Monday, August 15, 2016

James Franklin Jollett's Kids: Ulysses Finks Jollett

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.

The last child born to James Franklin Jollett and Lucy Ann Shiflett was a boy whom they named Ulysses Finks. He never got to know his mother because she died soon after he was born.

Like his brothers and sisters, Ulysses grew up on the family farm in Greene County, Virginia, and he attended school where he learned to read and write.

Newspaper article wedding Ulysses Jollett and Sadie Lamb
from the Richmond Times Dispatch Nov 28, 1903
On November 23, 1903, he married Sadie Janiero Lamb in her parents’ home near Nortonsville. The two set up housekeeping in Harriston, Virginia, where James Franklin Jollett lived. The next year, they welcomed their only child Vessie Bernice.
Ulysses and Sadie Jollett
Vessie Jollett
By 1910, Ulysses, Sadie, and Vessie had moved to Shenandoah where most of his sisters and their families lived. He went to work for the Norfolk & Western Railroad, first as a laborer in the shops repairing wrecked train cars, and then later as a fireman. Eventually he became an engineer. The Jolletts were particularly close to Ulysses’ sister Vic and her husband Decatur Breeden, maybe because they were close in age and maybe also because Decatur was a railroad employee too.
Ulysses and Sadie Jollett, Vic and Decatur Breeden
Standing: Sadie Lamb Jollett and Vic Jollett Breeden
Seated: Ulysses Jollett and Decatur Breeden
Sometime before 1930, Ulysses moved his family to Baltimore, Maryland. He worked as a stationary engineer, another term for power engineer. Apparently he operated industrial machinery and equipment that produced energy.

While by all accounts, Ulysses was successful in his work, something was not right. On January 30, 1931, Ulysses died from a gunshot wound. According to the Coroner’s inquest, it was self-inflicted. Ulysses’ doctor claimed he suffered from “melancholia.”

However, Sadie and some others believe he was murdered by a lover’s jealous husband. According to family lore, he had an eye for the women and was known to take leftovers from Sadie’s good cooking to his lady companion. Apparently there was no investigation into the family’s theory about murder.

Ulysses Finks JOLLETT (26 Jan 1883 Greene Co, VA – 30 Jan 1931 Baltimore, MD) and Sadie Janiero LAMB (7 Jul 1880 Greene Co, VA – 5 Feb 1961 Fredericksburg, VA) married 23 Nov 1903 Greene Co, VA
  1. Vessie Bernice JOLLETT (21 Aug 1904 Greene Co, VA – 28 Jan 2001 Dahlgren, VA) and Gilbert A. STEPPE (1 Mar 1895 Page Co, VA – 12 Jul 1975 Fredericksburg, VA) married 26 Dec 1922 Harrisonburg, VA

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. Wow Wendy, what a colorful, albeit tragic, story. Maybe he took up with the doctor's wife!

    1. Oh now that would make an interesting plot - in fact, surely some detective television show has already used it. And what if it was true?!

  2. Boy, wouldn't you like to know more details about that? Although now that I say that, maybe it's best to just leave it alone.

    The photo with Vessie is interesting - she looks so stern, especially for such a young child.

    1. Funny you noticed that. See Ulysses trying to hold her hand. She was mad at him for making her wear the hat. Vessie told me the story herself.

  3. Very intriguing. I know they won't usually investigate once the coroner rules a suicide (at least according to the police procedurals I've seen) but that is suspicious as far as In concerned. Cute story about the photo, too.