Jackson” and her mother’s maiden name was “Graham”.  She is buried in Jackson Cemetery, along with her husband.

Clyde died in 1965 in Montgomery of heart disease. His father is listed as Paul Jackson and his mother as Annie Graham. He is buried in Long Cemetery in Coosada, Elmore County.

And with that, I end for now.

R is for Relatives, of the Elusive Kind

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This is the eighteenth post for the April A-Z Challenge.  Finding a small New Testament inscribed to Jacob Graham in my grandfather Mershell C. Graham’s belongings raised questions that I am still trying to answer. To read what I wrote earlier, follow these links, Jacob Graham and Abraham Graham. Today I am going to write about William Graham and Mary Jackson, the parents named on my grandfather’s delayed birth record.

Information My Mother Gave Me

In 1974, my mother had copies of some family photographs made for my sister and me. She identified the one below, on the left, as my grandfather, Mershell’s “real father”. She said that when she asked him if he wanted a copy, he said, no. I hung it on my wall with the others until I came into the possession of the family photograph collection. I noticed that the man in the picture looked exactly like the father in my grandfather’s informally (in adulthood) adopted family, Joseph Graham, and the house was their house. On the left you see a photo that was identified as “The Graham’s at home”. The man and the house in both photos look the same to me. I have heard nothing or found anything that makes me think that Joseph Graham was actually my grandfather’s father.

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The Graham’s at home.
The photo my mother gave us of Poppy's "real father"
The photo  of Poppy’s “real father”

Before I forget here is something Daddy said to me once late in life, while we lived on Fairfield.  He said his real family, the ones in the album, his real sister who is in that picture, wrote once to the Theodore address and asked for old clothes or anything they could send because she was having a hard time and mother threw the address away before they could get anything together.  He said that he had always taken care of Mother’s people and she would have nothing to do with his. Now that doesn’t sound like mother, but on the other hand, she had often said that he was too good, that he didn’t have a dime when she married him although he should have, had always made good money, but his adopted family got it all from him because he was so generous, so when they married she told him let me take care of the money, if you do we’ll always have some when we need it.  He did.  She did.  And they did!!

 I wish I knew Daddy’s real family.  Bet they still live in Alabama and could be found if anyone had the energy.

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Click to Enlarge

My grandfather’s delayed birth record, which he filed in 1941, gives his parents names and ages at his birth. He named William Graham as his father and said he was 35 in 1888. That meant he was born about 1853. He named Mary Jackson as his mother who was 30 years old in 1888. She would have been born about 1858. He said he was the 4th of 4 children.

Early in my use of the internet for research, I looked for William Graham and Mary Jackson. I found a marriage record for them.

Alabama Marriages, 1809-1920 (Selected Counties)

Name:William Graham 
Gender:Male
Spouse:Mary Jackson
Spouse Gender:Female
Marriage Date:20 Dec 1874
Marriage Place:Elmore
Surety/Perf. Name:Wm. B. Hall

Perfect.  I looked in the 1880 census and found them living in Robeson Springs, Elmore County, Alabama with two children, 8 year old Crofford and 3 years old William.  Next I looked for them in the 1900 census, expecting to find them with two other children, one being my 12 year old grandfather Mershell.  I didn’t find them. I didn’t find him. I couldn’t find a trace of any of the family that was there in the 1880 census.  Or the 1900 Census. There is a William Graham the right age in the 1910 census living in the Elmore County Alms House. That’s it.

Monday I will write about what I found for Annie Graham, the other member of the 1900 household that included Jacob, Abraham and Zacharies.  She, too has William Graham and Mary Jackson listed as parents. Her youngest son was named “Mershell”.

Q is for Questions, Questions and More Questions

a-to-z-letters-qThis is the seventeenth post for the April A-Z Challenge.  Finding a small New Testament, inscribed to Jacob Graham, in my grandfather Mershell C. Graham’s belongings, raised questions that I am still trying to answer. To read what I wrote earlier, follow this link, Jacob Graham. Today I am going to write about Zachries and Abraham Graham. Annie will get her own post soon. There is not much to write about Zachries, because  I can’t find Zachries, Zakries, Zakery or Zak* anywhere, before or after 1900.

Abraham Graham

My grandfather, Mershell Graham.
My grandfather, Mershell Graham.

