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Clifford Family Page

Descendants of Isaac Clifford, The Patriarch

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Kent-Clifford Family Reunion

August 13 - 15, 2004

Toronto, Ontario







Descendants of Isaac Clifford, The Patriarch



Rosemary Clifford McDaniel


Our Clifford Family descends from Isaac Clifford, the Patriarch. The earliest documentation of this Isaac is found in court proceedings in Hardy County, VA (now WV) in March 1796. Isaac Clifford appeared as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against defendant James Ryan who was charged with battery and false imprisonment. Isaac was identified as Isaac Clifford “alias black Isaac.”

These Court Order and Minute Books are available on microfilm at the Library of Virginia in Richmond, VA and at the WV Archives and History Library in Charleston, WV. The films can also be ordered from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City, UT and viewed at a local LDS Family History Center.

The next documentation of Isaac Clifford is his marriage to Judy Lewis in Hardy County, VA in 1796. This record is included in a marriage book housed at the Hardy County Courthouse in Moorefield, WV. These marriage records are also available online at

It is noteworthy that Isaac Clifford is not included in the first U.S. Census in 1790. The 1790 census does include one household of Cliffords identified as “Other Free Persons”, that of James Clifford of Newburyport, Essex County, MA. Thus far, no link has been found to connect this James Clifford to our Isaac Clifford.

Isaac Clifford first appears as a head of household in the 1800 U.S. Census for Cumberland, Allegany County, MD. His household consists of five members, all listed as “Other Free Persons.”

In 1810, Isaac Clifford is found in a separate listing of “Free Negroes” identified as taxpayers in Hardy County, VA.

(Source: "A Supplement to the 1810 Census of Virginia: Tax Lists of the Counties for which the Census is Missing" by Netti Schreiner-Yantis".)

In 1820, (Isaac Clifford) heads a household of "Free Colored Persons" in the U.S. Census for Hardy County, VA.



For individuals identified as “Free People of Color”:

August 27, 1823-----------------Jacob Clifford & Sally Smith

March 11, 1824----------------Eliza Clifford & John Peck, Jr.

April 18, 1824--------------- Abraham Clifford & Anne Peck

By 1830, there are three households of Cliffords listed as “Free Colored Persons” in the U.S. Census for Hardy County, VA. According to Carter G. Woodson’s “Free Negro Heads of Families in the United States in 1830”, these three households headed by Isaac Clifford (eight persons), Jacob Clifford (13 persons), and David Clifford (one person) are the only “Free Colored” Clifford families in the entire United States.

In light of historian Ms. Marlene Bransom’s research that reveals that Woodson’s study fails to include households where blacks or mulattos are living together with whites, it is possible that some of “our” Cliffords have been overlooked in 1830.

According to a document that inventoried his estate in Hardy County, VA (Wills, vol. 5, pgs. 286 - 288), Isaac Clifford was deceased by November 8, 1831. Subsequent records in Grantor/Grantee Deed Books housed at the Hardy County Courthouse in Moorefield, WV (also available in microfilm) identify Judith Clifford, Abraham Clifford, Isaac Clifford, David Clifford, John Clifford, Rebecca Clifford, Tabitha Clifford, Mary Jane Clifford, John Peck & Eliza Clifford Peck, and Jacob Clifford as widow and heirs of Isaac Clifford. These Hardy County records further indicate that all of the heirs of Isaac Clifford, with the exception of Jacob Clifford, had moved to Crawford County, PA by December 1833. According to the U.S. Census Index Books located at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., our Cliffords are no longer living in Virginia in 1840. (There is the possibility that our Cliffords were omitted from the Index Books).

In 1840, there are three households of our Cliffords in PA. Abram Clifford heads a household in Meadville, Crawford County, PA. John Clifford heads a household in Erie, Erie County, PA. Jacob Clifford heads a household in Franklin Township. Greene County. PA.

The 5 individuals in Abram Clifford’s household and the eight individuals in Jacob Clifford’s household are listed as “Free Colored Persons.” The four individuals in John Clifford’s household are listed as “Free White Persons.” Research suggests, however, that this John Clifford is the same person identified in Hardy County records as an heir of Isaac Clifford, the patriarch.

