- In the small town of Harriston in Augusta County, Virginia, there is a trailer park with roads designated Jollett North and Jollett South on the site where people once came to collect spring water from what used to be Jollett Springs.
- In Page County, Virginia, just below Skyline Drive there is Jollett Hollow complete with Jollett United Methodist Church and Jollett Hollow Cemetery.
- In Greene County, Virginia, along the Amicus Road the name “Jollett” appears in white letters on a wooden sign shaped like a hand pointing the way down a driveway almost hidden by foliage.
Pretty much these are the last reminders of the Jollett family name, proof that this family lived and thrived and left its mark on the Old Dominion. The name is considered so unusual today that few people have even heard of it. So who were the Jolletts and where did they come from? Family history says they came from the Alcase-Lorraine area of France; however, that’s only conjecture. Yet, the corruption of spelling from Jolet and Jollett to Jolley in some documents hints at a French pronunciation.
The earliest recorded Jollett in Virginia was John Jollitt who arrived in 1637 as an indentured servant aboard the Tristram and Jane of London. The Jollett name next appears on a marriage record in Essex County when Mary Jollett married John Coffey. Apparently the Jolletts moved up the Northern Neck. In 1711 Morrice Jolley patented his cattle brand in Westmoreland County. In 1719 Morriss Jollott was a witness in an inquisition into the death of a man who had drowned. Then in 1732 his Westmoreland County estate was settled and presented for record by his son William. Four years later William Jollett bought 100 acres in Orange County from Joseph Bloodworth, and that seems to be the most likely story of how the Jolletts came to Orange County.
In the years between 1736 and 1750, Thomas Jolet appeared on a list of receipts at the estate sale of Thomas Stanton in Orange County. He was compensated for traveling from Spotsylvania to appear as a witness at court in Orange. James Jolet obtained a patent for 61.5 acres in Spotsylvania County.
In 1760 James Jolly purchased 127 acres of land along Little Crooked Run in Culpeper County from Joseph and Mary James for £25. Eight years later Mary Jollett at the age of 18 married John Dogens Forrester in Culpeper County and then moved to Wilkes County, NC. A clue that this Mary is connected to the Virginia Jolletts, more specifically the ones documented in Orange, is that she named her first son Fielding, a name that can be found at least three more times among descendents of the Orange County Jolletts.
In 1777 James and Gracey Jollett sold that same 127 acres in Culpeper County to Andrew Newman. James Jollett appeared on the Culpeper tax records for the next ten years, but whether this is the same James Jollett or another James is not clear. In 1786 Thomas Jolley sold 150 acres to James Jolley. To date, this is the strongest candidate for a father for James. The absence of Thomas plus the presence of a Mary Jollett and a James Jollett side by side paying personal property taxes suggests a mother-son relationship.
Further evidence that James was Mary's son came in 1791. A marriage record for Judy Jollett and William Cave in Orange County cites James as bondsman and Mary as mother, suggesting that the father (Thomas?) had died. That same year James was surety in the marriage of Sophia Jollett to Cuthbert Norman. Several years later he was bondsman for Elizabeth Jolly who married William Eaton. These brides may have been his sisters.
With the marriage of James Jollett and Nancy Walker in 1787, recorded in both Culpeper and Orange, a line of Jolletts can be charted and traced with some certainty. Their children were Lucy Walker b.c. 1792, Clarissa b.c. 1793, Sarah “Sallie” b.c. 1794, Elizabeth b.c. 1796, Tabatha b.c. 1797, Drada, b.c. 1798, Melinda b.c. 1800, James W. b. 1800, Fielding b.c. 1801, and Simeon born before 1807. A quick count tells the probable fate of the Jolletts: only three sons to carry on the family name.
How many separate families existed and how widespread the Jolletts were is still a mystery confounded by the lack or quality of records as well as inconsistent spelling of the family name (Jollett, Jollet, Jolet, Jolliett, Jolliffe, Jolly, Jolley, and probably other variations). The search continues.
This post was adapted from an article I submitted to the Greene County Historical Society magazine so many years ago that I can't recall the date.