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Anomosa Holt Family Research, Courtesy of Mary M. Byrd

MARY BYRD July 2011

PURPOSE: To find the connection between the Iowa Holts and General Joseph Holt of the 1798 Irish Rebellion.

Documentation of the Higgins Family Lineage done by Daniel Faoro (husband of a Joseph Murray/Bessie Holt descendent) 2/26/1991.
Numerous papers from Mary Kay Kuhfittig, Milwaukee WI, a Hier descendent.
Email correspondence with Quinta Scott, an E. C. Holt descendent.
Oral and written history from RoseMarie Gelhaus (a Joseph Murray/Bessie Holt descendent).
www.joseph-holt.org website. A site set up by the Australian descendents of General Joseph Holt with contributors in the chat room from Australia, Ireland, United States, Canada and elsewhere.
Numerous books on the 1798 Rebellion, most particularly those by Ruan O'Donnell.
General Joseph Holt's memoirs and research at the Newberry Library, Chicago
Research by a Jones County, Iowa genealogy researcher.
Excerpts from an ebook about the Irish/German conflict


In the early 1970's I traveled to Ireland and saw the monument in Wicklow town square commemorating General Joseph Holt of the 1798 Rebellion. Family history from Rose Marie Gelhaus said that Bessie Holt Murray was a great great grandchild of Gen. Holt.

While researching at the Newberry Library in Chicago in the early 1980's I found a copy of C. Crofton Croker's edited memoirs of General Joseph Holt in two volumes. I thought it was a great story and would make for a good novel. When in Australia in the 1980's I was looking for an original of this book and found out that a Peter O'Shaunnessy had re-edited the memoirs and released them under the title of "A Rum Story". (He later would release the Irish portion of the memoirs entitled, "Rebellion in Wicklow").

In the early 1990's I went to Sean and Annie Holt's (since deceased) house in Ireland (Peter O'Shaunessy had mentioned their help in his book). I found out about the upcoming Bicentennial Celebration of the 1798 Rebellion and festivities in Wicklow commemorating Holt. A friend and I went and attended all these events and met Peter O'Shaunessy, Ruan O'Donnell, Sean and Annie Holt and Holts from Ireland, Australia, and the United States. However, I did not find out just how the Iowa Holts were connected.

The chat room established by the Australia Holts was to try to put to rest some of the claims by so many people to be descended directly from the General as according to his memoirs he only had three children: two sons who eventually both settled in Australia and a daughter, Marianne Shaw, buried in the same cemetery as General Holt, Carrickbrennan, in Monkstown, outside Dublin. The chat room decided to include descendents of General Holt's brothers as they also were active in the rebellion. In the chat room with the help there of Bernadette Holt I found expanded information on Thomas Holt's arrival in St John, New Brunswick and then to Anamosa. This was further expanded with Mary Kay Kuhffitig's information.


We know that Thomas Holt and Catherine Brown Holt emigrated from Avoca, Wicklow, Ireland to St John, New Brunswick but to date nobody in my research has been able to prove who Thomas Holt's parents were. My working theory is that his father was Thomas Holt, brother of Gen Joseph Holt because of the same name and McDonald family history that we were somehow connected with Robert Emmett and it has been documented in Ruan O'Donnell's book that Thomas Holt hid Robert Emmett at his farm at one point.

Bernadette Holt in the General Joseph chat room recently put forth the theory that Thomas Holt's father might be a James Holt baptized in 1762 with a father of John Joseph Holt because Thomas and Catherine Holt's first born son supposedly was James Holt born 1817 who emigrated to St John, New Brunswick in 1866 and married an Honoria McCann (Irish emigrated 1828) there. I am questioning this as to why this James would not have emigrated with the rest of the family in 1835 and also questions on the baptism records of this James.

