Much of the information in this blog post was taken from a letter written by Aaron Hall Holland in 1964 detailing his Hall/Holland family history. Aaron was 84 years old at the time he wrote the letter.
Death shook the Hall/Holland family early in Aaron’s life. His grandfather, Aaron Hall, died in South Carolina on February 5, 1883. He was buried at Flat Rock Baptist Church Cemetery in Anderson. Three of Aaron’s siblings were taken by death far too early—his sister Eliza at the age of 27 on September 10, 1883. She was buried at Neal’s Creek Baptist Church Cemetery in Anderson; brothers Harrison (age 24) and Brown (age 21) in the spring of 1890. All three were buried at Neal’s Creek Baptist Church Cemetery.
I’ve written several times about the hardships the Holland family went through during the early 1890s so won’t go into detail here. You can click on the links to Aaron’s parents or siblings above to read more about their struggles. Bottom line is his father Leroy, a farmer, struggled to support his family in South Carolina so around January 1891 moved the family to Dalton, Whitfield County, Georgia where a friend of his lived. Unfortunately, a year after moving to Georgia, Leroy died of pneumonia on May 4, 1892 in Beaverdale, Whitfield County. He was buried at Deep Springs Baptist Church Cemetery there in Whitfield County.
In 1893, the barn that held all of the Holland’s corn, cotton seed, and fodder burned down, leaving them with nothing. Aaron’s aunt (his mother’s sister), Permelia Ann Harriett (Hattie) Hall Welch, her son Edwin Parker Welch, and neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Patterson stepped in and helped them out.
With a little nudging from Aaron’s uncle Lawrence Peak Hall, Aaron, his mother Amanda, and brothers Lawrence and Joe moved to Italy, Ellis County, Texas on January 8, 1895 with $45 in cash and practically nothing else. Peak told them if they would move to Texas, he would furnish all of their food free of charge and they could have a house and half of all they could produce. They lived with Peak’s family for a short time and then moved into a four room house and started farming again. They rented 30 acres of land from Peak, worked hard, and raised a good crop. As agreed, they gave Peak half. Aaron would later write “this sounds like we were fed free, but this was not the case.” As the oldest, Aaron had to work every day he was not needed to work their own crop. He repaired fences, cut wood, and helped his cousin Britain Hall build a barn. This apparently went on for three years—1895, 1896, and 1897. Aaron said he was never offered a cent for his work.
Aaron’s Uncle Peak was unhappy with the way his father’s (Aaron’s grandfather Aaron Hall) estate was handled after his death and tried to force Aaron’s mother Amanda to “buy two old mules, farming tools, and to rent more land on a third and fourth basis.” Uncle Peak wanted too much money for these things and Amanda wasn’t interested. Because of this, in January 1898 she moved the family off of Peak’s land to land in the Hard Neck neighborhood owned by Jonny Couch. They had a good crop the next harvest but were unable to pick all of the cotton due to “lack of help.” Because they couldn’t gather all of the crops, Mr. Couch refused to rent land to them a second year so that summer they started looking for land for the year 1899. They ended up getting land that Uncle Peak had looked into buying but the deal didn’t suit him so he turned it over to Amanda. Now the Holland’s were on the move again, ending up on a flag stop at Dairy Station in Alief, Harris County, Texas, 15 miles west of Houston, Harris County, Texas. The land was unsettled—no roads, nothing but grass—but it had plenty of water. With the help of Aaron’s cousin Britain Hall, they built a small house, fences, and prepared the land for crops. They finished all that work and then headed back to Italy to harvest the crops they had left behind. They paid Mr. Couch one third of what they made on the crops and then loaded their mules, cows, shelled corn, baled oats, and furniture and took the train back to Dairy Station, arriving on January 8, 1899. Aaron road in the box car to watch the stock on the trip. Once back in Alief, they stored the corn and baled oats in one end of the small house, cooked and ate in the other end, and slept upstairs where there was only one entrance and no windows. They managed to gather enough lumber to build a small barn to protect the mules and cows from the cold rains and then planted cotton. The first crop was a good one and they made enough money to meet their payments.
|From Aaron Hall Holland's tombstone.|
Photo from paths2present
(Find-a-Grave member #47728739).
