In his Pioneer History of Illinois Gov. Reynolds classed as "pioneers" only those who were inhabitants of Illinois before its admission to the Union in 1818. But the Old Settlers Association of Morgan and Cass counties, when organized, finding so few of that class of residents still living, extended the limit and considered all persons who resided in Morgan county prior to "the winter of the deep snow, 1830-31," as pioneers and eligible to membership.
By that latter standard William Holmes was a pioneer, as he was an early settler in that part of Morgan now comprised in the county of Cass.
His parents, John and Phebe (Dougherty) Holmes, of English descent, were natives of Connecticut, who, after their marriage, left the Nutmeg state, and crossing over the state line into New York settled on a small farm, eight miles from that line, near Clinton Corners in Duchess county, New York; of which Poughkeepsie is the county seat. They were members of the Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers - as were their parents before them - and in very moderate circumstances financially. But they were young, strong and hopeful, and by industry and economy succeeded in life's only mission, the raising of a family. Of their eight children - seven sons and one daughter - William Holmes was the fifth, born on the 7th of February, 1799. Thus, as he often facetiously remarked, he came within eight miles of being a native born Yankee.
His boyhood was uneventful as that of most boys brought up in the rural districts of a region not remarkable for fertility of soil or other natural sources of wealth. When old enough he was assigned his share of the farm work during the farming seasons, and was sent to the district school in the winters. He early manifested a marked dislike for the routine drudgery of the farm, and a marked predilection for books and study, in which he made rapid progress. Seeing the boy's bent of mind, his father very sensibly encouraged his thirst for knowledge, and assisted him in his efforts to acquire education, so far as his limited means would permit. When a grown up young man, and still eager for learning, he entered the academy at Poughkeepsie, on the Hudson river, and there was a diligent student for two or three terms. His parents fondly hoped, and expected, that he would confine his attention to the course of studies that would fit him for the Quaker ministry. But though very partial to the Quaker faith in which he had been reared, he felt but little interest in the study of theology, preferring to qualify himself for a more active and practical business calling than that of the church. His ruling talent was mathematics, in which he gained great proficiency, easily mastering the most intricate problems of higher arithmetic, algebra, geometry and surveying.
About that time the people of the older eastern states were becoming stirred up with intense interest in the rapidly developing young states of the far west, particularly Illinois and Indiana, which had escaped the incubus of slavery, and were represented as offering the most tempting opportunities for success and advancement in every path of life. A furor to emigrate to the west prevailed similar to that occurring in 1849-‘50, upon the discovery of gold in California. Among others, young Holmes - who was well aware that upon his own unaided exertions must depend success in his future career - was seized with an irresistible desire to try his chances in that new and promising field.
Although it was intimated to him by the trustees of the academy that if he remained there until his graduation he would be appointed one of the faculty and given the position of instructor in the department of astronomy and mathematics, he declined the offer, partly because of his impatience to commence his western journey, but chiefly from lack of funds to continue his studies. Bidding adieu to the old homestead and its inmates he set out into the broad open world with all the earthly goods he possessed in a bundle carried on a stick over his shoulder. Going down the Hudson river he landed at Hackensack in Bergen county, New Jersey, and from there proceeded afoot to Paterson, in Pasaic county, and in that neighborhood secured employment as teacher of a country school. He taught there two or three terms, and, with the wages he earned, started on his way to the setting sun. He passed through New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and by flatboat from Brownsville, on the Monongahela, floated down that stream and the Ohio to Henderson, in Kentucky, where only the width of the river separated him from the long wished for promised land.