Interred in the Avoca Old Graveyard is a gravestone that says erected by Thomas Holt in memory of his son Thomas Holt Jr who departed this life April 24, 1827 age 1 year. Also his son Joseph Holt departed March 24, 1829 age 1 year. (archiver.rootweb.ancestry.com)


I will lay out what I think are the lineage and histories that I know to date. I acknowledge that dates and facts may not be precise but are from my notes from a variety of sources (noted when possible). The focus of Thomas Holt's children in Iowa is primarily about John Holt but with some mentions of E.C. and Jonathan.


According to his memoirs, Joseph Holt had siblings:


Thomas (noted by Ruan O'Donnell to have sheltered Robert Emmet during the rebellions)

William (imprisoned for a short time for his activities during the rebellion)

Joshua (?emigrated to Liverpool and then USA)

Jonathon (killed in cavalry charge in October 1798)


They are said to be the children of John Holt of Ballydonnell (Ballydaniel) IE. John Holt died 3/31/1785 and is buried in Castlemacadam cemetery.


Born 12/22/1792 Avoca, County Wicklow Ireland
Died 2/22/1871 Anamosa Iowa.
Emigrated to St. John, New Brunswick 1835

Listed in 1851 New Brunswick census with wife, Catherine (Browne) and children:
Jonathon (1826), John (1828), William (1832), Matthew (1834), Catherine (1845)
And also living with them: Jonathon and Joseph b. 1836 twins (1871 New Brunswick
Has a Jonathon Holt), Matthew b. 1833,
Hugh b. 1835 (there was a Hugh baptized Wicklow 1837-parents Jonathon and Eliza Holt)

Per obituary Anamosa Iowa Eureka 23 Feb 1871 says he died Feb 22 aged 79 years and was born Dec 22, 1792 and went to St John 1835 and to America 1858.Thomas and Catherine were the parents of 9 children, five of them still living at his death and 4 of them well known: Thomas (the youngest now a resident of Portland, Maine), Jonathan, E.C. and Kate (now Mrs. D.S. Kinsella). Mrs. Holt with whom he had been married for 55 years departed Nov 1870.

Articles in Jones County, IA history and newspapers talk about Thomas Holt and two sons and a nephew being active in building and masonry.

Thomas Holt and family were members of the first Catholic Church in Anamosa in 1857.


This is the direct ancestor of the Holt/Murray/McDonald group. This is what I have on him:

John Holt (b. 1823) married Ellen Hier (Sinsinawa Mound area) in1858 at Sinsinawa Mound. They were married by Father Fortune and the witnesses were Moses Keogh and Maria Coughlan. Ellen was a child of Nicholas Hier and his wife Esther White who emigrated to Grant Co. WI in 1852 (said to be from County Wexford, Ireland). Esther had a brother, William White, who had brought his family to Menomominee township in Jo Daviess Co., IL in 1848 which was not far from the WI border. The Hiers lived near Sinsinawa Mound . There was mining in the area and one of the Hier sons engaged in mining.

The Hier family is significant in that when John Holt died and then Ellen Hier Holt at young ages, Hier family members helped raise the Holt children:

Anne Hier, 1826-1914 (John Murphy) raised Elizabeth Holt in Dubuque, IA

Mary Hier, 1838-1907 (William Sheridan) (This William Sheridan was ? an uncle of Phillip Sheridan of Civil War fame. Gen Phillip Sheridan's father was John Sheridan who was a brother of William). Mary Sheridan took Thomas and Esther Holt to Bancroft, IA.

Margaret Hier, 1840-1900 (Matthew Cheshire) raised Nicholas Holt.

RE: John and Ellen Hier Holt:

John Holt applied for a retail license in Jones County, Iowa 9/27/1862
John Holt died 8/23/1868
Ellen Hier Holt died 8/22/1870
When Ellen Hier Holt dies contents of a store are listed in her probate filing by John Hier and Nicholas Hier as administrators. Property set off for the support of minor children the sum of $50 to each child for its support for one year, there being 4 children of decedent under the age of 15.
One Anamosa Eureka newspaper notation had a John Holt picked up by the police for selling liquor (Anamosa Eureka 12/28/1865 "Pat M. Wallace and John Holt for the third time, have been arrested for selling liquor. They will probably receive the full penalty of the law...")


