A One-Name Study
for the BARNUM/BARNHAM Surname
Notes for Orsamus HOLMES
Orsamus Holmes: A Biographical Sketch
, by Mike Rowell, March 1994. Orsamus Holmes was the second of seven children born to Hezekiah Holmes and Mercy Bisbee. He was born on 11 October 1757 at Pembroke, Plymouth County, Massachusetts.
In May 1775, at the age of seventeen, Orsamus enlisted as a soldier in the Continental Army of the American Revolution at Pittsfield, Massachusetts. His first enlistment was in Captain William Lusk's company, attached to Colonel Eaton's regiment, which soon after joined General Montgomery's army at Crown Point, New York.
In September 1775, Montgomery's army successfully invaded Canada. They moved to St. John's, where they encamped in front of the British forces on marshy ground so deluged by the heavy rains that the soldiers were forced to lay brush on poles supported by forked stakes to keep their beds out of the water. Many of the Colonial troops suffered from fatigue and great sickness due to their exposure to the poor conditions. Additionally, the small pox broke out among the soldiers and many died. Colonel Eaton's regiment, reduced to about two hundred effective men due to the sickness and deprivation, was dispatched to Sorel about fifty miles northeast of Montreal to intercept British soldiers, who were evacuating Montreal. Colonel Eaton's small force succeeded in capturing eleven vessels loaded with clothing and military supplies at a location a short distance above the mouth of the Sorel.
Orsamus Holmes reenlisted in the Colonial Army in December 1775 at Sorel. He participated in the failed assault on Quebec on 31 December 1775 when General Montgomery was killed. In May 1776, the British army received reinforcements and the American forces were compelled to a hasty evacuation of the province. The troops, which were attached to General Patterson's brigade, proceeded to Ticonderoga, New York and Mt. Independence. General Patterson was then ordered to assist the southern army under General Washington's command and march his brigade to Morristown, New Jersey. Orsamus' enlistment having again expired on 31 December 1776, went to his father's home in Springfield, Vermont.
In July, 1777 Orsamus Holmes is found on the muster roll of a company of Vermont rangers attached to the historic "Green Mountain Boys" commanded by Colonel Ebenezer Allen and Colonel Seth Warner. He was participating in the capture of Mt. Defiance (New York) with the Green Mountain Corps on 12 November 1777 when he ventured too far from the lines at Bellows Bay and was taken prisoner along with a companion. The British imprisoned Orsamus at the island of Orleans, nine miles south of Quebec. On three occasions he was put on board a prison ship at Quebec with about sixty other prisoners of war. On the night of 27 July 1778, Orsamus and three other prisoners made their escape in the prison ship's small boat while the ship's watch and three sentinels were on the deck. Orsamus and the other patriots crossed the St. Lawrence River under the protection of the night and thrust themselves into the dense forests that lay between Quebec and the American settlements. He and the other three escaped prisoners of war pursued their way through the dreary wilderness for seventeen days without a compass or guide. They subsisted on four hard biscuits and about eight ounces of pork per day for each man for the first seven days. They lived on the inner bark of the white pine tree for the following ten days. Seventeen days after their escape from the prison ship at Quebec, Orsamus Holmes and the others were recaptured by a party of Indians and transported to a British prison located at Montreal.
After about one month's confinement in Montreal, on 11 September 1778, Orsamus and two other prisoners escaped by leaping from a second-story window at the prison. Three of the eighteen British guardsman were on duty that night. After clearing the building, Orsamus and the other two prisoners made their way to the outer gate of the prison yard and attacked a sentinel, who slightly wounded one of them. They overpowered the sentinel, forced the gate open and ran to the city wall and scaled it. They headed for the St. Lawrence River about two miles below the city while hearing the bells of the city sound the alarm. This small band found a canoe at the river, but it had no paddles. They fashioned two fence stakes into paddles and succeeded in crossing the river and escaping into the forests.
For fourteen days, Mr. Holmes and his group encountered hardships and dangers in the wilderness while twice escaping the pursuit of Indians. After crossing the Chamblee, Missisque and La Moille Rivers, they reached the frontier settlement at Monkton, Vermont and finally back to Pittsfield, Massachusetts on 12 October or 13 October 1778.
Orsamus Holmes went to the peaceful home of his parents at Springfield, Vermont and did not re-enlist in the army again. On 18 February 1780, he married Ruth Webb, the daughter of Disbro Webb and Jerusha Wood of Charlestown, New Hampshire. They settled on a farm in Springfield. Orsamus and Ruth had six children while living in Vermont: Alanson (b. 1781), Abner (b. 1783), Brilliant (b. 1785), Origen (b. 1788), Ruth (1790) and Augustine (b. 1793). The Holmes moved in 1793 to Sherburne (Chenango Co.), New York. Orsamus and Ruth had five more children while at Sherburne: Myron (b. 1795), Asher (b. 1797), twins Laurana (b. 1800) and William (b. 1800) and Augustine 2nd (b. 1803).
