Tag Archives: Sallie Cleage

“X” Their Mark

This is my 7th year participating in the A to Z Challenge. In the 2015 challenge, I wrote about the Cleages formerly enslaved on the plantations of Samuel and his sons Alexander and David Cleage of Athens, McMinn County, Tennessee. Most of the people in these posts are not related to me by blood or DNA, however my ancestors were enslaved on the same plantations with them.

Late last year, I ordered the Civil War Pension files of the Cleage men who served in 1st Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery (USCHA), during that war. Through these files I learned that their lives were much richer and more complex than census, death and other records can show. I am using the information from pension files and records that I found through the pension files for this years challenge.I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out an “X” name or word when I realized that almost all the witnesses and claimants signed their names with an “X” because they couldn’t write. Below is testimony from Sarah Cleage Morrison, Amanda’s mother. She sign’s with her X mark.

Deposition B Case of Amanda Cleag – Sarah Morrison          

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

22 July 1909 Athens, McMinn, Tennesse

As near as I can tell – I am 102 years old. I live in Athens Tennessee.

Amanda Cleage who lives at Long Beach, California is my daughter. I haven’t received word that anyone was examining or was to examine her pension claim- I haven’t heard anything about it.

Amanda has been married twice – only twice. Her first husband was Lon Deadrick and her other husband was Abram Cleage.

Abram was raised up here and I knew him all the time until he went away. He and Amanda went away with old man Tucker’s family soon after the War. They went to Texas and I visited them in Austin, Texas. They had been gone from here for some years when I visited them – their oldest child was then eight years old at that time. Amanda and Abram were living as wife and husband and they recognized each other as wife and husband. They were married after they left here and I don’t know where they were married.

Abram had no wife here. He had no slave wife and he had no wife after the war until he had gone from here with the Tuckers.

Abe, Amanda and myself all belonged to the same man, old Alec Cleage.

There is none of our folks living who were in Chattanooga at the time Amanda went through there on her way to Texas.

I understood the foregoing as it was read to me by the examiner and it is correct.

Sarah (her X mark) Morrison

Annie B. Reynolds
Cora M. Cox

“The white folks had her clothes locked up.”

Deposition N
18 June 1890

Sallie Cleage Marsh

I am 64 years of age, the widow of Richard Marsh and my post office address is Athens, Tenn. I was formerly a slave to Aleck and Jemima Cleage. They bought me when I was thirteen years old and I lived with them until after the war. I remember Katie Cleage very well. She was a house servant, a seamstress. I was the family cook in the house.

No sir, Katie never was married. She did not live with any man as his wife. She always slept in the house except a month or two she was sick and they put her down in an old house in the quarters while the doctor was taking care of her. She was diseased someway while she was there. Dr. Atlee attended her.

She had two children. These was neither born alive. One was a miscarriage. One was born at it’s time and the other before it’s time. We had Dr. Atlee with her. I was in the room with her. The first miscarriage she had, she had something the matter with her and we had Dr. Atlee and it did not come off then and a month or two after she was down in the yard and was taken with something the matter with her and she called us to her and told us. I went and told mistress and she told us to fix a bed in the dining room for her and send for Dr. Atlee. Dr. Atlee attended to it and I was the only woman in the house except my mistress when it was done. I don’t think this child was a white child, I know it was not. It was laid to old Uncle Joe, then on the place.

The second child came to its time and it was a white child, but I don’t know who it belonged to. Yes, I seen the child, but I was not present when it was delivered. Dr. Atlee delivered it.

Tom Cleage took it all but two of his slaves south during the war he left three. One ran away and the other two staid at the house to take care of the old lady. I went with them and Katie went along too.

I know Philip Cleage, he was a wagoner when we went south, he drove the wagon that I rode in. We staid south about three months and came back here about October and soon after that Philip went in the Union Army. He came home to see us while he was in the army.

When his mother died she gave Philip to me to take care of. Philip slept in my house upstairs, until he went in the army. He slept with my oldest boy. My boys name was George Cleage, I don’t know whether he is living or not. The last I heard of him he was at Corinth, Mississippi.

I disremember whether Katie was on the place when Philip came home to see us during the war, but he did not see her if she was. They, the family, would not let the family servants out. Philip was here twice, once on his march from Knoxville to Chattanooga and once after he got to Chattanooga. Oh! Philip and Katie never lived together as man and wife. I was cook then. I was the oldest and the main one then and Katie never lived with anyone as his wife.

