Sarah Ross Brown (1888–1941)
Sarah Ross Brown was the daughter of Eliza Ross Hubbard (1862–1890) and Benjamin Brown (1857–1906), born in 1888 in St. Louis. Her parents probably expected she would grow up to be a debutante, marry a respectable and successful St. Louis man, and participate in St. Louis society. None of that happened.
Sarah’s mother, Eliza Ross Hubbard, died in 1890, probably in childbirth, when Sarah was just two years old. Sarah and her father, an unsuccessful businessman and probably an alcoholic, lived in the home of her grandfather, Robert Morris Hubbard, and step-grandmother, Mary (Ross) Gilbert Hubbard. In 1906, when Sarah was eighteen, her father died of cirrhosis of the liver. A year later, Sarah graduated from Mary Institute.
Sarah eloped with John Allen Jeffers (1885–1962) in 1909. John’s father was an Irish immigrant and a laborer, so there was a large socio-economic gap between Sarah and Mr. Jeffers.
Jeffers was a classic gold-digger, and the childless couple were divorced in 1913. Sarah accused him of non-support and “excessive drinking” and took back her maiden name. The St. Louis newspapers luridly reported the details of their elopement and divorce. Later, Jeffers continued his social-climbing efforts by marrying a St. Louis woman from another privileged family.
The year after her divorce, Sarah enrolled in the law school of Washington University in St. Louis. A newspaper, describing her as a “dashing divorcee,” reported that she had put aside her “life of pleasure” to pursue a law degree. Details of her career are unclear; however, in the late 1920s she was employed in the university’s law library.
In 1915, Sarah married Chauncey Ayers Cole, son of Elwood Andrew Cole (1865–1923) and Almina Celestia Tripp (1865–1927). He was born in 1891 in Peoria, Illinois. At first Chauncey was a bank teller, and then he held a succession of ordinary sales jobs.
Sarah Ross Brown
Photo in the collection of McKelden Smith
Used with permission
Sarah Ross Brown was a beneficiary of the will of her step-grandmother, who died of dementia in 1936. Sarah and her first cousin, Dorothy (Hubbard) Sims, were involved in suing Mrs. Hubbard’s guardians for mismanagement of their grandfather’s estate. And, after her death, the two cousins unsuccessfully contested Mrs. Hubbard’s will, which they thought unfairly favored a niece.
Sarah and Chauncey moved to Los Angeles in 1941. That year, Sarah fell accidentally, was hospitalized, and died in the Hollyview Sanitarium of “terminal pneumonia.” She was just fifty-one. Burial occurred in Peoria, Illinois. Chauncey continued to live in Los Angeles, working as an automobile salesman, until he died of heart disease in 1946, at age fifty-five. His cremated remains were sent to Peoria with burial beside Sarah.
Sarah Ross (Brown) Jeffers Cole had no children with either husband.
Written by McKelden Smith
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Last Modified: 24-Jul-2022 11:04