In 1804, at the age of 47, Orsamus Holmes made a tour of the new land that had been opened in western New York by the Holland Land Company. Orsamus selected land in Sheridan (Chautauqua Co.), New York, which he purchased the following year in 1805. His sons, Alanson and Abner, were deeded on 3 November 1804 lots #53 and #43 respectively at Sheridan. Orsamus agreed to purchase lots #44 and #60 on 27 March 1805.
In the winter of 1805, Orsamus Holmes and his sons, Alanson and Abner, headed for Sheridan to prepare quarters for the family in the frontier. In June of 1805, his wife, Ruth and seven of the children headed west from Sherburne, New York. Orsamus, on horseback, met them at Bloomfield, Ontario County, New York. The Holmes family caravan passed through Buffalo, a small settlement at that time, consisting of a tavern, blacksmith shop, two stores, a bakery and a few scattered dwellings.
The family patiently endured the hardships incident to life in a border settlement. In 1806, Origen Holmes became the first of the new settlers to die in the newly opened frontier. Orsamus was distinguished for his sound judgement and exemplary life while in Chautauqua Co. The settlers always found him a ready and willing advisor. His home was ever open to receive them, and many deeds of charity were related to his credit. Orsamus also kept the Holmes Tavern, which was the first inn/tavern in the area, at lot #60. The tavern also occasionally functioned as a place for local people to meet and conduct their political affairs. The tavern was also the sight of the first post office at Sheridan and the second in Chautauqua County. It was established on 18 June 1806 and named Canadaway with Orsamus as the postmaster until 22 March 1816. He was also an elder in the Presbyterian Church. The first religious meeting in Sheridan was at the home of Orsamus in 1807. Some of Orsamus' other contributions included being the overseer of the highways, overseer of the poor and coroner for the Sheridan area.
Orsamus Holmes parceled out his farm to his children as they married, retaining for his use the old homestead and a few adjoining acres, which he continued to occupy with his wife, until his children, one by one, sold out their possessions, and emigrated west to Illinois and Ohio.
In 1833, Orsamus parted with the old homestead and moved to the town of Killbuck (formally Oxford in Holmes Co.), Ohio where his son, Abner, and daughter, Laurana, resided with their families. Orsamus Holmes died on 26 August 1835 at the age of 78. His wife, Ruth, died forty-three days later on 7 October 1835 at Killbuck. They are both are buried at Killbuck, Ohio, but the gravesite locations are unknown.
Orsamus was a fine singer. When a prisoner, he would often provoke the British soldiers by singing patriotic songs.
Soldiers of the American Revolution
. 1925, p. 45-46. Orsamus Holmes - Born Oct. 11, 1757, at Pembroke, Mass. Died Aug. 26, 1835 at the home of his son, Abner, at Killbuck, Ohio. Grave in Cemetery at Killbuck, Ohio. Enlisted at Pittsfield, Mass., in May, 1775, under Capt. William Lusk, Col. Eaton, joining Gen. Montgomery's army at Crown Point. Enlisted in Dec., 1775, was with the army before Quebec. Enlisted in April, 1776, and proceeded with the army to Ticonderoga and Mt. Independence, attached to Gen. Patterson's brigade. Re-enlisted in Dec. 1776, in a company of Rangers attached to a Green Mountain corps and participated in the capture of Mt. Defiance. A little later venturing outside the lines he was taken prisoner and confined on board a prison ship at Quebec. Here he remained a prisoner for several months, making one unsuccessful attempt to escape. A month later another desperate and successful attempt to break away from his prison was made by Mr. Holmes and two companions. After many days of severe hardship and privation, traveling through dense forests and swollen streams, they reached the frontier settlement of Monkton, Vt., on the fourteenth day of their escape. This closed his service as a soldier. On the 18th day of Feb., 1780 he married Ruth Webb at Charlestown, N. H. In 1805 he purchased a farm from the Holland Land Company in the town of Sheridan, Chautauqua County, N. Y., taking possession of it with his family in June that year. Here he remained a prominent and influential citizen for many years. Mr. and Mrs. Holmes had eleven children: Alanson, who married Olive Lee, and died in 1818; Abner, who married Betsey Young, and died in 1859; Brilliant, who married John Scott, and died in 1853; Origen, who died in 1806, aged 18; Ruth, who married Dr. John E. Marshall; Augustine, who died in 1802, aged 9 years; Myron, who married Sally Taylor; Asher, who married Eliza Ellmore, and died in 1854; Laurana, married Louis Wooster, and died in 1860; William, died in infancy; Augustine 2nd, who married Sarah Lee, and died in 1849. Mr. Holmes was awarded a pension and is mentioned in the Pension List of 1830. Following his death in Aug., 1835, his wife, Ruth, passed away, Oct. 7, of the same year. Her grave is beside husband at Killbuck, Ohio. Soldiers of the American Revolution
, Author: no author, Call Number: F127.C7D2, This book contains the names of soldiers of the American Revolution who were residents of Chautauqua County, New York.