Things settled down and got back to normal. The rains stopped and the next year was dry. They were able to make enough money to pay off a mule they had bought but not enough to pay for the 80 acres of land they had bought when they moved to Alief. Over time, they had better luck, the crops were good, and they were able to meet their payments, including being able to pay off the 80 acres.
Aaron worked in Sugar Hill, then on a rice farm, and then on the San Antonio and Arkansas Pass Railroad. From there he wanted to be a telegraph operator, as his cousin Aaron Carl Hall, was located at Sterrett, Texas on the Missouri Kansas and Texas Railway. Aaron went there for a while but when Lawrence left home his mother notified Aaron so he returned to gather the crops. Within a week, they had harvested five bales of cotton. They used that money and what money Aaron had saved, to buy lumber and built the “square top house.” They used tin they gathered from a gin destroyed by the hurricane and rejected lumber saved from repairing guards. and the cotton platform from working on the railroad. and the goodness of Mr. Bowers, who sold them small pine trees they framed and built a barn they so badly needed. Lawrence returned home and they bought more farm land from John Dockel. To get firewood, they bought 10 acres on Buffalo Bayou for $20 an acre. By 1908, they held 205 acres and had most of it paid off.
According to Aaron, “The country around Alief began to improve and it being level and no drainage, the land owners began to push the State Legislature to pass laws allowing districts to be organized to issue bonds for the purpose of draining their land. It was passed and 80,000 were incorporated under the name of Harris County Drainage District and bonds in the amount of $60,000 were issued. F. H. Liestman, John Cook, and Aaron were elected drainage commissioners and given the right to hire a surveyor to lay out the drainage ditches and let the contractors proceed with digging the ditches. The dredge was built near Clodihe station at the head of Brays Bayou and the work began in the spring of 1909.“
In his 1964 letter, Aaron wrote about some of the problems he faced in Alief … “I was plowing along the upper end of the rows and had just turned around when three rifle shots were fired. A second later two bullets sang over my head. Who did the shooting, unless it was the Bohemian who wanted to drain his water onto our land. The next one was some cattle men who objected to us fencing up the grass. They came along and when they reached our fence, proceeded to cut the wires and went right on through and cut the other side. The next one came very near being a serious one. As stated above, Mr. Cook, Mr. Liestman, Aaron Holland and the county surveyor were surveying the drainage ditches. When we got near our side, we were discussing where the ditch should be. Mr. Cook suggested that it should run along the highest land. I objected as it seemed that a ditch should be in the lowest place. This went on for a day or so and as we neared where Mr. Cook wanted the ditch through our land, I objected to it. Finally, we were on this ditch to survey it and again Mr. Cook jumped me again and said I just wanted to put the ditch on the other fellow’s land. When he said that, I called him a liar. He jumped up and made a run for me. I picked up the hand ax and told him to stop. Instead of stopping, he ran around to the back of the wagon and tried to grab a gun out of my brother Joe’s hand. Joe, seeing trouble, had taken the shells out of the gun. This is about all the trouble we had with the land, but did have some trouble with the Kirkpatrick boys. They called on me to meet them at the depot so the next Sunday met me with a revolver in their belt. My good friend Mr. Amos, knowing what was brewing, came and put a stop to it.”
Aaron had started to work as a blacksmith for the dredging company when he received a telegram that his cousin Edward Welch (Aunt Hattie’s son) has died at Mercy Hospital on November 16, 1909. Aaron contacted family members to find out what had happened to Edwin but it seemed no one cared so he headed to Denver, Colorado only to find his Aunt Hattie was very sick. Another cousin was there when he arrived but left two days after Aaron arrived and said she wouldn’t be back to help. So Aaron now had a dilemma. Hattie’s husband, Clark Welch, had deserted the family after the birth of their only child, Edwin. Now with Edwin gone, Hattie had no one left to take care of her. Aaron had two jobs and a farm to help run but he knew that Aunt Hattie had helped save their lives in 1893 and now he had to help her. So he quit both jobs and moved to Denver.
Aaron must have come back home to gather his belongings because on May 9, 1910, the census enumerator found him living with his mother and brothers Lawrence and Joe in Justice Precinct 8 of Harris County, Texas. Their mother was the head of the household and enumerated as a farmer on a general farm. All three boys were at home, still single, and enumerated as farmers on a home farm.
