VIEWS: 13 PAGES: 36 POSTED ON: 5/13/2011
FAMILY NOTES BY CHRIS BRACKEN, III MY Uncle Wilmot (WILMOT S. HOLMES, JR..) died today (June 1, 2003) at the age of 93. Wilmot was the last of his generation, having been predeceased by his various sisters and brother, and his death really brings home to me the reality that a certain era and time in my family’s life has passed. Wilmot was a complicated sort and kind of a strange one to be the last representative of his generation of our family. Although the son of an Episcopal minister (my grandfather, Wilmot S. Holmes, Sr) and the grandson of a Presbyterian minister (my great-grandfather, Robert Adams), Wilmot was definitely not a pious or religious person. He asked that his body be cremated and that no service be held for him. Since he had outlived two wives, three sisters, one brother and all other members of his generation of our family with whom he had any connection, and since I have no brothers or sisters or cousins in my generation, there really would be no one outside my immediate family to attend anyhow. As a result, I have decided to try my hand at a little family history, to try to preserve for my sons and their children a sense of prior generations that are now departed. I want to make this a personal history, based upon my own personal recollections and stories told to me about our family by my uncles, aunts, and parents and grandparents that I knew personally, as well as from written information provided to me by my aunts. Accordingly, this is an attempt at a written record of both the oral history of my family as recounted to me by prior generations of my family, as well as from family documents available to me. THE BRACKEN FAMILY Most of the family history of which I have knowledge is on my mother’s side of the family, so I think I’ll start with my father’s family, since my recollections will be shorter and more limited on the Bracken side. I only knew three members of the Bracken family, my grandfather William Christopher Bracken, Sr., my father, William Christopher Bracken, Jr., and my uncle, Clem Bracken. My grandfather died when I was 8 and I only met my Uncle Clem twice. My dad was not much on family history and I don’t really remember any conversations with him about his ancestors. But, here goes. WILLIAM CHRISTOPHER BRACKEN, SR., my grandfather, died in 1957, when I was eight. He had been born in this country, I believe in New York City, but he was Irish through and through. He was first generation Irish American, his parents having arrived in New York City from Ireland shortly before his birth. I remember as a young child being drilled by my grandfather, “What County in Ireland are we from?” and the mandatory response, “We’re from County Mayo.” It took me about 40 years to learn much about County Mayo (it’s in Southern Ireland, heavily Roman Catholic and had been hit hard by the potato famine in the late 1800’s), but the sound of “County Mayo” always had a bit of magic for me. Picture as seen in the house at 3516 Paces Ferry Circle, Smyrna, GA The family migrated west shortly after arriving in America and ended up for a time in Missouri and ultimately in Illinois. My grandfather married another Irish-Catholic, Margaret Hopkins, in the early 1900’s. They had two sons, my father, born in 1910, and his brother Clem, two years younger. My grandmother Bracken died shortly after I was born, probably in 1949 or 1950. I have pictures of her holding me as an infant, but I believe that visit by my parents to show me off to his parents was the only time I met my grandmother Bracken. My grandfather Bracken had one great passion: horses. He raised horses on the family’s farm in Ottawa, Illinois and loved to be around horses. But he was also a local entrepreneur in the Ottawa, Illinois area. He owned the first movie theater in town and, according to my father, this made him and his brother very popular since they could sneak in their friends. . He also, at one time or another, owned a local hotel, restaurant and gas station. I think he probably did well financially through the mid- 1920’s, but evidently lost everything in the Great Depression beginning in 1929. My mother told me that my father had sent money to his parents all through the 1930’s. By the time I knew my grandfather, he did own the town gas station and restaurant, as well as his farm and horses, so things must have turned around for him. In fact, the story of his restaurant and gas station property in Ottawa is pretty interesting. But first, let me go back and talk about my grandfather’s last year. My dad had brought my grandfather to Atlanta to live in a nursing home, probably in 1956 or 1957. This is the short period when I got to know my grandfather Bracken. My mom would take me over to the nursing home, visit with my grandfather, and then the three of us would often go to a near by stable on Briarcliff Road in Atlanta. I would ride the ponies and my grandfather would wander the stables, visiting the horses. I remember my grandfather as a nice looking, white haired man, who seems to me to have looked a lot like pictures of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. He had a full head of white hair and was slender and I don’t think very large. Anyhow, I remember the family pain when my grandfather “ran away” from the nursing home. I believe my dad got a call a couple of days later from some old neighbors from Ottawa, Illinois who had relocated to a horse farm in Tennessee. My grandfather had evidently taken a bus to the