Monday, July 18, 2016

James Franklin Jollett's Kids: Mary Frances Davis

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.

Mary Frances Jollett Davis
My great-grandmother
Mary Frances Jollett Davis

Child #5 born to James Franklin Jollett and Lucy Ann Shiflett was named Mary Frances but most often went by “Mollie.” At five months of age, she made her first appearance in a federal census, having been born January 10, 1870. Like her brothers and sisters, she attended school near Swift Run and learned to read and write. She grew up surrounded by her mother’s brothers and sisters and their children. Perhaps that is how her strong love of family began and grew.

Walter Beriah Sylvester Davis
My great-grandfather
Walter Davis
With such close ties to family in Greene County, Virginia, it almost seems a surprise that Mollie met and married a boy from Rockingham County just across the mountain. Walter Beriah Sylvester Davis grew up in Beldor which is just off today’s Skyline Drive, a park that did not exist in their courting days. Mollie’s home was near Swift Run in Bacon Hollow, also just off the Drive. So while they came from two different counties, both lived near the dividing line.

Mollie was 20 and Walter 23 when they married just before Valentine’s Day, February 11, 1890. They lived for a time in Greene County, but by 1899, they had settled in the town of Shenandoah in Page County, just a few miles north of where Walter and Mollie had grown up. Shenandoah was booming with the Norfolk & Western steam railroad. As a major hub, the town boasted a large number of repair shops. However, Walter was not a railroad man; he was a carpenter like his father.

In the 1900 census, the young Davis family was living next door to two of Mollie’s sisters and their families. They all owned their homes, free and clear. Mollie and Walter had two boys, Millard and Orvin, but they had lost their first child in 1893, another boy, Elsworth who lived just over a year.

Davis and Sullivan cousins outside the Davis home Shenandoah, Virginia
Davis and Sullivan cousins outside the Davis home
corner of Williams Ave and Third St, Shenandoah, VA
Back row: Floral Sullivan, Orvin Davis,
probably Laura Jollett Sullivan, and Mary Frances Jollett Davis
Front row: Violetta Davis, Velma Davis, Elta Sullivan, Leota Sullivan
The 1910 census reported four children living at home: Millard, Orvin, Violetta, and Velma. However, another child had been born and died. Her name was Josy, and she lived a brief two years. Two years after this census, Kenneth came into their lives only to die after eleven days from neonatal jaundice.

Mollie and Walter and their four children lived a good life. Walter built many of the homes in Shenandoah, many from Sears plans, including their own new home on Sixth Street. Mollie made sure the children were dressed well and that they had “nice things” for the home. They were not wealthy, by any means; Mollie was just a good money manager. According to one family story, she used to buy the children’s clothes too big so that they could wear them longer. One day Orvin walked downtown wearing some rather large pants; as he passed a group of men sitting outside the barbershop, one of them called out, “Pants, where are you taking that boy?” Laughter could be heard up and down Front Street.

Being frugal was just part of Mollie’s makeup. She was a devout Christian and active member of the Evangelical United Brethren Church. She enjoyed singing the hymns and being part of the Gleaners, a woman’s society dedicated to missions. In the early years of the congregation, the Gleaners raised money to buy a piano for the church. Mollie was one of the signers on the note guaranteeing payment over time.
Gleaners Evangelical United Brethren Church
The Gleaners of the Evangelical United Brethren Church
In addition to building houses, Walter opened a grocery store on the corner of Sixth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. He put his sons to work there, Millard for just a while before he went to work for the railroad, and then Orvin. Orvin owned a car repair business too, so his wife Lucille took care of day to day business at the store.

The Davis store 
Thelma Hockman, Addie Hockman, Velma Davis, Mary Frances Jollett Davis
Standing: Thelma Hockman, Velma Davis
Sitting: Addie Hockman, Mollie Davis
While the sons were put to work, Walter and Mollie sent the girls to college. The girls often brought friends home for weekends and holidays. Walter and Mollie seemed to enjoy having their young friends around.

Walter Davis, Violetta Davis, Velma Davis, Thelma Hockman, Leta LaVow
Walter was a dapper dresser and
he loved the girls!
Velma Davis, Violetta Davis, Walter,
Thelma Hockman, Leta LaVow

It is easy to see why Mollie and Walter were so loved by their children and grandchildren.