In 1850 U.S. Census is the first census to identify all of the members of a household by name. This is also the first Census to identify the birthplace, age and occupation of each person in the household. In 1850 Abraham Clifford, Isaac Clifford, Rebecca, Clifford, and their mother, Judy/Julia Clifford (all born in VA) are still living together in Meadsville, Crawford County, PA.

 In 1850, John Clifford is still in Erie, Erie County, PA, in a household with his wife, Lucinda and their children, Mary J. Clifford and Anna M. Clifford. He and the other members of the household are now identified as mulatto. The Census indicates that John’s birthplace is VA, and that he is a barber.

This house hold was omitted from the U.S. Census Index Books at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and was found by another researcher, Ms. Karen James, who is tracking families in Erie County, PA. Ms. James also found another Clifford family in 1850 in Erie County, PA that was omitted from the Index Books - - Isaih Clifford, a black barber born in VA, heads a household that includes Henrietta Clifford and Harrison Clifford. Just recently, the 1850 U.S. Census became available online at and this searchable database includes these two Erie County, PA Clifford households.

In 1850, Jacob Clifford is in Franklin Township, Greene County, PA in a household with his wife, Mary Lett Clifford, their children - Elizabeth Clifford, Solomon Clifford, Jacob Clifford, Rebecca E. Clifford, and William Clifford - and also Mary’s parents, Daniel & Betsey Lett.

The assumption is that this is the same Jacob Clifford who was previously married to Sallie Smith in 1823 in Hardy County, VA and is listed there in the 1830 VA Census. It is also assumed that this is the same Jacob Clifford who is in Greene County, PA in the 1840 Census, listed in his own household directly above Daniel Lett’s household.

Thus, it appears that Jacob Clifford moved from VA to PA sometime after 1833 and was married to a new wife, Mary Lett, sometime prior to 1840. Two of Jacob’s sons, Solomon Clifford and Jacob Clifford, were Civil War Veterans.

There is evidence that Jacob may also be the father of ”Julian” (aka Julia Ann Clifford) born in 1830 in VA, Daniel Clifford born in 1834 in VA, and James Clifford born in 1838 in VA. These Cliffords are found in Greene County, PA at various times during 1850 - 1900.

In 1850, our Cliffords show up again in the U.S. Census for Hardy County, VA. Isaac Clifford (c. 1824 - c. 1903), believed to be a grandson of Isaac Clifford, the patriarch, is there with his wife, Mary Satilp(hi) a Kent Clifford (c. 1816 - c. 1850), and their three sons - Theodore Kent Clifford, David Clifford, and John Robert Clifford - in the household of Satilpa’s parents, Evan and Priscilla Kent.

Theodore Kent Clifford (1844 - 1908) was a Civil War Veteran and became an outstanding minister in the United Brethren Church. He and his wife, Sarah Jane Turney Clifford (1852 - 1908), had 11 children. Theodore Kent Clifford died in Harrisonburg, Rockingham County, VA.

It appears that David G. Clifford (1845 - 1894) did not marry nor have any children.

John Robert “J.R.” Clifford (1848 - 1933) was a Civil War Veteran, became the first African-American to practice law in the state of West Virginia, was a peer of W.E.B. DuBois in the Niagara Movement, and founded and edited the Pioneer Press Newspaper.

He and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Franklin Clifford (1852 - c.1940) had 11 children. John Robert Clifford died in Martinsburg, West Virginia and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

After Satilpa’s death, Isaac Clifford married Susan Lowry (1828 - 1857) and had two children - William H. Clifford (1851 - ?) and Mary E. Clifford (1857 -1890). Mary married Daniel Stuart/Stewart and they had one child.

After Susan’s death, Isaac Clifford married Elizabeth Jane Redman (c. 1837 - 1914), daughter of Robert and Lucy Redman. Isaac and Elizabeth were the parents of seven children.