farm in Tennessee to visit their horses and the stables they were running. I think I remember my father preparing to go to Tennessee to retrieve his father, then age 71. I then remember a follow up call coming from Tennessee to advise that my grandfather had died. I have no idea what the actual cause of death was, but I assume he must have known he was dying and decided he wanted to be with the horses he loved in his last days. The funeral was back in Ottawa, where my grandfather and grandmother are buried. (I visited the gravesite four years later with my parents- again I have a picture somewhere of the gravesite and visit.) I was not invited to go with my parents to the funeral, since I was only eight, but I remember my mother commenting that she had never seen anything like the Irish-Catholic wake for my grandfather. And that brings me back to the restaurant and gas station. When my Dad brought his father to Atlanta from Ottawa, he leased or sold the gas station and restaurant to a local family to run. I remember this family coming to our home in Atlanta to visit on their way to a Florida vacation. After they left my father discussed with my mother that he did not trust them at all. They had probably bought the property from my grandfather or father, who had taken back a mortgage on the property. Within a few months of this visit, my father received a call from the Ottawa police advising that the entire property had been set on fire and destroyed. This family had taken all their personal property out of the restaurant and gas station and sent the kids to Chicago the night of the fire. Some where in our family records is a front-page story from the Ottawa newspaper regarding the fire- as I remember the entire front page was devoted to the blaze and the destruction. I’m pretty sure the father of this family ended up being convicted of arson and went to prison. As I’ve mentioned, my grandparents on the Bracken side were devout Roman Catholics. I’ve heard various older relatives say that there was no way my father would have converted to the Episcopal Church (he was confirmed with me by the Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta, Bishop Claiborne, in 1961) while his parents were still living. The only other “Brackens” who I ever met were my father and my uncle. CLEMENT HOPKINS BRACKEN was my Dad’s younger brother, I think by two years. Uncle Clem marched to a different drummer. I heard my mother say, on more than one occasion, that Clem was the smartest person she had ever met. He was an inventor by trade- primarily “inventing “ small household gadgets. Our family was very proud when one of Clem’s inventions, a device to turn off lights through some sort of timer, was advertised in “Popular Mechanics” Magazine. Clem had been an officer in World War II, according to my mother because he had scored some kind of record on the IQ test for such positions. After the war, Clem bought a mobile home and a truck in Illinois, drove the mobile home over the Rocky Mountains (ever seen the movie, The Long, Long Trailer starring Lucille Ball and Dezie Arnez) and parked the trailer in Southern California, near Los Angeles. He lived there for the next twenty-five years, until they put a freeway or something through the property. When he sold the property, he retained the mineral rights and I still get a check for about $20 to $25 each year for these old mineral rights. Since my father had moved to Atlanta in the 1930’s and since Clem moved to California in the 1940’s, right after the war, my father and I saw very little of Clem. Air travel was more difficult in those days and California was a major trip from Atlanta. As I said, I met Clem twice. Once was immediately after my grandfather’s funeral in 1957, when Clem came to Atlanta to visit for a couple of days before heading back to California. The only other time I met Clem was in 1970, when as a college junior I went to Los Angeles with a group of Air Force ROTC cadets for a meeting. We had a free day, which I spent with Clem. I found him to be a shy but pleasant person who was very confused about what to do with a 20-year-old nephew he hardly knew. Fortunately, the year before my father died (December 10, 1973) he took a week’s vacation to visit his brother. He took lots of pictures that I still have somewhere and thoroughly enjoyed his time with his younger brother. My father was always jealous of the fact that his parents had not made Clem go to parochial schools and that Clem had been allowed to go to the public schools in Ottawa. But this is the only negative comment I ever heard my Dad make about Clem, and of course it wasn’t Clem’s fault. Clem never married and had no other family other than my father and myself. My father died about a year before Clem did and when I called him to advise of my father’s death he felt terrible that his own health prevented him from coming to Atlanta for my dad’s funeral. When Clem died in 1974, Brenda and I were on the later part of a three-month trip to Europe, prior to starting work. We received a message at the American Express office in Rome to call Brenda’s mother. We called and she advised that Clem had died and, as his next of kin, his body was being held pending my arrival. We decided to cut out the last part of our trip and proceeded directly by train from Rome to Brussels, then flew out the next day for Miami, then flew to Atlanta and, the very next day, to Los Angeles. Talk about jet lag! In Los Angeles I met with an attorney who was handling a