Thomas Nicholas, b. 4/11/1859, Anamosa, IA. d. 11/4/1907 (birthdate from family bible, not same as grave marker) Bancroft, IA Didn't marry. The Us Census 1900 lists a Thomas Holt in Bancroft b. 1870 living with the William Nelson family.

Esther Elizabeth, b. 8/26/1860, Anamosa. D. 12/4/1933 in Kansas City, MO. Raised by Mary Hier Sheridan in Bancroft.
Married John Samuel Doyle 2/15/1881 at Sinsinawa Mound (copy of marriage certificate says John Doyle resided in Hazel Green WI as farmer and is signed by Fr. Jacob-see later pages regarding Irish German conflict Sinsinawa) Had 11 children.

Jonathan, b. 4/1/1862, Anamosa. D. 4/8/1862, Anamosa.

Elizabeth Mary, called Bessie, b. 12/1/1863, Anamosa. D. 2/8/1908 Bancroft. Raised in Dubuque by Anne Hier Murphy.
Graduated Visitation Academy in Dubuque in 1881. Was Valedictorian. Was school teacher in WI and IL. Married Joseph Murray in 1886. They moved to Bancroft in 1895. Had 10 children. Died of eclampsia.

Nicholas Ignatius, b. 10/23/1865, Anamosa. D. 2/22/1919 in Milwaukee, WI. He was division Superintendent of Plankington Packing Co. there. No children. Lived in Kansas City at one time. Buried Kansas City, St. Marys Cemetery.


Edwin C. Holt was b. 1832. And died 11/7/1907. He married Mary Ann Tirzah Sayles in 1851. She was born in Ohio 3/18/1842 and brought to Iowa as an infant. Her father was N. G. Sayles a prominent citizen and physician of Jones County, Iowa. Mr. Sayles was also a receiver of moneys in the land office in Chariton, Iowa 1853-1856 under the administration of Franklin Pierce. Despite being a daughter of one of the richest and most influential men in the area she married Holt, a young mechanic. She died in childbirth. They had 6 children: Tirzah; Josie A.; Harry J.; Eddie S.; Clara L.; Nellie.

Edward Holt's obituary says he attended school in St John New Brunswick and learned the trade of stone and brick mason together with plastering under the instruction of Otis Small of Bangor, Maine.

March 30, 1857 he crossed into the US and came to Anamosa May 30, 1857. He began working on his trade and built stores, dwellings (e.g. From Anamosa Eureka newspaper: Mr. and Mrs. James Spellman house built by E. C. and Jonathon Holt was a red brick facing Pratt Street one block north of the depot and Mary and Margaret Spellman still were living their in 1938 in the house of their birth) , churches (Holt family helped build first Catholic Church). He built the Holt opera house on the corner of Maine and Garnavillo Streets in 1867. He did this until 1893 when he retired to look after his property in Anamosa.

In the spring of 1894 he was appointed postmaster. He served as chair of the Democratic Central Committee and was 12 years on the school board.

His father-in-law, Nathan (NG) Sayles donated 61 acres for the Anamosa Penitentiary and E. C. Holt is listed as giving lots and financial aid for the project. The prison has been there since 1872 and the original stone work was from the local Stone City quarries. Per Quinta Scott, Nathan Sales (Sayles) second wife, Isabel, divorced him and got the house on Garnavillo Street. Quinta thinks Nathan turned around and donated the land to the State of Iowa for the penitentiary which was built behind the house.

One famous granddaughter of E. C. Holt was Josephine Holt Perfect Bay. She was the daughter of Otis Lincoln (b.2/2/1860 Anamosa) and Tirzah Holt (b.7/9/1862) Perfect (m. 8/21/1895). Josephine first married Charles Ulrick Bay in 1942 and (d. 1955) and then C. Michael Paul in Jan 1959.
Josephine became the first woman to head a company on the NY Stock Exchange and also the first woman to head a steamship company. President and Mrs. J.F Kennedy stayed in her house in Palm Beach, FL during his presidency (she was a neighbor of Joe Kennedy).