Crossing the river he found that he was in Posey county, Indiana, a stranger in a strange land, with cash capital exhausted, but in sound health and good spirits. His first move was to look around for employment, which he soon obtained as teacher of a country school a few miles from the town of Mt. Vernon. The marshy, mosquito-infested flats and poor post oak ridges of Posey county, where fever and ague and milk sickness were the principal products, and coonskins and hoop poles passed as legal tender and were the chief, articles of commerce and export, fell far short of realizing Mr. Holmes' high ideals of the great west. He was disappointed and discouraged, and concluded if that was a fair sample of Indiana and its adjoining states, the best thing he could do would be to work his way to New York and stay there. But poverty compelled him to continue for sometime at his task in order to earn money enough to enable him to get away. While debating this matter in his own mind he heard of a man named Henry Hopkins who came, with his family, from Kentucky, and after trying Indiana awhile, had pushed on to the Sangamon country in Illinois, where, it was reported, he had found the garden spot of the world. Those reports revived Mr. Holmes' flagging hopes and caused him to change his plans. Instead of returning home a poverty stricken failure he determined to go on into Illinois, as soon as he could, and share with Mr. Hopkins the paradise he was said to have discovered.
In the midst of Mr. Holmes' last term of teaching another Kentuckian named Joseph McDonald, came into that neighborhood, with two or three teams and a large family of grown sons and daughters, looking for a new location in which to enter land and settle himself and children. In a short time the young teacher became well acquainted with the newcomers, particularly with one of the boys named John McDonald, who was about his own age, and his sister, Polly, a year or so younger. The old gentleman was not pleased with the outlook for a permanent home in that part of Indiana; the soil was too poor, and there was too much ague and milk sickness; so, he thought, he would go on farther up and look at the White river country. But when Mr. Holmes told him of the accounts received from Mr. Hopkins of the Sangamon region in Illinois, and of his own intention of going there when that term of his school expired, Mr. McDonald came to the conclusion he would remain there until he heard from him.
When Mr. Holmes finally dismissed his school he lost no time in getting out of Posey county and going into Illinois in search of Henry Hopkins. What method of traveling he adopted is not now known; but most probably he made the journey on horseback. Mr. Hopkins came from Indiana to the northern part of Morgan county in the early spring of 1825, and passed the first season near the town of Princeton, moving from there the next winter to Sugar Grove where he took up a claim and built a cabin in which himself and family resided for many years. On his arrival here in the spring of 1826, Mr. Holmes stopped for a few weeks with Sam Sinclair who had made a clearing not far from where the Centenary church, in Oregon precinct, now stands. He immediately wrote to Mr. McDonald that though the report of Mr. Hopkins regarding the Sangamon country, received in Indiana, seemed very extravagant, he had not told the half of its grandeur, fertility and beauty, and advised Mr. McDonald to come on at once - which he did.
Viewing the country over, with its few scattered settlers, and its fine timber and water courses, and its grand prairies of exceedingly productive soil, Mr. Holmes saw here the elements of vast future wealth. And he also saw that the only industry a person without capital could engage in with prospect of success was agriculture and gradual acquisition of land. Farming on the rocky clay hills of New York had been very distasteful to him; but here necessity together with the certain generous rewards of labor quickly changed his youthful disposition, and there not yet being children enough in a township to make up a school - he made up his mind to "lay a claim and make a clearing." In that resolve he was strongly encouraged by all the settlers he consulted. He was received into the Hopkins family as a boarder and lodger, and taking up a claim adjoining that of Mr. Hopkins on the west, resolutely went to work at cutting away the trees and brush, grubbing up the stumps, and plowing.
Joseph McDonald received the florid letter of Mr. Holmes, in due time, and the next day left the state of Indiana, with his family and teams, with their faces set to the west. There was no loitering or waste of time on the way, and in the course of ten or twelve days the McDonald cavalcade hove in sight and rounded to in the prairie grass at the edge of Sugar Grove. Resting there a little while, to look around and take his bearings, Mr. McDonald decided to move his camp two miles farther east and settle down in Panther Grove, where he and his boys right away built a cabin and broke up a patch of sod and planted it in corn and garden truck. The records show that on the 5th of June, 1826, Jos. McDonald entered the E½ of the NW¼ of Sec. 11 in T. 17, R. 9, eighty acres. There he and his sons passed the winter in chopping, clearing, grubbing, making rails, and preparing for making and burning bricks early the next spring for building a house. And in the early summer of the next year, 1827, the brick house was built, and, still in sound condition and good repair, with the fine farm upon which it stands, belongs to the granddaughter of Joseph McDonald, Mrs. Wm. Barkley; of this city.
