Archive | Clay RSS feed for this section

Camp Shiloh – Memphis, TN

7 Mar

Camp Shiloh, also known as The Colored People’s Camp, in Memphis, TN was a contraband camp for runaway slaves during the Civil War. Camp Shiloh was located in South Memphis. It is thought that due to the camp being majority female that their spouses had enlisted in the United States Colored Troops and that some were stationed at nearby Ft. Pickering. Camp Shiloh had over 300 houses as well as schools and churches. In 1863 a list was taken of the former slaves living there. The list was known was the Register of Freedmen. On the list were the names of the slaves and their ages, their occupation, the names of their former owners, their health status, and where they were from. I scanned the list for the names of slaves from our area and some of that information is below. I have copied the names exactly as they were listed, so some names may be spelled incorrectly.

You can search for other names on this list by clicking the following link.


Ellen Buchanan 33

  • Owned by Mary Maclin of Haywood County, TN

Winnie Clay 45, Washington Clay 20, Vina Clay 18

  • Owned by Joseph Clay of Haywood County, TN

Jane Carter 40, Emily Carter 18, Sandy Carter 10, Buck Carter 6

  • Owned by Samuel Oldham of Haywood County, TN

Mary Curry 38

  • Owned by James Curry of Haywood County, TN

Albert Cox 42

  • Owned by Samuel Cox of Haywood County, TN

Carolina Burton 30, Alice Burton, Mark Burton 8

  • Owned by John Burton of Haywood County, TN

Margaret Green 26

  • Owned by John Drake of Haywood County, TN

Lutisia Miller 18

  • Owned by William Miller of Haywood County, TN

Ann McLamore 18

  • Owned by Sugar McLamore of Haywood County, TN

Angeline Noel 20

  • Owned by Joseph Clay of Haywood County, TN

Caroline Olden 55, Amelia Olden 10, Isabel Olden 18, Nellie Olden 63

  • Owned by Samuel Olden of Haywood County, TN

Ann Reed 24

  • Owned by John Burton of Haywood County, TN

I became interested in the lives of these former slaves after the end of the Civil War. Did they stay in Memphis or did they return back to Haywood County? I found a few leads, such as an Albert Cox living in Haywood County in 1870 on the US Census, but of course there is no definite way to determine that this was the same Albert Cox who had been at the Shiloh Camp.


– Tiffany

Sources: Register of Freedmen –

Information on TN Contraband Camps – and



Pop Up Museum @ The 2014 Lauderdale County Tomato Festival – Recap

14 Jul

As mentioned about a week ago Black Ripley sponsored a Pop Up Museum at the 2014 Lauderdale County Tomato Festival. We were there from about 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. I’d like to thank each and every person that stopped by to share their memories of the area.


Welcome Sign


From those memories I was able to learn a lot about the area.

Memories included:

– Tiny, the little person, who worked at either Joe’s or Pitts barbecue spot as a car hop

– A riot at Ripley High School the year of integration

– Life growing up in Arp, Golddust, Durhamville, and Orysa

– Stories of the Great Migration. Families moving North and sending their children back South to Ripley every summer

– Sharecropping on the Eugene Anthony, E.L. Queen, and Eylau farms

– Stories of “The Hole” and the people and businesses that were there

– Recollections of past Labor Days and the Miss Black Ripley Pageants

– Sitting in the balconies of local movie theaters and eating ice cream at the ice cream parlor that was located uptown

– Locating their childhood homes and current homes on a 1927 Sanborn Map

I’m sure all of these memories will make their way into a posting or two 🙂


There were a variety of items surpassing many years on display.

Geraldine Clay and painting

Geraldine Clay and drawing by her grandson of her life in Durhamville in the 1920s – 1930s

Miss Black Ripley Display

Miss Black Ripley Display with information on pageants from 1977 – 1979 along with pageant souvenir booklets. Also included were articles from the “10 Things” series.

Table Display

Table Display featuring Alex Haley’s Warner Bros records on Roots, a wooden nickle from JT Williams grocery, a school book published in 1890 from the area.

Table Display

Table Display featuring “Finding the Good” book by Lucas Johnson on the life of Fred Montgomery, home run baseball from a 2002 RHS baseball game and an article about the game.

Tent Set Up

Tent Set Up

Sanborn Map Display

Sanborn Map Display

It was a great day. I’m very grateful for the participation and encouragement that was received.




– Tiffany

– Photo Source: My Own

Lost Ripley – Clay Funeral Home – Follow Up

20 Nov

As part of the Lost Ripley series I wrote about the Clay Funeral Home owned by Lauderdale County native Alex Clay. Clay Funeral Home was located at 168 College Street. A descendant of the Clay Family, William Carson, was kind enough to share his photos of the funeral home with us.

Clay Funeral Home

Clay Funeral Home

Clay Funeral Home

Clay Funeral Home

Using Mr. Carson’s photos and Sanborn Maps I am able to locate the position of the funeral home on College Street. It also helps that this Sanborn Map has the street number of “168” in front of the structure.

Clay Funeral Home on 1927-1942 Sanborn Map

Clay Funeral Home on 1927-1942 Sanborn Map

Isabelle Court is known today as Mays Avenue and Ripley Grammer School has since been replaced by duplex housing.

Clay Funeral Home is no longer standing, but it once stood in Ripley as a testament to the African American business community.

