James Oliver Jelks, son of William Jelks and Mary Wallace, was born October 29, 1802, in Halifax County, North Carolina, where his mother’s people were reared. His father’s parents came directly from Wales, settling in Edgecombe County, N. C. They were the parents of Ruskin, Dixon, Etheldred, Robert, Jane, and William.
Ruskin Jelks settled in Baton Rouge, La., and became the founder of that branch of the family.
William moved to Greene County, Georgia, traveling in a snowstorm, when James Oliver was one month old. Three years later he moved to Pulaski County, Georgia.
Mary Wallace’s brother, Elijah, moved from Halifax County, North Carolina, to Georgia, settling in old Hartford, and was second sheriff of Pulaski County. In 1818 he moved to Mississippi.
On reaching maturity, James Oliver Jelks engaged in business in old Hartford, Pulaski County, then an Indian trading point, and was a member of the firm of Rawls and Jelks. He was one of the first settlers of Hawkinsville, and built the first house in the town, where he became, for years, a prominent merchant, warehouseman, and steamboat agent. He died there July 18, 1883. He represented Pulaski County in the Legislature between 1830 and 1840. He spent a number of years in Hamilton County, Florida, as a planter, living on Lake Octahatchee. In 1836 he fought in the Creek and Seminole War, leaving with a company of militia from Pulaski County.
In March 1833, he married Mary Polhill, daughter of James Polhill, for many years Judge of the Southern Circuit. She was a lineal descendant of Nathaniel Polhill, the first Baptist to settle in Georgia, having come over about the time Oglethorpe did. The celebration of their golden wedding was a happy event in their lives.
They became the parents of Edwin A., James Oliver, Jr., Johnathan Joseph, Nathaniel Polhill, Needham Williamson, Virginia, and William Augustus.