That brick house - the first one built between Beardstown and Springfield, with the possible exception of the residence of Archibald Job at Sylvan Grove - possessed a peculiar attraction for William Holmes. He often spent the evening there after plowing all day with a wooden mold-board plow drawn by two or three yokes of oxen, and was there Sundays whether there was preaching in the neighborhood or not. by force of example, or perhaps other motive, he too built a house that summer on his claim; but not of bricks. It was a very modest log cabin situated a little north of the (present) old Cunningham burying ground about a quarter of a mile west of the Hopkins cabin. In those pioneer days in Illinois old maids were very scarce, as the paramount duty of life impressed upon the daughters, after their graduation in the arts of cooking, spinning, weaving, etc., was to get married. Miss Mary McDonald - "Polly," for short - was occasionally reminded of this duty by precept and example, her sisters being soon married and gone, while she, born in Kentucky on September 7, 1802, nearing the quarter century mark in age, was still single. But in William Holmes she recognized her natural affinity, and, having his cabin ready and his crop gathered, they were married in her father's new house, on the 7th of December, 1827.
The appearance of several speculators, known in those days as "land sharks," who came into the frontier settlements with the annual stream of immigrants, with money to enter settler's improvements on government land, early warned Hopkins and Holmes that they had better not delay too long the securing of legal titles to their homes from the land office. Consequently, they hustled around, and by scraping together all the money they jointly had, and borrowing more, they succeeded in raising the necessary $200, when Mr. Holmes went to the land office at Springfield and there, on September 15, 1826, entered two eighties, the SW¼ of Sec. 5, in T. 17, R. 9, comprising both their claims. That success seems to have developed in Mr. Holmes a greed for the acquisition of more land. Late that fall he again visited the land office and, on the 9th of November, (1826), he entered the eighty acres adjoining his first entry on the west, (the E½ of SE¼ of Sec. 6, in T. 17, R. 9) which he sold to Thomas Cunningham in 1851. On November 30th, 1829, he entered another eighty acres - the W½ of the SE¼ of S. 31, T. 18, R. 9 - a mile or more northwest of his first clearing, upon which he built the frame house into which he moved, where he and his wife passed the remainder of their lives and died. A short time after that last entry, on December 29, 1829, he executed a deed to Mr. Hopkins for ninety acres that included the original Hopkins claim of eighty acres and ten acres of his own upon which he had first squatted and built his cabin; and some years later sold Mr. Hopkins the remaining seventy acres of that quarter section.
After Mr. Holmes had removed to his new home, in North Grove, yielding to the persuasion of his neighbors, he taught two or three winter schools for the benefit of the rising generation, which was rapidly increasing in numbers by the constant influx of settlers. His first school - in 1831, the next winter after the deep snow - was taught in the house of Stephen Lee, (whose wife was Mrs. Holmes' sister), at the eastern border of Sugar Grove, subsequently known as the "Trotter place"; and he later converted his deserted cabin, west of the Hopkins house, into a schoolroom and "wielded the birch" there. Mrs. Jas. Cunningham was one of his scholars, and says in all her school days she had no better teacher. Wm. H. Lee, another of his first Sugar Grove pupils, writing from Rose Hill, Ill., on September 13, 1905, says; "Mr. Holmes was an excellent teacher, but most too kind-hearted to enforce good discipline."