Jacob Edward Clifford (1860 - 1929) married Jane K. Green (1860 - 1919)and they had 10 children.

Lucy Ellen Clifford (1863 - 1954) married Samuel James Howard (1855 - ?) and they had 4 children.

James Henson “J.H.” Clifford (1865 - 1900) married Eliza Ann Stevens (c. 1865 - 1912) and they had 6 children.

Isaac Clint Clifford (1869 - 1916) apparently did marry nor have any children.

Eliza Frances Clifford (c. 1870 - 1951) married Will Washington.

Susan T. Clifford (c. 1872 - ?) married Thadeus Sommerset Kent (c. 1871 - 1942) and they had 10 children.

Rachel Mahalia Clifford (1874 - 1951) married Thomas Runnicks Kent (c. 1875 - 1960) and they had 8 children.

My great-great grandfather, William Henry Clifford, Sr., (1835 - 1881) believed to be another grandson of Isaac Clifford, the Patriarch, is also in Hardy County, VA, in 1850. He is listed in the household of his employer as the barkeeper in the Mullin Hotel.

William Henry Clifford, Sr. left VA and moved to Cleveland, OH. In 1859, he married Evaline Conaway (1838 - 1909) and they had two sons, John M. Clifford (1860 - 1928) and William Henry Clifford, Jr. (1862 - 1929), my great-grandfather. William Henry Clifford, Jr., was a lawyer and served two terms representing Cuyahoga County in the Ohio State Legislature.

John Clifford (c. 1825 - 1917) is believed to be another grandson of Isaac Clifford, the patriarch. John Clifford married Mary Ann Tate (1825 - c. 1901) in Greene County, PA in 1845 and later moved to the Lett Settlement in Muskingum County, OH.

John & Mary were married 55+ years and were the parents of 15 children, 10 of whom are identified -- Ebenezer “Eb” Clifford, Lorenzo Dow Clifford, Margaret E. Clifford, Melinda Clifford, Catherine Clifford, John M. Clifford, Angeline Clifford, William M. Clifford, Ida Mae Clifford and Nancy Bell Clifford.

Ebenezer Clifford (1841 - 1911) married Mary T. Simpson

Lorenzo Dow Clifford (c. 1849 - c. 1899) married Mary Ordelia Kent

Margaret E. Clifford (1851 - ?) married Benjamin Caliman

Ida Mae Clifford (1869 - 1906) married Joseph Barnett

Nancy Bell Clifford (1872 - 1943) married Charles Sumner Caliman

John Clifford and his son, Lorenzo Dow Clifford, were Civil War Veterans.

Lorenzo and Mary Clifford had a son, John William “Will” Clifford, who was the father of Rev. John Lester Clifford of Piedmont, WV.

This is a summary of the primary Clifford lines that I am working on thus far. I wish to thank all of the family members who have helped me with this research project. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, corrections or suggestions. This is an ongoing effort and I’m sure there is much more to discover.

Rosemary Clifford McDaniel

Clifford Family Historian and Genealogist


“The Clifford Family and J.R. Clifford, A Civil Rights Pioneer”

Rosemary Clifford McDaniel

J. R. Clifford Stamp Celebration

February 20, 2009

West Virginia Cultural Center Theater

Charleston, WV


Good morning,

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak about the Clifford family and J. R. Clifford-- with a focus on the information gleaned from genealogical research.       

I began researching the Cliffords in 1991, when my oldest son was given an assignment for seventh grade to draw his family tree.  My direct line was quite small.  My father and my aunt had only one cousin, one uncle, and one grand-uncle.  Our family Bible revealed that my earliest known Clifford ancestor was a great-great grandfather, William Henry Clifford, Sr., born in 1835 in Virginia. 

When I asked my aunt if she knew of any other Cliffords, she showed me the photo and biographical sketch of “J.R. Clifford, Esq. , Editor-Lawyer-Teacher-Orator”, in Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive and Rising, by William J. Simmons, published in 1887.  She explained that J.R. was believed to be a distant relative.  This book had belonged to my great-grandmother, Carrie Williams Clifford, the first woman admitted into full membership in the Niagara Movement and one of the founders of the Washington, DC branch of the NAACP. 

