Mr. William Bliss Jolly was born in England and arrived in Ann Arbor in the mid-1850s. He spent ten years working as a janitor for the University of Michigan, chopping wood, chasing sheep (and donkeys) out of classrooms, and calling students to chapel (and possibly class) by ringing the campus bell. Jolly dressed more like a statesman than a janitor, and ultimately found work that did not involve herding farm animals out of classrooms. We can only imagine the kind of cleaning of classrooms he had to do!
Census records indicate that he became a sheep and cattle dealer and then a butcher in Ann Arbor. He died in Ann Arbor in 1878 at age 63. He and his wife Mary had eight children.
What is known about our Mr. William Bliss Jolly is little, but he will always be appreciated and remembered as one of our first known custodians and bell-ringers.
— Jan Schlain