Tag Archives: #Montgomery

Irene Holtzclaw – Montgomery, Alabama

This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free.  Sometimes I also write about their descendants who were born after slavery.

In 1880 Nelson Graham and his family lived a few houses from Ed Patterson and his family in the Peacock Track in Montgomery, Alabama. Both households held a couple and five children. In Nelson and Caroline’s house only their 21 year old Fannie still lived at home. There were also four grandchildren – thirteen year old Willie Graham, six year old Duncan Wilkerson, five year old Sarah Powell and three year old Irene Holtzclaw.  Nelson worked as a drayman. Fannie was a house servant. The two older grandchildren were in school and the two little ones were at home. Caroline did not work outside of the house. Neither of the parents were literate but the younger ones were.

At the Patterson home in 1880, Ed was a carpenter, his wife Anna kept house. She was listed as deaf. Their children were young, nine year old Katie, six year old Anna, five year old Mary E., three year old Eddie and one year old Mary A.V.G..  The parents were literate. The two older children were in school.

Twenty years have passed and by 1900 Nelson Graham and his family have disappeared from the records. The Patterson family had moved to Clay Street where they owned their house free and clear.  The young children from 1880 were now grown and out of the house. Their twenty year old daughter Gertrude and sixteen year old son Neamiah attended school. Twenty two year old Irene Holtzclaw  was also a member of the Patterson household and was identified as Patterson’s adopted daughter. Ed and Anna’s daughter Mary Ella had married William H. Holtzclaw.  Mary Ella and William were both graduates of Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama.

On October 10, 1900 Irene Holtzclaw married Samuel Dupree, a widower. Their daughter Ethel Mae Dupree was born the following year. Samuel worked as a laborer in the early years and ended up  as a grocer.  I found Samuel in a number of Montgomery city directories but was unable to find the family in the 1910 census. Their address was listed as 343 Jeff Davis Ave. with the store located at 216 S. Hold. After combing the second ward  in which those streets are located, I found the house at 343 Jeff Davis Ave. Instead of Sam and Irene and baby Ethel Mae, I found Jim Dupree, Sam’s father  living there with his family. No sign of Irene and her family. I did stumble across others that I knew as I went page by page through the three enumeration districts located in the 2nd ward, I saw Ed Patterson, now a widower but still worked as a carpenter. His son Neamiah was living with his brother’s family. I saw my 2X great aunt Beulah Allen Pope and her family. But no Irene Holtzclaw Dupree.

In 1911 Samuel and Irene’s daughter Margaret was born. I cannot find a death record for Irene, but in 1915 Samuel then 45, married Ella Albritton age 21. In the 1920 census he was described as a retail merchant. Everybody in the house was literate.  Nineteen year old Ethel and nine year old Margaret both attended school.  The family owned their home free of mortgage.  A few blocks away, at 235 Jeff Davis lived my Aunt Beulah and her family.

Loose Ends

In 1922 Samuel Dupree died. He was 53 years old.  In 1927 daughter Ethel died at age 26. In 1930 daughter Margaret, now 19, was living with her stepmother Ella,  in the house on Jeff Davis.  They have a border who is a brakeman on the railroad.  Ella was a waitress at a cafe. Margaret was in school. They didn’t own a radio.  I lost track of Margaret but Ella stayed in the old home and worked as a cook through the 1940s and into the 1950s, even starting her own cafe.  She died in 1958 at 63 years old.

Irene Holtzclaw, led me a merry chase through the records as I traced her life. Some things are still a mystery – who were her parents? When and of what did she die? Did she have more children in the years I lost her?  I enjoy searching in Montgomery because I always run across relatives and other people I know.

Visit to Oakwood Cemetery – Montgomery, Alabama 2009

Entry to Oakwood Cemetery. Office on the left.

On Sunday, February 9, 2009 my daughter, Ife and I drove over to Montgomery, AL. It’s only a 2.5 hour drive from Atlanta.  She had to pick up some art work and I wanted to see if the store my Grandmother Fannie managed before she married was still standing.  I also wanted to find Eliza and Dock Allen’s graves in Oakwood Cemetery.

Oakwood Cemetery layout from Google Maps. The older section has Dock and Eliza’s graves. The Newer one holds the Tulanes. The Tulane housing projects, named after Victor Tulane, are across from the cemetery.

First we picked up the art.  The artist’s husband gave us directions to the cemetery and the store.We found the cemetery easily.  It was open and there was a man walking into a little office near the entrance.  Ife parked and I went in and showed him the information I had, a location for the grave site of Victor Tulane.  He told us to follow him to the place we could look.  it was out of that one and around a few blocks and over the tracks to the newer part of the cemetery, which he drove up into, us following. He finally stopped and said it should be there in, that area, waving vaguely around.

