Friday, March 21, 2014

Exploring further Holleman History in Old Virginia, Part 10

by Glenn N. Holliman

Holding Back the Tide of Change....

Our study of the Holleman families of Antebellum Virginia continues.  Christopher Holyman (1618-1691) migrated to Virginia from England in 1650 and left his four sons over 1,000 acres of land.  By the time of the American Civil War, many descendants had moved south and west to populate the southern United States.  Some descendants remained in Isle of Wight County, Virginia and began to spell their names Holleman.  

In the early 1800s, a branch of Hollemans in Isle of Wight County were successful politicians whose views reflected the mores and social conventions of the day.  As we noted in recent articles, slavery was conflicting this plantation culture.  A tide of change was about to engulf Virginia and the South.  

In our last posting, we reviewed the life and career of Josiah Holleman (1771-1848).  This story is of one of his sons, Joel Holleman (1799-1844), who died young but for a decade was a conservative spokesperson for the Virginia planters of the Tidewater. He represented a society that was receiving growing approbation from the western and northern United States.

Again, we have Helen Haverty King, Isle of Wight historian, for an outline of his political service plus the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress, the Political Register and Congressional Directory, a biography from Wikipedia, the 1840 Federal Census and Susan Dunn's Dominion of Memories.  The photograph of Joel Holleman is from the collection of L. Willard Ballard.

Joel Holleman graduated from the University of North Carolina. 

1818 - Appointed an assistant principal at Dr. John Purdy's school, Smithfield, Virginia

1822 - Married Caroline Carroll

1829 - Helped in corporate Smithfield Academy

Member Smithfield Union Lodge 16 Masons (date unknown)

Admitted to the bar and practiced at Burwell Bay, Isle of Wight (date unknown)

1832-1836 Member of the Virginia House of Delegates

1836-1839 Member Virginia Senate

1839, March 4 -1841, December 1 -  Member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

1841-1844 Member of and the 20th Speaker (1842-44) of the Virginia House of Delegates

1842 - First wife died.

1844 - Married sister of late wife, Emily W. Carroll

1844, August 4 - Died, cause unknown

Let's go back to the bitter 1840 presidential contest.  In 1839, at the time of his election to the U.S. House of Representatives, Joel Holleman said he would resign his House seat if the Whigs won his district.  General William Henry Harrison, the Whig candidate for President, carried the district, and Holleman, a Democrat true to his word, resigned. 

Ironically, Harrison died after one month in office, and Virginian John Tyler, the Vice President, assumed the office.  Tyler's policies were decidedly conservative favoring states rights, a position embraced by Holleman.  Tyler was 'read out' of the Whig party after only six months as President.  

The was the famous, hard fought presidential election of 1840 that coined the slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too".  General Harrison led troops during the War of 1812 that smashed the Shawnee tribes of the Midwest.  Kentucky's Senator Henry Clay's Whig Party stood for internal improvements and a larger role for the Federal Government to help develop the western United States.  The Democrats of that day, the party of another general, Andrew Jackson, generally favored a smaller Federal footprint and states' rights. 

During that election, U.S. Representative Joel Holleman, a Democrat, an owner of nine slaves in 1840, gave a two hour speech in his district, Elizabeth City, Virginia.  The speech must have been powerful because it engendered a book in response, a work that has been reprinted several times since its original publication in 1841.   

The Essays of Camillus, addresses to the Hon. Joel Holleman is by an unknown Whig author who took great umbridge with Holleman's speech, so much so, he penned rapidly this tome. It has been reproduced because it caught so well the issues of the time.

Page after page is a defense of Harrison's character and military record.  However, what is telling to the modern eye, is how Camillus lambasts Holleman for accusing General Harrison of alining himself with abolitionists, those who wished to do away with slavery.   

Wrote Camillus to Holleman, "You state the Whigs are driven by that miserable and detestable party of the North, the Abolitionists, into the party of Gen. Harrison.  Your zeal is to fix upon the Whig Party the stigma of abolition."

Of course, those who wished to disturb the 'domestic institution' of slavery in the South such as Abolitionists were an abomination to slaveholders.  

Prior to the Civil War,  power in Virginia was in the hands of the eastern gentry, the plantation owners who used slave labor to plow fields and tend livestock. Many white males were denied the right to vote due to property requirements, and there was no secret ballot, only a voice vote in public. 

The Virginia House of Delegates remained disproportionately in the hands of the eastern counties. It was the House of Delegates, not the people, who elected the state governor An 1829 state convention to rewrite the Virginia's archaic constitution failed to dilute the voting power of the Tidewater aristocrats.   

The deeply conservative Tidewater representatives from Isle of Wight County in the 1820s to the 1840s were the father and son combination, Josiah and Joel Holleman.

Joel Holliman died at age 45 in 1844.  If he had lived a life span of seventy years, he would have seen his Virginia separated from the Federal Union, devastated, conquered and split into two states.   His political and economic views were assigned to the dust bin of history, but a historical marker adjacent to the Isle of Wight Museum in Smithfield, Virginia records his name.

On the same marker is a Gwaltney name, a family into whom several Holleman ladies married through the centuries.   In 2013 Smithfield Foods, a major conglomerate with sales of $14 billions annually, was purchased by a Chinese corporation for $4.7 billion.  

Time, accompanied by economic and social changes, flows on and no man can stay that tide.

Next Posting more on the Hollemans who stayed 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!).

Join your many cousins at and view an expanded Holliman family tree and many files on the history of the family.  Just write to for an invitation. Or go to the HOLLYMAN GENEALOGY MyFamily site at Then click on "Request to Join" in upper righthand corner!

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