"When a big boy was more than usually unruly Mr. Holmes would assume a fierce look and rush out to a hazel thicket near the house and break off a stout switch or two and come in trimming off the twigs and dead leaves. By that time he would find the boy badly scared and crying, then going to him would pat him on the head and speak kindly to him and in the meantime break his switches in pieces and throw them in the fire. He was never known to whip one of us."
In those days Mr. Holmes also did considerable land surveying for his neighbors, as much for accommodation as for pay, and his work in that line was always carefully and accurately done.
He took no part in the Blackhawk war of 1832, as by his Quaker faith and training he was a non-combatant in principle and opposed to war upon any pretext. Naturally of kind and gentle nature, he was, in fact, a negative man with no aggressive or obtrusive force of character, preferring a life of quiet obscurity and slavish toil, and slow but certain acquisition of wealth. Mrs. Holmes was his counterpart in active industry, economy and frugality, with only occasional help she did all the household work extending to a watchful care of the poultry, the fruits and the garden. Their style of living and dress was rigidly plain, and their only recreation was attending periodical preaching, and visiting neighbors and relatives. The gains of their thrifty management invested in adjoining lands amounted with the passing of years to over sixteen hundred acres. Their home, though plain and simply furnished, was always the abode of cordial and liberal hospitality. All who came met with a sincere welcome and were pleasantly entertained as long as they chose to stay.
In 1836, party lines had become well defined in Illinois. The whigs were greatly strengthened by President Jackson's strenuous exercise of the veto power, and the democrats carried the state for VanBuren, that fall, by only 2983 majority. Mr. Holmes was a whig - perhaps because his friends and neighbors, the McDonald's, Henry Hopkins and Archibald Job, were whigs. Or, it may be, that his father, John Holmes, was a whig, as the majority of men inherit politics from their father and religion - if they have any - from their mother. Let that be as it may, in 1836, he voted for Daniel Webster for the presidency in opposition to Martin VanBuren, and voted the straight whig ticket for state and local officers. Agitation of the movement, irrespective of party lines, for creating a new county from the northern part of Morgan county started at Beardstown a year or two before, in 1836, assumed definite form and was made, in a manner, an issue in the territory interested for election of representatives in the legislature. Mr. Holmes took quite an active part in the state elections that year, particularly for the election of Wm. Thomas to the state senate, and Newton Cloud and John J. Hardin to the lower house, all three whigs and his personal friends.
That legislature, chosen in August, 1836, passed the bill for organizing Cass county, which was approved by Duncan on March 3, 1837. And it was that same legislature that enacted the famous internal improvement scheme which three years later collapsed leaving the state over $14,009,000 in debt with practically nothing to show for it.
The county of Cass having been formed, an election was held, on the 7th day of the following August, for officers to put its legal machinery in motion, which resulted in the election of John S. Wilbourne, for probate judge; Lemon Plaster, sheriff; John W. Pratt, county clerk; N. B. Thompson, recorder; Joshua P. Crow, Amos Bonney and George F. Miller, county commissioners; William Holmes, county surveyor, and Halsey Smith, coroner. Mr. Holmes' opponent in the race for surveyor was Wm. Clark whom he defeated by 67 majority.
