Note in previous articles, I have written of Josiah Holleman and his sons, Joel and Wilson who lived in 19th Century Isle of Wight County, Virginia. In this posting, Allen Holleman of North Carolina writes of Jesse Holleman, the father and grandfather of the before noted Hollemans. Allen's lineage is profiled in our October 4, 2012 article in the Archives of this blog. Take a look at Allen's blue convertible! GNH
by descendant Allen Holleman (photograph below)
Jesse Holleman (1735 ca - 1825) is a great grandson of Christopher Holyman (1618-1691), the patriarch of most of the Hollyman (various spellings) clans in America. Christopher, Sr. arrived in Jamestown in 1650, and fathered Christopher, Jr. who parented John Holleman, the father of Jesse Holleman of this article. All lived in Isle of Wight County, VA and had extensive land holdings in this Tidewater area of southeast Virginia.
Below a Google photograph of the Holleman Farm at Mill Swamp today. Approximately 100 acres remain of the original 1,020 acres Christopher Holyman, Sr. patented in 1684. The Mill Swamp Cemetery land and possibly the land for the Mill Swamp Baptist Church, adjacent to the Cemetery, were donated by the Holleman family. The Holleman House and remaining farm are located on the left center of this picture on Highway 621.
Jesse inherited 200 acres beside the Mill Swamp as a teenager, and it is safe to say he began farming the land as he grew into manhood. He was educated well enough to read and write as he signed his name, not using an 'X'. Also in his later professions of surveyor and land appraiser, many documents and other written works were necessary. Even later, as a Baptist minister he needed not only to read and quote the Bible but to deal with the records and documents required.
Jesse acquired other properties and expanded his farming, mainly tobacco which leeches the soils so badly that land could be used only for a few seasons. He, and later his sons, must have worked the farms themselves as census records show him having only one slave. Although the slave population grew rapidly in Virginia in the 1700s, Jesse probably could not afford bonded servants in his early years. Tobacco demands skill to raise, cure and transport, and he may have been able to hire some help among the numerous free blacks in Isle of Wight County.
And they did not disappoint. A son, Josiah, became a member of the House of Delegates and a long time commissioner of Isle of Wight County. A grandson, Joel Holleman, became a U.S. Congressman and Speaker of the House of Delegates.
Jesse and Charity had three daughters: Mary "Polly", Sarah and another whose name is lost to history. I have read that they had twelve sons but we can only identify seven. All the boys names started with 'J': John, Josiah, Jesse (Jr.), Jordan and Jonathan we know quite well and some about Jeremiah but nothing about Jeptha. He might have died at a young age - as possibly others?
And no, there were no more children, but Jesse took up another profession, that of minister of the oldest Baptist church in Virginia - Mill Swamp Baptist that is still a thriving congregation today. There was a previous congregation that met at Burleigh Plantation, but this group never had a building per se. MSBC grew from this first Virginia attempt at organized Baptist worship. When he was in his 80's, Jesse again served the church as minister. Below, Mill Swamp Baptist Church as it looks in the 21st Century.
And what might seem strange today....Jesse was also a distiller of spirits. It was common practice to have a toddy before dinner, and Jesse, who evidently had no use for temperance, made apple brandy, his favorite. It probably helped him live longer and surely made the journey more enjoyable. My how the Baptists have changed!
No, he had a large farm and family to look after as well as his other professions. As all able-bodied men were expected to serve in the local militia, Jesse might have served there, probably along with his teen-aged sons.
Alas, when the British officer, Banister "Bloody" Tarleton, burned the Isle of Wight courthouse, many of the militia records were lost along with many other documents. (This is why we have lost so much information on our antecedents.)
Jesse did something equally important as being a soldier. In 1779 he was appointed Surveyor of Roads for Isle of Wight county, building and maintaining roads used by the citizens, militia and army. Unfortunately the area roads were utilized by the British as well, who made excursions into the region burning, pillaging and thieving, before being driven back to their ships by the militia.
This service is the important basis for a number of DAR and SAR applications - including my own. Jesse Holleman was truly ‘A Man Among Men’.
Jesse died in December of 1824, and his will was proved with an inventory on January 3, 1825. It has long been written that he was buried in the Mill Swamp Baptist church cemetery, but that land was not given until later. It is almost certain that Jesse was laid to rest in the existing cemetery on the Holleman farm, possibly with John, and Christophers Sr. and Jr. Wooden markers of the time did not last long, and Wilson's is the earliest carved in stone. - Allen Holleman of North Carolina
I am grateful to Allen for this article, and encourage all who have an ancestral story to send it along so we may share it with others. GNH
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