Family Stories

The Jolly Family

from Breckinridge County, Kentucky – Biographies

Part 1

The Jolly Family were among the earliest settlers in Breckinridge County.  Nelson Jolly, the progenitor of the family in Kentucky, was a native of Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  In 1780 he left that state in company with thirteen other families and immigrated to Kentucky, then beyond the borders of civilization.  The little band stopped at the mouth of Beargrass Creek – the present site of Louisville, where they remained one year.  Not satisfied with the look of the surrounding country they determined to go further, and in 1781 they embarked in flat boards and floated down the Ohio, landing at the mouth of Sinking Creek.  From there they proceeded through the unbroken forest until they reached the spot where Hardinsburg now stands, which place had previously been selected as a place of settlement by the leader of the band – William Hardin.  Here they at once constructed a log fort, as protection against the Indians, that soon became known on the frontier as “Hardin’s Fort”.  In this rude fortification the little band remained for several years.  Mr. Jolly was an inmate of the fort some two years, when he located two miles west of Hardinsburg, and lived there until his death in 1814.  Nelson Jolly, Jr., his son, was also born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in 1786, and was quite young when the family came to Kentucky.  He grew to manhood in Breckinridge County, and was a man of some prominence.  He was a magistrate a number of years, and as senior magistrate of the county, under the old constitution, became high sheriff, and then was again elected magistrate and served out his term, and became sheriff a second time, January 15, 1849.  He lived for a number of years at the mouth of Sugar Tree Run, in the Union Star Precinct, and there he died, in November, 1878.  His wife was Barbara Barr, born in 1781, and died in 1863.  Her father, Adam Barr, was a native of Virginia; came to Kentucky in 1792, and settled near where the village of Union Star now stands; he died there in 1859, at the age of one hundred years.  The children of Nelson and Barbara Jolly were Mary, Sallie, John B., James G., Samuel J., Gideon P., Bettie A., Adam N., Thomas J., David C., H. Clay and Francis M.

John B. Jolly, the eldest son of Nelson and Barbara (Barr) Jolly, is still living and is an honored citizen of Breckinridge County.  He has been sheriff and assessor, and held other offices of importance.  He married Rachel, youngest daughter of Henry Hardin, Esquire, a son of General Hardin, the proprietor of the town of Hardinsburg.  The result of their union was the following children:  George W., William H. H., Nannie, Sallie, Gideon and Dolly, wife of William Hardin.

Gideon P. Jolly was born February 7, 1822, and was brought up on the farm.  His education was limited, and confined to the common schools of the county.  He commenced his public career as deputy sheriff under his father, in 1849, serving for two years and five months.  He was elected the first sheriff (in 1851) under the present constitution; was re-elected in 1852, and held the office for six years.  At the expiration of his last term, he was elected to represent Breckinridge County in the Legislature, and served one term.  In August, 1856, he was elected circuit court clerk, and two years later was elected county court clerk, filling both positions until 1862, when he was re-elected.  He was defeated in 1866 for county clerk, but in 1867 was elected to fill out the unexpired term of Mr. Hambleton, who had died.  He was defeated for circuit clerk in 1868, and for county clerk in 1870; was elected sheriff in 1872 – held the office two years; and in 1874 was again elected county clerk, and re-elected in 1878.  He held the office of county clerk in all nineteen years, circuit clerk twelve years and sheriff eight years.  Since 1882 he has not been in active business, but at present is a candidate for county clerk.  He is one of the most popular men in the county – the soul of generosity, charitable, hospitable, and truly a man of the people.  He was married, September 24, 1866, to Eliza Beard, a daughter of Burrel and Ellen (Taber) Beard, of Breckinridge County.  Their children are Bion, Nannie (Mrs. Wathen), Lulu (Mrs. Bush), Clarre and Everett.  Mr. Jolly is a member of the Methodist Church, of the Masonic order and of the Republican party.

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