Monday, August 29, 2016

James Franklin Jollett's Kids: James Ira Sullivan

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 and his wife Eliza Jane raised at least one more child, but the child was not their own. His name was James Ira Sullivan, and in the 1900 census he was enumerated as an “adopted” child of the Jolletts.
from 1900 Federal Census Augusta County, Virginia
Was the adoption a legal arrangement, complete with court documents? Or was this merely a case of one neighbor helping out another?

James Ira was born June 17, 1886 to Ira and Parthenia America Shiflett Sullivan of Greene County, Virginia. In the 1870 and 1880 census, Ira and Parthenia lived not terribly far from the Jolletts. James Franklin and Ira were more than just neighbors though; they knew each other well having served together in Company D of the 46th Virginia Regiment during the Civil War. Like most families in Greene County, the Sullivans too eked out a living from the land. By 1880, Ira and Parthenia already had six children between the ages of 2 and 14, and there were more to come.

Had a fire in the Commerce Department Building not destroyed most of the 1890 census records, there might be some clues as to what happened that the Sullivans sent their son into the care of James Franklin and Eliza Jane Jollett. Maybe the answer lies in the 1900 census. The older brothers and sisters were married and out of the house. The senior Ira was still alive and married to his second wife, Parthenia having died about 1889 when James Ira was only three years old. Perhaps that is the answer – perhaps the widowed Ira was not equipped to take care of a young boy who needed a woman’s touch.

In 1907, James Ira married Mattie Bell Claytor of Augusta County. The 1910 census reveals that they rented a place not far from the Jolletts’ home in Harriston, Augusta County. James Ira was a farm laborer, and Mattie Bell was a homemaker and mother to a 2-year old son.

By 1920, their lives changed dramatically. Four more children were added to the family. James Ira no longer worked on a farm; he was a laborer for the railroad. Apparently the pay was good enough for him to purchase a home along Paine Run Road in Grottoes, not far from where he grew up in the home of James Franklin and Eliza Jane.

James Ira and Mattie Bell added more children to the family according to the 1930 census, but otherwise the details of home and work were the same. One of the daughters returned home as a widow with a two-year old daughter.

After that, life changed dramatically once again. As of the 1940 census, they no longer owned their home; instead they rented. James Ira was working for the State as a laborer on state roads. He worked only twenty-five weeks in 1939, but what that means is not clear. He could have been sick. He could have lost his job with the railroad and was out of work. He could have been in and out of any number of jobs.

In all, James Ira and Mattie Bell raised ten children and two of their grandchildren whose mother died from tuberculosis at age 22.

No one knows how James Ira felt about being given away as a young boy to another family. However, it seems he was loved by James Franklin and Eliza Jane. They must have shown him the power of love and loyalty. Jollett reunions typically included a photo session of just James Franklin’s children and their spouses. James Ira was right there with them as a member of the family, not a Jollett by birth but regarded as a brother still.
Jollett Reunion 1921 Harriston, Virginia
Jollett Reunion 1921 Jollett home in Harriston, Virginia
Standing: Laura Sullivan, Sadie Jollett, Ulysses Jollett, Leanna Knight, Mary Frances Davis, Walter Davis,
Sallie Clift, Vic Breeden, Decatur Breeden, James Ira Sullivan
Seated: Will Sullivan, Jack Coleman, Emma Coleman, James Franklin Jollett, Eliza Jane Jollett 

James Ira SULLIVAN (17 Jun 1886 Greene Co, VA - 23 Dec 1963 Augusta Co, VA) and Mattie Bell CLAYTOR (13 Sep 1888 Virginia - 5 Sep 1964 Grottoes, Augusta, VA) married 31 Aug 1907 Augusta Co, VA
  1. Joseph Ira SULLIVAN (24 Apr 1908 Augusta Co, VA - 9 Sep 1963 Harrisonburg, VA) and Agnes Beatrice WADE (9 Aug 1905 Albemarle Co, VA – 10 Apr 1980 Fairfax Co, VA) married 3 Apr 1931
  2. Virginia Pearl SULLIVAN (14 Jun 1910 Harriston, Augusta Co, VA - 5 Feb 1933 Augusta Co, VA) and 1) Ernest BRUCE (1907 - 1984 Augusta Co, VA); 2) Harry Alfred ROBERTS
  3. Clarence Arthur SULLIVAN (1913 Augusta Co, VA - 4 Sep 1996 Harrisonburg, VA) and Lottie Nora MORRIS (3 May 1915 - 31 Jul 1994 Waynesboro, Augusta, VA) married 18 Sep 1934
  4. Luther Franklin SULLIVAN (11 Mar 1916 Harriston, Augusta Co, VA - 13 Oct 1998 Grottoes, Rockingham, VA) and Daisy P. BLACKWELL (16 Mar 1920 – 18 Jun 1993 Grottoes, Rockingham, VA) married 25 Mar 1938 Waynesboro, Augusta, VA
  5. Nina C. SULLIVAN (23 Jan 1919 Augusta Co, VA - 29 Jul 2009 Grottoes, Rockingham, VA) and Robert Lee MORRIS (11 Jul 1910 Grottoes, Rockingham, VA - 2 May 1972 Grottoes, Rockingham, VA) married 9 Oct 1937 Grottoes, Augusta, VA
  6. Rena P. SULLIVAN (18 Aug 1921 Augusta Co, VA - 17 Feb 2008 Newport News, VA) and Carl D. ESTES (4 Nov 1918 Augusta Co, VA - 4 Jul 1994 Newport News, VA) married 6 Sep 1936 Waynesboro, Augusta, VA
  7. David Edward SULLIVAN (17 Feb 1924 Harriston, Augusta Co, VA - 18 Jan 2002 Augusta Co, VA) and Mary Frances PARR (12 Jun 1926 Augusta Co, VA - 3 Oct 2007 in Staunton, VA) married 24 Sep 1946 New Hope, Augusta Co., VA
  8. Gladys Irene SULLIVAN (28 Mar 1927 Augusta Co, VA - 13 May 2011 Mt. Juliet, TN) and 1) Lee Odell CAMPER (12 Jan 1922 Rockbridge Co, VA - Feb 1989 Norristown, PA); and 2) Stanley V. ROSE
  9. Charles Harris SULLIVAN (27 Jun 1928 Augusta Co, VA - 29 Aug 1929 Augusta Co, VA)
  10. James Arey SULLIVAN (20 Dec 1931 Augusta Co, VA - 18 Feb 2002 Grottoes, Rockingham, VA) and Goldie Sue GREEN (21 May 1933 West Virginia - 27 Sep 2013 Fishersville, Augusta, VA) married 30 Jun 1951 Waynesboro, Augusta, VA 

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. That was nice that he was always included in the gatherings. I had a cousin on my dad's side that was raised by her aunt and uncle. I sm not sure if they officially adopted her, but if I remember correctly, the couple's only child died and they never had any other children. For some reason this cousin was given to them to help with their grief. She was young when it happened and as she grew she knew the story, but she considered them her parents.


  2. I love the family reunion photo and that James Ira was included! It sure does make you wonder what happened to have him join the Jollett family but it sounds like it was a good thing for him.

  3. I agree with Betty and Debi, I love that he was included in the family only photo. Whatever happened in his birth family, it certainly seems he found happiness with the Jolletts.