Ife and I got out and started looking.  There were old graves, some newer ones from the 60’s and even 70’s and some from the 1800’s.  we walked up and down hills and probably over graves and couldn’t find it.  He came back with a map and asked if we’d looked further down.  So we went in that direction. I told him I had some death certificates and asked if he could tell me where the graves were located if I gave him the names.  He said I should bring them up to the office and he would copy them and look in the file.

We continued to look and finally Ife saw this grave with the name we were looking for “Tulane”. It was a child’s grave. On the other side it said “Alean”. She looked next to it and there was the grave we had spent all that time looking for. We had walked by that place several times but there was an upright grave marker that said “Ophelia M. Peterson” so we just went by without looking at the flat, cement slab, which was the grave we were looking for. I still don’t know why Ophelia’s stone is right up above it or who she was.

We then went up to the office and I took my death certificates in.  He copied them and asked if he could copy Dock Allen’s photograph, which I had stuck in the mylar pocket with the death certificate.  After making copies, he got out his file drawers and found Victor Tulane and two children, age 2 and 10 months.  My mother used to talk about how spoiled their daughter Naomi was, but she never mentioned or maybe even knew that they had lost two babies. I think that might help explain the spoiling.  He found Dock and Dock Allen (father and son) and Eliza.  He said they were buried on that side in Scotts Free Burial Ground – when it started they let people bury for free.  He drove ahead of us and showed us the section where the graves were and we walked around and finally found the grave marker for Dock and Eliza.  We regretted not bringing flowers or something to leave but we hadn’t expected to even get in.

Ife standing to the right of Dock and Eliza’s grave. Tulane Homes in the background.

As we were leaving the Cemetery, wishing we had brought some flowers or an offering of some kind, I noticed a name out of the corner of my eye, “Sallie Baldwin.” It was like finding another relative. A cousin of a cousin and I spent weeks, months figuring out how our families connected and about her relatives. Her mother  was alive then and kept giving us information that my friend didn’t believe but it always turned out to be true. James Hale, a well known and well to do black Montgomery businessman contemporary with the Tulanes, was her son-in-law and is buried here also.

Sallie Baldwin and family.

When we left the cemetery we drove down Ripley Street towards the store. Ripley runs next to Oakwood Cemetery.  The block where my grandmother and her family lived with Dock and Eliza Allen is now paved over for parking lots and government buildings. The store is still there and looking good.  I feel that it’s time for another trip to Montgomery.

The Tulane building in 2009.

“I look the same now” Part 2

I’ve spent some time looking through my Graham grandparents photographs for a clue to the identity of the Mystery Nurse. To read Part 1 click here
I came across one photograph, unfortunately also unidentified, that looks to me like it could be the same person. Who is she is still the question.

This is what I can make out now…
“Made in K.C. Mo. 
but just found a 
duplicate and had 
this developed 10-(3)0-1918. 
Over 1 yr ago. 
Your Sister M.G.F. (or T?)
A and M C(olle)ge   
Normal Ala.”

“I look the same now.”

I found this photograph in my Graham album.  I have no idea who it is. I don’t know who’s sister it is. I know it isn’t my grandmother Fannie’s sister because I would recognize them.  I don’t think it’s my grandfather Mershell’s sister because as far as I know she was a servant with several children by 1918.  I looked for information about nursing schools for African Americans Kansas City, MO. in 1918 and turned up nothing, but Zann, a friend of mine, found several short pieces and some photos of the General Hospital for Negroes in Kansas.  The uniforms the nurses are wearing look like the same uniforms. So, here is my mystery nurse for this weeks Sepia Saturday.

I can’t make most of this out very well, but here is what I make of it “Made in K.C. Mo. but just found a duplicate and had this developed – 10-10-1918. Over……….your….F. A dm………Normal Ala.”

To read more click  Along the color line.

For more Sepia Saturday offerings click the logo —–>

For Part 2 of “I look the same now.” click here.


Off The Same Plantation, but Not A Relative

Eliza was also owned by Col. Harrison.  Her mother, Annie Williams, was born in Virginia. I am trying to figure out if any information in this article can help me in my research.
The Montgomery Advertiser, Wednesday Morning, November 14, 1917

“Old Charles,” Faithful Servant For Almost a Century, Passes Away

 Charles Leftwich, born into slavery in “Old Virginny,” at Lynchburg in 1831, in early manhood sold to a new master and carried to bondage to Lowndes County, Ala. died here November 7 at four score years and six.  His death was mourned by white and black alike.  He heard the “angel voices calling”, and in death as in life, ever obedient, he answered the call.  In youth, In young manhood, in middle life, and finally while body was bent and head hung low, as those who knew him say, he was loving, faithful, and true.  “Old Charles” is no more, but through the avenue of almost a century he walked among friends he made because of his deeply affectionate nature and entire faithfulness.

