of the HOLMES Family
settlement of South Richland, Oswego County, New York
by Rev. Jesse H. Jones
in the Pulaski Democrat from
12, 1900 to August 6. 1902
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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,
County, Massachusetts - July 13, 1900
Democrat, Wednesday July 30, 1902 - History of
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
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
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
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
“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:
and Reid (Tune, “Marching Through Georgia.)
with bugles now we’ll make the welkin ring,
with our banners like the eagles on the wing,
we get our ballots read victory to bring,
for Harrison and Reid, too.
on, come on, the men that wore the blue,
on, come on, all patriots tried and true,
with us in chorus now and help us win anew,
for Harrison and Reid, too.
is our policy, with Reid procity,
every voter North and South shall cast a ballot free,
every dollar just as good as every dollar be,
we for Harrison and Reid, too.
are hustling ‘round all in a fussy plight,
timid people with their bogey Freetrade fright,
with stalwart courage we maintain Protection’s right,
for Harrison and Reid, too.
the votes are counted up, with joy from sea to sea,
the land all sing the news that surely is to be,
won the victory that keeps the nation free,
for Harrison and Reid, too.
35 (ADDENDA Cont.)
Reminiscences Of Elder
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
“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
“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
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
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