Account of the HOLMES Family
And their settlement of South Richland, Oswego County, New York

Written by Rev. Jesse H. Jones
as published in the Pulaski Democrat from
September 12, 1900 to August 6. 1902

Part 5:

Chapter 30 - Family Changes - The New Church

     November 24, 1836, Rebecca, (Mrs. J.F. Holmes) began attending school at Troy Friends Seminary under the far famed Mrs. Willard, and continued there some six months. The first of September, next year, (1837) her husband and herself began a private school in New Brunswick, New Jersey, which they continued for four years.
     The last of September in the next year (1838) Ann Electa went to New Brunswick to be with them, and remained as scholar and assistant till they closed their school. She went in the company of a Mr. McCracken, who was the merchant of Holmesville at that time. There used to stand, fifty years ago and more, in the corner where the road in Holmesville from the south turns sharply to the west, and goes up the hill by where the Methodist church now is, a small, narrow, story-and-a half building, which used to be the store of “The Mills,” as the place was first called. Here I suppose it was that Mr. McCracken kept store. Whether he was the first store keeper of the place I have no means of knowing. But in 1845 the building stood empty, and continued so, I believe, till it was removed. Then and ever since, the village store has been about where it is now.
     In 1839 Almon went to New Brunswick to teach. He writes, “When I left home to teach in New Jersey, grandfather [i.e. Elder Jesseniah] put his hands on my head and pronounced a blassing on me which has followed me ever since.”
     The following account of an accident to Almon is interesting. He writes, “In the year 1841 I was teaching a boys high school in New Brunswick, New Jersey. one morning I was skating for health and pleasure on the Raritan ship canal, 25 feet deep, when all at once the ice gave way and let me through. I spread out my arms to save myself, but the ice gave way again. I swam up to the ice and put my arms on top, but it gave way the second time. I then made a desperate effort, caught one of my mittens off with my teeth, swam up to the ice the third time, grappled the edge with my thumb and fingers and gave myself such a jerk that I shot clear over the ice far enough for it to hold me. I then sprang up and started for home, four miles distant, which I reached in twenty minutes. My clothes froze on me on the outside, but I kept them warm on the inside, I did not suffer with the cold at all. When I got home I went to my room, changed my clothes, entered and conducted my school as though niothing unusual had happened.” A clear case of nerve.
     During 1839 the Baptists meeting house in Holmesville was built and furnished so as to be dedicated early in 1840. The site originally selected for it was where the house stands in which Shepherd Emery lived for so many years. Presumably the present location, where it finally was set, was a compromise to propritiate Uncle Hiel and those with him; but the site first chosen was far the better one for the good of the church.
     In the early labor of laying the foundations, Newell remembers working there with horse and stoneboat, drawing stone. John Holmes subscribed $200, and the aged Elder Jesseniah, (as the obituary says), “Notwithstanding he had assisted in erecting a house of worship where he formerly resided, yet he was anxious to lend his aid in building one in his last place of residence, and contributed liberally for that purpose.” His gift was $100.
     But the final departure was at hand. “As his years increased his debility of body increased also, till finally he became so nervous that he could not attend public worship,” and  “he expressed fears at the approach of death. But when his dissolution drew near, he said, “How can I sink with such a prop as my eternal God,” and thus he fell asleep without a struggle or a groan, April 17, 1840,” (Friday) a little more than seventy-seven years old. “His funeral was attended next Lord’s day at the new meetinghouse which he was so anxious should be built and his was the first corpse carried into it.”
      He was a total abstainer from intoxicants, a “friend of the slave,” also “a contributor to other benevolent enterprises, especially Hamilton University.” His body lies with the others of the family in the family lot in the burial ground on the  road east from the tavern four corners.
     The following reminiscences by his granddaughter, Mrs. Mary Dean, are in place here: “He was ahandsome, had dark brown eyes, and pleasing address. I knew him only as a minister of the gospel. He was pastor of the old church at Winfield, and the first preacher I ever heard, and the only one before I came to Albion, except as students from Hamilton (the theological seminary of Maddison, now Colgate University) would occassionally visit him.
     He was what would be called an orthadox preacher. I was only seven years old, but I can remember he made prominent the decrees of God; but not to teh exclusion of works. I remember one time he suddenly stopped, exclaiming, “Remember, brethern, I am no Armenian!” Apostle like he preached faith and works.
     Also I remember seeing him baptize. He preached in Stuben, I am inclined to think it was before he preached in Winfield.” Yes, it was, several years.
     By this rememberence we are able to fix certainly the time of his pastorship in the latter place, which, as the church records were all burned ina disastrous fire half a century ago, is quite worth while for the local history. As Mrs. Dean removed with her father from Winfield to Albion in 1826, and Elder Holmes removed to South Richland the following year, it is certain that his pastorate of the Baptist church at Winfield was in the years immediately before that removal. So if that church should put on its records, Elder Jesseniah Holmes was pastor for several years up to the spring of 1827, that record would be accurate and on a solid basis. And how far off (seventy-five years), is the time on which this personal reminiscence of one still living sheds a clear light.
     With the brief record of a few other family events of this period I close this chapter.
     Wednesday March 24, 1841, Esther married Mr. Lawrence Fonda, of Pulaski, and became a resident of that place for a number of years. Her husband carried on a tannery part of the time. Two children were born to them, a son Rev. Jesse Lawrence Fonda, now leader of the third church Scientist, Chicago; and a daughter that, died in infancy.
     In the latter part of that year Mr. J.N. Holmes closed his school in New Brunswick, and moved to Fulton, where he and his family resided with Mrs. Holmes’s father, Judge Johnson. While in New Brunswick two children had been born them, a son, J.N. Jr. and a daughter Mary. Almon and Ann had also returned home; and the former taught school in Pulaski for some three years. During this time, on January 1, 1844, he married a Miss Juliette T. Lynch. October 3, of the same year, S.N. Holmes, Esq. was married to Mary Elizabeth Beach, daughter of Elder Beach, pastor of the Baptist church of Holmesville; and they commenced housekeeping in a small dwelling that belonged with the grist mill, but which is now standing. He continued to be the miller for some three years, after which he studied law, and began his work as a lawyer in Syracuse about 1850.
     In this same year 1841, John Holmes set about building the comparatively large two story dwelling which was to be for many years the mansion of the village, and he finished it so that the family moved in in March next year. What memories cluster about that house! It is nearer home to me than any other house on earth.
     Any one looking will find the large fireplace in the kitchen and the brick oven. I remember seeing grandmother cooking by that fireplace in the spring of 1845. She never had used a stove to cook by in the old red farm house, and it was after that that one came here. In the parlor all the oil paintings by Grace Maria were hung, and the portraits by Bonfoy, while up stairs hung the India ink portraits which Grace has made. And all remained unchanged until after grandmother’s death when the pictures were divided among the children, and the place was sold to Colonel Douglas. Then the India ink portraits of father and mother with the infant in her arms disappeared. Would that they might be found. Could anyone help me to find them it would be a great favor.