Servant of Col. Harrison

As a slave and faithful and devoted servant of Colonel Edmund Harrison, of Lowndes County, when the war broke out Charles was selected by his master as a body guard for the latter’s son-in-law Winston Hunter, when the young man began his service in the Confederate States Army.

Through the blazing heat of Summer, in the sleet, slush, ice, and bitter winds of Winter, for four long and trying years, while the confederacy’s fortunes lay in the troubled balance of the great Civil War, steadfast and true the faithful negro served his warrior master.  It was but natural that a peculiarly strong affection bound the two together, a bond of attachment none the less strong because of any difference of color, it is said.

Return To Old Home

After the war and Charles was free, he returned to the plantation of Colonel Harrison as to his natural home, and there remained until the death of the older master.  Throughout the trying days of the reconstruction immediately following the war there was no change in the former slave.  Day and night he remained true to those who had been good to him, an every ready protector of the women and children in the times that tried men’s souls.

Sorrow stricken after the death of others to whom he was so attached, after the death of “ol morster”, Charles came to Montgomery.  Events changed others – but not Charles, for into life, in ease and in plenty, in privation and in misery, this man with a black skin but a spotless character plodded his humble way as nobly within the city’s gates as he had for many years out where the birds twittered and the balm of the Southern sunshine itself ever the silken corn and fields of snowy cotton.

Served in Kessler Family

About ten years before his death “old Charles” began service with Mr. And Mrs. W.D.C. Kessler.  He soon became so attached to the Kesslers’ first born, then a baby boy, that he was installed as a nurse.  Then this splendid character proved as good a nurse as the gentlest woman.  To other boys were born to the Kesslers, and as each came Charles took him in charge, and guarded them as only he could do.  all of the children were devoted to him and his pride and affection for them were beautiful evidences of his own great goodness.  He wold often say that it was his only desire that he should live long enough for “his boys” to remember him so well that never would they forget him.  That this wish is daily gratified there are several who will attest.

He Had Hidden Him Under The Floor

The Tulane building in 2004.  During the time of this event the Tulane family lived upstairs and the store was downstairs.

Here is a story my cousin Jacqui told me about her grandfather, Victor Tulane and his rescue of Dr. William Watkins in Montgomery, Alabama.  This story was told to her by her mother, Naomi Tulane Vincent.  Naomi was twenty  and the family was living above the store on Ripley and High Street when it occurred.  The Watkins family lived several blocks away on Union Street.

Walking distance between the Tulane’s @ A and the Watkin’s  @ B was about 3 minutes according to Google Maps.

It was the middle of the night when the Tulane family woke up to car lights shining in the windows.  They got up and looked out into the yard.  It was full of cars and trucks.  Victor Tulane told his wife, Willie Lee and daughter, Naomi to go back to bed, everything would be all right.

He let the white men in and they told him they were looking for William F. Watkins, a black dentist who lived several blocks away. Mr. Watkins, they said had insulted one of their wives and they wanted him. Was he there, they asked?  Victor told them that nobody was there except his wife and daughter.  They could look for themselves. They went through the whole house looking everywhere. Finally, satisfied that Dr. Watkins wasn’t there, they left.

As dawn approached, Victor brought Dr. Watkins out from his hiding place beneath the floor.  He put him in the car, piled produce on top of him, drove him to the train station and put him on a train heading north to Chicago.


Jacqui remembers meeting William Watkins  in New York when she was a child. He was an old man with a white beard. He looked just like Colonel Saunders, she said, and asked if I could find out anything about him, if he was married, did he have children, when did he die? Using various online sources, I was able to put together the following timeline.

Timeline for William Franklin Watkins

  • 1879 – Williams Franklin Watkins Jr. born to William and Sarah (Fauntleroy) Watkins in Montgomery, Alabama.
  • 1880 Census – Montgomery, Alabama – William Watkins Sr. was a carpenter.  William was 1 year old.
  • 1900 Census – Montgomery, Alabama – The family lived at 518 Union Street. William Sr. was a carpenter. There were 6 children at home, including 21 year old William Jr. who was at school. The oldest daughter, Lula was 26, a widow and teaching.  She had a 4 year old son.
  • 1910 Census – Montgomery, Alabama – Williams Watkins is living at home with his parents and four other siblings.
  • 1914 – William Watkins, Sr. Dies

Obituary from the Montgomery Advertiser – March 11, 1914
William Watkins Dead

William Watkins, well known negro (sic) of Montgomery, died at his residence, 518 South Union Street, Tuesday evening at 5 o’clock.  He had been living in Montgomery nearly fifty years and was thoroughly identified with negro church, society and business life.  He was a contractor and builder and stood well in business circles.  He was a member and deacon of the Negro Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and a trustee of Swayne School