1. Alanson Holmes, eldest son of Orsamus and Ruth (Webb) Holmes; b. in Springfield, Vt., March 11, 1781; m. Olive Lee, dau. of Uriel Lee of Sherburne, Chenango Co., New York.
He removed from Sherburne to Pomfret, Chautauqua Co., New York, where he resided till his death, Jan. 3, 1818. His widow d. Aug. 31, 1827. Children: 1 Joseph Ellicott Holmes, a Civil Engineer by profession. He is now (1862) in London, and represents with credit to the country and to himself, the interests of the American Exhibitors at the present World's Fair, in that city. He is married, and has a daughter. a. Fidelia, m._?_ Taylor. No issue; b. Miranda Holmes m. _?_ Wilcox ; resides in Napoli, Cattaraugus County, N. Y; c. Zelotes Lee Holmes, is a Presbyterian Clergyman, and m. _?_ Nichols, the dau. of a planter in South Carolina. He is a resident of Laurens, S. C., and Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in the Laurens Female Institute. He has several children.
2. Abner Holmes, brother of the preceding; b. in Springfield, Vt., April 10, 1783; m. Betsey Young. He removed, in 1832, from Chautauqua County, to Killbuck, Holmes Co., Ohio, and resided there a few years, when he moved to Mason County, Illinois, where he settled on a farm, and died Feb. 17, 1859. He has numerous descendants. His children were: a. Laurana, m.; b. Zelmon, unm; c. Janet, m. has children; d. Harriet; e. Sophia; f. Devillo; g. Allen E.; h. Caroline; i. Sarah.
3. Brilliant Holmes, sister of the preceding; b. in Springfield, Vt., Oct. 22, 1785; m. John Scott. He was an innkeeper in Mayville, Chautauqua Co., N. Y., for some time. They removed thence to Ogle Co., Illinois, and settled on a farm near Dixon. They both died many years since. Their children were: a. Sophia Scott, b. Feb. 9, 1809; m. Sept. 16, 1828, Edward Y. Hickcox; b. Seraphina Scott, m. David Welty. They reside in Illinois; c. Sarah Scott, m. _?_ Hickcox.
4. Origen Holmes, b. March 7, 1788; unm.; d. in Pomfret, N. Y., Jan. 1, 1806
5, Ruth Holmes, sister of the preceding; b. Sept. 20, 1790; m. Sept. 12, 1810, Dr. John Ellis Marshall, b. in Norwich, Ct., March 18, 1785, son of Thomas and Sarah (Egerton) Marshall of that place.
6. Myron Holmes, brother of the preceding; b. in Sherburne, Chenango County, N. Y., May 19, 1795; m. 1. Sally Taylor; 2. _?_, _?_; 3. _?_, _?_. He was a farmer, residing in Pomfret, Chautauqua County, N. Y., until 1835, when he removed to Will County, in the northeast part of Illinois, not far from Lake Michigan, and settled on a farm adjoining his brother Asher. He now resides, with his third wife, in Joliet, in the same County. He has a numerous family. We have the names of only the following: a. Corydon; b. Diantha; c. Velona; d. Rush.
7. Asher Holmes, brother of the preceding; b. Sept. 28, 1797; m. Eliza Elmore, dau. of James Elmore, of Sherburne, N. Y. He lived in Pomfret, now Sheridan, Chautauqua County, N. Y., until 1835, with the exception of two or three years' residence in Smyrna, Chenango County, N. Y. He moved, in 1835, to Will County, Illinois, and settled on a farm on the south side of Hickory Creek, six miles east from Joliet. He died about 1858. His widow survives. Their children are: a. James; b. Myron; c. Eliza.
8. Laurana Holmes, sister of the preceding; b. in Sherburne, N. Y., March 10, 1800; m. Lewis Wooster. She removed, with her husband, about 1818, first to Great Valley, N. Y., then to Girard, Pa.; then to Killbuck, Ohio, and finally to Marquette County, Wisconsin, in 1836. She d. Sept. 17, 1862. Mr. Wooster, who is a farmer, still survives. They have several married children. We have the names of: a. John; b. Alanson; c. Malvina; d. Mary; e. Augustine; f. Sarah (Wooster).
