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,
Ulysses 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.



  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.

  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.

  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.