suit for Clem against the Los Angeles police department. Seems Clem always slept with a gun under his pillow. One evening, while asleep, a Los Angeles Police SWAT team broke into Clem’s house on a drug raid; Clem pulled the gun from his pillow and then all hell broke loose. Turned out that the police were two streets off on the proper house for the raid and they ended up literally scaring this 60 year old, quite, reclusive man to death. We met with and had dinner with a long time girl friend of Clem’s who felt that Clem had never been the same after this encounter. The girlfriend also advised us at some length about how Clem had promised to “take care of her” in his will; but in fact he had no will and I did end up inheriting all of his fairly modest property. I think it may have totaled $50,000 or $60,000. The only other Bracken ancestor I knew, I knew very well. My father, WILLIAM CHRISTOPHER BRACKEN, JR. was born in 1910 in Ottawa, Illinois. My father claimed to be 5’9”, but was probably closer to 5’7”. He use to say that anyone over six feet tall was a freak but he stopped saying that after I reached about 6 feet one inch. My father was a true Irishman- he loved people, he loved having a drink or two, he loved to party and he loved to talk to anyone. As I said, he had been made by his parents to go to Catholic parochial schools from third grade through high school graduation. He hated (maybe too strong a word, but maybe not) the nuns who taught him in school. He graduated from St. Bede Prep School in Peoria, Illinois. The rest of his life, he would receive letters from Sister Mary Leo, the one nun who he had loved at St. Bede. Her letters constantly encouraged “Billy” to be strong in his faith and to strive for good things. My dad went to college at Loyola University in Chicago, which he would have entered around 1928. Unfortunately, the Great Depression hit the country in 1929 and my father was not able to stay in school and graduate. When the economy went bad, my father got a job at the YMCA in Evanston, Illinois to pay his tuition. However, by the end of his second year his parents must have lost everything and he was forced to quit school and work full time. My father was always able to get a job as a salesman and he was a good one. The job he ended up keeping his entire adult life was with The Bunting Brass and Bronze Company out of Toledo, Ohio. His story was that he was at a bar talking with a guy he met there. The guy turned out to be the sales manager for the Bunting Company. He liked my father and offered, and my Dad accepted, a job as a regional sales manager for Bunting, selling brass bearings. When my Dad reported for work he was advised he was being assigned to Atlanta, Georgia. My father had barely heard of Atlanta and had no desire to go to Georgia, buried in the Deep South. But, that was the only job and so he went. He stayed for the next 40 years, until his death, and became a great booster of Atlanta. I do think there was some culture shock for Dad in the South; I remember him talking about the “Damn Baptists” and their Blue Laws. Atlanta in the 1950’s and 1960’s was a legally segregated society. I remember going to the Fox Theater in the late 50’s to see a movie. Only a few hundred people were present and as I was looking around this huge old theater I asked my dad why those people were sitting behind the railing at the very back of the balcony, while literally thousands of seats remained much closer. He explained that this is where the “colored people” were required to sit. The question was the same at the Atlanta Cracker baseball games: why did those people sit in those rickety old bleachers in the outfield, while plenty of good seats remained in the regular stands. Book seen in the 3516 Paces Ferry Circle, Smyrna, GA house Both of my parents were progressive in their thinking on race issues, at least by 1950 standards. A particularly vivid memory is being on the road with my parents and stopping to eat at a restaurant. As my father was paying, a black man with his family asked the manager if he and his family could be served. He was told there was no seating for “coloreds.” My father followed the man outside, asked him what he would like to eat and he went back inside and bought their food and brought it to the car for them. My mother made it absolutely clear that the “N” word was never to be used in our family; that was for lower class people. My father also encouraged and was very pleased by our maid, Doris Womack’s, participation in the NAACP. My uncles and aunts did not all share my parents more enlightened views on race. I was driving somewhere with my Aunt Sidney and saw a number of black women working in a field. I asked, “What are those ladies picking?” Sidney corrected me as strongly as I ever remember her doing, explaining that the term “ladies” is reserved for white women and is never to be used to refer to a colored person, who are to be referred to as women, not ladies. Sidney, who was extremely intelligent, with a Master’s Degree from the University of Chicago, continued to feel her entire life that slavery was a much-misunderstood institution and that the slave owners served a paternalistic role that was very much under-appreciated. While in Chicago in school and as a young adult, my father played drums in various bands around Chicago. This would have been during prohibition, when Al Capone and the gangs controlled Chicago. He liked to tell of dating a nice young girl, who turned out to be the daughter of “Terrible Touey”. I’m not sure who “Terrible Touey” was, but evidently he was a noted gangland hit man and my father was advised by his friends to end the relationship quickly. For the rest of his life, my father loved to play his drums on the coffee table in our home, with “Big Band” music playing in the background. As I remember, he was a pretty good drummer. He would usually have a couple of Martini’s (extra dry), while playing. One of my father’s strong convictions was that you did not drink before 5:00 pm, so he would prepare his Martinis but not touch them until the clock hit 5:00. Dad basically did not touch beer or wine. His drink of choice was a Martini or some other variation of gin or vodka. While there were certainly times he had one or two too many, this was not often and he would normally limit it to two drinks and then be ready for bed. My father was conscious of not overdoing anything, and in fact often told me the worst addiction of all was gambling, which he totally avoided. I’m not sure that he was always so circumspect, as he had a pretty good reputation within the family for his partying in his younger days. My Uncle Francis and Aunt Tasha liked the story of my father looking at me when I was brought home from the hospital and saying that there was no way anything that small was going to slow up his night life. My father was a doting dad, maybe because he was a very loving person and also because I came along late in his life. He was 39 when I was born and I will admit to being pretty spoiled by both my parents. My Dad joined Ansley Golf Club in Atlanta in the early 1950’s and Ansley became the social center for my parent’s activities. He played golf once or twice a week and while he was not very good he was good around the greens and therefore was in demand for certain best ball competitions. From the time he joined Bunting Brass and Bronze Company in the 1930’s, he was on the road selling “bearings and bushings” three or four days almost every week. About one week out of the month he stayed in the Atlanta area. Dad use to like to say that he was “Bill Bracken of the Bunting Brass and Bronze Company and he sold bearings, brass, bushings and bronze”. The alliteration was evidently very popular with the bearing distributors he called on. After my mother’s death when I was 15, my father was kind of thrust into the job of raising alone a teenage son. This was made more difficult by his travel schedule. The first year after my mother’s death I stayed with our next-door neighbors, the Betts family, when my father was out of town. After that, my father got a housekeeper to stay with me when he was on the road. The housekeeper was a large black lady named Meredith, who kept her wig on the dresser in her bedroom unless company came over. She only stayed at our house when my father was out of town, which continued to be about three to four days a week. When my father was at home, we normally ate out, either at Ansley Golf Club, Morrison’s Cafeteria or, quite often, a Chinese restaurant on 10th Street favored by my father and myself. My father’s love of Chinese food probably traced to his military service in World War II. He was stationed in China, Burma and India in some four years of service. Like many men of his generation, his service in the war was a true watershed event in his life. Since my father was 31 years old and married at the time of America’s entry into World War II, he had originally thought he would be too old to be drafted. However, he was drafted, hustled through Basic Training at Fort McPherson outside Atlanta and found himself assigned to work on the Ledo Road connecting China, Burma and India. I don’t think he faced any combat; if he did, I never heard of it. He did make many close friends during the war, many of whom he corresponded with the rest of his life. My father shipped home various souvenirs while overseas, including many ivory figurines we continue to enjoy. He also accumulated many photograph albums, parts of which are also boxed up somewhere. More than once, my father explained to me that his marriage to my mother was a mixed marriage by the standards of the 1930’s. He was an Irish-Catholic boy from Chicago, whose family had just arrived in this country less than a half century before. My mother’s family was Old South aristocracy, Protestant; with roots in Charlestown, South Carolina going back to the 1600’s. They had been significant slave-owners, they had sent their young men to college and then medical, law or seminary school for generations and they were definitely not yet over the pain caused by the Civil War (I believe my generation of the Holmes family may be the first to forgive and forget the War of Northern Aggression; as my Aunt Sidney always pointed out to me, there was NOTHING Civil about The War). I believe my father was the first in his family to attend college; I believe it would have been hard to find a male in my mother’s family back to the late 1600’s who had not attended college. Yet not only did my parents have a very happy and loving marriage, but everyone on the Holmes side of the family loved Bill Bracken. But I do wonder what my grandmother Holmes, the daughter of the first president of Presbyterian College and the wife of an Episcopal minister from one of Charlestown’s oldest families, originally thought of this Catholic kid from the north. THE HOLMES FAMILY My knowledge of the Holmes family comes primarily from my aunts, particularly my aunt Caroline (CAROLINE HOLMES