9. William Holmes died May 12, 1800.
10. Dr. Augustine Holmes, youngest son of Orsamus and Ruth Holmes; b. in Sherburne, N. Y., June 4, 1803; m. Sarah Ley, dau. of William Ley of Meyerstown, Pa. He studied Medicine with Dr. John Ellis Marshall in Buffalo, and with Dr. John F. Gray, the distinguished Homeopath -- but before he abandoned Allopathy -- in New York. When licensed to practise, he settled at Meyerstown, Lebanon Co., Pa., and practised in that and the adjoining town of Pine Grove, in Schuylkill Co. He was resident in the latter town at the time of his death, Oct. 18, 1849. He was a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature, and at one time Superintendent of the Canals and Public Works of that State. His widow still survives him. They had no children.
Data Source: The Giles Memorial Genealogical Memoirs
Added notes: Olive Lee Holmes w/ Alanson Holmes b 1783 dau of Uriel or Urial or Uriah Lee is buried in West Sheridan Cemetery. Death date given as August 31, 1827 with near by Jonathon Lee b ca 1793 died November 02, 1878 His wife Lucy _?_ February 08, 1877 and Joel Lee died May 15, 1836 born 1788 his dau Olive Lee December 25, 1814 died February 19, 1833.
Orsamus Holmes was born Oct. 11, 1757, at Pembroke, Mass. Died Aug. 26, 1835 at the home of his son, Abner, at Killbuck, Ohio. Grave in Cemetery at Killbuck, Ohio. Enlisted at Pittsfield, Mass., in May, 1775, under Capt. William Lusk, Col. Eaton, joining Gen. Montgomery's army at Crown Point. Enlisted in Dec., 1775, was with the army before Québec. Enlisted in April, 1776, and proceeded with the army to Ticonderoga and Mt. Independence, attached to Gen. Patterson's brigade. Re-enlisted in Dec. 1776, in a company of Rangers attached to a Green Mountain corps and participated in the capture of Mt. Defiance. A little later venturing outside the lines he was taken prisoner and confined on board a prison ship at Québec. Here he remained a prisoner for several months, making one unsuccessful attempt to escape. A month later another desperate and successful attempt to break away from his prison was made by Mr. Holmes and two companions. After many days of severe hardship and privation, traveling through dense forests and swollen streams, they reached the frontier settlement of Monkton, Vt., on the fourteenth day of their escape. This closed his service as a soldier. On the 18th day of Feb., 1780 he married Ruth Webb at Charlestown, N. H. In 1805 he purchased a farm from the Holland Land Company in the town of Sheridan, Chautauqua County, N. Y., taking possession of it with his family in June that year. Here he remained a prominent and influential citizen for many years. Mr. and Mrs. Holmes had eleven children: Alanson, who married Olive Lee, and died in 1818; Abner, who married Betsey Young, and died in 1859; Brilliant, who married John Scott, and died in 1853; Origen, who died in 1806, aged 18; Ruth, who married Dr. John E. Marshall; Augustine, who died in 1802, aged 9 years; Myron, who married Sally Taylor; Asher, who married Eliza Ellmore, and died in 1854; Laurana, married Louis Wooster, and died in 1860; William, died in infancy; Augustine 2nd, who married Sarah Lee, and died in 1849. Mr. Holmes was awarded a pension and is mentioned in the Pension List of 1830. Following his death in Aug 1835 his wife, Ruth, passed away, Oct 7 of the same year. Her grave is beside husband at Killbuck, Ohio. Soldiers of the American Revolution, DAR 1925.
Source Information for A Biographical Sketch of Orsamus Holmes
John P. Downs and Fenwick Y. Hedley, eds., History of Chautauqua County, New York and It's People
, Vol. I, (New York: American Historical Society, Inc., 1921).
Hon. Obed Edson, History of Chautauqua County, New York
, (Boston, Mass.: W. A. Fergusson & Co., 1894).
Frederick Ward Kates, Patriot-Soldiers of 1775-1783, The Veterans of the War for American Independence of Chautauqua County, New York
, (The Jamestown Chapter, National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, 1981).
C. Malcolm Nichols, The Early Post Offices of Chautauqua County, New York
, (Jamestown, N.Y.: 1960).
Robert Moody Sherman, FASG and Ruth Wilder Sherman, FASG, Henry Sampson of the Mayflower and His Descendants for Four Generations
, ed. Robert S. Wakefield, FASG (Plymouth, Mass.: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1992).
John Adams Vinton, The Giles Memorial
, (Boston, Mass.: Henry W. Dutton & Son, 1864).
Andrew W. Young, History of Chautauqua County, New York
, (Buffalo, N.Y.: Matthews & Warren, 1875).
