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The Lilly family is one of the largest families in West Virginia, playing a prominent part in the history of the southern counties. Each year thousands of Lillys and their friends and relatives gather for the Lilly Reunion at Flat Top, Mercer County, one of the biggest family reunions in the state.

The Lillys are also among the oldest families in southern West Virginia. While some researchers once traced the family origins to France and understood that ancestor John Lilly had emigrated to Maryland with Lord Calvert in 1633, other research suggests that the Lillys originated in England and came to present West Virginia from Virginia. Robert Lilly, who lived to age 114 and is buried at Flat Top, founded the family in West Virginia.

Robert Lilly and the Reverend Josiah Meadows crossed the Alleghenies together and settled in present Summers County, establishing the village of Lilly at the juncture of the Little Bluestone and Bluestone rivers, south of present Hinton. The village existed from the late 1700s until 1946, when it was razed due to the construction of the Bluestone Dam. The village site was never actually flooded by lake waters, however. Two or three oak trees planted by John H. Lilly in 1885 are still standing where the school used to be, and some of the foundation rocks for the schoolhouse are still in place.

The early Lillys seem to have taken very seriously the Biblical injunction to be fruitful and multiply. Ten to 12 children in each family was common. There were so many Lillys with the same names, they were given nicknames to distinguish them. These nicknames, usually reflecting some identifying characteristic, included Bear Wallow Bob, Miller Bob, and Shooting Bob, as well as Squire Bob, a justice of the peace. Sockhead Andy Lilly wore a stocking cap, and Jerusalem Jim was a preacher in the Primitive Baptist church, to which most early Lillys belonged.

The Lillys have produced teachers, farmers, doctors, and lawyers. Among the most distinguished was the Honorable Abraham A. ‘‘Cousin Abe’’ Lilly, who served as attorney general for West Virginia and was one of the organizers of the Lilly Reunion Association. After his term as attorney general, Cousin Abe practiced for many years in Charleston, living atop the old Ruffner Hotel. His son, Goff P. Lilly, was also a noted attorney.

This Article was written by Barbara Singer Lawrence and Josephine Lilly Singer

Last Revised on January 08, 2016


Lilly, Jack. Lilly Family History. Canton, OH: J. Lilly, 1997.

Cite This Article

Lawrence, Barbara Singer and Josephine Lilly Singer "Lilly Family." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 08 January 2016. Web. 18 June 2024.


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