Aaron eventually returned to Denver where he would run an assaying company for 50 years. In his 1964 letter, Aaron described how the assaying company came to be. After the death of his Uncle Clark Welch about 1890, his cousin Edwin, who had made peace with his father who had deserted the family shortly after Edwin’s birth, moved to Larkspur, Arkansas and took over the dry goods store that his father had opened. Edwin operated the store for a while but eventually sold out and moved to the mining camps in Victor, Colorado (also known as the “City of Mines”). Aunt Hattie followed her son back to Colorado. Edwin ran a dry goods store there for short time before going into the mining business. He wasn’t successful at mining so quit and opened an assay office and high grader (“mining out the portions of the orebody that has the highest grade of material to be mined” according to Wikipedia) which he named the “Western Metallurgical Company.” Edwin tested gold and bought high-grade orders brought in by the miners. He operated the assay office for a year or two until Victor and Cripple Creek had a devastating fire. Edwin and Hattie then rented a home at 11th Avenue and Bannock Street in Denver where he brought his assay equipment. The government passed a law against high grading so Edwin moved to 2618 18th Street and ran the office until his death on November 16, 1909. Edwin’s assets at the time of his death were a $2000 insurance policy, the assay office, and a small automobile which was sold for $550. After the hospital and funeral expenses were paid, there was not much money left. Expenses were high from running the office, rent, and the salary of the chemist James J. Tormey. By now, Aaron had moved to Denver to take care of his aunt Hattie which now included the assay office. Aaron worked with Mr. Tormey, and by careful management, the assay office survived.
City directories are a wonderful source of information for anyone doing genealogical research. The 1910 and 1911 Denver city directories corroborate some of what Aaron wrote in his 1964 letter—he was an assayer for the Western Metallurgical Company and he rented a home at 1101 Bannock Street.
The name of the assay office (Western Metallurgical Company) and the contents of their pocket style book known as Mineralogist’s Pocket Reference were too technical for the prospectors to understand so it was no use to them. For this reason, they decided to change the name of the company to the Colorado Assaying Office. They also changed the contents of the book. Every letter they sent out contained a postcard asking them to send the names of any known prospectors and they would send them a copy of the book and assay charges. Aaron wrote that this was an immediate success then and in 1964 when he wrote the letter.
In a December 11, 1997 article* written for Westworld,* Scott Yates states “Colorado Assay was founded in Cripple Creek by E. P. Welch. It moved to Denver within the first few years of its founding and was later turned over to Welch’s nephew Aaron H. Holland. During the Great Depression, business boomed as the jobless went looking for gold in streams and mountains. Business was so good that Aaron Holland hired his nephew Ed Phillips to help with some of the work. Those were heady days. The business was of such importance that postal clerks had to memorize the Colorado Assay address so that any package with that name on it would get through without delay.”
|Photo from eBay, seller alamedaantiqueem; |
The 1913 Denver city directory recorded Aaron as living on Bannock Street and working for the Colorado Assaying Company.
Aaron’s mother Amanda died on December 20, 1914 in Houston, Harris County, Texas. She was buried at Italy Cemetery in Italy, Ellis County, Texas. Her death was reported in The Anderson Intelligencer on January 3, 1915: Former Resident Dies in Texas—Mrs. Amanda Hall Holland, wife of the late Leeroy T. Holland of Belton township, died at St. Joseph’s infirmary, Houston, Texas, of tumor. She was born June 30, 1844, near Flat Rock church and was the youngest daughter of Aaron Hall. She moved from South Carolina to Georgia and from there to Italy, Ellis County, Texas. She leaves one sister, Mrs. Harriette P. Welch, 1101 Bannock Street, Denver, Colo.; one brother Mr. P. C. Hall of Varennes Township; three sons and four step-sons to cherish her memory. The remains were laid to rest beside her brother, Mr. L. P. Hall, at Italy, Texas, Christmas Eve.
When it came time to divide the land between the three boys, they went to Houston and met with the office of Daugherty and Schmidt. They agreed that Joe would get the 65 acres where the square top house was. He never married and had taken care of their mother. Lawrence got the John Dockel land of 65 acres. He had a family and the land had a house and barn on it. Aaron got the 65 acres on the south joining Mr. Cooks farm which he was satisfied with because he now lived in Denver. The 10 acres of timber land on Buffalo Bayou was mostly taken over by the government for the purpose of widening the Bayou. Aaron hired a lawyer to fight the government, but by the time he paid the lawyer, counted his time, and cost of money paid out there was nothing left. A small portion of cash was divided amongst Lawrence’s children.