BIVINS). Caroline, always Aunt Ki-Ki to me, was the resident family historian. She actually loved history outside the family as well as within, having thrown herself particularly into Dolley Madison, the wife of the fourth president. She spent many years putting together information on Dolley Madison and producing a detailed Bibliography of Dolley Madison sources, work that was eventually recognized in published form and as the basis for an exhibition. Her sister, Sidney (SIDNEY HOLMES), Aunt Si-Si to me, was also knowledgeable on all things involving the Holmes family, as well as the Adams family on their maternal side. It was always a family joke that Sidney remembered everything, even things that happened before she was born. My mother (ROBERTA HOLMES BRACKEN) died when I was fifteen, which certainly prevented my getting as much information from her as from her sisters. Plus, my mother’s interests were broader than her sisters and I do not think she would have ever been as interested in family history as they were. Although my grandmother (CARO ADAMS HOLMES) died when I was twelve, I did spend a good deal of time as a child asking her about her early years, and I will try to convey some of those stories here. My two uncles (FRANCIS HAMMOND HOLMES and WILMOT STUART HOLMES, JR.) were a different kind of source for information. Francis was an extremely intelligent person, with a broad range of interests. However, family history was definitely not one of those areas of interest. Wilmot often seemed totally immersed in his experiences in World War II, and war stories and talking baseball pretty much covered his areas of interest. Sidney referred to Wilmot as the last victim of World War II because of the way that subject dominated his thoughts. Unfortunately, I did not know my maternal grandfather (WILMOT STUART HOLMES, SR), since he died in 1936, some 13 years before I was born. With the death this year of my two maternal uncles, some part of the Holmes family has clearly come to an end. Over the years, I have sometimes wished that my family name were Holmes rather than Bracken, since the Holmes side of my family has so much more history, at least history about which we are knowledgeable. While my branch of the family will hopefully continue for many generations with my two sons (WILLIAM CHRISTOPHER BRACKEN, IV and STUART HOLMES BRACKEN), Left to right, Chris, Brenda, Christopher and Stuart Bracken Former Governor of Georgia Ivan Allen and Stuart Bracken there is something unmistakably different in not carrying on a family name on your maternal side. Of course, Stuart carries on the Holmes name as his middle name (he was named for my grandfather, Wilmot Stuart Holmes, Sr.). Still, I have always felt something of a void in that I have no first cousins or siblings. While there are certainly Holmes second cousins, almost none of whom I know, who will carry on the Holmes name, there is no one left with the Holmes surname on the “Wilmot Stuart Holmes family branch”. The paucity of family within our branch of the Holmes family has really struck me as I have participated in the various funerals of my Holmes family. My mother and grandmother, both of whom died in the 1960’s, had large funerals attended by many relatives and friends. My two aunts, who both died in the 1990’s, are both buried in Laurens, South Carolina, alongside their grandparents (DR. AND MRS. HENRY M. HOLMES, JR.) . Caroline’s funeral was attended by Wilmot, Sidney, my wife Brenda and a few old friends in Laurens. Sidney’s funeral was attended by Wilmot, Brenda, my son Stuart and the family caregiver, Sheila Goodwin. My two uncles died in 2003. We had a graveside service in Milledgeville, Georgia for Francis (he is buried alongside his wife Tasha (NATASHA MOSHKOFF HOLMES) in her family site in Milledgeville. The only three people at this funeral were the minister, one old neighbor of the Moshkoff family in Milledgeville and myself. Wilmot is being cremated and current plans are for no service other than spreading his ashes on the family property in Sapphire, North Carolina. The Holmes family from whom I am descended comes from Charlestown, South Carolina and, before that, from Boston, and, as I said, can be traced back to the 1600’s. My great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was FRANCIS HOLMES, originally of Boston. He was the son of JOHN HOLMES of Beverly, County Yorkshire, England, who arrived in Bedford, Massachusetts with a wife and four sons in 1664. Francis Holmes is listed in probate court records in Boston in 1693 and again in 1704 as receiving property from a Robert Fenwick and Company, evidently as an executor. Francis was married to Rebecca Wharfe on February 15, 1693, in Boston, by Rev. Cotton Mather, minister of Boston’s Old North Church. Mather was a true believer in witchcraft and in 1692, the year before he married Francis and Rebecca, he had been a major force in the Salem Witch Trials. A document from 1702 mentions that Francis Holmes was “now going to South Carolina”. Interestingly, his wife Rebecca did not accompany him to Charleston, and she remained in Boston, as did their two daughters. Francis is listed as a merchant, and reputedly was a very prosperous one. I have no information as to why he decided to move from Boston to Charlestown, although my assumption is that it involved some business decision. I remember my grandmother telling me when I was a little boy that they decided to name their last son after my grandfather’s ancestor, Francis Holmes, because