Monday, September 2, 2013

Exploring Further Holliman History in Old Virginia, Part 1

by Glenn N. Holliman

Descendants of Christopher Holyman (d 1691) who reside in Virginia to this Day.....
Recently in this space I wrote of Isaac and Anne Gray Holliman, the anguished story of two persons caught in the racial and cultural divides of 19th Century Virginia.  Seeking to know more of our family heritage from Isle of Wight County, Virginia, I have been fortunate enough to meet Holleman cousins of Virginia who have kindly shared family stories, lineages and photographs.  For the next several articles, with their permission, I shall be writing a synopsis of this research.


Recently Susan Holleman Brewer and her father, Joseph Howard Holleman, Jr., both of Richmond, Virginia, kindly shared lunch (pictured above).  The conversation deepened my understanding of the family branch that resided and still resides along the Blackwater River near the Mill Swamp in Isle of Wight County and also in Surry County, Virginia. 
Susan opened several doors which led to visits with Holleman cousins Caroline Holleman Thomas and Sarah Barlow Wright who both shared their family memorabilia and photographs.  Their stories and that of other Hollemans will be published in future articles.

To refresh memories, Christopher Holyman, the fore bearer of most Hollimans in America today, arrived in Virginia in 1650 from Bedfordshire, England, the son of a cordwainer and inn keeper, and by the time of his death in 1691, established a plantation of 1,020 acres in Mill Swamp, Isle of Wight County, Virginia. 

The farm was divided amongst his four sons - Christopher, Jr., Thomas, William and Richard Holyman. Many of their descendants had by the 1800s scattered, for the most part, to the southern and southeastern parts of the United States.  The names were altered into various spellings depending on one's literacy (and that of the county register and census taker!) as the centuries progressed.

Susan and her father, Joseph Howard Holleman, Jr. are descended from the oldest son, Christopher Holyman, Jr. who inherited and/or purchased from his brothers a significant portion of the original 1691 plantation.  Although now much reduced in acreage, the farm has remained in their branch of the Holleman line for over 300 years.

Today the land and Federal period 1830 house are owned by William Joseph Holleman of Smithfield, Virginia.

Joseph Howard Holleman, Jr. was born in 1923 on the original farm, then owned by his uncle and aunt Josiah (1851-1937) and  Augusta Hannah White Holliman (1859-1941).  Joseph Jr.'s father was Joseph Howard Holleman, Sr. (1897-1979) and his mother, Bessie Faircloth (1896-1986) of Southampton County. 

Below, Joseph Howard Holleman, Sr. in his uniform as a Virginia Military Institute cadet in the middle 1910s. This  photograph and the one below it are courtesy of Sarah Barlow Wright.

Below, a photograph taken during World War II.  The girl is Caroline Holleman Thomas, sister of Joseph, Jr. who is in the Army uniform.  Left and right are their parents, Joseph Sr. and Bessie.
 Joseph Holleman, Sr. purchased a Chevrolet dealership in Surry County, Virginia and entered politics.  From 1934 until 1948 he represented Surry and Prince George Counties and the City of Hopewell in the Virginia House of Delegates. 

Joseph Sr.'s long time service in the House of Delegates lead to a career opening for his son, Joseph, Jr. who became a decade's long Clerk of the Virginia House. With his vast knowledge of the Virginia legislature, Joseph Jr. wrote a definitive work entitled 'Speakers and Clerks of the Virginia House of Delegates 1776-1976'.

Joseph, Jr.'s daughter, Susan, pictured in the first photograph, is a law professor at a Richmond college, and continues the family's legacy of serving the legal needs of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

 Next more on the Hollemans who remained in Virginia....

Have questions about Holliman family history? You are invited to join the Hollyman Email List at and the Hollyman Family Facebook Page located on Facebook at "Hollyman Family". Post your questions and perhaps one of the dozens Holyman cousins on the list will have an answer. For more information contact Tina Peddie at, the list and Facebook manager for Hollyman (and all our various spellings!). Mrs. Peddie can assist also in any DNA research.

Since early 2010, I have been publishing research and stories on the broad spectrum of Holliman (Holyman) family history at . For stories on my more immediate family since the early 20th Century, I have been posting articles since early 2011 at .

Let's save the past for the future! If you have photographs, letters, memorabilia or research you wish to share, please contact me directly at Several of us have an on-going program of scanning and preserving Holyman and related family records. Write please and tell us of your items. Thanks to the Internet, we are able to scan, upload to the web (with your permission) and return the materials to you.

A seminar is to be held at the Rose House Inn, Fayette, Alabama, October 18 and 19, 2013 for more serious students of Holliman and related families.  Just write me for more information. GNH


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