Old Letters

*The Following letter is from the Times Leader, March 2, 1939

February 22, 1939

Dr. Dean Holland Echols
Tulane University School of Medicine
New Orleans, Louisiana

My Dear Dean:

My grandfather, Berryman Holland, would be surprised to know that I am writing about him on this, the one hundred thirty-fourth anniversary of his birth.  Yes, he, too, was born on Washington's birthday, and only five years and two months after Washington died.  Thomas Jefferson, the forgotten man, was about to begin his second term as president.  Napoleon was at the zenith of his fame.  Indeed, it was only because Napoleon was sorely in need of more millions to prosecute his military conquests that Jefferson had been able, two years before, to execute the shrewd bargain in the purchase of New Orleans and the whole Louisiana territory.  Daniel Boone, in his coonskin suit, had already made Kentucky reasonably safe for white settlers.

When Berryman Holland was born, his future wife Delilah Minor by name, was already a two-year old child, toddling about a Virginia farm house.  When Delilah was an old lad she recounted to her grandchildren (including myself) that, when a girl in her late teens she was an accomplished horseback rider.  One day her saddle girth, or surcingle, broke, and she was in imminent danger of a bad spill, when a shy but husky youth came to her rescue.  Having calmed the horse and repaired the damage strap, the stranger confessed that his name was Holland-Berryman Holland.  She like the young giant, and later married him.  Now that's a lot of romance to compress into a single, short sentence, but alas I cannot furnish any of the details.

Not content with the prospect of a quiet Virginia honeymoon, they mounted their horses and struck out westward on a trek through the wilderness and across the Cumberland Mountains to find a new home in the wilds of eastern Tennessee, where land was free to all comers who were stout-hearted enough to subdue it.  Sufficient land was quickly cleared to grow beans, potatoes, pumpkins, corn and turnips.  Meat was plentiful.  "Many a night," my grandmother told me, "the mountain lions (panthers) leaped upon the split slab roof of our log house and prowled about over our heads, now and then letting out a piercing yowl, like common cats on a back fence."

There, on this eastern Tennessee pioneer farm, the Virginia-born Delilah gave birth to four husky sons and five daughter, all of whom grew to maturity, and many to advanced age.  The last two children were twin daughters, identical twins, born in March 1847.  One of these twins, Mary Virginia Holland, was destined to become my mother.

Berryman Holland was outspoken in his opposition to slavery, and by the middle of the century slavery was coming to the fore as a troublesome problem.  Whether this had anything to do with his decision to migrate northward, I cannot say.  Maybe the soil erosion and the diminishing returns from his cleared Tennessee land (there was no T.V.A then) had something to do with his decision.  Be that as it may, in the year 1852 (the year when the great Henry Clay and Daniel Webster both died) Berryman Holland disposed of his Tennessee farm and made his second and lat migration, this time by wagon roads and trails to virgin [IL?].

My mother was five years of age at the time, but she often told me of her vivid recollection of certain incidents of the journey, especially of crossing the Ohio River by ferry at Shawneetown.

My grandfather selected a tract of land immediately south of where Blooming Grove Church was later built, and there lived up to the time of his death from pneumonia, in 1880.  My sister, Mrs. Douglas Daily, still lives on the farm.  Who knows but that is may yet be marred by oil derricks.

At this point I ought to explain that from the age of three to six years, I spent much time under the same roof with my grandparents, and therefore have quite vivid recollections of what I am now describing.  My grandfather Holland, as I remember him, was a man of few words, quite taciturn I should say, but grandmother Delilah talked enough for both, so that the family average was not bad.

From early colonial days down to the time of my childhood, young men of rural communities, when thrown together by a holiday or social event, were prone to engage in rather rough sports, calculated to show off their physical prowess.  From many sources I leaned that Berryman Holland, as a young man, not one to take a back seat when it came to contests calling for great physical strength.  One of his stunts was to pick up from the ground a full barrel of salt, and hoist it up to his shoulder, and act in which he had few imitators.

I fear, Dean, that you and I have degenerated sadly.  Anywho, I am sure I could beat him at golf, to say nothing of bridge!

You and I really ought to live to a ripe old age, for we have chosen our ancestors with considerable discretion.

Cordially yours,

Dr. C. M. Echols
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

From: Goshen Trails; Vol. 15, No. 4; October, 1979
Printed by permission

Copyrighted @ 1999

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