Saturday, May 4, 2013

Boston Connection: The Revolutionaries Thomas Holden & Margaret Spurgeon

Thomas Holden, Senior (1749-1810) 6th Great-Grandfather on the Day side

Son of Massachusetts natives Simon Holden (1700-1786) and Abigail Grover (1713-1760), Thomas was born on May 8th, 1749 in Charlestown, Massachussetts. He was allegedly one of the participants in the Boston Tea Party on December 16th, 1773.  It is not widely known who committed this act of rebellion, but it is known that many who participated left town immediately for fear of imprisonment. Many were also in their 20's, and Thomas would have been 24. Two weeks after the Boston Tea Party, he is found in Spartanburg, South Carolina marrying 18 year-old Margaret Spurgeon.

Now, how is it possible for Thomas to leave Boston, travel the long trek to upland South Carolina, and find a girl to marry all in 2 weeks? Say he did leave right after the Tea Party event. Laurens County, SC is nearly 1,000 miles from Boston. Even traveling 20 miles a day on horseback it would still take him nearly 50 days to reach Spartanburg. Map of the route.

The only real proof that our Thomas Holden was a Tea Party participant is a paper found by K. Casagranda in the Old Courthouse Museum in Marshall, Texas which stated that Thomas HOLDEN, Sr. was a member of the Boston Tea Party and shortly after left home never to return. (This is according to a story from another researcher on The museum is currently closed for renovations, but I intend to try to find this paper.) Why this mysterious paper would be found in East Texas is another question.

Another problem is that on his marriage license, Thomas Holden claims to have been born in Spartanburg, SC, but both of his parents were born and died near Boston. Did he do this to try and hide his identity?

It's possible the date is wrong on the marriage certificate. For example, Thomas and Margaret do not begin having children until their first child until 1777. This is unusual because, in my research experience, I've noticed people of that time usually began having children right away, though it is possible their early children didn't survive and were not recorded.

In any case, it is documented with the Daughters of the American Revolution that Thomas helped the war effort by providing forage and provisions for the militia in South Carolina from 1779-1781.

To further prove this is the same Thomas Holden, patriot from Boston, Thomas's father, Simon Holden, gives Thomas a portion of land in his will dated 1782. In the will, it states that should Thomas be dead or never return, then his portion of the estate would go to another sibling. There is no evidence that Thomas ever returned.

Below, I will begin to piece together what I know about Thomas Holden and Margaret Spurgeon. Margaret (1755-1811) was the daughter of John Spurgeon (1729-1779) of Maryland and Margaret Elizabeth Pennington (1731-1768) also of Maryland. Ironically, Margaret's father John, was a loyalist.

Their first child, Julia, was born in 1777. There is nothing to support her living beyond infancy. At this time, Thomas was leasing land, and had borrowed some money. He was issued a deed of release from a David Adam in 1778. It seems it took Thomas a few years to get on his feet after leaving Boston (and a relatively wealthy family) so abruptly 5 years earlier. At some point in this time frame, Thomas makes a claim for financial aid due to his revolutionary service.

In 1781, their second child and my g5 great-grandmother, Lydia, was born.

Two years later, a son came along, Thomas, Jr.

At some point in 1785, Thomas and Margaret have another son, John. Doing well now, Thomas buys 300 acres on a branch of the Tyger River in Laurens County, South Carolina and 444 acres on Brushy Fork in nearby Chester County on July 14th.  Chester would soon become a great trade center for agriculture, and Thomas would have been one of the first settlers there.

Tyger River

Thomas's father Simon dies on June 8, 1786. That year, Thomas and Margaret have their third son and name him Simon.

Things must have been going very well for Thomas. That fall of 1786, he bought 1,000 acres on a fork of Big Generostee Creek on October 16th. A month later he bought 558 acres on Tugelow River and Beaver Dam Creek.

A couple months later on the first day of 1787, another son was born, Joseph Jackson Holden. Thomas must have thought he was on top of the world. He was a large landholder, farmer, slaveowner, and he now has 1 daughter, possibly two if Julia lived, and 4 sons. This is what he fought for and risked his life for by standing up to the British, the ability to buy land, and work it, to make his own way in the world.

The next year, another son was born, Mahlon Beeson. At 8 years old, Lydia finally gets a little sister the next year. Sarah was born.

Next, Hugh was born in 1790. In June of 1792, Thomas bought 311 acres on a branch of Dirbens Creek, which is close to Fountain Inn, SC. (Interestingly enough, I have been to Fountain Inn, SC many times, when I worked with a no-kill animal shelter there.) Later that year in October, they welcomed another daughter, Abigail.

In August of 1798, Thomas bought 241 more acres on Little Beaver Dam Creek. He now has a grand total of almost 3,000 acres in the uplands of South Carolina. (Incidentally, this is very near where my daughter and I lived the year I taught at Clemson.)

In 1795, their last son, Charles, was born.

On May 5, 1796, my 5th great-grandmother, Lydia marries Harvey Day Pearson, at the ripe old age of 14. Harvey was 20. I haven't looked deeply into the Pearson line yet, but I suspect they were either relatives or very close friends, the Holdens, Pearsons, and Days.

On July 16, 1798, Thomas's first grandchild was born, Joel Pearson, to Lydia and Harvey.

Still not finished with having children themselves, in 1799, their last child was born to Thomas and Margaret, a daughter Margaret.