he was the wealthiest family member and they hoped this trait would pass to my uncle, Francis. She then said that Francis, her son, had in fact probably made more money than any of her children, so maybe their logic worked. In 1715 Francis Holmes was sent by the South Carolina assembly to New England to ask for aid against the Yemassees (I assume an Indian tribe?). In 1719 a record was made of the purchase by Francis Holmes of 1120 acres of property in Granville County. The next record of Francis Holmes was the probate of his will in Charlestown on June 9, 1726. The will, written on May 4, 1726, provided in part as follows: 50 pounds to …the elders of the Presbyterian Church or Meeting, in Charles Town, for the poor thereof; 20 pounds to the poor of the Church in Boston…My loving son, Francis Holmes…all my part of Town Lot on the Bay whereon I now live, and 80 acres on James Island…To my son Isaac Holmes, part of Town Lot 1…To my son Ebenezer Holmes, ½ my sloop, called the Bumper…To my son William Holmes…500 acres…my 4 sons my lands at Dorchester…Lot on Broad Street…my share in the Long Wharf in Boston…My loving wife, Rebecca, 1666 pounds, payable in Boston… Interestingly, I find no reference to slaves in this will. By comparison, the will of Francis’s great great grandson, HENRY MCCALL HOLMES, SR. (my great great grandfather) listed 101 slaves by name in his will of 1854. The will of Henry McCall Holmes, Sr. is among the papers that were placed in the Southern Historical Collection at the University Library at Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Francis Holmes had four sons and two daughters. The two daughters, Rebecca and Anne, both evidently stayed in Boston. Rebecca married Thomas Amory, a Boston merchant, and Anne married William Coffin, also of Boston. The oldest son was Francis Holmes, Jr., who was also listed as a Charlestown merchant. FRANCIS HOLMES, JR. married Elizabeth Simmons on March 8, 1721 or 1722, according to the registry of St. Phillips Church in Charlestown. His will was probated on January 16, 1728 and among the items he left to his son Francis were “pictures of his grandfather, Francis Holmes and myself.” In 1733, Francis’s wife Elizabeth inherited from her father “the house I live in, about the middle of the Bay…” Francis Holmes, Sr.’s second son was ISAAC HOLMES, my five times great grandfather. Isaac Holmes is listed as a “Charles Town merchant” and “member of the Counsel”. He died on November 23, 1751 at the age of 49. Currently hanging on the wall in my home office is an etching of his tombstone, with the testimonial to “A kind Husband, Tender Parent and fierce friend”. Isaac Holmes tombstone Isaac Holmes lived on Broad Street in Charlestown, possibly on the lot left to him and his brothers by their father. Isaac was married on January 19, 1723 or 1724 to Elizabeth Perroneau. One interesting item in Isaac’s will of 1751 was a bequest to “My friend, Jas. Crokatt, esq., & Co., in Gt. Britain to pay my son Isaac Holmes 1,000 pounds and all his expenses on his present voyage to Gt. Britain and back.” Isaac Holmes, Sr. had seven children, of whom six were daughters. His one son, ISAAC HOLMES, JR., was married on September 11, 1755 to Elizabeth Stanyarne, and then married a second time to REBECCA BEE, daughter of Col. John Bee, on May 8, 1759. Isaac, Jr. and Elizabeth appear to have had one son, Isaac III, born May 19, 1758. Isaac, Jr. and Rebecca Bee appear to have had three more children: Elizabeth, John Bee, and William Holmes. JOHN BEE HOLMES, born April 23, 1760, was my great, great, great grandfather. He married Elizabeth Edwards in 1783. Interestingly, his mother (Rebecca Bee Holmes), after being widowed by Isaac Holmes, remarried John Edwards, the father of Elizabeth Edwards, in 1774. Thus, when John Bee Holmes married Elizabeth Edwards in 1783, he was marrying his stepsister. John Bee Holmes built the home at 19 East Battery in Charlestown, known as the Holmes mansion, and also owned plantations known as Washington and Willow Grove. He served as a Judge and City Recorder for the City of Charlestown at the time of George Washington’s visit to Charlestown in May of 1791. The following is a description of the reception of George Washington by John Bee Holmes: On May 2, when the President, traveling from Georgetown, arrived at Haddrell’s Point, the city recorder, John Bee Holmes, dressed in his official robes, met him. The Judge presented for the President’s use a handsomely equipped barge manned by thirteen ship captains, richly dressed. The President was met at Prioleau’s wharf, the end of Queen Street, by Governor Charles Pinckney, Lieutenant Governor Isaac Holmes (who was the brother of John Bee Holmes)…, and members of the state Society of the Cincinnati. During this visit, Washington stayed at the city home of the planter Daniel Heyward at 87 Church Street in Charlestown. That home is now a museum, known as the Heyward- Washington House. Stored within that museum are a number of items that belonged to John Bee Holmes, the best known being the Holmes Bookcase, considered to be one of the finest pieces of furniture made in the United States in the eighteenth century. Also at the Heyward-Washington House is a portrait of John Bee Holmes by Samuel F.B. Morse, the inventor of the telegraph as well as one of the country’s best known portrait painters. John Bee Holmes died on September 5, 1827 and Elizabeth died on November 7, 1836. Among the children of John Bee and Elizabeth Holmes was HENRY MCCALL