Janie Sutherlin Smith Barrett (1872-1904)

Janie Sutherlin Smith Barrett’s monument is located in the Sutherlin family square in Green Hill, a towering, bright contrast to the sea of mostly gray tombstones surrounding it. The green appearance of the angel is due to patina on the bronze, which makes the marker even more beautiful (in my opinion).




side view showing the curved wings

The Smithsonian American Art Museum‘s database describes the piece as: “A grave marker for Janie Sutherlin Barrett, 1872-1904, with a robed female angel standing on an ice-covered step with rocks jutting upward behind her. A section of either a rising or setting sun with radiant rays is placed behind and above her between the rocks. The angel holds a staff in her proper left hand. The sculpture is inscribed on the front and is mounted on top of a short, square base with a bordered grave plot before it.”

I’ve started researching Janie more than once only to put the project on hold due to confusion among the “Janies/Jannies/Janes” in this family.

This particular Janie was the daughter of Francis Smith and Jannie Lindsay Sutherlin Smith. Jannie Lindsay was the daughter of Maj. William and Jane Patrick Sutherlin of Danville, Virginia. The Sutherlin home still stands today as The Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History.

According to the museum’s brochure, when Janie was four years old in 1876 her parents returned to the Sutherlin mansion where the couple’s third child was to be born. (The second child died in infancy.) Jannie and the baby died during childbirth, which was frighteningly common in the 19th century.

For whatever reason, Francis Smith left Janie in Danville to be reared by her grandparents. The Sutherlins hired a live-in teacher for their granddaughter, but aside from that and a few blurbs in the society pages of newspapers, I wasn’t able to find out much about Janie’s life in between her birth and the time of her engagement.

Photo courtesy of Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

Because she lived with one of the area’s more prominent, wealthy families, she probably lived a fairly comfortable life for the late 19th century, spared from some of the problems faced by the city’s poor. In 1895 a watercolor painting of Janie was included in “A Calendar of Southern Beauties.” I was lucky enough to find an image of the painting, which shows what Janie looked like in her early 20s. (Clippings related to the calendar are at the bottom of this post.)

Alexandria Gazette 1 July 1895

In July 1895, Janie went to Europe for three months. Not long after her return to the United States, her engagement to Georgia-born journalist Edward Barrett was announced.

The Evening Times [Wash., DC] 28 Nov. 1895
Alexandria Gazette 6 Dec. 1895
The Roanoke Daily Times 19 Dec. 1895

Janie and Edward were married on December 18, 1895 at the Sutherlin mansion amidst the Christmas decorations. The wedding was described as a “Brilliant Matrimonial Event.” The wedding announcement said of the bride: “As a little child, as a girl, and as a young woman her exceptionally pure and beautiful disposition, her unassumed sincerity and genuine goodness of heart, added to her queenly beauty ever won for her universal favoritism.”

Alexandria Gazette 8 Aug. 1896

Janie’s name was mentioned in an 1896 newspaper in reference to an illness that she recovered from at her grandmother’s Danville home.

As of the 1900 census, Edward, a newspaper editor, and Janie lived in Birmingham, Alabama with four servants. According to this record Janie hadn’t given birth to any children during the first five years of the marriage.

Alexandria Gazette 3 Nov. 1904

In October 1904 Janie gave birth to the couple’s only child, Janie Sutherlin Barrett in the Sutherlin’s Danville home. Unfortunately, Janie (the mother) died six days after the birth on November 2 at the age of thirty-two.

She was buried in Green Hill beside her mother in the row in front of her grandfather’s grave.

The Times Dispatch 27 Aug. 1911

Edward and the baby returned to Alabama. When Mrs. Sutherlin died in 1911, seven-year-old Janie inherited the mansion. At that time the home was put on the market. According to the museum brochure, the Confederate Memorial Association played a key role in preservation efforts.

Janie married Julian Jordan, Jr. in 1923 in the mansion’s parlor-the same room where the weddings of both her grandmother and mother took place.

I visited the Sutherlin mansion over the summer during a mourning exhibit commemorating the death of William Sutherlin, so I’ve seen most of the home, including the parlor. After having sorted out the births, weddings, and deaths that occurred there, I’d like to go back in order to link mental images of specific events to the rooms in which they occurred.

The Bee [KY] 15 Aug. 1895
Alexandria Gazette 12 Oct. 1895

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