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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Jolley Family Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1866-1919
Creator: Jolley Family (1860-)
Extent: 611.00 items.
Collection Number: MSC0077
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Correspondence spanning over 40 years and three generations of an Iowa farm family. Subjects include land speculation, farming in Bremer, Blackhawk, and Woodbury counties, farm life in Iowa during the 19th century, and W.W.I.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs: Box 1

Access: This collection is open for research.

Use: Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Acquisition: This collection was purchased by the University of Iowa Libraries through the Homer Calkin Memorial Fund in 1996. The photographs were a gift of Nana Jolley Gibson in 2004.

Preferred Citation: Jolley Family Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

Sidney Jolley moved to western Iowa in the 1860s. In October 1866, his father Robert, who was farming in Tripoli, Iowa, warned him that he should sell out and move to Colorado. That 1866 letter is the first item in the Jolley Family Papers. There is a sixteen year gap before the next letter in the collection. However, by the 1880s, Robert Jolley's opinion of his son's venture in Oto, Woodbury County, Iowa, had not changed much. He wrote there is not enough grass to bury & cover a bird Ass. Robert was convinced that the Woodbury hills could not be farmed and declared that he would not take the land as a gift! Yet, Sidney Jolley persevered. He wrote home urging his sister's family to move there, writing that he can let you have a dugout to live 26x12. Sidney's uncle, J.B. Parker, was homesteading in Nebraska and wrote letters of encouragement about increasing land prices. Both Sidney and his uncle were involved to some extent in land speculation, saying that land in western Iowa was selling for $12-15 an acre and land in Nebraska was selling for $15-20 an acre.
Mary Elizabeth Bradley, from Fairbank, Blackhawk County, Iowa, corresponded with Sidney Jolley. Actually, in her first letter to him written on February 22, 1884, she refuses his proposal of marriage. i cannot be your wife nor can i be anybodys wife i would only be a disgrace to you for i dont know how to do housework nor make my own clothes. She urges him to find another woman when he goes to Dakota. The papers never again make reference to his going to or being in Dakota. The couple resume their correspondence in August 1884, and on April 18, 1885, a friend writes congratulating them on their marriage.
Wright Jolley (1893-1960) was the only son of Sidney and Mary Elizabeth Bradley Jolley. He served as a private in Co. K, 352 Infantry, 88th Division during World War I. First stationed at Camp Dodge in Des Moines, Iowa, he shipped out to France sometime in late August or early September 1918. Wright wrote letters home to his parents, especially to his mother, describing army life. He spent very little time in the trenches but did see some action. He was a runner in the signal corps. After the armistice, his unit remained in France where he talked of attending a Divisional Farmers School, designed to teach modern farming methods to soldiers. Wright Jolley returned to Iowa after the war, taking over his parent's farm in Fairbank, Iowa.
The rest of the Jolley Family Papers consist of letters dating from the 1880s to 1919. The correspondents are friends and family members, writing primarily to either Sidney or Mary. The subjects discussed by the men usually were limited to their crops, the weather, and financial issues with very few references to family or social events. The women also wrote of crops, weather, and finances but they also discussed births, deaths, illnesses, courtships, and marriages in their communities. Women also wrote about schools and sleigh rides, aspirations and moral values.

The papers of the Jolley family date from 1866 to 1919. They are arranged chronologically within an alphabetical sequence. Purchased by the University of Iowa Libraries through the Homer Calkin Memorial Fund in 1996, these papers contain vivid descriptions of social events and the army during World War 1. They reflect peoples perceptions about lands to the West and give an indication of what life in Iowa was like in the late 19th century.

The photographs and duplicate certificate of marriage were a gift of Nana Jolley Gibson in 2004 and range in date from approximately 1880 to 1921.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Correspondence: 1866, 1882-1886 - 1866, 1882-1886
  • Correspondence: 1887-1919 and undated fragments - 1887-1919
  • Correspondence of Wright Jolley, 1918-1919, World War I letters and map - 1819-1919
  • Certificate of marriage: Wright Jolley and Leona Halton
  • Photographs, mostly of Sidney, Mary, and Wright Jolley. One photograph of the Jolley farm near Fairbank, Iowa. One of Mary Jolley with her granddaughter Nana. Gift of Nana Jolley Gibson
  • Waterloo Business College. Newspaper clipping.