Before that general election Beardstown, even that early, jealous of Dr. Hall's new town in the prairie, Virginia, in order to steal a march upon it, or perhaps misconstruing the organic county law, called a special election of its own on the first day of July and, all alone, elected Thomas Wilbourn, to represent the county in the legislature. But that scheme was too premature. At the special session of the tenth general assembly, that met at Vandalia on the 10th of July, Capt. Wilbourn was present and Hon. R. S. Walker presented his Beardstown credentials, which were referred to the committee on elections. The House Journal of July 12, 1839, states:
"Mr. Shields (Genl. James Shields), from the committee on elections to which had been referred the poll book and return of an election for a representative in the legislature from the county of Cass reported, that the county of Cass was formed out of the county of Morgan by an Act passed during the last session of the general assembly, and organized according to the provisions of the same; that at an election held at Beardstown, in said county, on the first day of July last, Thomas Wilbourn was elected to represent said county in the legislature of this state. By referring to the seventh section of the Act above mentioned, the only section bearing directly upon this subject, we find the following provisions: "In case said county of Cass shall be created under provisions of this Act, then, until the next apportionment of senators and representatives to the general assembly, the said county shall be entitled to one representative to the general assembly, and shall at the next election vote with the county of Morgan for one senator, and the county of Morgan shall be entitled to five representatives and two senators." By the last apportionment the county of Morgan was entitled to six representatives and three senators, and it is clear that whatever disposition its citizens may choose to make of their county, and into whatever number of distinct counties they may choose to partition its territory, they cannot apportionment, whatever quantum therefore of representation is given to Cass must be deducted from Morgan. It then remained to consider, whether the new county was entitled to elect its own representatives at the time above stated, and then supply the place of a member of the Morgan delegation who had previously resigned. The Act above referred to was approved the third of March last, and provides that Cass shall be entitled to one representative, and shall at the next election vote with the county of Morgan for one senator. This evidently means the next general election; that contemplated by the second section of the second article of our state constitution, and could bear no reference to a special election for a specific purpose, such as that which has lately occurred in Morgan county to fill the vacancy occasioned by the resignation of one of its members, Stephen A. Douglas. This will appear still more obvious if we consider that had no vacancy occurred this question could not have arisen, and the representative who had been elected to fill such vacancy stands upon the same ground occupied by his predecessor previous top his resignation. Besides, the members of the present delegation from the county of Morgan were not elected by the present county of Morgan, but by the counties of Morgan and Cass, and are consequently not the representatives of the county of Morgan; but of the present counties of Morgan and Cass; thus the citizens of the new county of Cass cannot justly complain that they are left unrepresented. Your committee, therefore, unanimously conclude that the new county of Cass is not entitled to a separate representative, and that the election held as above stated was wholly null and void."
The first convention for nominating party candidates for state offices in Illinois was held by democratic delegates, at Vandalia, on the 4th of December 1837, when Col. Jas. W. Stephenson, of Galena, was nominated for governor, and John S. Hacker for lieutenant governor. Upon discovery that Col. Stephenson was a defaulter, as receiver of the land office, in the sum of $38,000, the ticket was retired, and the same delegates again met, at Vandalia on June 16th, 1838, and nominated a new ticket with Thomas Carlin in place of Col. Stephenson, and Stinson H. Anderson in place of Hacker. the whigs held no convention, but agreed upon Cyrus Edwards for governor, and Wm. H. Davidson for lieutenant governor. Neither party held conventions for nominating local officers, leaving it free for all, in the counties, who chose to run.
The next general state election was held on the 6th of August, 1838. It was the first general election for Cass county, and as a test of its party complexion proved the whigs to be in control. They cast for Edwards, for governor, 335 votes, and for Carlin 188. For congress John T. Stuart received 220 votes and Stephen A. Douglas 214. For state senator Wm. Thomas 276, and Josiah Lamborn 252. There were three candidates for representative in the legislature; Thomas Beard, henry McKean - both democrats - and Wm. Holmes, a whig, who was elected receiving 208 votes to 198 for Beard, and 114 for McKean. At that election Carlin was elected governor by the slender majority of 996, and John T. Stuart, a whig, beat Stephen A. Douglas, for Congress just 14 votes.
