Thursday, November 29, 2018

Lewis Francis Holt, Planter and Plantation Owner

The Holt family history is interesting and probably typical of the wealthy southern plantation owners of the 1800s prior to the Civil War. While researching my husband Mike's maternal ancestry I discovered articles about Thomas and Lewis F. Holt, sons of John and Isabella Hardeman Holt,  that piqued my curiosity about this family. I found enough information to follow the life of Lewis Francis Holt from his birth to his death.

There is no blood relation between my husband and the Holt family. Lewis F. Holt's daughter, Tennessee A. Holt, married John Hall Wilkins, Sr. on 31 January 1867 in Rusk County, Texas. John Hall Wilkins, Sr. was the overseer on the Holt plantation near Brentwood, Tennessee. On 26 February 1869 Tennessee gave birth to twins, John Hall Wilkins, Jr. and Tennessee Holt Wilkins. She died in March 1869 at 26 years of age leaving twins less than two months old. John Hall Wilkins, Sr. married again on 11 August 1870 to Rebecca Jeffries, the widow of a Confederate Civil War soldier. John and Rebecca are Mike's great-great-grandparents. Their oldest son, Dee Jeffries Wilkins, is the father of my husband's grandmother, Nelda Mae Wilkins.

Lewis Francis Holt was born in Williamson County, Tennessee on 9 July 1812. He grew up on the Holt Farm near Brentwood, Williamson County, Tennessee and was known to friends and relatives as "Luke" Holt. The Holt family were pioneers in Williamson County having emigrated there from North Carolina before 1800. Many of the early inhabitants of Williamson County were veterans of the Revolutionary War who had been paid for their service in land grants. In 1835, Thomas Holt built a large house on land originally granted to his grandfather, Christopher Holt, for his service in the Revolutionary War.  By 1859, Thomas Holt owned 682 acres and 14 slaves and operated a plantation which grew crops of cotton and soybeans. In the 1850 U.S. Federal Census his real estate was valued at $10,000 - quite a large sum for that period. The land continued as a plantation until the end of the Civil War. According to the history of the Holt House, "After the war, the farm continued to produce crops such as cotton and soybeans, with many of the former slaves and their families staying on as hired farmers and caretakers of the land. The Holts built homes, a school, and a church for the African-American community that worked and lived on the farm, which functioned into the 1980s when nearly 80% of the 1,200-acre farm was sold to develop a residential subdivision." Thomas Holt's great-grandson, Charles Witherspoon III, shuttered the historic home in 1965. In 2016 the house and nine surrounding acres were sold to a local couple, who planned to restore and renovate the home while honoring its historic legacy. The history and photos of Holt House in Brentwood, Tennessee can be found at

The Civil War severely affected Williamson County, Tennessee. Three battles were fought within the county: the Battle of Brentwood, the Battle of Thompson's Station and the Battle of Franklin which had some of the highest fatalities of the war. The large plantations suffered greatly and the economy was devastated. The worst of the tragedies for the county was the loss of many of the youth who were killed during the war. The McGavock Confederate Cemetery in Franklin, Tennessee contains the bodies of 1,481 soldiers and is the largest private Confederate cemetery in America.

On 27 March 1834, Luke Holt married Emily Cummins in Williamson County, Tennessee. Their first two children, daughters Mary, born in 1835 and Rachel, born in 1837 were born in Tennessee. In1839, Luke Holt moved his family to Caddo Parish, Louisiana to begin building his own plantation and establishing himself there as a planter.  L. F. Holt is on the 1840 U. S. Federal Census in Caddo Parish, Louisiana with his wife, two daughters, and five slaves.

Marriage Record for Lewis F. Holt and Emily Cummins

1843 Land Patent for 477 acres in Caddo Parish
On 1 April 1843, Lewis F. Holt acquired two land patents in Caddo Parish, Louisiana between the towns of Bethany and Greenwood. One patent was for 477 acres and the other was for 238.89 acres.
Over the next 10 years, he had purchased land patents for almost 1,200 acres of land in Caddo Parish. He had a partnership with his brother Thomas who continued to live in Brentwood, Tennessee but they shared two land patents, dated 1 September 1849, in Caddo Parish totaling 160 acres.

