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James Williams Holt

Holt, J. W.
Death of Pioneer Citizen of Colorado County

Prof. J. W. Holt, Prominent Educator of Our County Succumbs After Long Illness

While not unexpected, still when the wires flashed the news of Prof. James W. Holt’s death to this city at an early hour Monday morning, many hearts throughout this city and section were inexpressibly saddened, for few men have been held in such tender esteem by the citizens of our county as was Professor Holt, for many, many, years a resident of Weimar.

His death occurred at 4 o’clock Monday morning at the residence of his daughter, Mrs. Henry Hurr of Flatonia, where he had made his home since the death of his beloved wife in May last. The remains were tenderly prepared for burial and that afternoon at 4 o’clock committed to mother earth in the Odd Fellows’ Cemetery, in the presence of a large assemblage of sorrowing relatives and friends from all over the county, Rev. J. C. Wilson, local Methodist pastor, performing the funeral obsequies.

The floral offerings at the grave were many and beautiful, Colorado Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, of Columbus, sending an especially beautiful floral tribute in honor of the dead Confederate soldier.

An especially noticeable fact was that the active pall bearers were all former students of decedent, they being Leo, Ellis and Gus Miller, John C. Hoyo, Clieve Obenhaus and Henry Scheller, all grown men now and occupying prominent places in the business world. Many of Mr. Holt’s former pupils were present at the funeral and although all are now grown, settled men, they were not ashamed of the tears which welled into their eyes over the death of their beloved teacher.

Prof. James W. Holt was born Sept. 18, 1840 in Baker county, Ga. He came to Texas in 1849 with his mother and stepfather, the late John Tooke. For one year the family lived on a farm one mile east of Columbus, then moved to a place two miles from Oakland and known today at the old “John Tooke place.” When a boy of 17 he was sent to military school at Bastrop, where he remained for two years. This school was under the control and direction of Colonel R. T. P. Allen. T. A. Hill of this city was also a student of this school at the same time. At the conclusion of the Civil War, Mr. Holt attended the New Orleans Commercial College, receiving a diploma from that school. At the age of 20 he went back to Georgia on a visit to his sister, Mrs. Susie Pearce. It was at that time the Civil War broke out, and he enlisted as a volunteer from Georgia. He soon became first lieutenant of Company B, 22nd Battalion, Georgia Artillery. The most of his active service during the war was seen in the battles which took place in Virginia; he being a participant in the famous Seven Days’ Battle and the Battle of the Wilderness. He was one of those who surrendered at Appomattox and was one of the Confederate soldiers that had the distinction of shaking hands with General Lee after the surrender, when farewells were spoken. After the war he returned to Texas where he taught school the remainder of his active days.

Mr. Holt was married to Rebecca Purcell Jan. 21, 1874. Two children survive this union – Mrs. Bettie Hurr of Flatonia and Lester Hold, esq.,. of Halletsville. His second marriage was to Mrs. Emma (Yancey) Toliver of Columbus, Nov. 24,1880. Two children were the fruits of this union – Ben B. Holt of this city, and Will H. Holt of Waelder. A stepdaughter, Mrs. Jessie Townsend of this city, is included among the surviving children. He also leaves six sisters –Mesdames Martha Tooke of Lockhart, Mrs. Fannie Ferrell of this city, Mrs. Kate Herndon of Houston, Mrs. J. C. Kindred of Columbus, Mrs. Nannie Rhodes and Miss Callie Tooke of Bryan.

Mr. Holt was a member of the Methodist Church having joined same at the age of 14 years.

Few men have ever attained the popularity of Mr. Holt. In the days of health and strength, it mattered not where he was, he was always welcomed. He taught school at many places throughout Colorado county, was known to practically all our citizens and no man was ever more welcome in the family circles than Mr. Holt, people feeling honored and delighted to have him as a guest. As an educator he had few equals, his system being so thorough that no student ever forgot what he learned under his instruction. There are today many prominent business men in various parts of Texas who received the best part of their education under Mr. Holt – bankers, lawyers, merchants and other lines and almost without variableness all are of the highs business acumen.

