Friday, May 13, 2016

Sepia Saturday: All the News That's Fit to Print

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a photo of typesetters. Surely technology for printing newspapers in 1929 was more advanced than when workers sat before a tray of dirty lead tiles to formulate titles and paragraphs. Setting type the old fashioned way was labor-intensive, even for such a brief article as this one recounting the events of one Jollett Reunion:

Shenandoah, Sept 5 – The fourteenth Jollett reunion was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. James F. Jollett, near Harriston, Va, on Sunday, Sept 1st in honor of James F. Jollett’s 94th birthday.

The members of the family began to gather around the large and beautiful spring about 9 a.m. and continued to come until 1:30 p.m. and it was indeed a great pleasure to see Mr. Jollett greet each of his relatives as they began to gather in and as it has always been in the past they were greeted with a smile and many kind and loving words spoken to them and many tales of olden time were told to each with each hand clasp.

At 1:00 p.m. lunch was spread with GrandFather Jollett offering up praise and thanks to God for the wonderful repast set before him and for sparing his life and each one present so that they may again enjoy the company of each relative and friend.

Business meeting was called to order by President Millard Davis at 2:30 p.m. and it was decided to hold the Reunions yearly at the home of Mr. and Mrs. James F. Jollett as long as the Lord spared Mr. Jollett’s life and permitted him to be present. The meeting opened with the song “Blest be the Tie That Binds” after which Miss Virginia Maiden of Dayton College, Va gave a reading followed by Prayer by Mr. W. J. Sullivan. Mr. James F. Jollett and Dr. A. L. Maiden of Dayton College each gave an address and from the expression on the faces of those present they more than enjoyed each of their remarks.  The meeting then came to a close by singing “God Be with you Until We Meet Again” after which the crowd began to wind their way to their respective homes each promising to meet the other at the next reunion and each promising to try and make the next reunion as near 100 percent in attendance as it is possible to do so.

Early Jollett Reunion before 1920 Harriston, Virginia
Probably the oldest photo of a Jollett Reunion
maybe 1916 based on clothing
and assumed ages of those pictured
My grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan used to say that the Jollett Reunion was THE main event of the year for her mother and aunts. In fact, one oft-repeated family story is that when it was announced that Japan had surrendered thus ending World War II throughout the world, my great-grandmother Mary Frances Jollett Davis’s response was, “Don’t you know today is the Jollett Reunion?” World Peace was secondary to Family Peace, I guess.  

The report in the newspaper gives a glimpse into the importance the Jolletts attached to the event. A BUSINESS meeting complete with a presiding officer hints at the formal structure needed to pick a date and place, find someone to offer a prayer, and arrange a program of sorts.

Jollett Family Reunion about 1916
Standing: Burton Lewis Jollett, Victoria Jollett Breeden,
Sallie Jollett Clift, Mary Frances Jollett Davis, Leanna Jollett Knight,
Laura Jollett Sullivan, Emma Jollett Coleman
Seated: Eliza Coleman Jollett, James Franklin Jollett, Ulysses Jollett
This article is informative but a tad confusing. The home “near Harriston” and the “spring” confirm that the reunion was held at Jollett Springs, James Franklin’s home known for its natural springs. People used to bring jugs to fill at his place. September 1 fell on a Sunday in 1929. If the reporter was correct about its being the fourteenth reunion, the first was in 1916. So far so good. The birthday celebration is questionable though. James Franklin’s birthday was in November, so while combining the reunion and birthday might seem likely, in 1929 he would have turned a spry 93, not 94. Of course, that error can be attributed to either a typo or miscalculation by the family spokesperson.

The promise to meet again in 1930 at the Jollett home in Jollett Springs was likely not fulfilled as James Franklin Jollett passed away in June, three months before the annual September reunion. The reunions may have moved to the home of Burton Lewis Jollett in Greene County for a time, but he died in 1934. A summary of the 1940 reunion appeared in the Daily News Record (Harrisonburg, Virginia). Since that one was held at Verbena Park in Shenandoah, Virginia, I suspect Verbena had become the new designated home of the Jollett Reunion.

Opening paragraph of the 1940 article
The rest is just a list of all those who attended.
The 1940 news report is the proverbial “treasure trove” of genealogical clues. Everyone who attended is named. Until I read it, I had always thought the Jollett Reunion drew ALL the Jolletts, not just the children of James Franklin Jollett and their families but also the families of James Franklin’s sisters Lydia Breeden and Lucretia Shiflett, and his brother John Wesley Jollett. However, it appears that the reunion was more focused than that. It was a time for James Franklin’s children to get together.

The two news articles tell me more about the Jolletts. The prayer and singing of hymns reveal their spiritual side.

Arthur Maiden, James Franklin Jollett, Emma Jollett Coleman, Praying at Jollett Reunion
Arthur Maiden delivering the prayer
James F. Jollett and Emma J. Coleman

4 Generations 1925
Orvin Davis, Mary Frances J. Davis,
Orvin Davis Jr., and James F. Jollett
Photos of family groups and the different generations - especially 4-generations together – are proof of what I have always heard about how close the Jolletts were.