Greenwood, Louisiana was established in 1839 after the forced removal of the Caddo Indians to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). In 1840 the small village of Bethany boasted of one log store, a tavern, a grain mill run by water, and a tanning yard. Shreveport was only a day's journey away and had a large cotton and agricultural market due to the navigable Red River by steamboats.
There were a lot of travelers passing through Bethany because it was so near Shreveport and also a stopping point for settlers moving to the Republic of Texas. The Holt plantation bordered Texas and the town of Bethany. The northern part of Bethany is in Caddo Parish, Louisiana and the southern part in northeastern Panola County, Texas - it is an unincorporated community.

According to the 1850 U.S. Federal Census-Slave Schedules, Lewis F. Holt owned 54 slaves. He had built quite a large plantation and his family grew as well. Tragedy visited the Holt family in February of 1850 when Emily Cummins Holt died at the age of 37. The cause of Emily's death is unknown. Luke was left alone with six dependent children age 15 years to 4 years of age. He had many relatives and help on the plantation to take care of everyday tasks but the children needed a mother. On 5 June 1851, he married Laura Peltiahs Beall who was born in Floyd County, Georgia in 1833. She was not yet 18 years old and Luke was 39 years old when they married but this was not uncommon in those times and she did quite well by marrying a wealthy plantation owner. Luke and Laura added three more children to the family, two sons and a daughter.

The Holt family carried on and I found very little information until 12 March 1856 when a notice was placed in the newspaper announcing the "closing up immediately all the outstanding affairs of the late firms of T. & L. F. Holt, Holt & Moore, Holt & Hall, and of L. F. Holt". There is no more information regarding this announcement but he did not sale his home or land at this time.

Unfortunately, the life of Lewis Francis Holt ended tragically on the 27 May 1859. According to an article in the newspaper, Daily True Delta, dated 10 June 1859, "On the 27th ult., near Bethany, in Caddo parish, Mr. L.F. Holt, a respectable planter of this parish, was shot by Shed Boren. After Mr. Holt was shot, Mr. J. F. Camp struck him two or three times. Mr. Holt expired in a few minutes. The perpetrators of this outrageous deed immediately made their escape. Should they be taken, a legal investigation will take place, as the coroner's inquest found a true bill."

Murder of Mr. L. F. Holt of Caddo Parish
There is no explanation regarding the reason for the attack on Luke Holt nor any background information on Shed Boren or J. F. Camp. I did find a newspaper article that proves that Shed Boren was arrested and in prison for the murder of L. F. Holt and this article in the Bossier Banner, dated 29 July 1859, detailing the most unusual and unimaginable demise of Shed Boren. There was no mention of what happened to Mr. Camp but hopefully, he did not escape punishment for his part in the murder. I have wondered why on earth he felt the need to strike Mr. Holt so many times after he had been shot! 

Suicide of a Murderer
Laura Beall Holt, at the age of 26 years, was a widow with seven children at home and a large plantation. In 1860 Laura Holt and all of the children were living with her step-daughter Rachel Holt and her husband James Beall. James was Laura's nephew - very small world back then and there were many family connections through blood or marriage. Rachel and James Beall had three children of their own so there were three adults and ten children living together in one household in Shreveport, Louisiana. Laura Holt died in 1864 and once again six children were left without parents. It is probable that they remained in the household of James and Rachel Holt Beall until they married. James was a physician and farmer and the children most likely had an inheritance to help support them.

It is unknown who took over the plantation following the death of Luke Holt. On the 1860 U. S. Federal Census-Slave Schedule there is no Holt surname listed as a slave owner. The house and land remained the property of the Holt family as proven by the succession sale mentioned below. The Civil War started two years after Luke Holt's death so whoever maintained it after his death probably had a difficult time once war broke out. The next news regarding the estate was the sale of the property.

A surprising statistic: In 1860 the state of Louisiana's slave population made up 47% of the total population and in Caddo Parish, the slave population was 60.8 % of the total population.