I could not tell whether Katie was in Chattanooga with Philip during the war. When she left home, there was a white man and a yaller man took her from here. I helped her get her clothes out.  The white folks had her clothes locked up. The next time I heard from her, she was at Atlanta and I never knew that she was caught up with Philip. I never see Katie again until she came here on a visit after the war. I didn’t think she ever was married, but she said she had a husband, Moses Evans.

I knew Nelson McCaury when I was a little girl, I don’t remember him since I have grown up. He was a preacher and used to marry people. He died before the war. I don’t remember how long before the war old Uncle Nelson died. I don’t know that he died before the war but seems to me he did. I know Katie was never married by her master Aleck Cleage. No sir, Katie was not grown when Nelson McCaury died, he never married her to anyone. She never lived with Philip as his wife.

I am not related. I have no interest at all in this claim. I have fully understood all your questions and my answers have been correctly recorded.

Sallie (her mark X) Cleage Marsh


You can read more about Sallie Cleage Marsh in this post -> Sallie Cleage. She was first married to Clint Cleage and after he died, she married Richard Marsh. All of her children were with Clint Cleage. Sallie Cleage Marsh lived a long life and testified in several pension files. Although she does not have one of her own, several of her children do. She will appear again. I also have to rewrite her original post because of all the new information. For links to the other posts in this series, click this link – Katie Cleage’s Pension Hearing.  The photo is from this blog 19c African American Wome

Sallie Cleage

Woman looking out of door

For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I am blogging a series of sketches about the free people formerly enslaved on the Cleage plantations in Athens, Tennessee and their descendants. Click on any image to enlarge.

 The first thing I noticed about Sallie Cleage as I started writing about her life, were the wildly differing birth dates.  They ranged from 1817 to 1841. I believe the death record saying she was born about 1823 is closest to the truth.  If she was born in 1841, her oldest child would have been born when she was 4 years old.  If she was born in 1817, she would have been 103 when she died in 1914.

Sallie Cleage was born into slavery about 1823 in Tennessee. Her mother’s name was Silver Baver.  Sallie and Clinton Cleage had fourteen children together, most of them born during slavery. By 1900, only five were living. I have already written about three of them – Amanda Cleage, Nelson Cleage and Lydia Cleage.

1870 Census
1870 Census via ancestry.com

Clinton died about 1869.  In 1870 Sallie lived in Athens TN with six of her children. None of them can read or write. Lydia, the oldest child still at home, attended school.  Sallie owned no property and her personal property was worth $250.  She was keeping house. Nobody in the household is listed as working outside of the home.

1880 census
1880 Census  via ancestry.com

In 1880 Sallie and seven of her children are living together in the same house. Roger William Sherman, who later married my great grandmother, lived next door.  Nelson worked as a laborer. Mary was the only literate member of the household. None of the children were attending school and nobody else had a job.  The 1890 U.S. Census was destroyed in a fire so we have to skip to the 1900 census.

1900 Census
1900 Census  via ancestry.com

In 1900 Sallie owned her house free of mortgage.  Her son Robert, his wife and son, along with Sallie’s granddaughter, Rossie Smith, shared her home.  Robert worked as a dining room servant. He was literate.  Sallie and his wife were without employment. Rosie attended school for 4 months. Robert’s son, Thomas Cleage, was not old enough for school.

Sallie’s daughter Sallie Cleage Waterhouse, lived down the street.  All of the children in her household attended school.  She and her husband Thomas were able to read.  Thomas and his oldest son worked as laborers.

sally marsh cleage death certif
Tennessee State Library and Archives; Nashville, Tennessee; Tennessee Death Records, 1908-1959 via ancestry.com

On April 1, 1914, Sallie Cleage died of bronchial pneumonia.  Her daughter Amanda Cleage was the informant. Sallie was 93 years old.


When I started writing Sallie Cleage’s life, I thought that it was a full one because she appeared as mother on so many death certificates. As I wrote, I began to feel that I had been wrong because nothing really seemed to happen. I was wrong, she did live a full life. It was full of her family. She lived to be free and to see her children and grandchildren learn to read and write.  Her husband, Clinton, died so soon after freedom. She gave birth to 14 children and saw nine of them die before she did.   It is easy to overlook what those deaths must have meant to her when we have no record of when or how they died.