Monday, June 13, 2016

The Wives of James Franklin Jollett: Eliza Jane Coleman

As part of my “Genealogy Do-Over” efforts AND to force myself to get crackin’ on my James Franklin Jollett book, Jollett Reunion, I will be researching and writing brief biographies of James Franklin, his wives, and his children.

James Franklin Jollett had been a widower for a year and a half when he married Eliza Jane Coleman of Greene County, Virginia on 29 August 1885. She was twenty years younger than him. At the time, three of the Jollett children were already married and out of the house. The middle three were probably self-sufficient, but the youngest three were under the age of 7 and definitely in need of a woman’s touch.

So who was Eliza Jane, the woman who would become the only grandmother that 40 grandchildren would know?

Eliza Jane Coleman and James Franklin Jollett
Eliza Jane and James Franklin
I wonder what the dog's name was.
Eliza Jane was born 17 January 1856, the first of twelve children born to William Coleman and Diannah Shiflett. In various census records, it was noted she could not read or write, and in 1880, she was working on the family farm. The family did some moving during her childhood from Greene in 1850 to Rockingham in 1860 and to Albemarle in 1870 and 1880. When Eliza Jane and James Franklin tied the knot in 1885, it was done in Greene County.

In 1900, Eliza Jane and James Franklin owned their farm in Greene County free and clear. Both of them could read and write.

According to James Franklin’s Civil War Pension application, he and Eliza Jane moved to Harriston in Augusta County about 1904. Why Harriston? Why Augusta County? Maybe it was the draw of family that played a part in their decision; census records and death certificates suggest that many of Eliza Jane’s brothers and sisters lived in the same part of the Middle River district where Harriston is located.

Street names in a trailer park
are named in honor of Jollett Springs
The Jollett farm on Paine Run Road became popular for its fresh water springs fed by Paine Run. “Jollett Springs” drew neighbors far and wide carrying jugs to fill with the delicious spring water. That is where Eliza Jane and James Franklin lived out the rest of their lives.

They had only one child together, but Eliza Jane helped to raise not only James Franklin’s children but also a number of children who lived with them temporarily.  One was a neighbor’s son, William Ira Sullivan. While listed as “adopted,” it is not known whether the adoption was official or not. Even though he went to live with the Jolletts, his parents lived nearby, apparently struggling financially to provide for their many children. In 1910, a young boy enumerated as nephew “William McKinley Jollett” was in the Jollett household. I can find no such person, so it is likely his last name was not “Jollett” but a case of enumerator error; it is possible he was related to Eliza Jane through one of her brothers or sisters. Then in 1930, Darmon Bowen, the grandson of Eliza Jane’s sister Gernie Shiflett, was living with them as well.

Eliza Jane was widowed in 1930. She died eight years later, just two months shy of her 83rd birthday. The cause of death was hemiplegia, paralysis of the right side caused most likely by a stroke. The informant on her death certificate was “J. A. Coleman.” I had assumed this was James Franklin’s daughter Emma’s husband Jack Coleman until research on Eliza Jane revealed the large number of brothers and sisters, most notably John A. “Buck” Coleman. He and his family lived just a very short distance from the Jollett farm.

“Jack” Coleman was not such a far-fetched guess, however. He was actually Eliza Jane’s cousin (their fathers were brothers). So that means Jack was both a cousin and stepson-in-law.

Eliza Jane Coleman, Diannah Shiflett Coleman, John Coleman
Eliza Jane, her mother Diannah Shiflett Coleman,
and brother John Coleman
photo courtesy of Elaine Via

Family of James Franklin Jollett and Eliza Jane Coleman
James Franklin Jollett (17 Nov 1836 Rockingham Co, VA – 3 Jun 1930 Augusta Co, VA) and Eliza Jane Coleman (17 Jan 1856 Greene Co, VA – 9 Dec 1938 Augusta Co, VA) married 29 Aug 1885 Greene Co, VA
     1. James Henry Jollett (21 Apr 1894 Greene Co, VA – 29 Aug 1909 Augusta Co, VA)

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. 83 years, is a good age to live, especially back in those days. Good for Eliza Jane! She sounds like a strong woman and kind - looking after all those children. Fascinating post, Wendy. Thank you for sharing. You are obviously thoroughly enjoying your research. wish you a lovely week.

    1. Hi again Nicola, yes, this research is fun. I think Eliza Jane must have been a fine woman. From what I gather, the grandchildren loved her.

  2. Very interesting to read about Eliza Jane. I was wondering if she had a child "of her own" but it sounds like she was a great mother to all that she mothered! I think she lived a full life!


  3. It never ceases to amaze me how many wonderful pictures you have! I love being able to see the people you write about.

    1. I like being able to see them too. It always feels more difficult writing about people for whom I have no photo.

  4. I agree about the photos - it sure makes the people we are writing about come to life. I always feel like my blog posts are so boring when there are no pictures.

    Not only did Eliza live a nice, long life but James Franklin lived to be 94. Wow!

    1. It's amazing how long James Franklin lived. Nobody else in that line can beat that record.