 Chapter 31 - On The Threshold Of  A Great Career

     Grace Maria was the genius of the family. She has native gifts for the making of a great artist, a portrait painter of national fame. But she was cut off ere she had fairly begun, and to write the truth about her will appear extravagant, they I shall venture to mention a few facts.
     When she was eight years old her father bought her a box of paints in Pulaski, an act which shows how strongly she had impressed him with her love of painting. She was his favorite child, and this was his tribute to her ability. Except some school girl work in landscapes, her first known efforts were in portraiture; and they are spoken of this by grandmother in a letter to Jesse in New Orleans, under sate of September, 1834, when Grace was past nineteen years old. “Grace M. is now at home and has lately drawn Esther’s portrait. She drew Elvira’s last spring; and I wish you were at home that she might take yours.” That portrait of Elvira, as I suppose, a water color and Grace Maria’s first attempt at portraiture, is with me; and when I think that, born in a loghouse, she had never had any instruction except a term or two in the country academy at Cortland, it appears to me an extraordinary piece of work. It is a portrait, and looks as if done by a master hand. It will help anyone to know how her mother looked.
     In the fall of 1836 Grace Maria made an India ink portrait of father, another of mother with her few months old babe in her arms. The latter was quite indifferent; but the former was almost like a photograph in accuracy. She also made the same kind of portraits of Newton and Rebecca.
     Next year she went to Mrs. Walard’s school in Troy, New York and for the first and only time had an opportunity fit to her abilities.
     There hung on the walls of the residence of J.S. Marshall M.D., D.D.S. of Chicago, son-in-law of Mrs. Ann Electa Carter, two crayons, of which the following is the family traditions.
     When Grace Maria had finished her course at Mrs. Willard’s school, the latter desired her to prepare some of her handiwork for the exhibit at the close of the school year. So she made two free hand crayon copies of antique heads, one being of Minerva with halo and plume. I would hang then in the World’s Fair. Dr. Marshall justly chosen them above all else of her work. For free hand drawings they are wonderful.
     In June 1840 she was at home, and my brother Charles, then two years and four months old, was still there with Aunt Esther, where he had been carried after the death of our mother. Since being at Mrs. Willard’s, Grace had been working in oils, and especially had painted an idealized portrait of John Newton Jr. some of J.N.  and Rebecca. In a letter of June 4-5, 1840, she writes from home to Newton in New Brunswick. “My paintings arrives safely and I hope to have them framed before you come home. I have commenced painting Charles and he acts worse than John did. He says ‘Aunt Dace looked at him enough,’ and he will turn his back on me.” She further says of him, “He is a sweet boy.” This portrait has been one of the treasures of my study for about thirty-five years, and as an original work is, I think, the best she ever did.
     The crudities in the technique of her work are manifested, but they in no way obscure her evident powers of portraiture. She was strongly a colorist, and that is the first requisite of all in a painter. She also could draw well, and so had an eye for form. With these two she had the instinct of portraiture, or that special sense of form which transfers the human face to the canvass. And with these she had the power of composition, or the framing of various portions together into one picture; and all these are so manifest in the portrait of Charles which hangs before me as I write, as to warrant what I am saying. She showed the gifts of a master. She might have achieved a fame like that of Sully. But it was not to be.
     Nothing occurred to turn and set her mind that way. The opportunities for portrait  painting at that time were very few, and a woman artist was an unheard of being. What painting she did do was by-play. She seems never to have thought of it as a profession, a calling for life. She had a large high ambition to take a place in the world, but all the opportunity she saw or that there seemed to be for any woman to see was teaching school. Towards domestic life she had not an impulse. To her true vocation no door seemed to exist, much more to open; so that vocation never took form before her mind. As the case was she walked in the ways that were known, and became a teacher; and the circumstances which were providential to her led to an early most untimely grave. And the steps to that grave let us now follow.
     In the fall of 1840 she became a teacher in the Rahway, New Jersey, “Female Institute;” and the next year obtained a family school in eastern Virginia, near the North Carolina line. The last of October 1842 she went from that situation to become “Principal of the Female Department of the Suffolk Academy,” Suffolk, Nansemond County, Virginia, where she continued for nearly two years. On July 16, 1844, after an illness of eight days, she died of bilious fever. Strong complimentary resolutions were passed by the trustees of the Academy, and she was accorded a public funeral. Her personal worth and her abilities as a teacher were fully recognized; but her chief powers were unknown to the people there. Thus all the high gifts of a great artist perished; and the line of the poet is most fitting to her tombstone, “The saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”
     Of the effect at home Ann Electa writes, “Her death was a terrible shock to my father. If he had any preference it was for her.” And the message of it went about among the people of the community as if it were an event of public importance.
     Grace Maria had a striking personality in every respect. She was the embodiment of power rather than beauty. She had the barrel shaped body of her father; her hair was dark, her eyes were large, full brown-black, wide-set and lively in expression. In them was the witchery of her power. Her other features were rather large, her whole face was strong, but her smile was so winsome that she was called “very beautiful.”
     She was above all a masterful person. Agreeable and winning she was also large patterned and controlling; and wherever she went she made many friends, never once, I think, an enemy. In any society where she happened to be she was received with distinguished attention, as one of the first. Her decided success in Virginia as a teacher illustrates all this.
     But the grouping of her traits, bringing them into fuller appreciation, only makes more keen the sense of loss that came when all those large, high powers almost at the opening of their bloom were buried in the grave.
     With a deep heartache I have lived through the tragedy of those three, who against the order of nature, went hence before their parents, and I offer this estimate of their worth.
     So passed away from sight of men, Jesse, Elvira and Grace Maria, the three brightest souls that bloomed in the family of John and Grace Holmes, choice, rare, precious, each, one among a thousand, the two daughters belonging among the eminencies of the children of men.
     Next year, (July 7, 1845) just two days more than sixty-one years after her first child, John Holmes, was born, Olive, widow of Elder Jesseniah departed this life, at the home of her daughter, Olive Richards, where she went to live in May 1840, the next month after the death of her husband; and they laid her away beside him.
     Concerning her, cousin Mary Dean has this remark and reminiscence. “I think you describe my grandmother exactly. How I loved her, and thought her the handsomest old lady I ever saw. Many a time have I combed her hair when it was white almost as snow, and as soft as silk.” The description Mrs. Dean refers to is as follows: “The family tradition is that Miss Goodell was a young woman of fair complexion, light hair and eyes, and stout in form, her shape being like that of her son John; and that she had great energy and force of character, with much tact and winsomness; and that upon her advent into the family she caused a decided sprucing up and improvement in household ways.”
     One very characteristic anecdote of her is preserved through Mary Beman, daughter of Newton. The children of John Holmes used to have contentions in criticizing one another, when she would say to them repeatedly, “Why don’t you submit and get the victory?” So that saying, “Submit and get the victory,” seems to express the aroma of her character.