The 1810 Federal Census for Pomfret, Chautauqua County, New York enumerated the O. Holmes family, consisting of 1 free white male under ten years; 2 free white males of ten and under sixteen years; 1 free white male between sixteen and eighteen; 1 free white male of twenty-six and under forty-five, including heads of families and 1 free white female of ten and under sixteen years.
Among a list of pensioners from the 1840 US Census appears Holmes, Orsamus; County: Chautauqua; Rank: Private; Annual Allowance: $80.00; Sums Received: - ; Description of service: Massachusetts Militia; When placed on the pension roll: March 8, 1833; Commencement of pension: March 4, 1831; Age: 76.
The 1869-1870 Gazetteer of Towns for Chenango County, New York states the following concerning the town of Sherburne: It was formed from Paris, (Oneida Co.) March 5, 1795. The first town meeting was held at the house of Timothy Hatch, on the first Tuesday in April, 1795. Isaac Foote was chosen Moderator, and Oramus Holmes [sic], Town Clerk. The town received its name from the consideration that the settlers were accustomed to sing the tune of Sherburne at their meetings.
Orsamus was the first Postmaster of the Town of Sheridan, Canadaway P.O., the second post office in Chautauqua County - 1806.
In the 1790 US Census, the first ever taken in the United States, the Orsamus Holmes family was enumerated in the Town of Springfield, Windsor County, Vermont, as follows: Orsamus Holmes; 1 3 3 0 7. The meaning is: 1. Free white male of 16 years upward, including heads of families; 3 Free white males under 16 years of age; 3 Free white females including heads of house; 0 other free persons and 7 persons Total .
The amount of information available through Revolutionary War service records, local histories, and letters made Orsamus Holmes the natural patriarch for the Holmes Family History website at www.holmesfamilyhistory.org.
(1) A Biography of Deacon Holmes by Roscoe B. Martin
(2) Sketch of Orsamus Holmes in early Sherburne, NY
(3) Orsamus Holmes: A Biographical Sketch
by Mike Rowell (1994)
(1) Military History - Bureau of Pensions Abstract to William H. Wilcox (1906)
(2) The Giles Memorial
(3) Military Service Pension File (1610kb/pdf)
(4) Bureau of Pensions - Letter to Helen J. Wilcox (1929)
(5) Photo of Mt. Defiance, Ticonderoga, NY
(1) Centennial Monument, Sherburne (Chenango Co.), New York, dedicated in 1893
(2) Extract from Holland Land Co. Records (map) for Chautauqua Co., NY
Holmes Tavern Credited with Earliest Post Office & Other Local Firsts
By Traci Langworthy
Now and Then, Sheridan Historical Society, Sheridan, New York, Spring 2004 Newsletter, p. 7.
Perhaps the most historic of Sheridan’s early taverns was the establishment opened by Massachusetts native Orsamus Holmes as early as 1806. A Revolutionary War veteran who had been taken prisoner twice and imprisoned in Quebec by the British, Holmes might have shared stories with his guests about the harrowing days he spent in the wilderness of Lower Canada in 1778, after making his escape. More than a quarter century later, his new life in the veritable wilderness of early Sheridan placed him at the center of another story – the story of a new community’s founding.
After visiting the area in 1804, Holmes returned to Sheridan in the winter of 1804-1805 with his two sons, Alanson and Origen, and soon purchased several parcels of land on Holland Land Company Lots 43, 44, 53 and 60. His wife, Ruth (Webb), and remaining children followed in June of 1805. Within the first year, the family had to cope with the death of Origen, at age 18, on Jan. 1, 1806. While the cause went undocumented, his passing was the first recorded in the new settlement. Soon after, another historical record confirms the Holmeses had already begun welcoming neighbors and strangers into their frontier home. In June of 1806, the first post office in modern-day Sheridan – and only the second in the county – opened at the Holmes tavern, with Orsamus as the postmaster.
Although it was located about 4 miles to the east, Holmes’ post office took its name from the nearby community of Canadaway, now known as Fredonia. Previous to the establishment of the Pomfret post office in 1809, many of Holmes’ customers probably came from Fredonia and the surrounding frontier, since the only other post office in the county was located in Westfield. In fact, the first mail route into modern-day Chautauqua County was established only a few months before Orsamus’ post office opened. The mail carrier, John Edwards of Ontario County, traveled on foot between modern-day Buffalo and Erie, Pa., once every two weeks.
On the heels of postal delivery, the Holmes tavern also offered area residents another early service. In 1807, men who were eligible to vote cast their ballots for state governor in the first election to be canvassed in present-day Chautauqua County. Polling continued over the course of three days in April, with the first day held in Bemus Point, the second in Westfield and the third day split between Hezekiah Barker’s house in Fredonia and Holmes’ house in Sheridan.