The eleventh legislature in which Mr. Holmes served as Cass county's first representative, met at Vandalia on the 3rd of December, 1838, with a whig majority in both houses. Of the 91 members of the House 46 were whigs, 40 democrats, and 5 were independents. In its organization Abraham Lincoln, of Sangamon - who evidently had not yet attained his apotheosis - was presented as the whig candidate for speaker and was opposed by the candidate of the democrats, Genl. W. L. D. Ewing. though the whigs had a majority of one over the combined vote of the democrats and independents, on the fourth ballot Genl. Ewing was elected having received 43 votes to 38 for Lincoln. Personally, Mr. Holmes disliked Lincoln and had no faith in him; but, moved by party zeal, or fear of the party lash, he voted for him on all four of the ballots. IN that legislature Wm. Thomas was the senator jointly for Morgan, Cass and Scott counties. He resigned on March 4th, 1839, to accept the circuit judgeship, and Wm. L. Sergeant was elected in his place. Morgan county had two other senators beside Thomas, and five representatives - Newton Cloud, Wm. Gilham, Wm. W. Happy, John J. Hardin and John Henry. In the standing committee assignments the democratic speaker complimented Mr. Holmes by appointing him chairman of the committee on Public Buildings and Grounds.
Already the people had become alarmed at the enormous public debt accumulating by sale of state bonds for constructing the wild scheme of internal improvements originated by the last legislature, and were clamoring for its curtailment or repeal. but, instead of so doing, the eleventh general assembly increased the state's indebtedness by authorizing an additional issue of $4,000,000 of bonds in aid of the canal, and over $14,000,000 more for building new railroads and for improvement of river navigation. Mr. Holmes voted for those measures in obedience to party dictation, but at no time an enthusiastic supporter of the visionary folly, he would have much preferred to vote for its immediate abandonment.
He was a very attentive member; never absent, very watchful of everything transpiring, busy in presenting petitions and serving on special committees; but took no part in discussions or acrimonious political debates that fritted away two-thirds of the session. he voted for Mr. Lincoln's proposition to issue state bonds for the purchase of all the pub lands within the state from the general government ($20,000,000 acres) at 25 cents per acre - which, of course, resulted in nothing. He also voted for the successful bills to supply the supreme court with a library; to incorporate the Chicago Lyceum; to establish the deaf and dumb asylum at Jacksonville; to require the governor to reside at the state capital, and to prohibit the banks issuing notes of less than five dollars denomination. The legislature - the last one to meet at Vandalia - adjourned on the 4th of March, 1839, and the capitol fo the state was removed to Springfield on the 4th of the following July. One of the last acts of that session was to pass a bill - approved by Gov. Carlin, March 2, 1839 - introduced by Mr. Holmes, providing that, Beardstown having failed to comply with the conditions specified in the Acts of March 3 and July 18th, 1837, - to erect a court house and jail there free of cost to the county - "the county seat of Cass county shall be fixed at Virginia, in said county, upon the same conditions it was offered to Beardstown."
The citizens of Virginia accepted the conditions with alacrity, and Dr. Hall at once proposed to build a court house and jail if the county would reconvey to him the fifteen acres of "Public Grounds" he had donated to it when he laid out the town; and his proposition was immediately accepted by the county commissioners. Mr. Holmes then, employed by Dr. Hall, surveyed the "Grounds" and platted them into lots, streets and alleys, together with an addition made thereto by Dr. Hall, and marking off the public square he drove a stake down in its center as the spot where the court house should be built, and Dr. Hall built it there accordingly. The completed plat was filed by Mr. Holmes on the 18th of June, 1839.
Before adjournment of the legislature Gov. Carlin appointed Ex-Gov. Reynolds and U.S. Senator Richard M. Young special commissioners to sell state bonds in our eastern cities and in England. Those distinguished gentlemen thereupon went to Europe on a junketing excursion at the state's expense, taking along two of the state fund commissioners, Col. Oakley and Genl. Rawlings, and the four together disposed of the bonds to sharpers and bankrupts resulting in loss to the state of nearly a million of dollars. by that time with the state's credit exhausted, a frightful waste of public money on all sides, the public debt ran up to over $14,000,000, and scarcely anything accomplished, the bank's suspension of specie payment, their currency, as well as state bonds, woefully depreciated, followed by distressing shrinkage of all property values, the people, disgusted and panic stricken, demanded abandonment of the ruinous folly.
