Buena Vista County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Extracted from:  Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. 
 Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa
Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 310-12.

Transcribed by Mary Alice Schwanke and Cyndi Vertrees


Biography of  William Holmes

Since 1870 William Holmes has been identified with the agricultural life of Buena Vista county and he today owns a good farm of two hundred and forty acres, situated on section 32, Scott township, which he rents, while he makes his home on forty acres near the city.  He was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, January 21, 1843, a son of William Holmes, Sr., who was born in Dumfrieshire, Scotland, and was there married to Janette Reid.  They emigrated to the new world in 1858, and locating in Bradford county, Pennsylvania, the father there engaged in farming and spent his last years in the Keystone state.  There were two sons of that marriage, the brother of our subject being Robert Holmes, who removed westward to Dallas county, Iowa, at an early day and homesteaded eighty acres of land.  He still makes his home in this state.  The father was married a second time and by that union there were five sons, John, Thomas, Frank, James and Charles, and two daughters, Ellen and Mary Ann.


William Holmes of this review was a lad of fifteen years when he accompanied the family on their emigration to the United States.  He soon found employment as a farm hand, being thus engaged for three years, or until he was eighteen, when he enlisted for service in the Civil war.  In Bradford county on the 26th of August, 1861, he joined a company of light artillery under General McClellan.  Mr. Holmes participated in many of the most important battles of the war, including Yorktown, Antietam, Gettysburg and Bull Run, and was also in the siege of Atlanta.  He was later sent to Bridgeport, Alabama, and at that place was granted a thirty days' furlough, which he spent at his home in Pennsylvania.  When that time had expired he again joined his command and remained at the front until the close of hostilities, receiving a most honorable discharge at Key West, Florida.


Returning to the north, Mr. Holmes located in Jasper county, Iowa, where he engaged in farming for a year and a half and then continued his journey to Dallas county, farming near Perry for one year.  In 1870, however, he took up his abode in Buena Vista county, homesteading a claim of one hundred and sixty acres in Scott township, where his brother Robert also secured a homestead. 

He then went to Dallas county and spent the winter.  It was while residing there that William Holmes was married February 26, 1870, to Miss Mahala A. Fletcher, who was born in Cass county, Michigan, but when eight years of age was brought to Iowa and was reared in this state.  Her father, Thomas E. Fletcher, was born in Canandaigua county, New York, and was one of the first settlers of Cass county, Michigan. 


William Holmes took his young bride to his claim in Buena Vista county.  He built a sod house in which they made their home for some time, and with an ox team he broke his land.  He divided the fields into convenient size by building fences, set out an orchard and shade trees, erected good and substantial outbuildings and in due time replaced his little pioneer home with a good modern residence.  As time passed and he prospered in his undertakings he bought an additional eighty acre tract, thus becoming the owner of two hundred and forty acres.  He cultivated this farm until 1904, when he leased the land and purchased forty acres of land near Storm Lake, to which he removed and which he has since cultivated.  He is now numbered among the worthy citizens of Buena Vista county and the success which he enjoys is well merited, for it has come to him as the result of hard labor and excellent business judgment.  He owns stock in the canning factory at Storm Lake and is thus interested in the industrial life of the city.


The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Holmes was blessed with twelve children, of whom nine still survive.  The record is as follows:  Stella, the wife of Edward Mainweiring; Leroy, a farmer of Jamestown, North Dakota; Lewis J., who resides in Spokane, Washington; Lottie, the wife of David Scofield, a resident of Cherokee county, Iowa; Alice, the wife of A. T. McCrista, of Oklahoma; Jessie, who died at the age of three months; Luella, the wife of James Johnson, of Buena Vista county; William, a resident of Marstonmoor, North Dakota; Thomas, who died in the fall of 1907 when a young man of twenty-three years; Ida, who acts as housekeeper for her brother William in North Dakota; George, who died in October, 1907, when a youth of eighteen years; and Hazel, a student at Storm Lake.


Mr. Holmes is a stanch supporter of the republican party and several terms served as township trustee, while for a long period he was justice of the peace.  He has acted as treasurer of the school board for a number of years, has been highway commissioner and has served as a delegate to county conventions on numerous occasions.  Both he and his wife are members of the Methodist Episcopal church and Mr. Holmes maintains pleasant relations with his old army comrades through his membership in Baker Post, G. A. R., at Storm Lake.  Though born across the water, he has practically been reared in this country and has therefore allied himself with its interests.  He possesses all the elements of what in this country we term a "square" man—one in whom to have confidence, a dependable man in any relation and any emergency.  He is always found ready to meet any obligation of life with the confidence and courage that come of conscious personal ability, a right conception of things and an habitual regard for what is best in the exercise of human activities.