While much has been documented about the tavern, however, at least one mystery remains. Different sources disagree about the location of the building, and no information exists about its fate after Orsamus’ death. Together, various clues place it somewhere near the intersection of New Road on either side of present-day Route 20.
In all, Orsamus and Ruth Holmes were the parents of 11 children, two of whom died at a young age. Their daughter Ruth, married Dr. John Marshall, the first county clerk, and was the only member of the family to remain in Western New York in later years.
John and Ruth Marshall’s son, Orsamus Holmes Marshall, went on to hold several prestigious posts in Buffalo, including the presidencies of the Buffalo Historical Society, Buffalo Female Academy and University of Buffalo, and an appointment as U.S. commissioner by the U.S. Circuit Court for the Northern District of New York. He also was an accomplished historian who wrote about the early exploration of the Great Lakes region.
As noted in the Buffalo Gazette, the Canadaway post office closed in the fall of 1817. In about 1833, Orsamus and Ruth moved to Killbuck, Ohio, where their oldest surviving son, Abner, lived with his family. Orsamus died there only two years later, at age 78. Ruth died less than two months afterward.
A Biography of Deacon Holmes, Pioneer and Soldier – Twice Escaped from British Prisons
. By Roscoe B. Martin, President, Chautauqua County Historical Society
One of the very early settlers of the town of Sheridan and one of its most prominent residents, was Orsamus Holmes. He was born at Pembroke, Mass. October 11, 1757 and was married February 18, 1780. During a tour to the western country in 1804 he selected a farm in the town of Sheridan three or four miles east of Fredonia to which he moved with two of his sons in the winter of 1804-05, the rest of his family following the next summer. He was appointed Postmaster of Canadaway post office June 13, 1806, located about the center of the town of Sheridan. Canadaway post office was the second post office established in Chautauqua County, and also the last established for several years, the first being Chautauqua, located at the Cross Roads, now in the western end of the village of Westfield, established May 6, 1806. Canadaway post office should not be confused with Fredonia, the original Fredonia post office being called Pomfret.
In the Buffalo papers of 1812 Mr. Holmes’ name appears as a member of the committee on towns in the Assembly district of Niagara and Chautauqua for federal nominations, there being but two towns in Chautauqua county at that time. His name also appears the same year as being a member of the correspondence committee of the friends of Liberty, Peace and Commerce condemning the administration of Jefferson and Madison. Other prominent Chautauquans on the committee were Samuel Sinclear, James Montgomery and James McMahon. In 1814 according to the Buffalo Gazette of March 12, he was one of the four judges appointed for Chautauqua County by Governor Tompkins and Counsel another of the four, Bethel Willoughby, also being from Sheridan. In 1815 he was again appointed judge but declined office. He moved to Killbuck, Ohio in 1832, where one of his sons lived, his children one by one having all migrated west, and there he died Aug. 26, 1835. It is the purpose of this article to give a short biography from original manuscript written by Judge Elia T. Foote about 70 years ago and to give Deacon Holmes’ autobiography also from original manuscript covering his services in the Revolutionary War.
Deacon Orsamus Holmes, formally of Sheridan
, by Judge Elia T. Foote. Judge John Gray informs me that Mr. Holmes was a Revolutionary soldier. He was a pioneer settler in Sherburne, N.Y. before the town was named and he was instrumental in having it named after the town from which he migrated in New England. Judge Gray knew him intimately having settled in Sherburne soon after him and were members of the same Congregational Church. He was a pioneer settler from Sherburne to Chautauqua County into the present town of Sheridan when the whole county was the town of Chautauqua.
Deacon Holmes was instrumental in giving the name of Pomfret to the town when settled off from Chautauqua. He made one of the best selections of land he possibly could have made. He gave each of his sons farms, from the large tract he settled, but it ultimately went out of there hands without much benefit to them. His sons went west. One daughter married Capt. John Scott early and who settled in Mayville. One daughter married Dr. John E. Marshall, first county clerk. Deacon Holmes was one of the founders of the First Congregational Church in Sheridan. He finally lost nearly all of the property he had and left his fine farm and moved to Ohio reduced in property and mainly dependent of his pension for support and died poor. He was naturally a energetic man and well fitted for a pioneer. Reputed a good man and a Christian but too lax in family government with sons.