 Chapter 32 - The Departure Of The Pioneer

     One event happened alike to all, whether of high or low degree. One day in 1852 as John Holmes was sitting at the table eating in the livingroom of his village residence, suddenly he had a shock. It was the beginning of the end. He recovered so as to be about the village, but in the winter of 1854 it became evident that the end was near. Thursday, March 27, he died; and on Sabbath they buried him from the church which he had done so much to build, as on another Sabbath almost fourteen years before they had buried his father.
     John Holmes was strong, staunch, sturdy man of sterling character; and he well deserves to be remembered as a model to future generations, and as a specimen of the kind of men, who went up out of the seed-bed of New England and built the American nation. Determination, practical sense, good judgment, as to what was right before him, resolute energy, wholesome, all-around integrity, unflagging, perseverance, a great capacity to save and hold together with massive strength and a lifetime of unbroken health were his chief characteristics. I never knew of his being sick until that shock came, and his whole life was prudence and power combined.
     His body, in shape and quality was the very expression of the fundamental traits of his character. He was five feet seven inches high. His form was literally barrel shaped. There was no protuberance, but the muscles of the waist front and back were so large and full as to give him that shape, and to make him strong, solid, sturdy, steadfast, a very pillar to tie to while the sun and the moon endure.
     He was slow in all his motions. The tradition of him in the village was that he never was known to run but once, and that was when a fire started through the field just south of his village property and threatened to burn up the whole village.
     He had fine, thin, light brown hair; and as he grew old he grew bald. He had a rather high,, full forehead; and light brown eyes with arching eyebrows, giving a clear opening, honest look to his face. His nose, though rather short, was curved somewhat like an eagle’s beak, and was thick. So was his upper lip; but the red of the lips were very narrow, and he had a mastiff’s mouth. His chin was wide and thick and full average length; his jaw was broad and set. In fine, few stronger and more masterful faces have I ever seen; though a good many of the same sort I have seen among the old fashioned Yankee folks.
     His career expressed his nature. He just planted himself in a place to make a beginning and then worked and built and grew until the end.
     The conditions under which he worked went greatly against him. As Newell used to remark, “He earned two dollars for every one he received.” And it may be added truly also, that nearly half he got was swept away from him by changes of conditions over which he had no control. For instance, what could have been better at the time it was built for the service of the community than the dam and fulling mill at Santa Fe? And yet the forces which had never been heard of when it was built, like the railroads, even before his death had made it utterly worthless, and it has been swept clean away. Though he was slow there were elements of progress in him. For instance, in the times when the question of free public schools was being agitated, he did not believe that he ought to be taxed to pay the schooling of another man’s child who paid no tax, but he always held that if he was forced by law to pay that schooling the other man’s child ought to be forced by law to attend the school and receive the schooling thus provided, a position that is now standard in this country where New Englanders form and control society.
     In his obituary it was said, “He was not stationary, but grew in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He was a close observer of the times and rejoiced in the improvements of the age. He was a strong temperance man and desired ardently the passage of the Maine law in our state. He was a zealous advocate of liberty, and a warm friend of the slave. He recognized and rejoiced in the principal of entire consecration to God, and held himself in readiness to aid in every good word and work. He manifestly prepared for heaven as he advanced toward the close of his long and useful life. A few days before his death, being interrogated by his pastor concerning his hope, he replied, “It is as firm as a rock, but all else is afloat?”
     Thus ended the career of the Pioneer of South Richland and the Founder of Holmesville, forty-eight years after he first set his ax into the great trees of the trackless forest.

