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Setting History Right!
June 1, 2008 Subject: The naming of Holmesburg, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania We, the under-named, are descendants of Judge John Holme, and have studied and researched our Holme ancestry for several years. The literature we have read indicates a disagreement regarding for whom Holmesburg was named. A few sources reference Thomas Holme, who was William Penn�s Surveyor General, but the majority state that Holmesburg was named for the descendants of Judge John Holme. We would like to share what we have learned on this subject to provide evidence for our conclusion.
Thomas Holme (1624-1695) arrived in Pennsylvania in1682 and left quite an imprint on the Holmesburg area. He had a large estate called Wellspring on the Pennypack just north of Holmesburg; he gave land for the Crispin Burying Ground where he is buried; and he willed money for a charitable purpose, which eventually contributed to the establishment of the Lower Dublin Academy.
��� Judge John Holme (1632-1704) arrived in Philadelphia in 1686 from Somerset, England. He was a prominent Baptist, a judge and served a term in the Assembly in 1692. He wrote the poem �A True Relation of the Flourishing State of Pennsylvania� in which he praised his new home. In time he moved to New Jersey, where he died in 1704. He is listed in Lawmaking and Legislators in Pennsylvania, A Biographical Dictionary, Volume one 1682-1709 and The Baptist Encyclopaedia, Philadelphia, 1883.
John Holme II, the son of Judge John Holme, married Martha Jacquis Dale, the widow of Peter Dale. Peter Dale, a millwright, and Charles Saunders, a Philadelphia merchant, had purchased the mill on the Pennypack Creek, two miles from the Delaware River. The mill and land was passed on to John Holme II upon his marriage. John & Martha Holme had one son, John Holme III, who survived to adulthood.
John Holme III married Jane Morgan, the daughter of Abel Morgan, who was one of the early pastors of the Pennypack Baptist Church, just north of Holmesburg. John and Jane had 3 daughters and 4 sons, and through them the Holme (and Holmes) name has continued on to this day.
Though Thomas Holme and Judge John Holme both came to Philadelphia from England, no familial relationship has been established between them, to our knowledge. Perhaps some of the confusion on the identity of the family for whom Holmesburg is named is the result of some historians assuming Thomas & John were members of the same family or that the descendants of one were the descendants of the other. For example, Joseph Jackson on pg 767 of Encyclopedia of Philadelphia, published 1932, writes of Holmesburg: �It was a village in Lower Dublin Township, near the intersection of the Philadelphia and Bristol Road with the Pennypack Creek. It was established as a village in the early part of the present century upon ground originally taken up by Eleanor Holme and Thomas Holme, the latter William Penn's first surveyor. The village received its name from this family, one of the last members of which was John Holme, who lived near Holmesburg and was deceased before 1810.
This John Holme, who died before 1810, was a descendant of Judge John Holme, and not of Thomas Holme. In fact ,Surveyor General Thomas Holme had no descendants bearing the Holme name in Philadelphia. One of the strongest statements naming the descendants of Judge John Holme as the namesake of Holmesburg comes from a descendant of Thomas Holme himself, William Frost Crispin, who wrote on pg 35 of Biographical and Historical Sketch of Captain William Crispin published 1901: It is commonly supposed that Holme's public services have found public recognition in the naming of the village of Holmesburg, but this is an error, as is also the claim of certain families of similar name to be reckoned among his descendants. Holme's only descendants in America are through the marriage of his daughter Hester to Silas Crispin, a son of William, of whom mention has been made. As a matter of fact in the early part of the nineteenth century, the village was known as Washington or Washingtonville and received its present name from the descendants of John Holme, a member of Fenwick's Colony, whose son came from Salem, New Jersey and purchased land near Holmesburg. The next source, stating that Holmesburg derived its name when various Holme descendants began selling their land, is found on page 38 of Images of America Lower Northeast Philadelphia, published 2005, where authors Louis M. Iatarola & Lynn-Carmela T. Iatarola write: After achieving village status, what is known as Holmesburg was originally known as Washingtonville, in honor of George Washington. As the Holme descendants began selling off land to various individuals and farms, the area grew to be called Holmesburg.
Eleanor P. Birkmann writing in A Touch of Holmesburg History [Online] available http://www.holmesburg.com/history goes further to identify these Holme descendants who were selling their land. As more people were discovering the area through stagecoach travel, large tracts of land were being bought for developing and divided into smaller parcels. This marked the first real estate boom since Penn's arrival. At this time, John and George Holme, descendants of Justice of the Peace, John Holme, were the movers and shakers in the area.
Not only did Thomas Holme have no Holme descendants who would have been selling land at the time Holmesburg was named, indeed much of his land had already passed into the hands of the family of Judge John Holme. Harvey Cantor writes in A History of Holmesburg, Frankford Avenue, and the King's Highway Bridge [Online] available http://www.balford.com/fopp/fophist3.html: When [Thomas] Holme died, his son-in-law, Silas Crispin, became executor of his estate. Because Crispin's cousin, William Penn, had given Hestor [Thomas Holme's daughter] and him [Silas Crispin] 500 acres at the Lower Dublin and Abington township line, most of his [Thoms Holme's] Wells Spring Estate was sold off. This land later became Holmesburg and other villages in the Lower Dublin Township. Notably, his daughter, Hestor, was to sell the land east of where the bridge is now to Charles Saunders. Saunders contracted Peter Deal to build him a mill in 1697.