Governor Carlin awoke to the gravity of the situation, and called the legislature together again in special session. It met at Springfield on December 9, 1839. As the new statehouse was not finished the senate met in the Methodist church, the house in the newly built Second Presbyterian church and the supreme court in the Protestant Episcopal building. During that called session, which adjourned on the 3rd of February, 1840, all internal improvements, with exception of the Illinois and Michigan canal and the railroad from Meredosia to Springfield, nearly completed, were abandoned; all laborers and surplus officials discharged, and a general settlement and reckoning made that showed the state to be on the very edge of bankruptcy. Though Mr. Holmes made no speeches in favor of the retrenchment measures he gave them his earnest support. At that session a resolution was adopted ordering an investigation of the affairs of the three commissioners appointed before for superintending the building of the state house, one of whom was Mr. Holmes' friend and neighbor, Archibald Job, which ultimately resulted in his retirement. In the famous "coon-skin and hard cider" campaign of the Whigs in 1840 - the most exciting and sensational political contest in the history of Illinois - Mr. Holmes took a very conspicuous part; but though Harrison and Tyler were elected president and vice-president by the Whigs in November, the democrats at the same election carried Illinois for Van Buren by a majority of 1939, and at the state election on August 2nd they elected a majority of both branches of the legislature. After that campaign Mr. Holmes' interest in politics gradually declined, yet, he retained his prominence in the waning Whig party for some years longer, but paid less and less attention to public affairs, and applied himself more closely to his own interest. On the subject of slavery he was very conservative, emphatically opposed to the extension of the institution in the territories, and equally opposed to congressional interference with it where it already existed, believing that gradual emancipation by the agency and wisdom of the southern people themselves was the probable, and only logical, solution of the question.
He held John J. Hardin in high esteem, and was quite an admirer of Stephen A. Douglas personally; but never could discover in Abraham Lincoln - whom he styled a "vulgar buffoon" - any element of greatness, or more than ordinary ability. At the congressional election of 1846 in this, the then 7th district, Mr. Holmes voted the Whit ticket excepting for congress, casting his vote for his friend Rev. Peter Cartwright, the democratic candidate, against Lincoln the Whig nominee.
For this act of party treason - as the whigs termed it - Mr. Holmes was severely censured by his party in Cass county. In a communication to the Jacksonville Journal, written at the time, presumably by Richard S. Thomas, of Virginia, Mr. Holmes' defection was criticized in scathing and abusive terms; and in order to fully convey the writer's indignation he had Mr. Holmes' name occurring in it printed in type upside down.
In 1848 Mr. Holmes, though not highly impressed with the fitness of Genl. Taylor for the presidency, was still loyal to the whig party, and continued so until 1856. When he saw, at the Bloomington convention, on the 26th of May of that year, the whigs of Illinois coalesce with the anti-Douglas democrats and organize the republican party; and saw John C. Freemont, the hare-brained apostle of abolitionism, enter the field for the presidency bearing a thirteen-star flag, with the sectional following - nine-tenths of whom were old-line whigs - who at the November election gave him 115 electoral votes, he joined the democrats in support of Buchanan, and voted the democratic ticket the balance of his life, but took no further active part in politics.
Mr. Holmes was eminently a good man. With conscientious honor and probity of character; in kindness, benevolence and charity, purity of moral life, and a mild, affable disposition, he possessed in high degree all personal traits and characteristics of the best type of what is understood by the term "Christian gentleman." His habits were most exemplary. He probably never tasted liquor of any kind, never used tobacco in any form, and never expressed himself in coarse, profane, obscene or vulgar language. Though not a member of any secret society, he always willingly accommodated friends and neighbors, and did all he could to relieve distress and suffering, and assist the poor and needy.