Probate Sale of the Lewis F. Holt Plantation
The estate of Lewis F. Holt included the 1200 acres of land in cultivation, a comfortable house, all the necessary outhouses, a good water well, and a gin-house - no not that kind y'all - one that gins cotton. There were two other tracts of land, one containing 40 acres more or less, and one containing 73 acres more or less. William C. Agurs bought the 1200 acre plantation from the Holt heirs for $10,282.05. William C. Agurs was married to Mary Perkins Holt from 1855 until her death in 1858. She was the oldest child of Lewis F. and his first wife, Emily Cummins Holt. William and Mary had one son John Lafayette who was born in 1856. Shortly after the death of his wife Mary, William and his son moved to Texas. He married Frances Moore on 3 February 1859 and lived in Harrison County, Texas until he enlisted in the Civil War with 17th Regiment of the Texas Cavalry. After the war, he purchased the Holt Plantation in a succession (probate) sale in January 1867 and moved back to Caddo Parish. His wife Frances died in April 1868 at the plantation and he remarried for the third and last time to Margaret Martin in September 1869. William died in 1878 and in the 1880 U. S. Federal Census Margaret Martin Agurs was still living on the plantation in the village of Greenwood. Sometime between 1880 and 1900, Margaret had moved to Shreveport where she was listed on the 1900 U. S. Federal Census. I have been unable to find any more information online regarding the Holt plantation in Caddo Parish, Louisiana. There are probably many manuscripts and records available locally in Caddo Parish regarding the history of all the plantations which are gone forever and those still standing as a reminder of life in the old south.

Children of Lewis F. Holt & Emily Cummins:

1. Mary Perkins Holt (1835-1858), married William Culp Agurs (1822-1878) on 23 February 1855.
2. Rachel C. Holt (1837-1879), married James Thaddeus Beall (1833-1872) on 23 February 1855.
3. Isabella R. Holt (1841-1870), married James Christopher Hudson (1826-1863) on 17 Dec 1859.
4. Tennessee A. Holt (1843-1869), married John Hall Wilkins (1829-1899) on 31 Jan 1867.
5. John Thomas "Clay" Holt (1844-1879), married Lavinia Waty Cunyus (1847-1914) on 16 Mar 1861.
6. Caroline Emily "Emma" Holt (1846-1924), married John Martin Thompson (1829-1907) on 18 Jul 1871.

I haven't spent a lot of time researching the lives of Lewis F. Holt's children after his death but a few bits of information were easily found. The records indicate that all of the Holt children and their families migrated to East Texas by mid-1860s. The earliest record of the Holts in East Texas is the marriage record of Tennessee A. Holt and John Hall Wilkins in 1867 in Rusk County, Texas. Rachel Holt and James Beall are in the 1870 U. S. Federal Census living in Henderson, Rusk County, Texas. Living with them are their five children, Rachel's sister Isabella Holt Hudson and her son Cuthbert, age 9, John T. Holt (Rachel and Isabella's brother), Romaldus Holt (Rachel, Isabella, and John's half-brother), John Hall Wilkins, Jr. and Tennessee Wilkins, 1 year old twins who are the children of her late sister Tennessee A. Holt and John Hall Wilkins, Sr. I have not found John Hall Wilkins, Sr. on the 1870 census but he married Rebecca Jeffries about two weeks after the census was taken and probably the twins were reunited with their father at that time. Isabella's husband, James C. Hudson, was a Confederate soldier who died at the Battle of Chickamauga, 20 January 1863 leaving behind a wife and 2-year-old son. Caroline Emily "Emma" was the only child I could not find on the 1870 census. Most likely she was living in Rusk County at the time because she married there in July of 1871 and all of her family was there. It's possible she was living with another family or that the census taker just missed her.

That is all I have on the Holt family but I hope to follow-up soon with the story of the Wilkins family and the ancestry of my husband's maternal grandmother.


John William Wilkins (1928-2010), Wilkins Family historian, researcher, and genealogist. Articles located at the Longview Public Library, Genealogy & Local History Department, Longview, Texas.

Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records (

"Tennessee, County Marriages, 1790-1950," database with images, FamilySearch ( Texas, Select County Marriage Index, 1837-1965 [database on-line]. ( Texas, Marriage Index, 1824-2014 [database on-line]. (

Library of Congress. The South-Western, (Shreveport, La.). 1852-1870, January 30, 1867, Image 3. Image provided by Louisiana State University; Baton Rouge, LA (

Library of Congress. The South-Western, (Shreveport, La.). 1852-1870, March 19, 1856, Image 3. Image provided by Louisiana State University; Baton Rouge, LA (

Library of Congress. The South-Western, (Shreveport, La.). 1852-1870, June 15, 1859, Image 3. Image provided by Louisiana State University; Baton Rouge, LA (

Genealogy Bank. Bossier Banner, July 29, 1859, Benton, LA, Vol. 1, Page 3. (

Holt House (

Find A Grave, ( 1840 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. ( 1850 United States Federal Census-Slave Schedules [database on-line]( 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. ( 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line].( Louisiana, Compiled Marriage Index, 1718-1925 [database on-line].

Handbook of Texas Online, Christopher Long, "BETHANY, TX (PANOLA COUNTY), accessed November 5, 2018,


Monday, May 28, 2018

Short Story of a Confederate Soldier

In my research on my great-great grandfather, David Felder Richardson, I found some interesting documents regarding his service in the Civil War. It’s not an uncommon story among men for that war regardless of whether they were fighting for the north or the south. His time in the Confederate States Army was very short and it seems he went home without losing anything but a few months away from home and a story to share.

Civil War records show that David F. Richardson enlisted in the Confederate States Army at Osceola, Missouri on 1 August 1862 for the period of the war. He was assigned to the 16th Missouri Infantry, Co. K, Capt. F. P. Bronaugh’s Company in Col. Caldwell’s Regiment. 

The company muster roll for July 1 to August 31, 1862, but dated February 3, 1863 states that he was absent sick since January 4, 1863. The company muster roll for March and April 1863 states that he was absent sick near Van Buren, Arkansas since December 28, 1862. According to Wikipedia’s history of Van Buren, AR: On December 28, 1862, Union and Confederate forces clashed in and around Van Buren resulting in a defeat for Major-General T. C. Hindman, driving him south across the river with minimal casualties. Federal forces captured 100 prisoners, as stated in an official report by U. S. Major-General Samuel R. Curtis. 

See also: <> (Battle of Van Buren, Confederate report and <> (Battle of Van Buren, Union Report).

The information as to Private Richardson’s condition and location seem confusing but is explained later in the records. The company muster roll for April 30 to Aug 30, 1863, remarks state that he deserted May 1, 1863, at Little Rock, Ark. Finally, a record called a Descriptive Roll of prisoners of war in custody of Provost Marshal General explains Pvt. Richardson’s absence and assumed desertion. The roll is from the Headquarters Army of the Frontier, Pro. Mar. Genl., Fayetteville, Ark, Jan. 10, 1863. Pvt. David F. Richardson was taken prisoner on January 3, 1863, on Boston Mountains, Ark. by Major _____ (not legible), Arkansas Cavalry. It states that Pvt. Richardson is age 32, 5 feet 11 inches tall, blue eyes, and brown hair. 

The last Confederate service record found regarding Pvt. Richardson is the Statement of Prisoners delivered to the Commander of the Post of Mt. Vernon, Mo. dated Jan. 21, 1863. This is the statement in Pvt. Richardson’s own words:
David F. Richardson says “never took the oath; been in the Southern Army; enlisted about the last of August 1862 in Bronaugh’s Co., in Caldwell’s Regiment. Never been in a fight. Never been in guerrilla parties. Enlisted four miles below Fayetteville, Ark. Home is in St. Clair Co., Mo. Went out of the state with a man by the name of Radford. Was sick, the Army left him and he said he thought he would take care of himself. Don’t want to be exchanged. Is willing to take the oath of allegiance to the gov’t of the U. S. His desire is to go home and remain a loyal citizen.”

