I found him!
My 5th great-grandfather, the presumed John Holden, has been an enigma for many years. I’ve had lots of questions and doubts, but very little information, and a lot of dead ends*. But one simple detail in one short paragraph of a letter was the key to solving the mystery.
In a previous post, I mentioned a letter that contained information about John and his wife Jane. The author tells the reader that Jane’s brother Robert Bones had gone to pick up Jane, her family, and some of their furniture from Chester, South Carolina, and they would stay with Robert for the summer, that Jane was trying to get her husband to stop drinking and that Jane would be good company for Robert.
While looking for something else in the Augusta Chronicle archives, I decided to check to see if any Holdens were mentioned. A few results came up, including a death notice for a James Holden in the August 11, 1830 issue.
The mention of Chesterville caught my attention. After confirming that Chesterville mentioned in the notice and Chester mentioned in the letter were the same place, I found several more documents that indicate James was Jane Holden’s husband.
James and Jane, after spending the summer of 1829 with Jane’s brother Robert, may not have returned to Chester (perhaps this is why Robert brought the Holdens furniture to his home). Before June 1, 1830 (that year’s census date), they moved to Rutherford County, North Carolina. James Holden is listed as the head of household, age 30-39, with a white female under 5 years old, and a white female age 20-29. There was also one enslaved male in the household.
James was buried in Buffalo Baptist Church Cemetery, which was at the time in York County, South Carolina. A picture of the headstone reveals that James was born in Ireland.
James died without a will, but the probate documents supplied some important information. The probate was executed in York County. James owned lots of books, saddles, a good deal of furniture and household goods, guns, three pocket watches, and a enslaved woman named Matilda. His estate was appraised at just over $700, but the sale of the items brought in a little more than $300.
Jane purchased a few things from the estate: a bed and furniture for $10, her husband’s wearing apparel for $5, and Matilda for $30. Jane’s brother, Robert, owed James’ estate $11.
A family document says that Jane was left a young widow with one child. The death date for James Holden would have left Jane a widow at the age of 21 with a three year old daughter. She never remarried.
It’s amazing that the passing mention of where the Holdens had lived opened a huge gate into finding James Holden. There are certainly new questions and the brick wall has moved back a generation, for now, but there is satisfaction in finding a piece that fits the puzzle.
*A few things to know about the search for John Holden:
1. I wasn’t sure his name was John. The handwritten family tree gave John an almost identical name to his wife’s sister’s husband. This seemed unlikely as there was no connection between the two men before their respective marriages to Jane and Martha Bones.
2. I did not have any vital statistics for John Holden.
3. I couldn’t locate the Holden family in the 1830 census based on the known locations of Jane’s siblings and parents.