Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thomas Holt, First of the line born in America

      I am not absolutely certain as to what day in August of 1733, and where, Thomas Holt Sr. was born. I am certain that he and his parents, Henry and Dorcas, were present in the Episcopal, Christ Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on  27 September, 1733 when he was christened at "one month of age". It is recorded in Christ Church baptismal records. My guess is he was born in Philadelphia.
     As an interesting aside, Benjamin Franklin was also a parishioner at that church at that time and is buried in the church graveyard. Wouldn't it be interesting to know whether he was present at the church when the christening took place.
     It's not certain how long the family remained in Philadelphia. The next recorded occurrence of the family's whereabouts was in 1735 when Dorcas, Thomas's mother, was reprimanded  in court  in newly founded Lancaster, Pennsylvania for beating up on one of her neighbors. It appears he had slapped around one of  her female friends. That Scotch-Irish fire is still alive and well in her descendants today.
     Thomas's father Henry disappeared c1735. It's not known whether he died in Pennsylvania or was lost at sea returning home to England as the inheritor of his deceased father's estate. His mother remarried in 1738 to Arthur Buchanan, another Irish immigrant. She and Arthur had five children.
      On February 3, 1756 in St James Episcopal Church, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Thomas married eighteen year old Elizabeth Mitchell, daughter of John and Jane Ross Mitchell.  Thomas and Jane soon followed his mother and Arthur Buchanan to the vicinity of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Arthur died there in 1759.  Dorcas and her five Buchanan children and Thomas and his little family moved into the Pennsylvania wilderness where Lewistown is now sited on lands each had purchased from William Penn's sons.
       Thomas and Elizabeth had nine children: William, November,1756; John, 1 February, 1758; Thomas Jr. April 1761; James 1762; Elizabeth 1764; Mary 1766; Jane 1769; Dorcas 13 March 1772; and, Eleanor 22 September 1774.
        Over time, Thomas became influential in the area and was elected to several posts of importance in the local governing body. By mid 1776 the causative political currents that eventually fomented the American Revolutionary War against England were nearing fever pitch and the local Militia was formed. Thomas as a matter of course joined the Militia.  Some time during the summer of 1777 the militia personnel were afield honing their shooting skills. According to George F. Stackpole, a descendant of Thomas, "Thomas was shooting mark with, among others, his half- brother, Robert Buchanan on what is now Dorcas Street, Lewistown, Pa. Thomas was marking shot locations. He was concealed behind the target tree, Robert was shooting and for some reason, possibly a hang fire, he was slow in getting his shot off. Thomas stepped from behind the tree, possibly to determine why his half brother hadn't shot, and was hit in the head and killed."
       Elizabeth lived on in what eventually became Lewistown, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania until her death in 1798. Most of those members of the Holt and Buchanan families of the time are buried in the downtown Lewistown cemetery that is dedicated to Thomas's mother, pioneer woman Dorcas (Armstrong)(Holt) Buchanan.  About fifteen years after Dorcas's death, several admirers erected a  large, homemade,  dark bluish-gray, shale headstone over her grave that is still standing today, 200 years after her death. Thomas and Elizabeth's graves were lost to posterity when the Erie Canal was built through the area during the first half of the 1800's.

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