My research took a major leap forward when I was introduced to Dr. Paul Ingraham Clifford of Atlanta, GA who had researched his family’s genealogy and was in the process of writing a book about his grandfather, J. R. Clifford.   Dr. Clifford introduced me to several members of the extended Clifford family who had been assembling for family reunions since 1973, and met Dr. Clifford for the first time, in 1988, on the occasion of his lecture entitled “Certain Dimensions of the Life and Times of J.R. Clifford, Pioneer”, at the Admiral Boarman House in Martinsburg, WV.    

Dr. Clifford sent me a copy of his speech that expanded upon the biographical information in Men of Mark and offered detailed information about J.R.’s genealogy and the major events in his life, including his journey to Chicago to attend school under the guidance of John J. Healy; his Civil War service in Company F, 13th Regiment, US Heavy Artillery; his whereabouts and continuing education after discharge; his graduation from Storer College; his marriage to Mary Elizabeth Franklin and their ten children; his career as a teacher and principal at the Sumner School in Martinsburg, WV; his founding of the Pioneer Press newspaper; his notable career as a lawyer as evidenced by Martin v. Board of Education and Williams v. Board of Education; his leadership roles in the Niagara Movement and the National Independent Political League; and his membership in numerous organizations including the Pen and Pencil Club of Washington, DC, the Knights of Wise Men, and the American Negro Academy.  J.R. was a 33 Scottish Rite Mason.

Dr. Clifford’s speech illuminated J. R.’s early opinion about the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for which the Niagara Movement had served as a forerunner.  Despite his preference that the organization would have chosen the name “National Association for the Advancement of Humanity”, in reference to the NAACP, J.R. wrote in the Pioneer Press, in 1917, “An organization so important, so efficient and so needed calls for the support of every man and woman of us.  There should be a local branch here with at least one hundred members”.

Dr. Clifford and I exchanged information and met several times, prior to his passing in 1993.  He directed me to Hardy County, VA as the location where J.R.’s family originated.  In 1991, Dr. Clifford wrote “ …the Cliffords, like most American families, dipped into a number of different gene pools.  I do not believe the terms “black” or “white” or similar adjectives are helpful or heuristic in the kinds of problems with which we are dealing.  These people were Irish, native American and “free people of color” in varying degrees of combination and admixture”.   He also wrote, “I further hope that should I die before I have completed my research, that you can find it possible to pick up where I leave off”.

Thus, my early research efforts focused on confirming the material in Men of Mark, validating Dr. Clifford’s information, connecting J.R.’s family to other Clifford families from Virginia, corroborating the stories shared by members of the extended family who invited me to my first Kent-Clifford reunion in 1992, and finding out how far back I could trace the Clifford lines. 

This quest led to research of the census records and Civil War Pension Files at the National Archives in Washington, DC; research of City Directories, County histories and various sources at the Library of Congress and the DAR Library; and research of the documents on the Niagara Movement in the Moorland-Spingarn Collection at Howard University.

J.R. Clifford’s Civil War Pension File provided numerous statements in his own words and handwriting to substantiate the chronology of the major events in his life.  Some interesting new facts were that his father Isaac had introduced him to John J. Healy, that Healy had accompanied him when he enlisted, and that he had returned to Chicago to live with Healy, immediately after his discharge.  The documents also indicated that J.R. had lived briefly in St. Catherine’s Canada in the 1870s and that his marriage to Mary Elizabeth Franklin was performed by Rev. N. C. Brackett, President of Storer College. 

Although the Bible he mentions that can confirm the date of his birth has been lost, it is fortunate that a copy of a postcard depicting the house where he was born with a notation of his birth date and birthplace in his own handwriting--survives.