 Chapter 33 - The Pioneer Housewife Follows Her Husband

     For about five years and a half the Pioneer Housewife abode in this mortal flesh, after the departure of her companion; and then she went also, to be, as we humbly trust, “forever with the Lord.” All this period she dwelt in the home mansion. For a year and a half the writer dwelt there with her, from August 1856 to February 1858. At length from a general break up of the whole system of her life ended Thursday, December 15, 1859, her age being 77 years, 6 months and 10 days and they bore away her mortal frame to that so well known grave yard where she and I had gone together time and again in former years. In memory I can see her now, as she used to stand bowed and musing by the graves that already were made, and now when I go, it is alone, and ere long there will be no one to go there at all. She was the last one to go there at all. She was the last one carried there, and the line is filled. Would that there was room for more.
     There they lie all arow, the first born Elvira, my mother, then the parents, Aunt Grace and Uncle John, and then their parents, Elder Jesseniah and Olive his wife. There they lie all arow awaiting the resurrection morn; and it is sweet to think of them as all arow in heaven, “forever with the Lord;” even as all of them with true and faithful hearts did serve Him here the best they knew. And may it be my felicity at last to be gathered with them there.
     “Aunt Grace” was a rare woman, as “Uncle John” was a rare man. She was about five feet four inches high, not less, large boned and muscular, dark complexioned, with dark brown eyes and brown black hair; with almost a hawk-bill nose, with a broad, strong jaw, a small mouth and thin mobile lips. She was more alertly active in mind than her husband, and while there was always a question in the family as to which was the superior, with a balance of judgment inclining toward her, it is sufficient to say they were a rare couple, each a masterful person, every way worthy of the other.
     The manner in which they managed their affairs is well deserving of note. Within the house grandmother ruled, and she was never questioned there. When the threshold was crossed, outside grandfather ruled, and he was never questioned there. Each had their own domain, and each respected the other. Besides which they were so contrasted in temperaments and loved each other so strongly as to make bearing, for bearing and cooperating, easy.
     Grandmother was a deeply religious woman, as grandfather was a deeply religious man. It was her want to sit with the great family Bible in her lap, pouring over its contents; and she told me that she always found something new in it. That was because the reading of it fed her spiritual life.
     And the Bible was the Book of Wisdom to her. An incident will illustrate this.
     I was complaining petulantly and strenuously about a certain very defective person, as if the one was responsible for the defects, when grandmother corrected me, saying that I ought to view the case and judge according to the teaching of the Bible which said, “What is wanting can not be numbered.” Upon my replying that I did not believe there was any such saying in the Bible, she directed me to the place, Ecclesiastics, I, 15, last clause, and I was silenced. But from that say the saying has been a nugget of golden wisdom to me, the worth and importance of which increases upon my apprehension as the years increase. And from that day my sense of her worth as a person wise to counsel and of rare judgment and weight of character has grown steadily. And out of my deepest heart, the best I can, I give honor to her memory this day.
     It was no part of my purpose in setting about the making this account to go beyond the final departure from this life of those two who, because they went first of all the kin into the trackless forest, and bore the fiercest brunt of loneliness and hardship, might justly be accounted the pioneers of South Richland. But upon reviewing my work I perceive one serious omission. Besides Grace Maria another child of striking personality and original force was born in that second loghouse, the first one born in it, whom they named Esther King after her mother’s next younger sister. She became the wife of Lawrence Fonda, and late  in the forties they moved out into northern Illinois. After a time she became a public lecturer, and decidedly successful. Public speaking by women was then almost unknown, and the pioneers in it had almost as rugged a course as the pioneers in the forests.
     I quote from two of her letters which show what she did. They were just family letters, and their untrammeled frank utterance seems to me more alive and lumibous of the time than any artifice of rhetoric could be. Hence I quote them just as they are.
    “Belvidere, Illinois, February 3, 1854, Friday.  Dear Parents, brothers and sisters: I am out on another temperance trip. I assure you I want the Maine law; and as long as I can so a little toward getting it, and help myself a little at the same time, why then I am worth some little thing in the world. It is two weeks yesterday since I left home, and I have cleared, besides my expenses, about forty dollars. I usually take up from three to six dollars an evening. I have lectured every evening but three since I left home, and have notices out for four evenings more. Then I am going to rest one or two evenings. My course so far in public has been one of unparalleled success. I am astonished at myself, when I think how I have stood the past year with my hands hold of the pancake griddle, as it were, and my feet in the desk.
     I worked too hard the last month at home; did all my fall work alone, and got a very lame back to pay for it. I was not well when I left home, but the air open cures me, and I have been getting better ever since. Last evening I became a good deal exhausted. The room was to tight and crowded. I had the windows opened several times. At the close I sang, “The Rumseller’s and Rumdrinker’s Lamentations after the Maine law was passed.” Poetry by Dr. Jewett of Massachusetts, and music by Mrs. Fonda of Illinois. I closed amid peals of laughter and cheering. They took up a collection of over six dollars, which rested me some. I told them that the contribution was a very liberal one. They said, “No, it was not,” they had hoped it would have been more. Such reception and remuneration I meet with all the time. Can I doubt but “this is the Lord’s doing and marvelous in my eyes.”
     I gave my railroad lecture last evening, and it always makes a racket. The temperance friends here have urged me so to come and give another lecture, that I have partly promised to do so at some future time. Since I left home I have lectured in Antioch, Richmond, Geneva (Wisconsin), Woodstock, Marengo, Beloit (Wisconsin), Roscoe and Belvidere. Today I go to Rockford on Rock River. Since I reached Marengo I have kept on the railroad. Before that I was carried by private conveyance, free. Antiock carried me 30 miles for the sake of hearing me lecture, making them 60 miles travel. I felt as though they had got benefit enough to pay; but they took up a collection besides; and they promised to come after me again, if I would come.
     I rested well last night, and feel well, very well this pleasant morning. The ground is partly covered with snow, and a bright, western, winter sun is cheering me on to my labors in Rockford tonight.