HOLMES, my great, great grandfather. Dr. Henry M. Holmes, Sr. was born on May 1, 1790 and died January 18, 1854. As stated earlier, his will and inventory of his property are among the items donated by my grandparents, Rev. and Mrs. Wilmot Stuart Holmes, Sr., to the University of North Carolina Library for their Southern Historical Collection. Dr. Henry M. Holmes Sr. was married to ELIZA FORD GIBBES HOLMES, for whose family the Gibbes Museum in Charlestown is named. Eliza’s mother, ANNA FRANCIS DESAUSSURE GIBBES, was a member of the French Huguenot DeSaussure family. The inventory of Henry’s property at the time of his death is interesting in many respects, the most interesting to a later day observer being the inventory of his “human property”. The inventory includes 101 slaves owned by Dr. Holmes, listing the age, name and value for each. The total value given to this human property was $39,225.00. An example of the inventory is as follows: Nos Age Names Value 89 59 Peter-house servant 400 90 76 Doll-bedridden 0 91 50 Lavinia-seamstress 400 92 29 George-unsound 50 Henry M. Holmes, Sr. was a medical doctor practicising in Charlestown, where he and Eliza and their family lived on Council Street. In addition, he owned the two plantations, Washington and Willow Grove that had belonged to his father, John Bee Holmes. These plantations would, no doubt, account for most of the slaves he left at his death. Henry and Eliza Holmes had twelve children, including my great grandfather, HENRY MCCALL HOLMES, JR. (1834-1899). Henry M. Holmes, Jr. was born in Charlestown and married SIDNEY PASTEUR (known in the family as “Chick”), and they had eight children, two of whom died young. Henry, a physician like his father, went with Sidney to Ocala, Florida before the Civil War to live. He returned to fight for the Confederacy in the War, first as a foot soldier and later as a surgeon. He came back to Charlestown after the war, then to Gaffney and Laurens, South Carolina, where he and his wife are buried in a family plot along with my two aunts, Sidney and Caroline. I feel a particular affinity for Henry, Jr., not only because he was my mother’s grandfather but also because of all of the personal items of his that are now part of our family’s most valued possessions. My Aunt Caroline gave me, when I was around ten years old, his Appointment as Assistant Surgeon for the Confederate Army (signed by the Confederate Secretary of War, James A. Landis) as well as his Amnesty Oath, signed on October 30, 1865. These have always been hung in a prominent place in my homes since then. We also have the day bed that Henry Holmes, Jr. Day bed of Henry Holmes, Jr. used throughout the Civil War, and, probably of greatest interest, the Family Bible ( See end for pictures) that Henry and Chick purchased on October 21, 1858. The Bible contains a flyleaf dedication from “Uncle Willie”, who was WILLIAM FORD DESAUSSURE (1792-1870), Henry’s maternal uncle. William DeSaussure was an 1810 graduate of Harvard University and served as United States Senator from South Carolina from 1852 to 1853. The Bible contains numerous other items of interest, including a record of family births, deaths and marriages from 1858 to the present. One of Henry, Jr.’s sisters was EMMA EDWARDS HOLMES. From February 13, 1861 until April 7, 1866, Emma kept a detailed diary of life in Charlestown, the affairs of her family and the swirl of history around her. Through that diary a day-to-day narrative is produced of the life of the Holmes family and of Charlestown in general during the period immediately before, during and after the Civil War. This diary needs to be read by anyone interested in the history of the Holmes family, particularly this watershed period. In the diary’s introduction, by John F. Marszalek, he states in regard to Emma Holmes: A believer in aristocracy, Miss Holmes felt that people could be classed as betters or inferiors, and she often spoke of the mobocracy...she accepted slavery without question…she was a woman of considerable intellect and curiosity…she read widely…her intellectual bent drew her to the teaching profession…she remained a teacher most of her life. When I read that passage, I feel that I have just read an exact description of my Aunt Sidney, who was the great-niece of Emma Holmes. Sidney was born in 1906 and Emma died in 1910. It is my understanding that Emma Holmes lived her last years with my grandfather, Wilmot Holmes, and his family and my two aunts spoke often of their Aunt Emma. The diary of Miss Emma Holmes The diary gives portraits of various members of the Holmes family and their actions during the war period. For instance, on March 18, 1861 Emma reports that “Uncle Edward (Holmes), who is now in Washington, had written to General (Winfield) Scott asking if Fort Sumter really was to be given up, and was answered in the affirmative.” ISAAC EDWARD HOLMES, my great-great grandfather’s brother, was an 1815 graduate of Yale University and a Congressman from South Carolina from 1838 to 1850. When succession came, he went to Washington and conferred with Secretary of State William Seward, among others, in an effort to maintain peace. After the war, he was a member of a South Carolina delegation that went to Washington to negotiate with the administration of President Andrew Johnson. A subsequent diary entry, on March 20, 1861, reports that, “A letter has been received from Uncle Edward, saying he has seen (Gen. Winfield) Scott, who assured him there would be no collision between