  • 1917 – William Watkins Jr and Gussie Rue Harris marry in Birmingham, Alabama (Gussie’s home town.)
  • 1918  – WWI draft registration card information. William is a dentist in Montgomery, Alabama.  Address is the family house on 518 Union St.  He is married to Gussie Rue Watkins.  His eyes are brown and hair is dark. He’s of medium height and build.
  • 1918 – Son William III born in Alabama
  • Between the draft card in 1918 and the 1920 census –  the event described happened.
  •  1920 Census
  • *William is a Lodger in Washington DC and practicing dentistry. Identified as Mulatto. He was 40.
  • *Wife Gussie living with her parents with their son William in Birmingham, AL.
  • *William’s brother Charles is living in Los Angeles, CA.  He is a carpenter.
  •  1924 – Daughter Alice born in Washington DC.
  •  1930 Census – Los Angeles, CA  William F. Watkins 51 years old.  His wife Gussie and their two children, Williams and Alice, are also in the household. He practices dentistry in his own office.
  • 1936 – His mother dies and is buried in Montgomery, AL
  • 1954 – William F. Watkins died

I found some of William Watkins extended family on Ancestry.Com and was able to see some photos of the family. The person I contacted said he did look like Col. Saunders. Unfortunately they had never heard this story.


For photographs and other posts about the Tulane family click on the links below.
Another Photographic Mystery Solved.  Photos of the Tulane family and the store.
Tulane Calls On Members of Race to be Patriotic. Article from 1918
Sepia Saturday – In Which I Hit the Google Jackpot. – More finds about the Tulanes.

“Horse Jumps through Automobile Windshield”

Horse Jumps through Automobile Windshield
Considerable Excitement Attends Runaway On Court Square Tuesday Afternoon.

Much excitement and some damage was the result of a run-away horse crashing into an automobile in front of Alex Rice’s store on Court Square late yesterday afternoon.

The horse, which was pulling a buggy, became frightened on the first block of South Court Street and dashed toward Montgomery Street.  An automobile belonging to Theo Meyer was parked in front of Alex Rice’s and the front feet of the horse went through the wind shield.

Beyond sustaining several minor cuts, the horse was unhurt and the damage done to the automobile, too, was small.

Victor Tulane was owner of the horse.

Date: January 27, 1915
Location: Alabama

Paper: Montgomery Advertiser
Article from The GenealogyBank

“Tulane Calls on Members of Race to be Patriotic”

“Victor Tulane, chairman in charge of the negro (sic) patriotic demonstration to be held here next Wenesday, prior to the registration of the classes of 13-21 and 31-45, has issued the following appeal for a 100 per cent registration to the members of his race:

    “As chairman of the colored division of the great “Man Power” celebration, which is to be held in Montgomery Wednesday afternoon, September 11, I desire to take this opportunity to urge all colored male citizens between the ages of 8 and 44 years, who are not already registered, to take advantage of the privilege of participating in this parade.

   “Our loyalty and patriotism as a race cannot be questioned.

   “We have gladly responded to every call that our country has made upon us during the present struggle for world democracy, and have also demonstrated our loyalty in every previous war in which our country has been engaged.

   “The purpose of this Man Power celebration is to arouse public enthusiasm and patriotism so that on registration day, Thursday, September 12, Montgomery and Montgomery county will be successful in having a 100 percent registration of all male citizens within the new draft limit.

   With this end in view I beg to impress upon our ministers and race leaders, in the city and throughout the county, to exert their broad influence in helping to make this undertaking a success.”


Victor Tulane

I was going to add some facts and figures about how many lynchings of black people took place in the US and Alabama during September of 1918 and that the men he was calling on to step forward and register could not vote or sit where they liked on the streetcars.  Not to mention the large upswing in lynchings after WW1, especially of returning soldiers wearing their uniforms. Looking at the statistics and the pictures and thinking about it got too depressing.  Did you know they sold postcards of actual lynchings?  That one had slipped by me. So, I decided to just run the story and the photo of Victor Tulane and remind you of a few links to letters written in 1918 by young men who were called up or about to be, “Migration story part 2 – Letters from home – Montgomery to Detroit 1918” and “To be Where You can Breathe a Little Freedom”. And to stories of “Victor H. Tulane Dead” and He Had Hidden Him Under The Floor“.

"She was owned before the war by the late Colonel Edmund Harrison of this county."

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 very long 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
James Edward McCall

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 (sic) 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 (sic) carpenter of Montgomery.  She was owned before the war by the late colonel Edmund Harrison of this county.”

Mary Allen McCall, James Edward McCall’s mother