     February 7. - At Rockford I lectured two evenings. Gave $20 for the hall for the two evenings, and one dollar a day for board and cleared, beside all my expenses $7 an evening. I was recommended to come through Rocton, on my way to Beloit. So I sent a notice on to be read in church for Monday evening, not knowing how it would take. But the minister was very cordial, and prayed right ernest for me; and I can always lecture best after a warm prayer. I had liberty of speech granted me, and although I was a little hoarse for the first time this winter, yet I sang as usual. They surprised me with a collection of over nine dollars. But I gave them my railroad lecture, which always makes a racket.”
     A year and two months later she wrote another letter, from which I quote.
    “Steamer Ocean Wave, Illinois River, April 2, 1855.  Dear Husband: I have been at work in Pike County and have done well for myself, and I trust for the cause. The county seat is Pittsfield. I spend one evening there, and the court was in session, which made it all the better because I gave the lawyers a stroke over their ears. Their representative to the legislature was a lawyer, who had voted against our prohibitory bill. He lives there and I attended to his case particularly. Some of the meanest men in the state are up in office; and if I say a word about my Springfield effort, and reported that I would run on a perfect tirade against our public men. But as it happened, my tirade was naked facts, which cut the closet of anything. The court house was full, and very still. I commenced by addressing the boys and telling them to make better laws than our men had, and telling them to right some of the wrongs. Then I went on with my “railroad,” changing it some. I was told afterwards that they had some trouble to get a chairman, but when the collection came around those very ones gave the most; and that prejudice was less after the lecture; anyway, they gave up $8. I came next to Griggsville, larger than Pittsfield, and the most reform town I have been in. I was there only one night, and had six hundred for an audience; they took up $11, and bid me a hearty Godspeed.
     The above quotations show Aunt Esther at her best. As she wrote once, when she was out lecturing she seemed to be “on wings.” She was a born public speaker. She never had more than half a life, being a born dyspeptic; but during a few years in public speaking she showed what, with full health, she might have been.
     She was of the Jane G. Swisshelm type of women, who do not so much advocate women’s rights, as to go right ahead and exercise what rights they now have. Hence I doubt if she ever appeared on a woman’s rights platform, but in behalf of temperance and anti-slavery, especially on the political side, she was a ready, apt, effective speaker.
     In one campaign she followed Stephen A. Douglas about in Illinois, speaking right after him, scoring him thoroughly, and drawing, it is said, audiences nearly as large as his.
     During the period of these labors she earned net, as I used to hear it said, some twelve to fifteen hundred dollars, which was almost a fortune to her.
     After a time the family moved to Wheaton, Illinois, that her son, Jesse Lawrence, might go through the college there. She died October 21, 1872.
     On me she wrought deep impressions precious and of high value. She was in some measure a second mother to me, as her son is a cousin-brother. While the hearts that knew her live, she will live in them.
     As some might naturally think that the judgment of a kinsman concerning Mrs. Fonda was partial, I present for consideration two letters of commendation which I have found among her papers, and which speak for themselves in a tone which needs no added emphasis. They are as follows:
     Jacksonville, Illinois, March 20, 1855,  Judge Moses, Dear Sir: I have asked Mrs. Fonda to take with her to Winchester a letter from me to you, so that she may thus be commended to someone there, who will be likely to aid her introduction to the public. I regard her efforts as a lecturer on the prohibitory law, as likely to be more successful than those of any other female speaker with whom I have been acquainted; and take great pleasure in testifying to the amiable and graceful, yet ernest and fervent eloquence with which she advocates the cause.      Yours very truly,  Jas. Berdan
    Carlyle, Illinois,  May 24, 1855,  Mrs. Fonda, the bearer of this letter, lectured in the M.E. church last evening to one of the largest audienced that ever has met in our place; and it is best due to say that her lecture gave general satisfaction, and was listened to with the greatest enthusiasm.
     We the undersigned take pleasure saying that Mrs. Fonda is entitled to high consideration for the able and dignified manner of her defense of the principal of prohibition; and she leaves us with our approbation as a lady if high order of talent, and well calculated to advance the great moral principal of prohibition, that she so ably advocated.   Very Respectfully,  Parmenas Bond,  I.W. Davenport, A.A. Short, H.K. Farris, William Cellier, B.M. Cox.
     Any one accustomed to weigh public affairs who will seriously consider what those testimonials really signify, will allow without hesitation, I think, that they are rare and strong evidence of the exceptional merit of the woman in whose behalf they are given, and that the high estimate of her kinsman is quite warranted by them.
     With a word concerning each of the other children left when grandmother passed away, I bring my task to a close.
     Newton for some fifteen years had carried on a farm in Hastings and was during quite a potion of that time president of the Oswego County Agricultural Society. Then for about thirty years he lived in Syracuse, where he died, January 14, 1890.
     Milton moved to Williamsburg, New York in 1857, and was in successful business there until the close of the war. He then went to Port Monmouth, New Jersey; and after a few years at Ashbury Park, in that state, where he prospered, and became a leader in the Baptist church and the principal magistrate of the borough, he died November 1, 1896.
     Almon in 1845 went to Canada where he taught school and farmed it for about eight years. He then returned to Holmesville, and after a year or more went west, and in the spring of 1856 settled on a farm in Marquette County, Wisconsin, where he lived until he moved into Endeavor a few miles away, where he has been engaged in Sunday school as a scholar, teacher, or superintendent over seventy years. His wife is still living, though a great sufferer; and three daughters, all married.
     Ann Electa, Mrs. Carter, has her home with her daughter, Mrs. Dr. J.S. Marshall, of Chicago; and her son, John Sylvester, has his home in the same city.
     Newell opened a law office in Syracuse in 1850, and had almost completed his fiftieth year in the city where he had a third stroke of paralysis, Monday, May 28, last; and on the 30th, Memorial Day, he ceased to breath. He has been my especial helper in preparing the foregoing account of the family, and I had fain expected that he would see it completed in print. But it was not to be.
     The story of the toils, privations and hardships of the two pioneers, John and Grace Holmes is not the story merely of those two; although if it were it would still seem to be highly interesting. But it is in a general way the story of thousands of families who in the beginning of this century with almost the ax alone, began the work of felling the forests and making homes throughout the vast wilds of the great Empire state. And especially for the region of Oswego, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties, it may well stand as a representative of what was done and endured by those who settled that wide and well nigh pathless forest and turned it into the rich and smiling land which the dwellers there now enjoy.
          Jesse H. Jones,
Halifax, Plymouth County, Massachusetts  -  July 13, 1900