As stated before, John Holme II came to own this parcel of mill land when he married Peter Dale/Deal's widow, Martha Jacquis Dale.
The strongest source that stated that Holmesburg was named for Thomas Holme, though not very firmly, was Mary Blakiston on page 219 of A Few Facts and Traditions about the Lower Dublin Township published in 1911 in Philadelphia: Some writers say that he [Judge John Holme] was no relation to the Surveyor-General, but it is most likely that he was a cousin, for he soon settled in the same neighborhood, and two of his sons were charter members of the Academy. His property lay in what is now Holmesburg, and again there is some dispute as to whether the town was named after him or Thomas Holme, but as the latter first owned all the property, and as the name was given about the time that the Academy was built, it is more than probable that it was intended to honor Thomas Holme, Surveyor-General. Members of John Holme's family resided in Holmesburg in an old house not far from the old mill until the death of Furman Holme, a few years ago, and there are still some of his descendants of other names there. Holme's Avenue skirted their property, and was most appropriately named, but some years back the city fathers began changing the names of streets without much regard to history or locality, and dropped this name for Erdrick Street.
Mary Blakiston acknowledged the dispute on the source of the name, but bowed in favor of Thomas Holme based on nothing more substantial than probability. On page 218 of the same publication, she spoke further about the family of John Holme: In the appendix to Mr. Willit's book from which I have quoted most of this history, he gives a full list of the Trustees [for the Lower Dublin Academy, Holmesburg, Pa.] for nearly one hundred years, and it is most interesting to see how many names were repeated, the positions descending from father to son, and in the list the name of Holme occurs five times. These men were descendants of John Holme, of Somerset, England, who came over to this country in 1685. He was a Justice of the Peace, and generally called Judge Holme. He found the new country so pleasing that in 1696 he wrote a poem on The Flourishing State of Pennsylvania,
Thus, besides not being able to definitely state that Holmesburg was named for Thomas Holme, Mary Blakiston describes the family of Judge John Holme as extensive landowners and entrenched in Holmesburg society and thus equally likely to be the namesake family of Holmesburg.
In closing and with great respect for the historical role played by Thomas Holme, we conclude that Holmesburg was named for the descendants of Judge John Holme. The Addendum below lists yet six more references that state the same. Thomas Holme died in 1697 and Holmesburg was named around 1800, at a time when most sources say the name came from the numerous real estate transactions being carried out by the Holme family. Thomas Holme had no Holme descendants in America and his own descendant, William Frost Crispin, clearly stated Holmesburg was named for the family of Judge John Holme.
We hope this paper has been informative and would welcome any comments.
Karen Kotlarchik: 8075 Meadowood Dr. Canfield, OH 44406
Raymond Holmes: 461 Broadway Ave. Star City, WV 26505
Pat Holmes: 221 Mack Hollimon Dr. Kerrville, TX 78028
List of additional sources stating that Holmesburg, PA, was named for the family of Judge John Holme:
Colonial Families of Philadelphia, vol 1, ed. by John W. Jordan, L L.D. (New York, Chicago, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1911), p. 346:
The town of Holmesburg, now absorbed in the city of Philadelphia, the site of which was covered by Thomas Holmes's [Surveyor General] Well-Spring Plantation, was not named for Thomas Holme, whose descendants sold the property before it was a village. It was first called Washingtonville, and was named Holmesburg from John Holme, no relation to Thomas, who afterwards settled there.
Genealogical and Personal Memorial of Mercer County, New Jersey, Vol 1, ed. by Francis Bazley (New York, Chicago, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1907), p. 97:�
Hannah Holme was the daughter of John Holme, born September 20, 1706, died 1775, and Jane (Morgan) Holme, died 1798; he was son of John and Martha (Jaquis) Holme, son of John, born 1701, son of John, who emigrated from Summerset, England, to Philadelphia, 1635 . He was a member of provincial assembly, 1692-93. The village of Holmesburg, Pennsylvania, derives its name from this family.
Captain Thomas Holme, Surveyor-General of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol 20, 1896, p. 254: The Pennypack Creek ran through the larger part, and that part of it lying southwest of the creek covered the site of Holmesburg. The village was not named for Thomas Holme, but for the family of John Holme, not known to be related to Thomas, into whose possession this part of the land passed at a later date.
McFadden, John W.,
Holmesburg and Northeast Philadelphia, American Catholic Society of Philadelphia, vol 40, 1929, p. 159: Holmesburg was laid out by John Holmes about 1800.
Personal letter from Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College, to Karen Kotlarchik, Sept 11, 1998:
The town of Holmesburg is not named for Thomas Holme but rather for your John Holme. John Holme served as a judge in Philadelphia County.
Scheib, Jeffrey L., John Holme, Lawmaking and Legislators in Pennsylvania, A Biographical Dictionary, Vol one, 1682-1709, p. 441:
Holme's descendants gave their name to the Holmesburg section of Philadelphia. His poem, complimentary to Pennsylvania but, ironically, apparently written about the time of his removal to New Jersey, remained unpublished until 1847"