A little explanation regarding the above statement: "never took the oath" means he did not take the oath of allegiance to the gov't of the U. S. before he enlisted with the Confederate Army; not sure exactly what he meant when he said he "went out of the state with a man by the name of Radford" or why he included that in his statement - possibly someone in his company; "was sick, the Army left him..." -  I think he is referring to himself and he became a prisoner after being left by the Army. There is only speculation as to what really happened.

I found some research papers in my aunt's genealogy papers which were written by Thomas Felder Richardson, grandson of David F. Richardson. Ann Thorne, daughter of David was about eight years old when her father enlisted. When interviewed by Thomas Felder about her father's Civil War service she said that he delivered provisions to the Confederate Army. Another report (source unknown) states that while on maneuver with a Confederate unit he fell out on account of illness and was captured by the Federal forces. When interviewed by the Federal officers, he was released upon a promise that he would be a law-abiding citizen.

I must admit that when I first started reading the documents I was a little disappointed that he might be a deserter. I was hoping I would find that he had quite an adventure and fought with some great military leader in a well-known battle. Well, he wasn’t a hero and never even participated in the fight according to his own statement. I didn’t write much about the Battle of Van Buren but Major Hindman in the Confederate report states that his “forces are being reduced and continue to diminish in strength daily by desertions and a frightful increase of sickness, the latter caused by unprecedented hardships to which the men had been exposed, the former resulting principally, in my opinion, from the non-payment of the troops and the consequent sufferings of their families.” Both the Confederate and Union reports tell the real story - just from different perspectives.

These are most of the files in David R. Richardson's records. As you can see, they are quite difficult to read, especially his statement. I had to zoom in and out in order to transcribe it. If you are interested in seeing his records you can go to <>


"Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Missouri", The National Archives. Battle of Van Buren, Arkansas.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Demi Lovato - We're Related or Are We?

When I first read about an app for iPhone and iPad that Ancestry developed called "We're Related" I honestly didn't give it much thought.  Then about a month ago I read a post on Ancestry website users Facebook page that piqued my interest.  A couple of people said they downloaded it for fun and others said they used it for hints for their own research because it listed ancestors they didn't know about.  So...I decided to download it - after all, it was free and I had nothing to lose. Sometimes you just need to take a break from the serious research, have a little fun, and you never can imagine who your "possible" relatives may be!

The first "possible" relatives were:
Barack Obama - Cousin 3x Removed
Michelle Obama - 8th Cousin
Bill Clinton - 7th Cousin
Demi Lovato - 6th Cousin
Michael Jackson - 8th Cousin

The app also gives you the possible common ancestor that connects the two lineages as well as each ancestor, including dates of birth and death unless still living, in both lineages.

None of them seemed at all likely but I just had to work on at least one just to see if I could make a match. Demi Lovato's was the most likely and would take the least amount of time and effort to research. I had done all the research and documentation proving each person in my lineage leading to Amelia Gunter, my 5th great grandmother on the maternal branch of my family tree.  All I had to do was find documentation and prove the relationships in Demi's ancestry up to Amelia Gunter, also her 5th great grandmother. This was what I had to work with regarding Demi Lovato's ancestry:

It took me two full days and part of another couple of days to do the research and find the documentation for proof.  Fortunately, Demi Lovato had done quite a bit of genealogy of her own and had done a DNA test which she shared on Twitter.  There is a lot of information - really too much - online about celebrities but the problem is separating fact from fiction.  Her father, Patrick Martin Lovato, was of Mexican descent, with mostly Spanish and Native American ancestors.  He also had distant Portuguese and Jewish ancestry.  Her mother has English and Irish ancestry.  My connection was through her mother, Dianna Lee Smith, who also went by Dianna Hart at times (her stepfather's name was Hart) which made it a little confusing at first.

I had DNA testing in 2013 by 23and Me and so I was able to compare our results in a very basic and simple-minded way.  This is what Demi posted on Twitter:

I don't know what company tested Demi's DNA but I suspect Ancestry because it looks just like my brother's results page from Ancestry.  Ancestry describes Europe West as primarily located in Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein.