Pulaski Democrat, Wednesday July 30, 1902   -   History of Holmesville

 Chapter 34  (ADDENDA) The Hartly Holmes Family

     Early in this history I expressed regret that I could get no trace of Uncle Hartly’s family. Later, Mrs. Mary A. Cross, of Fernwood, widow of Davis Cross, whom Hartly brought up, helped me to the address of his oldest daughter, Mrs. Annie Doane Mullin, from whom I received a copy of the records in the family Bible. In those records his name is spelled Hartly, and hers Ann Juline. From these I am able to give a full account of his family.
    Hartly Holmes was born in Litchfield, (now Winfield) Herkimer County, New York, March 7, 1802, perhaps in the house his father Jesseniah had built, in which O.B. Holmes now lives. His first wife, Betsey Gates, an elder sister of Sewell Gates, was born in the same town more than a year before, January 7, 1801. They were married in the same place, Thursday, February 19, 1823, presumably by his father. At that time Horace was carrying on the farm, and the father was pastor of the Baptist church, the building then standing on the original site.
     They must have moved up into Richland not long after, and on Thursday February 9, 1826, their first child, Ann Juline, was born in that town, presumably in the house in which the family lived in 1845, right opposite the saw mill; but which was long ago torn down. Their second child was Albert Gates, born there, February 20, 1828. The third was Levant Merrill, born October 15, 1830.
     May 25, 1835, Mrs. Holmes died. Nearly two and a half years later, September 25, 1837, Hartly married a widow, Mary Jane Reynolds (nee Stevens). In a few weeks, namely December 18, 1837, Levant died, aged 7 years, 2 months and 4 days, as the tombstone testifies. The next year, November 25, 1838, a son was born, who was named Roswell Hartly.
     Mrs. Cross remembers that another child was born later. She says, “My mother was with Mrs. Holmes. I went up to Mr. Holmes’s house to ask mother something, and she took me in and showed me the nice little baby she had just laid out. I can see her as if it were but yesterday.” Mrs. Holmes continued an invalid, Mrs. Cross can not recall how long, but says, “she got so she rode out. The last time she did so, Hartly placed a plank so that with one on each side she was able to walk up and step into the wagon.” She died June 13, 1841, aged 25 years. “She was an extra nice woman, and such a splendid housekeeper. When Mr. Holmes lost her he lost a great treasure; and he knew it and felt it. She was eight years older than Angeline. Her son, Roswell, was the nicest little boy that ever lived in Holmesville. And he grew up nice. He had the nice way his mother had. He has been to our house time and again, and if his brother did anything that wasn’t just right, he would whisper to him and correct him.”
     January 16, 1842, Hartly married Harriet E. Leonard, and this a new mother came especially to the child Roswell, who was but a little more than three years old.
     Mrs. Cross says, “I remember the first time they came to church, and they were as nice looking a couple as one need to see. She was as large as he, or nearly so, and she was fine appearing. She was only four years older than Angeline.” Then she was about 22 when married. Father and mother Leonard came to live with them. Mrs. Cross says, “I heard Mrs. Leonard say once that she made Hartly’s wedding coat in which he married Betsey Gates; and my little Harriet, who was just so she could get around, would come and lean on my knee and want me to take her. Could I have thought, would she marry the same man, I would have said, No, I knew she would not.” A curious incident. A year later, January 13, 1843, a son was born to them, whom they named Truman, after the mother’s brother.
     In 1844 Mrs. Holmes joined the Congregational church at Pulaski.
     October 15, 1846, Ann Juline married F.W. Doane and they moved out to Fon du Lac, Wisconsin. Afterwards he was killed by an accident while conductor on a railroad, and his widow bore a child soon after.
    Hartly Holmes became bewitched, as so many others did with the “western fever” to go “out west,” and grow up with the country. It was the period of Horace Greeley’s “Go West, young man.” So, against the strenuous urgency of his nearest kin, he sold out and went. Mrs. Cross says, “Hartly Holmes started from Holmesville the first day of October, 1847, and arrived in Maumee City, Ohio, on the 10th.” November 1851, his son Albert Gates, died in Nevada City, California. September 7, 1859, a son was born to him, whom he named Willie Waters, and who died in Tolono, Champaigne County, Illinois, November 1865. Hartly himself lived till November 9, 1880, when he passed away at Homer, another town in the same county, aged 78 years, 8 months and 2 days. His widow, 83 last April, was living, when I last heard, with her son, Truman in Kankakee, Illinois. Ann Juline, who married a Mr. Mullin for her second husband, is now a widow, and living near her two sons in Windfield, Cowley County, Kansas. Roswell Hartly is in business in Detroit, Michigan.
     From a long letter by Mrs. Cross, full of interesting reminiscences, I select the following:  :There was a great strife about where the meeting house should be built. The Gillispies wanted it down near their school house, the Dewey’s wanted it near their school house, while Uncle John and Hartly wanted it here at Holmesville.” These two set Oliver Babcock (Mrs. Cross’s father) at work digging a trench on the land where they were going to set it, on the rise of ground a little way north of the bridge. Mr. Peter’s house stands on the very spot. But the strife got so hot that he had to stop work.
     “Then they had a church meeting and each party said, ‘Call a council;’ and they all agreed that they would abide by the decision of the council.” Twelve ministers from as many Baptist churches came and they decided that it should be where it now stands.
     “The building was not finished the first year (1839) and that first winter (1839-40) they had board seats on legs.” The first funeral in it was that of Elder Jesseniah Holmes in April 1840.”
     Mrs. Cross writes further, “There were only four or five frame houses here when we came in 1833, but quite a number of log houses. The day we came father stopped at Jonathan Burdick’s and got a brand of fire to start our fire with.”
     “The first store was built by Nathan McCracken. While it was building he kept store in Capt. Water’s home on the Old Salt Road. Then he moved down to the Ville and we had quite a good store. After he moved away I think Hartly ran the store; and there was an ashery built down on the raceway just a little way up from the new grist mill (built in 1845). The tannery was built afterwards (about 1836-37), and the ashery was between that and the grist mill.”
     “I went to meeting in the tannery and to school to Miss Hariet Tubbs in the new school house which was built before we came here.” (Then it must have been built before 1833, instead of in 1835, as I gave it.) “Robert Gates lives in the log school house. Also I went to school to Milton Holmes before he was married and after. I remember his wife visiting the school. He was a splendid teacher. Also I went to school with Newell when William Gillispie and William V. Hubbard had a select school near the Gillispie school house. There was scarcely a morning when he came in but he had a rhyme.”
     Following is a later specimen of Newell’s rhyming powers:
  Harrison and Reid  (Tune, “Marching Through Georgia.)
 Republicans with bugles now we’ll make the welkin ring,
 Marching with our banners like the eagles on the wing,
 While we get our ballots read victory to bring,
 Voting for Harrison and Reid, too.