Emma Coleman, James Franklin Jollett, Minnie Coleman Maiden, Virginia Maiden 1923 Harriston, Virginia Jollett Reunion
4 Generations 1923
Standing: Minnie Coleman Maiden
Seated: Emma J. Coleman, James F. Jollett,
Virginia Maiden

Jollett cousins in Harriston, VA 1919

The "Younger Generation" of cousins 1919
Standing: Orvin Davis, Johnny Coleman, Russell Coleman, Alda Clift, Violetta Davis, Elta Sullivan Farrar and husband Lewis Farrar, James Mitchell Morris with Reba Coleman Morris, Millard Davis and wife Edith
Sitting center: probably Wes and Minnie Sullivan Breeden
Sitting front: Raymond Clift, possibly Vessie Jollett, Leota Sullivan, Velma Davis, possibly Mattie Coleman

Spouses at a reunion before 1928

The Spouses at a reunion before 1928
Will Sullivan (Laura), Decatur Breeden (Victoria), James Mitchell Knight (Leanna), Sadie Lam Jollett (Ulysses), Walter Davis (Mary Frances), Jack Coleman (Emma), and James Franklin Jollett

Jollett Reunion in or before 1934
Walter Davis died in 1934, so this reunion photo was taken in
or before 1934.  Seated: Jack and Emma Coleman
Standing: James Mitchell Knight, Sallie Clift, Leanna Knight,
Walter Davis, Mary Frances Davis, Decatur Breeden,
Victoria Breeden, Laura Sullivan, Will Sullivan
This new insight into the Jollett family has inspired my next book, which will be called Jollett Reunion. Chapters will be devoted to James Franklin Jollett, his wives, and each of his children. In the coming weeks and months (I hope not YEARS), I will be researching and writing. As in the past, the stories on this blog will be the stories that comprise the book. I am thankful for programs like Blurb so that no one will have to sit at a tray of lead tiles to typeset it.

To see what news others have to share, follow the links at Sepia Saturday.

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. What a fantastic idea - the great family reunion. I love this concept, Wendy. Normally, our whole family only congregates at weddings and funerals. I haven't seen any of my cousins for almost 20 years. I admire Mr Jollett for celebrating family in this way. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this post and I wish you a lot of fun with your new book. Have a lovely weekend.

  2. I love your interpretation of the theme, Wendy - it's inspired! and great pictures of the family reunions to go with it.

  3. Multiple sides of my family: cousins, siblings, children, grands, & great-grands - whoever can make it, get together every summer at Lake Tahoe in mid July. Though we don't all live in close proximity - some of us coming from the east coast - we see each other on a fairly frequent basis which makes us a close family. Family reunions are the best! The amazing thing is we all get along together so well.

  4. This is awesome Wendy! It's so exciting that you'll be writing a new book too. Well done!

  5. Great theme for your new book and it looks like you have plenty of material. We always had a reunion with our cousins, but sadly no one seemed to be the designated photographer and so we only have our memories to draw on.

  6. Mary Frances had her priorities right for sure! I love the formality of the meetings and ending with the ‘God be with you’.

  7. Wendy,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  8. How neat with the reunions and that they made the local newspaper! I bet they were so looked forward to! Good luck with your next book!


  9. Kudos to the Jolletts for continuing this wonderful reunion! The older I get, the more I understand that the bottom line is staying connected to family. Honest!

  10. The family reunion is a marvelous social phenomenon. Ours is a big event in our lives but not press worthy. Your post has given me the idea of a blog site for our reunion to which everyone can contribute. I love the generations photos.

  11. Fantastic to have the records of your families reunions. Are you continuing this tradition? I wished for reunions but the families are scattered all over the world!

  12. Wendy, I was excited just reading about your family's reunions -- and thinking about our own reunions. And to have a book out of it as well, hot diggity dog! You are on a roll.!

  13. Wendy I was fascinated to read of the formality in the reunions but maybe it was necessary for a lot of people, all of whom might have wanted to contribute or say something. Certainly you could feel the love in the words recorded. All the best with your writing.

  14. Great idea to turn your blog into a book, so I know you've got a lot of information! Thanks for giving us this "intro."

  15. I remember a family reunion during which the family members we really didn't know behaved as if they were in their home. They were going through drawers in our house; they were having water fights with hoses out back; they were wandering into places that they shouldn't have been. When I told them to not have water fights they looked at me as if I was nuts. The guy with the hose in his hand said, "We always have water fights." I looked at him and smiled and said, "You DON'T this time." That was the last family reunion we ever had.

  16. My husband's family has had an annual reunion since about 1970. Sadly, as his parents and now his siblings are dying it seems to be slowly fading. There is still one scheduled for June, but I don't think many of our children's generation will attend. It never made the paper but we do have lots of photographs.

  17. Do you still hold family reunions? My husband's family had them when he was a kid but everyone has moved away and lost touch now that a few generations are gone. Seems odd to lose touch in this day and age.

  18. My mother and wife were away this weekend to my uncle's 100th birthday celebration in Port Deposit, Maryland. It was a large gathering of my father's family, and unfortunately I could not attend as I had a concert. Reunions were once an important centerpiece of family life, but with older generations passing, the branches twist and separate even more.