Tuesday, October 15, 2019

52 Ancestors - ADVENTURE: The Jollett Boy

One wild story of adventure has been passed down through the family. Not the Huckleberry Finn kind of adventure of exploring up and down the Mississippi encountering con men, slave traders and other interesting characters. Not the Jim Hawkins kind of adventure searching for buried treasure. Certainly not Ahab’s adventure seeking revenge on a great white whale.

It is a story of Indian capture and escape. It was recorded in a letter written by Rosetta Meadows Eppard, granddaughter of John Wesley Jollett, my 2X great-grandfather’s brother. The original was scanned and sent to me by a distant cousin Jan Hensley in 2007. My transcription preserves the peculiarities of spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.
Just the first page of 4

December 15, 1964

I am writing the true Story of the Jollett Boy the Indians stold Back in the days whin the Indians would be passing through this country thay would steal Boys and girls If thay could. So one day the Jollett Boy my mother would tell us about she always called him Grand Pa’s little Boy he was cutting down Bushes back of the house up on a Hill I don’t know the age of the boy probley any whare from 10 to 13 years old. Any way the Indians taken him he couldn’t help him self do nothing but go and whin thay got to there Indian home and stayed a few days they wint on a nother hunting trip and taken him with them and they would make him cary there wild game thay killed on his Back until the skin would come off but he had to go every time thay wint. Thay lived off of there wild game I don’t know what thay killed and eat but they didn’t cook it but half done. But the Boy learned to eat that way. So one day they were going such a long trip they thought he couldn’t make it and thay left him with 2 old Indians he was then 21 years old he was with them a long time. Then the 2 old Indians got to whispring so the Boy thought that were fixing to kill him so one of them sed to the Boy he had grown up and was a man then and they called him young man. And one of the old Indians sed young man would you like to see your old Father and mother but he didn’t say nothing and thay asking him again the same thing. Then he broke down crying. Thin thay sed we not going to Kill you we are going to let you go home he ses I don’t know how to get home we will tell you how to get home. You go out here Back of the house and get on that little Branch and wait it until it emptes in the creak then you travel fast as you can in the creak and don’t get out no more then you can help. Thin if you should hear them coming get under a Brush pile or log pile the Boy sed if that catch me they will kill me the 2 old Indians sed thay will Kill no to thay all ways Kill the old Indians and we will soon die any way so thay fixed him something to eat on his way and he left for home and he traveld fast as he could for a bout 3 days then he heard them coming hollering there head offs like the Indians holler but he had traveld in the water all he could and he was clost to a Brush and log pile and he crawled back under the log and brush pile the high water had washed and it wasn’t long until thay were on top of it hollering and they would run down the creak thin up the creak back down all over the Brush and log pile until thay give up and wint back thin whin the Boy didn’t hear no more of them he wint on until he got to his old home. It was all most dark whin he got thare and he nocked on the door of his home and his old mother came to the door he sed I am awful tired I have walked a long ways – could I come in and stay all night she sed yes indeed I never turn down strangers that wants to stay all night so they wint in she fixed him something to eat and while he was eating his mother set down at the table and she was looking at him she sed to her Husband old man that was what she called him. This young man looks like our Boy the Indians stold he has a scar in his forhead just like our Boy had then he couldn’t keep from crying any longer he ses I am your Boy the Indians stold. What a rejoycing time for him to get Back home a gain and see his old mother and father and for thim to see there son again back home. The story reminds me of the story in the Bible of the Prodal son.
                                                From  Grandma Eppard

Let’s consider the players in this story:
“Grandma Eppard” was Rosetta Meadows Eppard, the daughter of Matilda Jollett and Thomas Wesley Meadows. They lived in the Jollett Hollow community along Naked Creek bordering Rockingham and Page counties in Virginia. The community derived its name from the Jollett family who were early settlers. Rosetta was 81 when she wrote the letter.
Tally Walter Eppard and Rosetta Meadows Eppard
their children Ralph and Ethel
photo courtesy Jan Hensley
Rosetta says that her MOTHER, Matilda Jollett Meadows, told her the story. Matilda says the “Jollett Boy” was “Grandpa’s little boy.”

But who was Grandpa? First of all, we must consider that “Jollett boy” can be interpreted in two ways: either his last name was Jollett OR he was simply a boy FROM Jollett Hollow. Furthermore, “Grandpa’s little boy” could have been his own son or even a term of endearment for a grandson. Extending that endearment further, “Grandpa” could have taken a liking to some child in the neighborhood who was precocious and adorable or maybe did chores for him earning him the designation as “Grandpa’s little boy.”

But back to the question of Grandpa’s identity. If Matilda meant her own grandfather, then that was either Fielding Jollett OR Manson Smith. If Matilda meant Rosetta’s grandfather, then that was either John Wesley Jollett OR Mitchell Meadows.

Mitchell Meadows can be eliminated. He was killed during the Civil War. His children were born in the 1850s, so even if any of them had been kidnapped at age 10, they could not have been gone long enough for Mitchell to have forgotten what they looked like in his lifetime.

John Wesley Jollett had 3 sons: Artubine, John, and Charles. John and Charles can certainly be ruled out because they were enumerated in every census. There is a cemetery marker for Artubine showing he died in 1862 at the age of 9. I considered that maybe that is when he disappeared and the Jolletts simply THOUGHT he died. But surely they would have removed the marker on his return. Thus John Jollett can be ruled out as well.

Like John Jollett, Manson Smith’s sons were all present and accounted for at census time. I suppose it is possible one of the sons disappeared and then returned between census years. If so, surely they would have lived long enough to be enumerated eventually. There does not seem to be any NEW Smiths or Jolletts to attach to these families.

Looking at Matilda’s grandfather Fielding Jollett, though, there is one unusual tick mark in the 1830 and 1840 census records for males for whom I cannot account.

1830 Rockingham Co Virginia
Age 5 – 9
Emanuel and ?
Age 30-39
Fielding Jollett
Under 5
Margaret, Lydia
Mary Ann Armentrout Jollett

The wife in the 1830 census was Fielding’s second wife, Mary Ann Armentrout. His first wife was Ann Stoutemire. They had two known children, Emanuel and Margaret. A second male between the ages of 5 and 9 suggests maybe they had a third child. Ann died in 1828, possibly in child birth. In 1840, an unknown male in the household between the ages of 10 and 14 was about the right age to have been kidnapped according to Matilda’s story as retold by Rosetta. Fielding and Mary Ann both lived long enough for a child to return years later unrecognizable except for a scar.

1840 Page Co Virginia
Under 5
James Franklin
John Wesley, Henry
Under 5
Margaret, Lydia
Mary Ann

But there are two problems with this theory. First of all, surely the returning son would have been enumerated in a census eventually. I have found no other Jollett men unaccounted for. Secondly and most importantly, had my 2X great-grandfather James Franklin Jollett had a brother who had been kidnapped by Indians, surely this is a story that my grandaunts and grandparents would have told. It is too good a story for the best storytellers in our family to have kept a secret.

The mystery of “the Jollett boy” remains just that.

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved. 


  1. As a mother, I was glad to read he had gotten back home. Imagine being the mother going to her grave not knowing what happened to him. This would make a fascinating movie. What an adventure he had that he lived through!


  2. Wow, what an amazing family story. I have a friend in Vermont who has a great-grandfather taken by the Indians and later returned.