He is said to have been quite spruce and good looking in hi younger days; then five feet eight inches tall, with black hair and eyes, pleasant expression of face and very agreeable address and manners. His feelings and emotions were of devotional cast in ready sympathy with sacred service or music. He was naturally a religious man, with true Quaker humility and kindly regard for his fellow men. Had the Society of Friends had an organization here he would doubtless have been one of the most steadfast members. Mrs. Holmes joined the Methodist church in her early girlhood, and lived and died in that faith, a sincere practical, as well as theoretical Christian. Before religious denominations here were strong enough to build houses for worship, Peter Cartwright, and other Methodist ministers occasionally held services and preached at the Holmes farm for assembled settlers of the neighborhood. By request and invitation of Mrs. Holmes a two-days' meeting was held there in the summer of 1852, during which Mr. Holmes was formally admitted into the Methodist church. In 1854 a Methodist camp ground was established in the grove just south of his house, and was largely attended for three or four weeks. The meeting was held again the next year with greatly increased attendance. With their customary prodigal hospitality Mr. and Mrs. Holmes invited and pressed all who came to the camp meeting to eat at their table, and to feed their horses during their stay from their crib and oats and hay stacks, and to use at will their stables and pastures. Noticing the general acceptance of that invitation by the crowd - in fact the outrageous imposition upon the generosity of brother and sister Holmes, the managers of the camp meeting, very considerately for their welfare, closed and moved it away after the second season.
The Methodist church of the United States divided upon the question of African slavery in 1844; and on May 1, 1845, the Methodist Episcopal church, South, was organized as a distinct denomination by a convention or conference of delegates held for the purpose at Louisville, Kentucky. Mrs. Holmes, a native of Kentucky, was always much attached to the customs and institutions of the south, particularly those of her native state. She believed - as also did Mr. Holmes - that the schism in the church was altogether due to the meddlesome interference of northern abolitionists in southern domestic affairs that did not concern them, and they would gladly have transferred their membership to the southern branch of the church if they could have done so. When therefore, in 1856, agitation of the slavery question had become so frenzied as to leave no neutral position, and the Methodist church, North, pronounced in unequivocal terms in favor of abolition of slavery, Mr. and Mrs. Holmes could tolerate it no longer. They did not formally withdraw from the church by letter, but simply abandoned it, attended no more of its meetings and contributed nothing more for its support.
None of Mr. Holmes' brothers followed him to Illinois, but his sister, with her husband, N. B. Beers, came to Virginia in 183?, and resided here until her death, which occurred on the 9th of March, 1872, leaving two daughters.
Joseph McDonald, the father-in-law of William Holmes, was a native of Washington county, Kentucky he was the father of six sons and five daughters: William, Frederick, Joseph, Richard, Jonas, John, Sarah Thompson, Nancy Slack, Elizabeth Lee, Priscilla Gaines and Mary Holmes. The second and third sons never married; the daughter, Sarah Thompson, remained in the state of Kentucky.
Two children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Holmes. The first, Nancy P., was born on December 7, 1828; was married to James R. Miles, of Indiana, a Methodist minister and farmer, and died at Chandlerville, Ill., on the 30th of April 1902, survived by three sons and two daughters.
The second child, John J., was born May 1, 1833, was educated at the neighboring country schools, married Miss Anna Mary Dunaway, and in 18?? removed to Tecumseh, Nebraska, with his family, and there died on the 1st of January, 1894.
In 1868 Mr. Holmes transferred the management of his estate and business to his son, John, and passed the remainder of his days in quiet retirement at his old homestead.
Mrs. Holmes died there on June 19, 1871, aged 69 years, 2 months and 7 days, and was laid to rest in the little family burying ground, a short distance south of the house. After six and a half lonely years Mr. Holmes followed her, breathing his last on the 18th of January, 1878, at the age of 78 years, 11 months and 11 days, and was buried by her side. Subsequently their daughter, Mrs. Nancy Miles, caused their remains to be removed to her burial lot in the Virginia cemetery.