My first thought after finding Jacob Graham in the 1900 census in the household with Zachries, Annie and Abraham, was that, maybe Abraham was my grandfather being called by another name. I began to track him through the census records.

Abraham Graham was born about 1887 in Elmore County, Alabama, although he always listed place of birth as “Montgomery”.  He completed 8th grade before moving to Nashville, Tennessee, where he worked in various jobs as a laborer.  He was light enough to be mistaken for white, of medium height, slender, with grey eyes and dark brown hair.

My grandfather’s description in his WW1 registration:  white, medium height, slender with grey eyes and dark brown hair.

Perhaps Abraham met his future wife, Pinkie Dorothy Holt while living in Nashville, where she was born and grew up. Or they could have met after both moved to Cleveland, Ohio. At any rate, in 1923, they were married in Cleveland, Ohio. He listed his parents as William Graham and Mary Jackson on the Marriage License.  My grandfather listed William Graham and Mary Jackson on his delayed birth record as his parents.

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Abraham continued to work as a laborer. He and his wife rented a house at 2278 E. 87th Street, where they lived for over ten years. They turned it into a boarding house, Dorothy ran it while Abraham worked as a truck driver. The house was full of her family and four or five lodgers.  In 1940 there were 11 people living with them. They didn’t have any children. Follow this link to see them in the 1940 census.

In 1942, Abraham filled out his WW2 draft registration card from the Edwin Shaw Sanatorium. He was already  suffering with the tuberculous that eventually killed him. He was described as 5 ft 11 in, 140 lbs with a sallow complexion, blue eyes and black hair. Race was first listed as “white”, crossed out and a check placed by “Negro”.

My grandfather’s description on his WW2 draft registration card: Race is checked as “white”. He complexion was light, height was 5 ft 9 in., weight 135 lbs with gray eyes and brown hair.

In May of 1943, Abraham’s wife, Pinkie Dorothy died of atypical pneumonia, sometimes called “walking pneumonia”.  Katie Mayhue, one of the lodgers, was the informant on the death certificate.

On October 29, 1948 Abraham Graham died of tuberculous at the Edwin Shaw Sanatorium.  His parents are, again, listed as William Graham and Mary Jackson.

abraham graham death certificate

He was buried in Mt. Peace Cemetery in Akron, Ohio on November 6, 1948.  Was he my grandfather’s brother?  What happened to William and Mary Graham? Where was my grandfather in 1900? What happened to Annie Graham, the other child in the 1900 Census?  Stay tuned.

I used census records, draft registration cards, death certificates and marriage licenses from Ancestry.com, Family Search and my personal collections in writing this piece.

Our Yearly Trip to the Zoo

This is the 25th post in the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing ChallengeThe photograph for today is from the Graham family’s annual trip to the Detroit Zoo.

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Front: Marilyn with Barbara & Pearl behind her. Back: my mother Doris, my aunt MV, cousin Dee Dee and me. 1956.

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Kris, Poppy, Dee Dee – 1959.

At the end of each summer my sister, cousins, mother, aunt and grandfather, Poppy, took a trip to the Detroit Zoo.

Sometimes the four older cousins spent the night before at our grandparents.  We slept on a foldout cot in Poppy’s room. We went to bed first and I was always asleep by the time Poppy came to bed. That worked fine, unless I woke up in the middle of the night. He had the loudest snore and it was impossible to get back to sleep until he turned over and stopped snoring.

My grandmother, Nanny, never went with us.  As I write this, I realize there are so many things I don’t remember.  I suppose our mothers drove across town, with Marilyn, to meet us in the morning.  Did we take two cars – my grandfather’s and my mother’s?  I don’t think so. I think we all smashed into one car, three adults in the front and 5 children in the back, with Marilyn sitting on someone’s lap. Nanny probably made us a picnic lunch to take. I can’t imagine buying hot dogs and french fries with Poppy along.

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Mary V and Marilyn – 1956.

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Poppy with camera – 1959. He was 70 years old.

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Marilyn, still in the front. Me, Barbara, Pearl taking a picture of the photographer, Dee Dee. In the back are Connie Stowers (my mother’s friend) and my mother. 1959.