Aaron’s brother Elijah died in Dalton, Whitfield County, Georgia on March 4, 1915. He was buried at Deep Springs Baptist Church Cemetery with Aaron’s grandfather Leroy Holland. Fourteen days after Elijah’s death, his brother Andrew died in Washington, DC on March 18, 1915. Andrew was buried at Congressional Cemetery in DC.
|From May Emma (Walsh) Holland's tombstone.Photo from paths2present |
(Find-a-Grave member #47728739)
At the age of 38, Aaron registered for the World War I draft in Denver on September 12, 1918. He listed his address as 1101 Bannock Street in Denver and stated that he was an assayer at the Colorado Assaying Company at 1854 California Street in Denver. Aaron was of medium height and build, he had blue eyes, and dark brown hair. Aaron’s living arrangements and work remained unchanged in 1919.
On January 14, 1920, the census enumerator recorded the same information as the city directories—Aaron, May, and his 79-year-old widowed Aunt Harriet lived on Bannock Street in Denver. The enumerator recorded him as an assayer.
Aaron’s brother Joseph died a month later on February 26, 1920 in Alief, Harris County, Texas. He was buried at Alief Cemetery.
Aunt Harriett died on February 9, 1921 in Denver. She was buried at Fairmount Cemetery in Denver. Aaron and May continued to live at the Bannock Street home for several more years. In 1922, the city directory listed his as president of the Colorado Assaying Company. This was the first time I saw Aaron listed as president.
Around 1923, Aaron and May moved to 630 21st Street in Denver where they lived until 1929.
Aaron’s brother Marion died in Anderson, Anderson County, South Carolina on February 5, 1928. He was buried at Bethany Baptist Church Cemetery in Belton, Anderson County, South Carolina.
On April 10, 1930, Aaron and May lived in a rental home on California Street in Denver. The home had a radio. Aaron was enumerated as an assayer of minerals for an assayer company. The California Street home may have been a temporary move as the 1930 Denver city directory recorded him as a manager at Colorado Assaying Company living at 630 21st Street. The city directory recorded him at the 21st Street house through 1935.
Aaron and May traveled to Glasgow, Scotland in 1932. They returned to the United States on May 21, 1932 aboard the S.S. California, arriving at the Port of New York. The ship manifest listed their home address as 2013 Welton Street in Denver, Colorado.
Aaron’s brother Lawrence died at the age of 51 of an acute heart attack in Alief on August 17, 1934. He was buried at the Alief Cemetery where Joe was buried.
By 1936, Aaron and May moved to 2015 ½ Welton Street in Denver where he would stay the rest of his life.
On April 20, 1940, the census enumerator recorded Aaron and May as living on Welton Street in Denver. He was no longer working, and in fact, the census enumerator checked the boxes that he was not looking for employment and he was unable to work. Had he retired? It’s hard to say. Denver city directories through 1961 listed him as president of the Colorado Assaying Company. Perhaps he no longer worked at the office but maintained the title of president. At some point, he turned the business over to his nephew Edmund Earl Phillips. Edmund was the son of Elizabeth (Walsh) Phillips, Aaron’s sister-in-law, keeping the business in the family.
Aaron’s brother Charlie died in Murray County, Georgia on June 16, 1940. He was buried at Deep Springs Baptist Church Cemetery in Dalton. In 1942 (age 61), Aaron registered for the World War II draft. He stated that he was retired.
Aaron died at the age of 85 on February 17, 1966 at Protestant Episcopal Church Homes in Denver following a short illness. He was buried at Fairmount Cemetery in Denver. He and May had just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. He was a member of Union Masonic Lodge 7, Rocky Mountain Consistory, Commandery No. 1, Royal Arch Masons. and El Jebel Shrine.
* “Golden Years,” Scott C. Yates, Westworld, December 11, 1997; http://www.westword.com/news/golden-years-5058114.
**The Lucky Drawer, Etsy; https://www.etsy.com/listing/123158717/1937-mineralogists-pocket-reference-book.