Princeton Times

Mercer County Memories

August 21, 2012

Mercer County Memories: Lilly Family Reunion offers events for the record books

PRINCETON — Resuming our look at the history of Mercer County, courtesy of Kyle McCormick’s “The Story of Mercer County,” (Charleston Publishing Co. 1957) and the signers of the Declaration of Independence, courtesy of Benson J. Lossing’s book “Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence,” which is a reprint of the 1848 original kindly provided on loan by Dr. O. J. Bailes, we now turn to one of the oldest and largest gatherings of its type: The Lilly Family Reunion.

The first Lilly Reunion was held in 1930 at the Lilly Family Campground at Flat Top and was an annual event, with the exception of five war years, until 1949. A total 15 reunions that began as a gathering of thousands of Lillys grew into a major event that drew many prominent people of the time as guest speakers.

In addition to the speakers, the original series of reunions (it was renewed in the 1970s and continues to the present) saw Ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds and other amusements for the young people. The all-day picnic drew thousands, with the State Police estimating as many as 10,000 cars during one reunion.

The five men mainly responsible for the reunions were: A.A. “Cousin Abe” Lilly, a Charleston attorney and former state attorney general who served as master of ceremonies; J.H. Lilly, president of Princeton Bank & Trust and Lilly Land Company, who handled financial matters; Hinton lumberman and former State Sen. T. H. Lilly; teacher and writer C.J. Lilly, from Hinton, and real estate man Ernest D. Lilly, of Princeton.

The officers of the first reunion were: President A.A. Lilly; T.H. Lilly, vice president; Joe E. Lilly, vice president; James D. Lilly, vice president; Ada Mae (Mrs. J.T.) Lilly, vice president; A.Z. Lilly, vice president; J.H. Lilly, treasurer; and C.J. Lilly , secretary.

The reunion saw a monument erected to the pioneer Lillys on Flat Top.

Going to the Lossing book, we come to one of the more famous Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, future third president of the United States, founder of the University of Virginia and principal author of the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson was born at Shadwell, Albermarle County, Va., into a family which had migrated to Virginia from the Snowdon Mountains region of Wales on April 13, 1743. He was the eldest child and inherited his estate, Monticello, after his father died when he was 14. He entered grammar school at the age of five and engaged in the study of the classics at the age of nine with a Scotch pastor named Douglas. After his father’s death, the Reverend Mr. Maury became his preceptor and, in the spring of 1760, he entered William & Mary College, where he remained for two years, being influenced by Dr. William Small,  a professor of mathematics, who influenced him toward the scientific exploration he did for the rest of his life. Through Small’s influence, he was admitted to the law office of George Wythe, his future fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence, in 1762. Through Wythe, he became a regular at Governor Faquier’s dinner table.

In 1765, Jefferson heard Patrick Henry’s speech against the Stamp Act and became a champion of American freedom. In 1769, he was elected a member of the Virginia Legislature, serving until the American Revolution, when his national duties took precedence.

In January, 1772, Jefferson married widow Martha Skelton, who was 23 when they married. They had three daughters before her death.

Jefferson became a member of the Virginia Committee of Correspondence and became very active with the pen. In 1774, his essay directed towards the King of  England

“A Summary View of the Rights of British America,” was published in England under the auspices of Edmund Bruce.

In 1775, Jefferson was elected to the Continental Congress, becoming distinguished even among that company. He, although the youngest member of the committee, was chosen as the chairman of the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence the next year.

That same year, he was elected to the Virginia General Assembly, resigning his seat in Congress to serve. He, Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane were appointed to serve as negotiators with France, a nomination soon declined. He was also elected, but declined, a third term in Congress.

From mid-1777 to 1779, Jefferson, along with George Wythe and Edmund Pendleton, serve on a committee to revise Virginia’s state laws,  duty which saw him propose, among other laws, a ban on the importation of slaves; establishing schools for general education and confirming the rights of freedom in religious opinion.

We’ll pick up from there next time.

See you next time. To share input on this column, contact me c/o Mercer County Memories at or

Text Only
Mercer County Memories