Looking at the photographs I can see that Dee Dee was way ahead of the rest of us in cool. Even in 1956, when she and I both wore our plaid slacks, her’s fit and look good. Mine are baggy. Luckily, it doesn’t seem to bother me.  That year Marilyn is so little and unaffected.

By 1959 Dee Dee is 16.  I’m amazed she still accompanied us to the zoo. It must have been a very important part of our year. I was 13 and still not at all cool. That expression on my face is one I recognize from other photos through the years, unfortunately. I would say the sun is in my eyes  but it doesn’t seem to be bothering anybody else. And why am I wearing that skimpy outfit?  The hats that Connie and my mother are wearing were some my mother bought for Pearl and me. White sailor hats were the rage for awhile. Unfortunately, those were the cheap version and did not look like the popular ones.  I don’t think we ever wore them. If I had, maybe I wouldn’t have been squinting at the camera. Little Marilyn looks a lot more blasé in 1959. I believe she is wearing one of the little sundresses my mother made for Pearl or me when we were that age. It was yellow with lace on top.

Jilo’s First Christmas 1970

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Nightgown & Undershirts –  Pee Wee and Winslow.
Sleeper – Grandmother Cleage.
Pop beads, music box, rings, boat, rattle – Ma and Henry.
Poppy $10
Louis $10
Barbara – back carrier.
Silver spoon – Gladys.
2 sleepers & clutch ball – Martha.
Jim out of town (St. Louis) .
Xmas eve at Miriams.  Living at Bro. Johns.
Xmas, went by Grandmother’s. first time she saw Jilo.
Dinner and spent the night at Ma’s.
Jim back on 30th.  Party at BCL (ugh).
Man across the street from Miriam’s hollering for help (“I’m not kidding Help!”)
Pearl and Micheal didn’t come home for Xmas.

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Holding my oldest daughter, Jilo

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Jilo and great grandfather Mershell C. Graham.

Questions I Wish I’d Asked

Thanksgiving with Mershell and Fannie Graham - 1963.
In these photograph: Me, Aunt Abbie, Mershell C. Graham, My grandfather carving the turkey, I am eating and my sister is next to me on the other side of the table is my mother, my grandmother Fannie, her younger sister, Alice. My uncle Henry took the photographs.  Click to enlarge this photo.

The generations gathered around my Graham grandparents dining room table in 1963 for Thanksgiving dinner. There was turkey with cornbread dressing cooked by my grandfather. There was white rice, cranberry jelly, green beans, corn pudding and sweet potatoes. There was my grandmother’s finely chopped green salad and her homemade biscuits with butter and with a relish plate holding olives, sweet pickles and carrot sticks.

One thing there wasn’t, was talk about the old days. My grandparents were born in 1888.  My grandmother was born Fannie Turner in Lowndes County, Alabama. My grandfather was born Mershell Graham in Elmore County, Alabama.  They met and married in Montgomery.  My great great Aunt Abbie was born in 1877 in Montgomery, Alabama and was the second to youngest child of Dock and Eliza Allen. My mother told us stories she had heard from her mother, mainly about Dock and Eliza and their children. I remember once my older cousin was trimming Aunt Abbie’s toenails when Aunt Abbie mentioned that she used to trim her grandmother’s toenails when she was a girl. And that her grandmother also had arthritis.  I have always remembered that, but I didn’t ask any follow up questions about her grandmother, Annie Williams who was born a slave and was full grown and the mother of a fully grown woman when she was freed. And Aunt Abbie didn’t say anything else about it.

My grandfather, who we called Poppy, was a mystery. My mother only had little parts of stories she had gotten from her mother, things that just made the mystery deeper in most cases.  What were his siblings names and what happened to them? Are the ones I’ve found that I think are his siblings, really his siblings? In 1900, I found these possible siblings living with a man who is listed as their father but has a name not listed on any of their death certificates, was he their father with a different name?  And where was he, my grandfather, in 1900? Why wasn’t he there, or anywhere else I can find? Where was their mother?  What was the name of the little white girl he was servant of when he was a boy?  The one he slept on the floor outside of her bedroom door?  The one who changed his name from Michele to Mershell because Michele sounded too “foreign”? How did he learn to read?  Did he go to school? Did he know his grandparents and what plantation did his parents come off of? There was a photograph of his sister and her children in the album.  I would like to ask him what their names were.  Are they the ones I’ve found in the census?

