Sunshine (Clinton) Merriwether

Sunshine (Clinton) Merriwether (circa 1876-1940) was born to Willis Y. and Nancy “Nannie” (Smith) Clinton around 1876. She was the second of two daughters. Willis worked as a janitor. The family lived on Lampton Street in the Smoketown Neighborhood and attended Fifth Street Baptist Church. Willis died in 1892, and Sunshine’s sister Jessie died in 1897. According to the 1900 census, Sunshine and her mother were living on Laurel Street in Smoketown, and Sunshine was working as a teacher. By 1908, she had married Harry Hall Merriwether, the grandson of Harry Merriwether. According to the 1910 census, Harry was a chauffeur and they were still living on Laurel Street. In 1898, Harry purchased land on River Road from his grandfather to build a house (the Merriwether House). Harry, Sunshine, and Nannie were living in the house by 1920. Nannie Clinton died in 1923 at the approximate age of 83. Harry continued to work for the wealthy families near River Road. He and Sunshine never had any children. The house’s proximity to the Ohio River made it attractive to boaters and vacationers in the early 20th century. The family built and managed docks and cottages on their property, allowing for the rest to be farmed. On July 13, 1940, Sunshine died after a three year illness. She was buried in Section B, Range 9, Lot 2 of Eastern Cemetery. Her parents and sister are also buried in the plot. Their graves are unmarked.

Harry then married Elnora Williams with whom he had two children: Mary and Bernard. The Merriwether House is a symbol of black settlement near Harrods Creek. At the turn of the 20th century, there were a handful of black communities in the county. Free blacks developed most of them after the Civil War. The National Register nomination for the Merriwether House states, “These settlements are particularly important because they served to challenge the norm the mass migration of blacks into Louisville. While this urban migration continued for more than a half century, a virtually undocumented rural movement was fostered in small settlements and on farmsteads.” Photo of the house from “Courier-Journal” April 2, 2014.