Lydia and Harvey will have two more children in the next couple of years, Margaret in 1800, and John in 1803.

1805 is a key year for this family. Their oldest son John marries South Carolina girl Elizabeth Flannagan. It appears the Holden family was doing well. But, the land wasn't. According to one researcher, "The red clay soils of South Carolina did not wear well under cultivation, especially after 1800, when an emergent upland cotton culture depleted soil much quicker than had subsistence food crops or pasturing" (The Tates of Pearl River). Someone had the idea to move south towards Spanish West Florida. It would be quite an undertaking to move such a large family so far.

But they do it. Somehow, Thomas and Margaret, along with their 11 children, in-laws, grandchildren, slaves and friends, make the great exodus from Laurens County, South Carolina through the Indian-saturated, dangerous and unknown landscape (about 650 miles) to the southern county of Amite, in Mississippi/St. Helena's Parish, Louisiana. Going 15 miles a day, it would have taken them about 6 weeks.

My g5 great-grandmother, Lydia, would have been pregnant with her fourth child, Thomas, whom she gave birth to in mid-March of 1805 in Louisiana.

Thomas, Sr. would have 5 more years to live; Margaret, 6 more years. It's not clear how Thomas spent much of his time, but the 1805 census shows that he bought land, was a farmer, and owned 6 slaves.

Next door to him lived Thomas, Jr., his new wife Elizabeth Flannagan, and their infant son John, along with 2 slaves. Next door to them were Flannagans, most likely Elizabeth's parents, also from South Carolina.

The years between 1805-1810 seemed happy enough, but not always. At age 19, their son Simon married Sarah Kennedy on 7 May, 1805. At 20 years old, their son John married Hester (Hettie) Nichols on 2 Dec., 1805.

In March of 1805, their 16 year old daughter Sarah marries Charles Boser. They will be married 5 years with no children. Either Charles dies or they divorce, but in any case, Sarah marries her second husband, George Newman in May of 1810, a few months before her father dies.

On January 2nd, 1806, Mahlon, 18, marries 16 year old Catherine Nichols.

In 1807, John and Hettie have their first child, Mahlon. That same year, Mahlon and Catherine also have a son they name Mahlon.

Lydia and Harvey had another son, Charles, in 1808, but he was either stillborn or died the same day. Thomas, Jr. and Elizabeth would give them three more healthy grandchildren, Hugh, Mary, and Sarah.

In 1809, their son Joseph Jackson married Tennesee girl Martha Vashtie Fields on July 27th.

Their daughter Abigail married James Tate on 14 December, 1809. She was an interesting character. According to the writer of The Tates of Pearl River, within the previous two months, "Abby" Holden and two other suitors had applied for marriage licenses in Amite County, first on October 13, 1809, with James Graham, and next on October 28, 1809, with Robert Kilcrease, in the latter case with a note from Thomas Holden to issue the license to Kilcrease to marry his daughter. In neither of the first two cases was there a return on the marriage.This researcher seems to believe that Abby was either a terrible flirt or it was a shotgun marriage situation. In any case, she and James Tate married and Nancy Tate was born in 1810.

Thomas died on Nov. 7, 1810. He was 61. Margaret followed him at some point the next year. She was 56. In their 40 years together, they raised a large family: at least 12 children, 11 lived to adulthood.

Their immediate legacy is as follows:

Lydia and Harvey Day Pearson had 9 children who lived to adulthood. Lydia lived to be 75. Much more about them later.

Thomas, Jr. and Elizabeth had 14 children. He lived to be 66.

John and Hettie had 9 children together. John died when he was 55.

Simon is kind of an interesting character. From a quick glance at his census records, it looks like he may have had at least three wives, including relations and children with a slave. He had 8 children total, and died when he was 64.

Joseph and Martha had 6 children. He only lived to be 51.

Mahlon and Catherine had 19 children together, but I believe some of them might have be confused with John and Hettie's children. Hettie and Catherine were sisters, and a lot of their children's names overlap.

Sarah did not have children with her first two husbands. At age 27, in 1816, she married Barry Bayne West. Together, they had 9 children. She lived to be 71.

Not much is known about Hugh. He married Ruth Mixon, but there is no evidence of any children. He only lived to be 36.

Their last child Abigail had 7 children with her husband James. James Tate was quite successful with land and farming.


  1. Great detail! Location of gravesites? Including Tate family as I had a ggm Martha Tate m. to John Brister Efferson & d. 1933. Her father was supposed to be a younger Jim Tate. Also had a Mary Tate in the family but not directly. I'm descended through Mahlon Junior. .

  2. This is a great timeline of Thomas Holden's family. My husband is descended from Thomas, based on yDNA testing. I cannot prove which one of Thomas' sons is my husband's ancestor. I THINK it's probably Simon Pearson, by his first wife Sarah Kennedy. John K. Holden, my husband's ancestor, was in Rankin County, Mississippi, living near Verlinda Holden Williams, one of the named daughters of Simon and Sarah.
    Thanks for posting this. If you have more information about Simon and his family, I would love to hear from you. There was also a Harvey P. Holden in Rankin County, Miss. He could possibly be another son of Simon, or at least descended from Thomas.

  3. I am a descendent of Harvey P. Holden, born in La, in 1817, Married Carolyn Chapman, resided in Brandon, Rankin County, Ms,. I have not been able to identify his parents, perhaps Simon Holden, son of Thomas Holden, if anyone knows any info that would be helpful it would be much appreciated