As a citizen Mr. Holt possessed the highest popularity. He was a man of friendly disposition, with a pleasant greeting for every one he met, and it was really and truly a treat to be in his presence, for his genial disposition often acted as an inspiration to those who felt “down and out.” As a husband, father, citizen, friend and neighbor, he was all that could be desired and in his death there are countless saddened hearts wherever he was known. God bless and comfort the bereaved ones is our sincere prayer.

(Sketch of the Life of James W. Holt, Taken From the History of Southwest Texas)

James W. Holt was a son of James Holt and Elizabeth Williams. With the death of the senior Holt, the widow married John Tooke. In 1840 [sic] the Tookes, with their family, started for Texas. Going by teams to Montgomery, Ala., they there took a boat for Mobile, whence they continued the journey by water, going first to New Orleans, then to Galveston and from there to Houston. The remainder of the trip to Columbus was made with teams, the streams being crossed by ferry boats, as there were at that time no bridges. Mr. Tooke at once rented land lying a mile from Columbus and the same year bought 1200 acres of land in the Navidad country, two miles from the present site of Oakland. Columbus, twenty miles distant, was at that time the nearest village on the east and the market place for a large territory. Mr. Tooke improved a valuable farm and resided there until after the war, when having lost the greater part of his wealth, which consisted largely of slaves, he sold out. Moving then to Burnet, he remained there until his death, a few months later. Mrs. Tooke preceded him in the better life, dying in 1858.

A boy of 9 years when he came with the family to Texas, James W. Holt remembers well the tedious journey hither, and vividly recalls the trying incidents of life in the new country. He received his early education in private schools, kept in log cabins, the knowledge thus acquired being further advanced by an attendance of two years, in 1858 and 1859, at the Bastrop Military Institute. In 1860 Mr. Holt went to Georgia to attend the Mercer University, but on the breaking out of the Civil War the following year he left his studies and enlisted in a company formed in Oglethorpe, Macon county. Going with his comrades to West Virginia, the company was assigned to the command of General Henry A. Wise, and designated as Wise’s Guards. In the fall of 1861 the Georgia troops were stricken with an epidemic of measles, and by direction of General Lee were transferred to Savannah, Ga., where the climate was more mild and congenial. General Lawton, calling in February, 1862, for volunteers to go to the relief of Fort Pulaski, the Wise guards at once offered their services and were dispatched thither. The Yankees opened fire on the fort April 9 and at 3 o’clock in the afternoon of April 10 the garrison surrendered. The Wise Guards were first taken to Governor’s Island and then to Fort Delaware. In the fall of 1862 they were exchanged, returned to Virginia and served in the various campaigns and battles of the Army of the Potomac until the surrender at Appomattox. Thru all his service as a soldier Mr. Holt escaped unharmed, the nearest he came to being injured was being knocked down in one battle by a bullet which hit and cut his boot.

Returning home after the close of the war, Mr. Hold was engaged in farming in Colorado county for two years. At the urgent solicitation of his neighbors, he then gave up his pastoral occupation to take charge of the district school, and the greater part of the time since then he has been similarly occupied. For the past twelve years he has had charge of the Miller School near Weimar, and as principal and teacher has met with distinguished success. Although Prof. Holt has not acquired a great amount of wealth in his career, he has gained a fine reputation as an instructor, and won the respect and esteem of all and can justly feel that he has not lived in vain, for the boys and girls that have received the benefits of his instruction have gone forth in the world to make their mark as farmers, teachers, physicians, lawyers and business men, his lessons in truth, honesty and character building having made them better and wiser men and women.

Weimar Mercury, February 10, 1922
Transcribed by Judy Talkington

See Reminiscences By Uncle Jim Holt
Weimar Mercury, December 9, 1910

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