Greenbrier celebrates Grace Jolly as she turns 100

By Rita Halter Thomas

Every day is a gift to be treasured, and Grace (Webb) Jolly and her family fully understand that. Grace recently celebrated her 100th birthday and still lives in the Greenbrier area on the farm that has been in her late husband’s family since 1857.

Photos by Luke Aubry

A birthday party in Grace’s honor was held Saturday, Feb. 3, at the Deborah Robinson Senior Center in Greenbrier (Faulkner County). “We easily had over a hundred people there,” said Teresa Golden, Grace’s daughter and primary caretaker. Teresa’s husband, Phil, and their children helped coordinate the centennial-themed reception, decorated in black and gold, including posters of what life was like in 1924.

A host of family, friends and members of the community joined in this celebration. Among them were two nieces she had not seen in 40 to 50 years. While Grace’s oldest son, Sandy, and his wife, Cathy, live on the farm, his attendance brought tears, smiles and special moments because years ago, a tragic farm accident left him paralyzed.

Grace was born in 1924 to Frank and Ella Webb of Enders (Faulkner County). She had two older brothers and two younger sisters. One sister is still living but unfortunately couldn’t attend.

Grace recalled early life on the Webb farm. She gathered two baskets of eggs daily to sell to a peddler, stripped a half bushel of corn from cobs every day to feed chickens and milked cows before school. Grace said she walked to Enders School from the farm on Old Springfield Road. By the sixth grade, Enders and Centerville schools consolidated, so she got to ride the bus. Sharp as a tack, this spunky centenarian impressively named every teacher she had for each grade.

At 16, Grace met Doyle Jolly, 18, at a “sangin’” at Centerville Methodist Church on Mother’s Day 1940. “He didn’t have a car, just an old plow horse named Daisy Mae,” Grace said. “He entered her in a horse race at the (Faulkner) county fair and won first place.” The couple married June 13, 1942. Doyle was drafted during World War II and left just three months later. He served three years and returned in December 1945.

While Doyle was away, Grace lived with his family on the Jolly farm, land owned and farmed by the same family now for six generations. The original farm, located near what is now known as Woolly Hollow State Park, consisted of two plots, 245 acres and 40 acres, purchased and homesteaded in 1857 by Joseph M. Jolly (wife Louisa Armstrong Jolly) for about 12.5 cents per acre. The land was part of the territory acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. Joseph bought it directly from the government.

When Doyle returned from the war, he and Grace moved into a large log cabin already on the farm. “The old Jollys,” as the family fondly refers to their ancestors, had an orchard, made cider and weaved baskets. Over the years, the farm has produced fruits, vegetables, cotton, hay, silage, chickens, dairy cows, beef cattle and more.

Top row, from left: Sandy holds the pup, Doyle, Jim and Grace Jolly at the original farmhouse; Don (the youngest son) and Grace Jolly around 1960; Willie Webb, Lorraine holding a toddler, Ella (Grace’s mother), Vernon Green, Dolly Green and Grace Jolly. In front are Catherine and Sylvia Webb. Middle row, from left: Grace and her firstborn, Sandy Jolly; Doyle and Grace Jolly around 1990. Bottom row: Doyle, Grace and Don Jolly lean against a car in front of the home that Doyle built on the farm. It was their first new house; Willie, Grace (Jolly), Sylvia, Vernon and Catherine Webb in the fall of 1942.

Doyle and Grace had five children, four sons and a daughter: Sandy, Jim, Hal (1952-2017), Don (1956-2021), and Teresa Jolly Golden. Doyle passed suddenly from a heart attack in early January 2018, just a few days after they lost Hal to pancreatic cancer.

The Jolly family has seen its share of heartache. Sometime after Joseph homesteaded the property, he and the two oldest of his three sons left to fight in the Civil War. Both boys returned, but Joseph did not. The youngest, James Andrew Jolly, was too young to go. James Andrew eventually married Elizabeth “Molly” McCracken and had a son, Harvey Bevly Jolly. When Harvey died young from pneumonia, James Andrew and Molly stepped in and raised their son’s three children: 18-month-old Doyle, his brother, and their sister. Sadly, the only daddy he ever knew passed away while Doyle was still on the ship headed home from WWII.

Over the years, the bulk of the Jolly homestead has remained in the family. In the early years, some ancestors sold parts of the initial 285 acres, but over time Doyle bought back the bulk of the original land. Currently, Grace and Doyle’s grandson, Zeb Golden, and his wife, Chris, run beef cattle on the farm under Z & C Cattle. Zane, Zeb’s younger brother, also works the farm. Teresa’s youngest, Grace “Gracie” Golden, still lives on the farm and helps care for her grandmother when her job as a beautician allows. Today, Grace is at the top of five generations living.

The legacy of farm life runs deep on the Webb side, too, as the Enders farm was purchased in 1869 and has been farmed by members of the Webb family for five generations. Grace’s nephew Hank Webb and his wife, Darralyn, now own and operate Webb Family Farm.

Grace and her family count their blessings for the strong connection to their history and are proud to have the sixth generation farming the same land. “It’s like watching history repeat itself. … If we’ve learned anything, it’s that whatever the good Lord gives you is such a treasure and you just have to trust it as a blessing,” Teresa said. 

Grace’s secret for making it to 100? She says, “Prayer and a positive attitude!” But it never hurts to be a little spunky, either.