Sunday, November 6, 2011

Black Sheep Sunday: Sallie Jollett Clift

Black Sheet Sunday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers asking us to create a post with the main focus being an ancestor with a “shaded past.”

For the record, I don’t believe for one minute Sallie Jollett Clift was a black sheep.  But she has a bit of a reputation in our family lore.  Not deserved, I say.

11 May 1872 - 7 Jul 1944

Those whispering behind her back said she ran a house of ill-repute.  I understand how that rumor got started. 

Sallie and her husband George divorced in 1914.  What’s a woman to do?  She took in boarders.  In 1920 and in 1930, she is listed as a keeper of a public boarding house. 


George and Sallie Clift
with children Vernon and Daisy
who died in a fire in 1897

In 1920, the two boarders listed worked for the railroad.  Now I can see how maybe these men invited women “to see their etchings,” but there’s nothing to suggest Sallie was acting as a madam. 



In 1930, no boarders are listed at all.  Sallie’s grandchildren were there.  I doubt she could run a bawdy house with babies under foot. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)


The other reason I don’t think she was a black sheep is that Sallie was present at all the family reunions posing happily with her sisters.  Mary Frances Jollett Davis was a church-going woman who had her own hymnal.  Emma Jollett Coleman dressed in the dark somber clothing associated with the Dunkards, and her husband was the official prayer-deliverer at family events.  I doubt these two would have tolerated Sallie’s presence if she was up to no good.

Standing: Laura Sullivan, Victoria Breeden,
Sallie Clift, Mary Frances Davis
Seated:  Emma Coleman
Victoria Breeden, Sallie Clift, Mary Frances Davis,
Leanna Knight, Laura Sullivan, Emma Coleman

Standing:  Emma Coleman, Laura Sullivan, Mary
Mary Frances Davis, Sallie Clift, Victoria Breeden,
Burton Lewis Jollett
Seated:  James Franklin Jollett and Eliza Coleman Jollett

Of course, this is just my take on it.  If Sallie was running a brothel, then it’s because she was doing what she could to take care of her sons, daughter, and grandchildren.  Maybe that would make her a grey sheep.


3 comments:

  1. Sallie was Mollie's favorite sister, and I doubt she would have put up with too much of anything. However, if Mollie loved you she loved you for life according to Momma. =)

    Go Sallie, with your brave self.

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  2. I like your take on this, Wendy. Poor Sallie being the center of unfavorable lore. A woman back then, trying to provide for her children, most likely not earning a working income. Such a different time. I can't even imagine what it must have like for Sallie, and applaud you for contributing a different slant on what she did to survive.

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  3. Thanks for sharing the interesting story. Sallie looks so serious in the photo at the top of the post and in the photo with her husband and children. She had a difficult life--children died in a fire, a divorce at a time when women didn't get divorced. And, it sounds like the family never quite understood her. I hope that she also had some good times--enjoyed her grandchildren, etc.

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