 Come on, come on, the men that wore the blue,
 Come on, come on, all patriots tried and true,
 Join with us in chorus now and help us win anew,
 Voting for Harrison and Reid, too.

 Protection is our policy, with Reid procity,
 That every voter North and South shall cast a ballot free,
 And every dollar just as good as every dollar be,
 Vote we for Harrison and Reid, too.


 Democrats are hustling ‘round all in a fussy plight,
 Scaring timid people with their bogey Freetrade fright,
 While with stalwart courage we maintain Protection’s right,
 Voting for Harrison and Reid, too.


 When the votes are counted up, with joy from sea to sea,
 May the land all sing the news that surely is to be,
 We have won the victory that keeps the nation free,
 Voting for Harrison and Reid, too.


 Chapter 35  (ADDENDA Cont.) 
Reminiscences Of Elder Jesseniah Holmes

     I am much impressed with what Mary Holmes Dean, eldest child of Horace, tells about her grandfather, and so I copy:
     “My happiest childhood days were spent with my beloved grandfather. The room where I was born he used for his study.” This was in the original house where O.B. Holmes now lives, and the sills of which are eighteen inches square. “I used to sit with him for hours; do not think I ever disturbed him. I was very quiet, and think he had rather have me there than not. He would look up occasionally with his beautiful, kindly eyes, and smile lovingly, which was bliss to me. As I grew older I would read. Over the little fireplace there was a cupboard where he kept his missionary magazines. I would climb up and get them and read about Judson and Newell and their wives. I remember how I cried over the letter Samuel Newell wrote to the ‘mother of his beloved Harriet,” after her death.
     “One spring my father had boiled down a large quantity of maple syrup ready to sugar off, and left it to cool in a large kettle over night. When he went for it in the morning he found that a quantity of it had been stolen. He thought he knew pretty well where it had gone. There was a family living the other side of the sugar bush, whom he suspected. He went there. They had a party the night before, and were not up. There on the table was a pail of syrup, and plenty of evidence. After awhile the daughter came with what was left, crying and said to grandfather, ‘I am so sorry, Elder Holmes, that I took the syrup.’ He replied, ‘Ah! Tenty, your tears do not affect me any, I had rather see two laughing devils than one crying one. Take the syrup and go home with it. You are sorry that you are found out, that is all.”
     “Once they were haying, and my father could not make the horse take the load into the barn. Mr. grandfather said, ‘What will you give me to make them do it?’ Father replied, ‘Five cents.’ My grandfather patted the horses, took up the lines, and with an energy that looked as though he was going to do it himself, said, with a crack of the whip, ‘Now, then!’ and the load went right into the barn.”
     Writing of the description of my grandfather, Mrs. Dean says, “Your portrayal of ‘Uncle John’ is exact. I do think you excel in your powers of description. I remember him well. He was much younger when I knew hi, I think he must have grown stouter in later years. My father was about the same height, but not quite so thick-set. People used to say they could hardly tell them apart.” I remember the striking resemblance.
     “Uncle John was very pleasant and social. Aunt Grace hardly as much so. My mother used to say, ‘She was of the King blood.’ It served a good purpose in the children, and none of them seemed to lack in social qualities. Once I was at their house to stay all night. Do not think that I ever stayed away from home all night before without my folks. As the night came on I felt that I was many miles from home and very lonely, I presume my looks showed it. Uncle John came in, met me, and talked with me very cheerfully said he had just come home from my father’s and had a fine time, and said that my little sister, Caroline was such a sweet, cunning child. I felt then that I would give all the world to be at home, and began to choke up. I went out into the darkness and had a good cry, came in quite cheerful, went to bed and soon forgot all my troubles.
     “We moved up from Winfield in February, 1826. My father went ahead with a load of goods. My mother’s father, Mr. Barker, took up the family, which consisted of mother, myself, Hattie and Caro, the baby. We stayed the first night in New Hartford. I can remember no more until we came to the log shanty which father had built for us to stay in while he was building a house. There was a large, log tavern across the street, with a sign swinging from a pole, having “1818” in large black figures on it, reminding me of the year I was born. My father had built a large barn. One of the stables had never been used, and beds were put in there for the hired men. Also we kept our groceries and provisions in the barn. It was new and nice.”
     “Next morning grandfather Baker left and I shall never forget the sorrow of my mother. She stood at the open door as long as she could see him, then she cried as if her heart would break. She said she would give all she had if our things were only in the sleigh and we all were going back with him.” Only another instance of the same cost of heartache and tears at which that new country was settled up, as that “good cry” which grandmother had with my mother in her arms, when in March, 1807, she reached her lonely log cabin in the unbroken forest of South Richland.”