And these are my results:

A little explanation about where some of these places are located.  The Iberian Peninsula is represented today as the people of Spain and Portugal.  East Asian and Native American seems like an odd combination until you read about the ancient migration patterns of the East Asian people. I won't bore you with that now!

The DNA results are not proof of any connection unless you have a professional analyze the results.  In this case, they are just another piece of information to support a possible relationship and compare ethnicity.

I had no motive other than curiosity and to meet the challenge of trying to prove or disprove the assumption of an app that said Demi Lovato and I could be related.  Another reason for researching this connection with Amelia Gunter is that I have hit a brick wall - a genealogy term - regarding the parentage of Amelia Gunter and had hoped that I might find something in Demi's ancestry that would either give me the answer or at least a few hints to follow up.  I didn't find Amelia's parents but I discovered other relations besides Demi that might lead me in the right direction.

My children and grandchildren are probably very familiar with Demi's music, television and film career.  I had heard of her but knew little about her except that she is a beautiful woman with a beautiful voice.  I did not post photos of Demi Lovato because I don't want to take a chance on infringing on copyright laws.  Anyone who doesn't know what Demi looks like - just Google Demi Lovato images - you won't be disappointed!

The results of all of my research are that Demetria Devonne Lovato is indeed my 6th cousin!*

*To my children - Demi Lovato is your 6th cousin 1x removed.
  To my grandchildren - Demi Lovato is your 6th cousin 2x removed.

Addendum - Relationship Chart- To show you how this all works!

Sources and Documentation:

U.S. Federal Census, 1850 Randolph County, Alabama.
U.S. Federal Census, 1860 Randolph County, Alabama.
U.S. Federal Census, 1880 Wise County, Texas.
U.S. Federal Census, 1910 Roosevelt County, New Mexico.
U.S. Federal Census, 1920 Johnson County, Texas.
U.S. Federal Census, 1940 Harris County, Texas.
FamilySearch.  Texas, Birth Index, 1903-1997.  Texas, Birth Certificates, 1903-1932.  Alabama, Marriage Index, 1800-1969.  Texas, Divorce Index, 1968-2014. 
Find A Grave <>  Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982. <>  U.S. Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014.
Twitter, Inc. <>
Wikipedia <>
Ethnic <>


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sweet Memories

I ran across this thoughtful note written to my husband's late grandfather, Leroy T. Zeigler.  It was written to Leroy by his late mother's sister on what would have been his mother's 70th birthday.  


Dear Leroy --                                                                Feb. 25, 1942
     This is your mother's birthday - a day always sacred to me. 
"How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood, when fond recollection presents them to view. - The orchard, the meadow, the deep tangled wild wood, and every loved object my young life knew."
And always, your mother and I sharing the same joys and sorrows.  So the day is full of memories of her and of thoughts of her sons and good wishes for them and theirs.  God bless thee and keep thee thro' the years. - Aunt Ruth

The words written in quotation marks are the first part of a poem by Samuel Woodward (1784-1842) titled "The Old Oaken Bucket".

Leroy's mother, Marguerite "Maggie" Vivian Scaife Zeigler, was born on 25 Feb 1872 and died of tuberculosis on 2 Oct 1909 at the young age of 37 years.  Maggie and John P. Zeigler had three sons, Roland, John P., Jr., and Leroy.  John P. Zeigler, Jr. was the middle son and he died of tuberculosis on 28 Jul 1909 at the age of 7 just nine weeks before his mother.

Ruth and Maggie grew up in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana in a large family of 10 children.  Their mother died at the age of 39 from complications 10 days after giving birth to their baby brother, Adam. Maggie was three and Ruth was six years old at the time and the youngest siblings.  Their father did not remarry for another 10 years which meant, in those times, the sisters were probably raised by their older siblings. 

I hope the art of writing notes to loved ones to share sweet memories is not a thing of the past.  How sad it would be to never see your mother's, father's or siblings handwriting or be able to read their thoughts full of joys, dreams, and sorrows - all of which are a part of life.