His Revolutionary autobiography follows:
“In May, 1775, in the seventeenth year of my age, being a resident in Pittsfield, Mass., I enlisted into the regular service of the United States as a private under Capt. Lusk in the Regiment commanded by Col. Easton. This regiment soon after joined General Montgomery’s army at Crown Point. From that the army moved down Lake Champlain to St. John’s at which place there was a fort and British garrison. After demanding a surrender of the British garrison and receiving a refusal, Gen. Montgomery commenced a siege against the fortress. In this siege were hardships endured which were too severe for many of the sons on North America. Our encampment was one and a half miles from the British fortress, on low clayey ground, which was inundated by rain in the month of September, which continued with very little intermission for one week. The soldiers were obliged to set crotches in the ground, put poles on them, and cover them with small brush, to which they slept in their tents to keep out the muddy water. Many who were not careful with regard to their health were attacked with bilious complaints, some were discharged, some were sent on furlough, and some died. Our regiment was so reduced that, for a considerable time, one company had only one private fit for duty. When we were called on the main guard, we had no shelter, but were obliged to stand or sit in the rain; and frequently were called on fatigue to haul cannon through the mud, like a team of horses or oxen.
About the first of November, our reduced regiment, now consisting of about two hundred rank and file, were sent to Sorel, where the outlet of Lake Champlain forms a junction with the St. Lawrence. On our way, our members were augmented b a few Canadian volunteers. The British garrison at Montreal evacuated the place about the time of our arrival at Sorel and embarked on board of eleven sail of vessels, deeply laden with clothing and military stores, and descended the St. Lawrence. Our regiment succeeded in capturing the whole fleet, but fortunately for the American Army, our party succeeded in capturing the whole eleven vessels a short distance above the mouth of the Sorel river.
After the surrender of the British Garrison at St. John’s, Montgomery’s army ascended the St. Lawrence to Quebec. Before we left Sorel, my first enlistment expired. I then enlisted under Capt. Babcock, in Major Brown’s detachment. At Quebec out army suffered greatly from the inclemency of the weather in that cold, snowy region. Not long after our arrival at Quebec, many of our officers and soldiers were attacked with the smallpox, of which some died.
It is not necessary here to state particulars, for it is taken for granted that there are scarcely any persons in the United States who have not read or heard the history of the Revolutionary War. I would however mention the assault on the city , on the memorable night of the 31st of December, 1775, when Gen. Montgomery, his aide, and Capt. Cheesman fell, by misfortune our army failed in carrying the place. On the first of May, 1776 my enlistment expired. I again enlisted in Capt. Wheeler’s company, in a Regiment commanded by Col. Porter. On the 6th of May, our army left Quebec, and continued their march until they arrived at Ticonderoga. In Nov. 1776, the brigade, to which I belonged, was called to the assistance of the Southern army, and marched as far as Morristown, N.J. On the 31st of Dec. my enlistment expired, and I returned home to my father in Vermont, having been absent almost three years. When Burgoyne’s army made its appearance before Ticonderoga, the militia of Vermont were called for. I went for one. The militia arrived just in time for a precipitate fight before the enemy. I next enlisted under Capt. Allen, in a regiment commanded by Col. Herrick, denominated the Green Mountain Corps. Our duty was constant scouting in the woods, and other lurking places of the enemy.”
On or about the 6th of November, 1777, Capt. Allen called for volunteers to pursue the British, who were evacuating Ticonderoga and Crown Point; and a few militia joined us. On the night of 12th Nov. myself and one militia-man by venturing too far, were taken prisoners and conveyed to St. John’s; thence to Montreal and Quebec. And on the 26th of July, 1778, about ten o’clock at night, myself and three others made our escape from on board a prison ship, leaving about 35 of our fellow sufferers behind. The ship’s watch and two sentinels below on deck at the time. We crossed the St. Lawrence in the ship’s boat, and entered the woods without guide or compass. We traveled seventeen days in that dreary region. The first seven days we subsisted on four hard biscuits and about eight ounces of salt pork a day. The remaining ten days we subsisted principally on the inner bark of the white pine. On the seventeenth day, we were taken by the Indians, and conveyed to Montreal.
And on the 18th of September, 1778, three of us escaped again by leaping from the windows of the second story of the Provost prison, which had a guard of eighteen men, three of whom guarded the prison at the time. We then made for the gate of the prison yard, where we were attacked by the sentinel, and one of us slightly wounded. After opening the gate, we ran for the walls of the city and leaped from them, and reached the St. Lawrence about two miles below the city, where we found a canoe without paddles. By the aid of two stakes from a fence, we succeeded in crossing the river, which was four miles wide, in safety. Sixteen miles from the St. Lawrence, we came to the Chamblee river, which we crossed in a canoe on the second night. And after much fatigue, and encountering many difficulties and dangers in crossing rivers and being pursued by Indians, whose grasp we twice eluded by stratagem, on the fourteenth day we reached a frontier settlement of Monckton, Vt.