     “Our nearest post office was Union Square. A letter from Winfield was 12 1/2 cents; from New York 25 cents. We were comfortable in the shanty, but in pretty close quarters. At the foot of the bed was room for a bureau, and when the trundle bed was shoved under the large bed there was room to set the table. There was also a large fireplace.
     Early in August we moved into our new house, which was in every way comfortable; and on the 15th brother John was born. He died when two years old, which almost broke my father’s heart. As he stood by the casket he looked around on the congregation and repeated the words of Job, “Have pity on me, Oh my friends for the hand of God hath touched me. His words thrilled my whole being.”
     “My grandfather was indeed a wonderful man. After he came to Richland (1827) there was a ‘protracted meeting’ in Colosse (1831), and notwithstanding all such work was new to him, he entered into it heart and soul, with true evangelistic real, and great revival. This was the time when Uncle Hartly was converted. A still greater revival followed in Richland,” in the autumn of 1831. “Up to this time my father was not a Christian though he was a strictly moral man, and understood the Bible. But he believed that if he was one of the elect God would save him; if not, he could do nothing.” a theology widely prevalent at that time. One Sabbath morning he said he wanted to go to Richland where so many were being converted. Maybe he would catch some of the fire. After he had gone mother called us together and we prayed earnestly for the conversion of my father. He came home all broken down. I had given my heart to the Savior a year before; but my father had thought it only a childish notion which I would soon forget. Next morning I handed him the Bible for family prayers. He handed it back and asked me to read and pray. The next morning he read again and asked me to pray. After that he read and prayed and we had a meeting time. From that time we never failed to have morning and evening prayers. My father and I were baptized at the same time and joined the church at Colosse. I was fourteen years of age.
     The first seven years of my life with grandfather and his teachings affected all my after life. He was a true gentleman, and taught me many of the proprieties of life in regard to deportment, which have benefited me ever since. Once when very young, I was riding with him in a top buggy. A fine carriage filled with aristocratic people passed us. I put my head out and gazed after them. Very gently he said, ‘Dear child, you had better not look after people when they have passed. See all you can while passing and let that suffice.’ Another time I walked to Union Square, knowing that he was to preach there, and I could ride home with him, and he would stay all night with us. On the way home I said, ‘We have a new stove’ (a stove was a wonder in those days.) He replied, ‘I shall be glad to hear about it tomorrow.’ That showed now he regarded the Sabbath, and I never forgot it.
     “Oh how I loved and revered that good man. When I was nearly four years old I had a sister. Up to this time grandpa and grandma had lived with us. They put up in a building in the yard which I called the ‘cubby’, because it was so much smaller than our house. There they lived, and I with them most of the time (at Winfield). Grandma was a lovely woman. I can not remember her teaching me anything, but she did everything for me that she could. She was always busy, a thrifty housewife, a veritable Martha.”
     As I have learned fact after fact about Elder Jesseniah Holmes, and especially have read the reminiscences of his granddaughter, Mrs. Dean, I have been growingly impressed with his exceptional character. That the people among whom he dwelt as a farmer should have asked and persuaded him to be ordained as a minister at forty years of age is a remarkable fact that has few parallels. The anecdotes that Mrs. Dean relates all show him in a kindly light. His special power was to touch the heart. With the tears streaming down his face, as not infrequently happened, he easily moved the feelings of his hearers. So we accept as unexaggerated truth and the summing up of the whole matter, Mrs. Dean’s saying, “My grandfather was indeed a wonderful man.”

     With the above the annals of the Holmes family ends and the account of the settlement of Holmesville. It is particularly gratifying to me that I was led providentially to the Newbery Library twice, and the second time learned the line of our decent from the original emigrant out of England into New England, George Holmes.
     I have endeavored to reach every one of the descendants of the three brothers who came up from Pomfret, Connecticut into what is now Winfield, New York, but have been only partially successful. If those who have subscribed would notify their near kin who have not, they will be able to obtain copies of the History from the editor of this paper as long as the limited supply lasts.
    If the kin are pleased with what has been done, it will be gratifying to know the fact. I have lived through the life of this family as if I had shared in it all, and have found a reward for my work.
     With a heartfelt farewell and best wishes to all,
    Jesse H. Jones
         Halifax, Massachusetts

Back to Town of Richland

Return to the Oswego County homepage

Copyright ©  2000 Julie Robst / Laura Perkins
All Rights Reserved