by Glenn N. Holliman
For the past several weeks I have been writing about a trip I took with my wife, and granddaughter, to Isle of Wight County, Virginia. In the last blog we posted a photograph of the Holleman House which was constructed by a distant cousin, Wilson Holleman (1803-1873), a son of Josiah Holleman (1771-1848), who was a son of Jesse Holliman and a veteran of the American Revolution, who was a son of John Holliman, who was a son of Christopher Holliman, Jr., the son of Christopher Holliman, Sr., who patented the land in 1684. Christopher Sr. is my four-year-old granddaughter's 10th great grandfather.
Below is a photo of Wilson Holleman's headstone in the family cemetery located by the main house.
According to current information on our family tree, all in this family cemetery are relatives of Christopher Holliman, Sr., d 1691.
Pictured below is the view from Highway 621, Mill Swamp Road looking back toward the Holleman House on the left, and an older dependency building on the right. The soil is sandy and the ground is flat in the Virginia Tidewater region.
Isle of Wight County is only 59 feet above sea level at its highest point. The fertility of the soil was maintained in the 19th century with marl, a local mineral, which helped reclaim the vitality of the soil that was leached by tobacco farming.
Perhaps, as with many early Virginians, the first Holliman generation tilled only a small portion of land for the cash crop tobacco, and utilized the rest for corn, vegetables, wood fuel and range for hogs, poultry and cattle.
The historian, Edmund S. Morgan, reports that in the 1600s and 1700s Virginia, one laborer could handle at most 3 acres of tobacco and three acres of corn. This was the monetary crop and food source for humans, horses and cattle alike. Of course, wild game, still in abundance in the early colonial days, supplemented diets.
As one author of Virginia history notes, “Tobacco chews through soil fertility with ferocity possessed of few other crops. In the absence of fertilizer, it can only be grown on virgin land for four seasons maximum.” Perhaps this first Christopher tilled his acres with the help of children for several years and then moved on to another piece of his land. Future Holliman families would do the same, and as their land was exhausted, they would move south and west into the Deep South, at least until the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Next week we examine the Mill Swamp Cemetery, adjacent to the 1684 plantation, that is the final resting place of 19th and 20th Century cousins.