the two forces but never even mentioned Fort Sumter.” Many subsequent diary entries make reference to visits from and meals with Uncle Edward after his return from Washington, with his analysis of troop movements around Washington. Another, Charlestown native and relative of the Holmes family was General Barnard Bee, who on July 21, 1861, during the Battle of Bull Run, exclaimed, “Look at Jackson’s Brigade; it stands like a stone wall!” Thereafter, General Thomas Jackson was always known as, “Stonewall” Jackson. General Barnard Bee died the next day after giving “Stonewall” Jackson his famous nickname. The first part of the diary, while outlining war preparation and the early part of the war, also presents a fascinating picture of life in the antebellum South, at least the life of the Holmes family. On March 31, 1862, Emma reports that “We were surprised by the arrival before breakfast of cousin Wilmot (Desaussure) and Governor (Francis) Pickens,” who came by to take the family to view fortifications around the city. The next day, on April 1, 1862, she reports, We walked to visit the fortifications…, the gentlemen had provided us with fruit cake and champagne for lunch. The dinner was laid in a tent and was very nice, but camp life was shown by the deficiency of china…its place being supplied by tin ware. On the following day, the entry advises that, “We went to dinner about two o’clock in a large tent in the garden. The dinner was in regular city style, boned turkey, ham, lobster, salad, etc, but it was also laid in camp fashion - all the dessert being on at the same time…fresh preserved peaches, jelly and pound cake and afterwards ice cream and of course champagne and wines.” The story of life for the Holmes family, as told in Emma Holmes’s diary, in the last days of the Old South is a story of a world of lobster, champagne and wines for lunch, with Cotillions, walks along the Battery and speeches at the Literary Guild at night. But it is also the story of a society built on the institution of slavery, the “peculiar institution” of human property of the Old South. For me, a diary entry from March 12, 1863 presents a chilling view of this perversity: Margaret (a slave) had become so excessively negligent and indifferent to her duties…that Carrie (Caroline Holmes White, Emma’s sister) asked Isaac to punish her…He…after dark took her to an extreme end of the garden, intending to reprimand her and with a light strap gave her two or three cuts across her shoulders. She tore away…and sprang into the creek…she plunged head formost…Mr. Bull had the creek dragged unsuccessfully…and the current must have swept the body out. She had (said) a few days ago that if she was ever touched again she would drown or kill herself…But none dreamed of such a demoniac temper…It put poor Isaac nearly crazy, for he blamed himself as…undue severity. Poor fellow, to have his peace of mind destroyed by the blind rage of such a creature is too dreadful. Another entry, on July 16, 1861, describes a house slave who evidently killed a neighbor’s infant child. Emma wonders, “what was the cause of this act, we cannot imagine.” Indeed, it seems that neither Emma nor her family could imagine why these human slaves would retaliate against their masters in such a way, or why a slave in the midst of a beating with a strap would have the audacity to commit suicide, thus upsetting the master. Emma often conveys news of her brother Henry (my great grandfather, Dr. Henry M. Holmes, Jr.) in her diary. On March 21, 1863, her diary entry is as follows: Brother Henry has written me an account of a 12 days trip in the Cumberland Mountains hunting bushwackers, as the Tories there are called, in which they underwent frightful cold exposure and fatigue, through pouring rains…almost without food, the wagons having to be left behind ; they went from Tennessee to Western North Carolina. Earlier, on November 9, 1862, she reports, Mother received a letter …from Henry, dated Tennessee…his company was in the battle of Richmond, Kentucky and received the credit from Maj. Brown, chief of Gen. Kirby Smith’s staff, of winning that battle by enabling our forces to outflank the enemy…he is still only sergeant, through acting surgeon also. The medical department refused to commission him as a surgeon to the company, as it is too small. Dolley and the “great little Madison”, by Conover Hunt-Jones, with dedication to Caroline Holmes Bivins, an exhibit sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, which included forward by Mrs. Lyndon Baines Johnson In fact, Francis Holmes, my uncle who died in 2003, did leave an estate worth more than two million dollars This quote is from a leaflet prepared by the Charleston Museum, leaflet number 23, telling the story of the Heyward-Washington House The Diary of Miss Emma Holmes, edited by John F. Marszalek and published in 1979 by the Louisiana State University Press Introduction, The Diary of Miss Emma Holmes, General Winfield Scott (1786-1866) was a hero of the War of 1812, commanded forces in the Mexican War, and served as General in Chief of the U.S. Army from 1841 through 1848 and again from 1855 to 1861. He was the Whig candidate for President of the United States in 1852 and was the first man since George Washington to hold the title of Lieutenant General of the Army. Rebecca Bee was the wife of Isaac Holmes, Jr. and mother of John Bee Holmes. Barnard Bee was her nephew, the son of her brother Thomas Bee.
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