I would like to ask my grandmother some of the same questions about her father’s family. Howard Turner died when she was 4 and her mother moved away from that community and went back to her family in Montgomery. I was able to find her father’s family because I knew his name, his age and the community he came from but I have no stories about his parents and siblings or what plantation they came off of. I only know that his father, Joseph Turner of Hayneville, Lowndes County was a farmer and owned his own land and had given his son some land which he didn’t want him to sell and the two of them argued about it.

When we went by my other grandparent’s house for desert I would ask where my grandfather’s mother, Celia Rice Cleage Sherman is buried. And why my grandmother Pearl thought her grandmother was Cherokee.

Unfortunately, I can’t go back to 1963 and sit around the table and steer the conversation around to who was where and when and  how and why.  I can only use the information I do have to keep looking and hope that one day some cousins from those mysterious lines will turn up and perhaps have some of the answers to my questions.

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To read more stories about oral history from the Carnival, CLICK the icon.

This was written for the Blog Carnival “The Ancestors Told; the Elders Listened; We Pass It On”.

Three Hats

These are friends of my grandfather, MC Graham (Poppy). I used this photograph before but never as the featured photo. I thought the bowler hat theme was perfect for this.  I don’t know who they are. The photograph was probably taken between 1917 in Montgomery before my grandfather married or 1919 in Detroit. Unfortunately it’s undated and unidentified. I am going by the clothes my grandfather wore that day and in other photos that are dated.

My grandfather and unidentified friend.

This photo is un-photoshopped. I couldn’t get the woman’s face right so I just included it as is. You can see more of the coat in this one. We are left to guess at the dress underneath.

Mershell Graham and Fannie Mae Turner Marriage License – June 11, 1919

On June 11, 1919 Mershell Graham and Fannie Mae Turner applied for a marriage license in Montgomery, Alabama. They were married by Rev. E.E. Scott at First Congregational Church in Montgomery on June 15.  I have no photographs of the marriage or memories that were handed down. I could find no record of their marriage license in the Montgomery Advertiser. They seemed to have no section devoted to “News of the Colored Folk” as some newspapers did.

Mignon, Jean, Hattie, ?,?,?,Emma Topp, Mershell, Fannie

Moses McCall on Belle Isle.

Soon after the ceremony my grandparents left and returned to Detroit where Mershell was working.  I assume they took the train, which would have been segregated at that time. They roomed with friends from home, Moses and Jean Walker. There were other roomers, all of them saving up to be able to purchase their own homes.

To read Mershell’s letter of proposal read  The proposal To read Fannie’s letter of acceptance read –  The acceptance 

I found several marriage related, handwritten poems in my grandparents papers and have printed them below. I wonder if they read these during the ceremony or exchanged them.

The gift
Yes, take her and be faithful, still, and may your bridal bower,
Be sacred kept in after years, and warmly breathed as now,
Remember tis no common tie that binds your youthful hearts
Tis one that only truth should breath and only death should part.

Remember tis for you she leaves her home and mother dear,
To have this world with you alone, your good and ill to share,
Then take her and may future years mark only joys increase
And may your days glide sweetly on in happiness and peace.

The Brides Farewell

Soon, soon I’ll go – from those I love
You, Mother, Sister, among the nest,
Where I will often think of you,
Far in the distant west.

Farewell, Mother, though I leave you
Still I love you, Oh! believe me
and when I am far away
Back to you my thoughts will stray.
Oft, I’ll think of you and home
Though in other lands I’ll roam.
Yes, though miles may intervene,
I will keep thy memory green
Mother, sister, from my heart
Thoughts of thee shall never depart.

Mershell Cunningham Graham Junior – June 10, 1921 – November 2, 1927

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, joined them.

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.

Mershell and Toodles - 1923

Mary Virginia, Mershell, Doris, Fannie, some chickens.

At Belle Isle outside of the Flower House with father and sister - 1925.

Doris, Mary Virginia, Mershell and Toodles

My mother wrote on the page of practice writing above “Mother teaching him to write his name.”

Related links  –  Births, Deaths, Doctors and Detroit Part 1;   1940 Census – the Grahams – Supplemental Material;   Go Bury thy sorrow – complete words and tune.