E.C.'s daughter, Clara Louise, married Clifford Niles who was a publisher of the Anamosa Eureka, banker, and theater owner. Their children were: Charles L.; Mary Tirzah; Helen; Betty; Catherine.

Edward S., E.C.'s son's obituary says b. Anamosa 10/17/1874 and d.1/3/1918. Married Mollie Leston Miller 10/29/1892 and had 3 children: Rachael (12); Mary (8); and one died in infancy. He was survived by 4 sisters: Mrs. Clifford Niles, Anamosa; Mrs. Charles Howard, Los Angeles; Mrs. O.L. Perfect, New York; Miss Nell Holt, Los Angeles; and one brother H.J. (Harry) Holt, Manitou, CO but who was then in Nashville, TN
H.J.Holt was a vice president of the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway in 1916.


His obituary in the Anamosa Eureka of June 25, 1885 says he was the third child in a family of nine. He received a common school education begun in the old country and finished in St John and that he learned the trade of stone and brick mason and became one of the best mechanics of his day. He traveled extensively in his early manhood and was well acquainted with the cities of Boston, New York, Baltimore, and Richmond. His marriage occurred after he came west with his parents. He was married to Maggie Delahunt of Galena, IL.


The Murray/McDonald family history talked about Bessie Holt Murray being involved in a situation in Sinsinawa, WI that involved discord between Irish and German Catholics. The story was that Bessie was involved in taking the church bell from the German church to the Irish church.

Reading a portion of the ebook, "The Minds of the West: Ethno cultural Evolution in the Rural Middle West" by Jon Gjerde might help expand what happened :

Irish and German ecclesiastics within the church throughout the 19th century quarreled over policy especially language, nationality and Americanization of the Church. In Sinsinawa the Archbishop of Milwaukee, who had been accused of being controlled by a German priesthood, appointed a German priest in the predominantly Irish parish.

The church was built in 1842 and enlarged in 1856 and in 1871 it had 100 families and needed a new church. A dispute ensued about the location of the new church. The Irish and a few older Germans wanted the new church on the old site. A growing faction wanted it on the prairie in an area of growing German population.

Fr. Theodore Jacobs was the new priest. The Archbishop's "front man" visited the parish and found the majority wanted the church on the old site and reported that to the archbishop who was fine with that. This was relayed to Fr. Jacobs. Fr. Jacobs went around to parishioners and told them not to make donations unless it was for the new site. He secretly visited the Archbishop and convinced him to alter his decision.

In Jan. 1882 the old church was locked and mass was held at a small schoolhouse near the new site on the prairie. The Irish faction after 6 weeks with no sacraments started dismantle ling the old church to build another one on the site. They raised $10,500 to build it. (Sr. Theresa Martin of the Sinsinawa convent wrote about this in her diary). Fr. Jacobs wrote a letter to the Galena Gazette saying they "tore down the house of God" and in June 1882 read a letter from the pulpit from the archbishop saying those involved in tearing down the old church would be excommunicated.

Fr. Jacobs continued to exhibit bizarre behavior. If the Irish dissidents went to another parish to go to confession he sent messengers to the priests in those parishes and gave them papers prohibiting their administration of the sacraments to those dissidents. He boasted to members of his parish of his activities.

A court of law ruled the construction of a new church on the old site illegal as late as 1893. The Irish majority argued the rift would never be healed. Parishioners sent letters all over the US and to Rome to no avail. The archbishop would not understand how they could request a priest for their "illegally" built church.


Alas, as of this writing I do not know who the father of Thomas Holt from Avoca, Co Wicklow, Ireland to Anamosa is. I will keep searching as I have time.

My deep thanks to all who responded to my emails and calls and especially to Mary Kay Kuhfittig of Milwaukee who so generously provided me with more than 20 pages of copies of newspaper articles, photos, marriage certificates, etc.