Saturday, January 11, 2014

Meeting Grandma Prater: The Fleming's of Brownsville,Tennessee

Edith Fleming-Prater 1922

I remember the day that I met my husbands paternal Great Grandmother, Edith Elizabeth Fleming Prater. He had always spoke of her, saying that she had this tiny voice. It was soft, yet high pitched. Making her sound very young. He told me that when he and his sisters went to  grandma Prater's house as children, there were never any other children or family around. No cousins, aunts or uncles. It was so strange. Different than most families. Already the curiosity about grandma Prater's family history was brewing. Where was her family?  It was Thanksgiving day that year and my father in law had brought her home from the nursing home to spend the day with the family. I approached the woman in the wheelchair with caution. Looking back, I think I was a bit nervous. When she spoke, I noticed her  very tiny voice. It was my children's first time meeting her also. She seemed fascinated with my son, who was just a little boy back then. She hugged him and started to cry when she heard his name. He is the 4th generation of the family name, Charles. I could see that she had a very special bond with her grandson, Charles, ( my father in law) who she raised as her son. Meeting her that day only made me more curious to find out all about her history. And so the questions began..

Edith was born in November of 1904 in  Memphis,Tennessee to  Robert Fleming and Jennie King. As far as I know she only had one sibling, a sister named Vivian. I began searching for her in the census records and was surprised that I found her so easily. For every census year up to 1930, I found Edith living with her grandparents, Emmet and Elizabeth Fleming and her father Robert Fleming. It appeared that she was raised by her grandparents. Her mother, Jennie was no where to be found in the census. I wondered where she was? After the death of Edith's grandmother, Elizabeth. Edith and her family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. According to the story my Father in law told me, Grandma Prater (Edith) was expecting. Being an unwed mother, she was being sent away to stay with relatives in Buffalo New York. The picture shown above was taken when she was getting ready to leave. I wonder who lived in New York..Another clue to figure out. After her daughter, Mary Louise was born, Edith came back to Cincinnati, Ohio. It was there that she met Albert Thomas Prater. They were married in 1925. He was from Newman, Georgia. His parents were Israel Prater and Cornelia Huggins. Thomas had three sisters, Lola, Ida Belle and Sarah.

Edith and Thomas moved to Minneapolis, Mn about 1946 with their young grandson Charles.Thomas opened a grocery store called Prater's Grocery. The family lived in the back of the store. They later moved to a house in south Minneapolis. Years later Thomas and Edith both worked for the U.S. Navy department. Thomas died in 1977 and Edith died in 1990.

Looking For the Fleming Family:

As I continued to trace the history of Grandma Edith Prater. I started searching for her father Robert. I found him living in Brownsville, Haywood county, Tennessee. As I sifted through census records, and went back further. I found Robert along with his parents and siblings. By the time that I reached the 1870 census I felt like I found gold! There was Robert's father, Emmet, his parents Thomas and Harriet Fleming and a load of brothers and sisters and their families. A whole page of Flemings!  Peter and Melissa Austin were living next door. I had heard the name "Austin" before. I have a hunch that Melissa was Thomas and Harriett's daughter. From 1870-1940 they stayed in the same place. Brownsville, Tennessee. According to the  census, they were all farmers. I wondered how life was for them. So this was Grandma Prater's family. Now I have to try to put the families together and find out who they were. along with locating the slave owner..more to come.

1870 Census- Brownsville,Haywood co, TN

Robert Fleming-Father of Edith Fleming Prater


© 2014 Denise Muhammad