The original article on the Clay Funeral Home can be found here ->


Thank you,


Sources: 1927-1942 Sanborn Map for Lauderdale County (Map/Sheet 7)

Image Source: William Carson’s personal collection

Lost Ripley – Clay Funeral Home on College Street

17 Apr

Clay Funeral Home was a business started by Lauderdale County native Alex Clay. Clay was born in Lauderdale County, TN in 1882 and he passed in 1951. He was the son of Elias and Mary Jaroe Clay both former slaves. Clay Funeral Home was located at 168 College Street. He was one of the first graduates of Lauderdale County Training School graduating in 1908. According to the US Census prior to his work as an undertaker he worked as a farmer. Clay buried many of Lauderdale County’s Black citizens. It is also thought that Clay owned Canfield Cemetery located on Scott Drive in Ripley, TN. According to oral history the Clay funeral home was located behind a few homes on College Street, one of those homes belonged to Junius (June) and Cordelia Clay, who are believed to have been cousins to Alex Clay. The land on College Street were Alex Clay made his business was given to him by Chaney Jaroe, his grandmother. Prior to the Clay Funeral Home being in this spot this location was home to the bush arbor that was home to Miles Chapel CME Church before a lot was secured for this church on Elm Street. After his death he left all of his assets to his wife and children. I have not yet been able to determine the exact location of Clay Funeral Home. I also haven’t been able to locate picture of it. If you have pictures of it that you would like to contribute, please let me know.



– Tiffany

– Source: Oral History interview with Geraldine Clay, Lauderdale County From its Earliest Times by Kate Johnston Peters

Black Doctors in Lauderdale County, TN

22 Feb

While doing my usual research on the area I came across what is described as a list of “Negro Physicians of the County”. This list is included in the book titled “Lauderdale County in its Earliest Times” by Kate Johnson Peters published in 1957. The Black doctors of the area are listed as follows,








I guess Kate was too busy to find out their first names? If you have been a reader of my blog for awhile then you know that the doctor named Clay in the book is actually S.R. Clay who was born a slave and was a graduate of Meharry Medical College in Nashville. I did a quick search and discovered the following about our Black doctors.

Dickey is the last name of John A. Dickey who is 1930 was married to Alhome (sp?) Dickey and who had a daughter named Gussie Dickey. They made their home on Church Street.

I hope to do more research to find out who the additional doctors were.


– Tiffany

Source:  “Lauderdale County in its Earliest Times” by Kate Johnson Peters

Fannie Clay – Honorable Mentions

18 May

Fannie Clay was born in Ripley, TN in 1891, the daughter of former slaves Elen Gilliland Clay and Hugh Clay. In 1910 she graduated from Lauderdale County Training School and relocated to Memphis, TN with her family. Fannie soon relocated to Chicago, Illinois where she met Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in an ice cream parlor. They were married January 27, 1922. Bill “Bojangles” Robinson was famous for being a professional tap dancer and actor of stage and film. He got his start dancing in local bars as a child. Bojangles was most famous for the series of movies he starred in alongside Shirley Temple. He was the first African-American to appear on film dancing alongside a White girl, Shirley Temple. During this time his wife, Fannie Clay, worked as his business manager. She is credited as playing a significant role in his success by working behind the scenes. Bill Bojangles affectionately nicknamed her “Lil Bo”. Unfortunately, they divorced June 25, 1943 due to his gambling, womanizing, and Fannie’s desire to have him slow down due to his heart condition. When they divorced Fannie is quoted as having said they “agreed to disagree and would still remain the best of friends”. In the 2001 movie titled “Bojangles” Bojangles was played by Gregory Hines and Fannie Clay was played by Kimberly Elise.

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Fannie Clay

Source:  Image –  Google Images Archive

Source: Greenfield, Phil. “‘Mr. Bojangles’ Is Well-acted History Play Recounts Vaudeville Days.” Baltimore Sun. 11 June 1993. Web. 18 May 2012.

Source: Mancini, Ralph. “Day Of Remembrance For Tap Dance Pioneer.” Times Newsweekly. 24 May 2007. Web. 18 May 2012. <2007/052407/NewFiles/ROBINSON.html>.

– Tiffany

SR Clay – Follow Up

23 Oct

A few months ago I wrote about Simeon “S.R” Clay on this blog. From that point on I wondered what had happened to Simeon. As we know he graduated from Meharry in 1899 and moved back to Ripley, TN. I found a US Census entry for him on the 1900 census, but had been unable to locate him on any further censuses.

 Well I found SR Clay and his family. While reviewing old photographs that I had taken of Canfield Cemetery in Ripley I came across a photo of his tombstone. He and his wife Mintie both passed in 1906 according to their tombstone, just six years after they had moved back to Ripley. What happened to them? The State of Tennessee did not require the completion of death certificates until 1908.

 I then began to look for their children. I easily found his daughter Nannie on the 1920 Census. She was listed as living alone in Ripley, TN. She was the head of her household and she owned her home. She also worked as a teacher in the public school. According to the tombstone she passed in 1924. SR Clay’s daughter Elvise died in 1919 according to the tombstone. I have not yet been able to locate any records on her.


– Tiffany

Source: Tombstone Picture – my own 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.

Year: 1920;Census Place: Ripley, Lauderdale, Tennessee; Roll: T625_1751; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 94; Image: 685.