Further research of the Pension Files clarified the familial relationships and confirmed the Civil War service of several of J.R.’s relatives--his brother, Theodore Kent Clifford, a United Brethren minister; his uncle, John Clifford, and his cousin, Lorenzo Dow Clifford, of the Lett Settlement in Muskingum County, OH; and his uncles, Solomon Clifford and Jacob Clifford, of PA.  For more information on the Letts and their connection to Benjamin Banneker, the Lett Settlement and the Underground Railroad, go to <

There is an interesting story about Daniel Clifford, another one of J.R.’s uncles, whose interview appeared in the Bradford Daily Era on May 5, 1887.  Daniel Clifford recounted that in the 1850s, he was a member of a group of seventy-five men who had organized in Canada in order to participate in John Brown’s raid.  According to Daniel, he and the other men were delayed in Canada beyond the scheduled date for them to join forces with Brown and Brown, in Clifford’s words “a very passionate, hot-headed man”, launched the attack without them. 

I travelled to the State Library in Richmond, VA and numerous Historical Societies and County Courthouses in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to research County Histories; newspapers; deed records; cemetery records; court order and minute books; wills; birth, marriage, and death records, etc.  I came here to the WV State Archives and also went to the NJ State Archives in Trenton, NJ.

The majority of my research was done many years ago, before the proliferation of genealogical information on the Internet.  Today, one can view—online, not only census records, Civil War Files, and Freedman’s Bureau Records, but also an incredibly wide range of other information.  There are web sites flooded with information categorized by surname or by geographic area and even by ethnicity.  One has access to books and primary documents that have been digitized and are searchable with the click of a mouse.  For example, the DuBois papers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, an excellent source of information about the Niagara Movement, are now available online.

In closing, I will briefly highlight three research findings.   

First, in 1996, I found the record of the lawsuit, in 1796, by Isaac Clifford, alias black Isaac, that led me to advance the theory that he is the earliest documented Clifford in these lines and therefore the one whom I consider the “patriarch”.  This Isaac Clifford was a free person of color, born circa 1776, who sued a white man, James Ryan, for trespass, assault, battery, and false imprisonment because Ryan kidnapped him and tried to hold him as a slave.  Clifford won.  The verdict was appealed.  Clifford won a second time.

These court proceedings provided evidence that the first Isaac Clifford had some affiliation with James Clifford, the only Clifford found in the 1790 VA Census.  This James Clifford who appeared as a witness on Isaac’s behalf is related to the Cliffords of Hunterdon, NJ and Ligonier, PA who were of English ancestry.  For more information on this family, go to< 

The prevalent family story that the Clifford patriarch was a red haired Irishman who courted a slave woman remains unproven, despite its similarity to what is written about J.R. Clifford and Clifford Hollow in Hardesty’s West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia, Supplemental Series, Volume III, page 242.   

Second, in 2006, I realized that there is a strong likelihood that one of the reasons J. R. Clifford participated in the Williams v. Board of Education lawsuit is that he was related to some of the children who attended the Coketon Colored School where Mrs. Williams taught.  For example, the children of his half-brother, James Henson Clifford, who was a school teacher living with his family in the Fairfax District of Tucker County, WV, according to the 1900 census, might have been students there. 

Third, in 2008, I was able to confirm the family story that there was some kind of connection with Thomas Jefferson by determining that J.R. Clifford’s wife, Mary Franklin Clifford, was related to the Hemmings family that included Sally Hemmings and Elizabeth “Betty” Hemmings.     

I want to express my appreciation to the many family members who have so generously shared their photographs and information, especially Mrs. Freda Rolls, Ms. Kimberly Rolls, Mr. Clifford Jackson, and Mr. Clarence Spiller.  I also want to acknowledge Mr. James Henson Clifford, Jr. and the late Mr. James Ward Clifford, Jr. for participating in a DNA comparison that confirmed a shared male lineage.

In conclusion, genealogical research suggests that a precedent for J.R. Clifford’s unwavering defiance, his persistent protests against injustice, and his decision to demand redress through the court system during the 1890s, is found in the courageous lawsuit waged ----one hundred years earlier--- in 1796, by his great-grandfather, Isaac Clifford, the patriarch.   

If you wish to contact me, my email address is 




Thank you.








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