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Bulloch History The Olliffs come to Bulloch County
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Roger Allen
The name Olliff has a long and storied role in the formation of early Bulloch County. According to many colonial records, the earliest Olliff may have been known (purposely or accidentally) been known by a slightly different (but similar sounding) name. For European immigrants, this situation often arose from a simple misspelling of the name made by whoever was writing the documents. One thing is certain: John Shears Olliff, the first Olliff born in America, was born in 1752 to John and Mary Shears Olliff in Duplin County, North Carolina. Most historians agree he died in either 1801 or 1802.
He married Johanna Jackson, the daughter of Joseph and Anne Jarvis Jackson, in either 1785 or 1786. They had numerous children, including John (1792), Benjamin (1794), Elizabeth (1794), Joseph (1798), Susannah (1800), and Mary (1801). Son Joseph declared in 1846 that John Olliff, or Olive, served both in the regular and militia service about five years. What’s more, he served with General Nathaniel Green and Colonel Armstrong in the Battle of Eutaw Springs in South Carolina that took place on September 8, 1781. Historical documents show that a Colonel Armstrong actually served in the 8th North Carolina Line.
Many North Carolina military documents refer to a John Olive, but only one refers to an Olliff. The official North Carolina roster of Revolutionary Soldiers lists those men who were rewarded with Effingham County Georgia land grants for military service on January 8, 1793. Sons John and Joseph were given Georgia land grants in Sumerlin’s District in Bulloch County. Military records shows a John Olive served for three years. North Carolina muster rolls from 1777 to 1780 list him as sick at Georgetown, an orderly man at Fredericksburg, the hospital, and in Lancaster, and on command at Lancaster, West Point, Brunswick, and at Camp Valley Forge.
What’s more, various pay books list the soldiers who received certificates for the balance of their full pay. One pay voucher records that the sum of 12oo pounds was issued to John Olive for his claim (#63) signed by John King. Several regular pay stubs show John Olive was paid sixteen pounds two shillings (Payroll #670, 2/7/1782), *** pounds ***teen shillings and two pence in (Payroll #948, 3/16/1782), and one pound seven shillings (Payroll #1144, 3/30/1782)
Two surveyor land plats show that John Olive acquired land in Effingham County. The first plat was for 200 acres surrounded by vacant lands on the ridge between the head springs Mizell’s Mill Creek and the waters of Belcher’s Mill Creek (dated 6/6/1791). Ironically, both John Olive and William Mizell were listed as “Chain Carriers”, as rods and chains were used to measure the land. The second 150 acres, surrounded on the south by Mizell’s land with the other sides surrounded by vacant lands, with John Olive and William Mizell again listed as Chain Carriers.
The 1846 pension application of Joseph Olliff states that Joseph, John, and Benjamin Olive, Elizabeth Stanford, Susannah Brooks, and Mary Robinson were his only surviving children. The land request stated “after the war, John Olive came to the State of Georgia and resided in Bulloch County until the time of his death.” The estate of John Olliff was sold on 12/2/1801. His wife, Johanna, sold more land on 1/8/1793. Once again, in 1804, Johanna placed an ad in the Georgia Republican and State Intelligencer selling 900 acres of Screven land from his Olliff estate.
His children were listed in an application that was filed requesting land grants in Wilkinson County, Georgia for orphaned (or fatherless) male children. As such, several Georgia “Headright” grants were made on 5/19/1808 to his children currently living in Williams’ District in Bulloch. In 1814, their uncle Jarvis Jackson petitioned the legislature for the right to sell the estate land in Wilkinson District and then disperse profits amongst children. His sons John, Joseph, and Benjamin received land grants in the 1820-21 Land Lottery. John received land in Appling County, Joseph in Hall County, and Benjamin in Early County.
The Olliff’s were, apparently, here to stay.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at
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