Mary Frances Jollett Davis Harrisonburg, VA
Mary Frances on the porch at Violetta's

Shortly after Walter died in 1934, Mollie went to live with Violetta in Harrisonburg. Mollie died in 1950. She and Walter are buried in the Coverstone Cemetery in Shenandoah, Virginia.

Mary Frances Jollett Davis
This photo of Mary Frances
was always on a dresser
in my grandparents' home

Mary Frances JOLLETT (10 Jun 1870 Greene Co, VA – 22 Feb 1950 Harrisonburg, VA) and Walter Beriah Sylvester DAVIS (12 Sep 1867 Rockingham Co, VA – 31 Oct 1934 Shenandoah, VA) married 11 Feb 1890 Greene Co, VA
  1. Ellsworth O. DAVIS (27 Mar 1892 – 28 Sep 1893)
  2. Millard Mitchell DAVIS (19 Oct 1894 Greene Co, VA – 27 Dec 1951 Shenandoah, VA) and Edith Irene KITE (7 May 1895 Page Co, VA – 24 Feb 1985 Shenandoah, VA) married about 1914
  3. Orvin Owen DAVIS (12 Dec 1899 Shenandoah, VA – 16 Oct 1963 Portsmouth, VA) and Lucille Mary RUCKER (9 Oct 1904 Shenandoah, VA – 1 Nov 1990 Chesapeake, VA) married 17 Sep 1923 Hagerstown, MD
  4. Josy DAVIS (1 Aug 1901 Shenandoah, VA – 15 Dec 1903 Shenandoah, VA)
  5. Violetta Lorane DAVIS (Jan 1904 Shenandoah, VA – 21 Dec 1989 Harrisonburg, VA) and Virgil Franklin RYAN (20 Aug 1898 Rockingham Co, VA – 2 Jul 1941 Harrisonburg, VA) married 16 Jun 1936 Harrisonburg, VA
  6. Velma Hilda DAVIS (15 Feb 1908 Shenandoah, VA – 5 Jun 1968 Harrisonburg, VA) and Arthur Henry “Woody” WOODRING (13 Jun 1903 Pennsylvania – 21 Jan 1951 Martinsburg, WV) married 15 Jan 1927 Shenandoah, VA
  7. Kenneth Leland DAVIS (25 Jul 1912 Shenandoah, VA – 6 Aug 1912 Shenandoah, VA)

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. I continue to be in awe of all the photographs you have, Wendy! Lucky you. This is a great project, to write about all James Franklin's children.

    1. I used to envy everyone's photos, but more and more I do feel lucky. I think I still envy the KIND of photos because I don't have a lot of formal portraits and wedding photos that other people have.

  2. I liked that they sent the girls to college. Enjoyable to read about her.


    1. I do too, and yet it seems unfair to the boys. Maybe Walter really was hoping the girls would find husbands that way, I don't know. But both became teachers.

  3. Such a great write-up about Walter and Mollie. Wow! What wonderful photos you have! And as Nancy already mentioned, this really is a great project. Good for you Wendy for creating an invaluable family heirloom! I hope you'll share pictures of your finished book here on your blog.

    1. Thanks Jana. I will definitely share the book on here when it's done. Most of the plan is still marinating in my head, but I'm getting chapters done with these blog posts.

  4. This is a lovely post, Wendy. Your great-grandparents sound like wonderful people. I also enjoyed your post about your parents' and grandparents' first homes. Wonderful photos, too.

    1. Mollie was my mom's favorite grandmother. She named my sister after her.

  5. "Pants, where are you taking that boy," oh my, that line will make me giggle the rest of the day I am afraid. Poor Orvin. I'm sure for the kids it was difficult to fully appreciate their mother's frugality, but hopefully it instilled in them the value of the dollar and helped them when they began to manage their own money.

    1. You know what, that makes me laugh too. And you know for that story to be around 3 generations later, it has been making us all laugh for over 100 years.

  6. I loved this story, Wendy. You told it so well, the warmth and happiness in the Davis home is palpable.