Let the Americans remember their obligations of gratitude to God for our deliverance, and for the preservation of those the fathers of the Revolution who were the instrumental in procuring our independence.” Source: Original newspaper clipping from the Patterson File, Westfield, New York (ca. 1925-1940) provided by Jack T. Erickson, Curator, Special Collections, State University College, Fredonia, New York.
Orsamus Holmes; A Sketch of Him and His Family – Also of Some Others Early of Sherburne. Among the pioneers of Sherburne, Orsamus Holmes stands out a typical character upon the pages of its early history. In fact, those pages, as they appear in the town records, are his own calligraphy he having been chosen Town Clerk at the first Town Meeting, held at the house of Timothy Hatch, not far from the Wiley residence on the west side of the river, on the first Tuesday in April, 1795, and was his own accessor for nine consecutive terms from 1795 to 1803, inclusive. His name appears in the list of jurors for 1793, and as one of the incorporators of the Sherburne Federal Library, January 10, 1800.
His name also appears as one of the School Commissioners for the town of Sherburne in the report for the winter of 1795-6, the original of which, bearing his autograph, is now at hand. So it will be seen that he was a prominent of the new settlement. His name is on the old map of the Proprietors as the owner of Lot Nos. 13 and 15 containing together 139 acres but he does not seem to have lived upon either of these tracts of land. Mrs. Amanda Gray Lee writes that “Orsamus Holmes lived near the (Quarter) school house – across the “Brook,” and the scholars always went to his spring for water.” And the Hon. Abrahm Dixon, late of Westfield, N.Y. in an old letter speaking of the early times, says: “In the summer of 1794, when I attended the school, it was kept in the barn of Orsamus Holmes.” That was unquestionably just across the Handsome Brook on the road leading north past the Newton homestead, and on the east side of the road, where there is still a house, and a spring to this day. There was the residence of Mr. Holmes, on a part of the Joel Northrup allotment. And there the location of the first Town Clerk’s office of Sherburne.
Orsamus Holmes was born, as his distinguished grandson, the late Orsamus Holmes Marshall, of Buffalo, wrote Elial T. Foote, date of February 23, 1852, (we copy from the original) “in old Plymouth, Mass., on the 11th of October 1757. He was the son of Hezekiah Holmes, who was born in Plymouth County, Mass., February 5, 1728; he was the son of William Holmes who was born in the same County. His father emigrated from England. Orsamus Holmes, my grandfather, moved from Springfield, Vermont, in March 1793, and settled in Sherburne, Chenango County.” Source: Uncited newspaper article (1884-1892) provided by Joseph A. Holmes, III
From Vinton, J. A. (1901). Giles Memorial: Genealogical Memoirs of the Families Bearing the Names of Giles, Gould, Holmes, Jennison, Leonard, Lindall, Curwen, Marshall, Robinson, Sampson, and Webb; Also, Genealogical Sketches of the Pool, Very, Tarr and Other Families
. Forgotten Books.
ORSAMUS HOLMES,(Hezekiah,4 William,3 Josiah,2 William,1)
son of Hezekiah4 and Mercy4 (Bisbee) Holmes; b. in Pembroke, Oct. 11, 1757; m. Feb. 18, 1780, RUTH WEBB, dau. of Disbro and Jerusha (Wood) Webb of Charlestown, N. H.*
Orsamus Holmes has given an interesting account of himself, and of his service sand sufferings in the Revolutionary war. This account having been printed in the former part of this volume, pp. 56, 57, before this History of the Holmes Family was contemplated, need not here be repeated in full. It appears that in May, 1775, being then a resident in Pittsfield, Mass., and in the eighteenth year of his age, he enlisted as a private in a regiment of Provincial troops, commanded by Col. Easton. This regiment, in the autumn of that year, formed a part of the army of General Montgomery,in the invasion and nearly accomplished conquest of Canada. The soldiers suffered much from fatigue, sickness, and the inclemency of the season. The smallpox broke out among them, and many died. The assault on Quebec, upon the last night of the year, 1775, failed; and Montgomery was killed. On the arrival of reinforcements to the enemy, early in May following, the American forces were compelled to a hasty evacuation of the Province. In Nov. 1776, the regiment was called to the assistance of the main army under Washington, then lying at Morristown, N. J. On the 31st of Dec., at the expiration of his term of enlistment, Orsamus Holmes went home to his father at Springfield, Vt., having been absent three years.
On the invasion of Burgoyne, July, 1777, the militia of Vermont were called out, and Orsamus Holmes again appeared among the defenders of his country. He next enlisted in Col. Herrick's regiment, which was constantly employed in the scouting service. Venturing too far, on the night of Nov. 12, he was taken prisoner; conveyed to St. Johns,Montreal, and Quebec. With some others, he made his escape, by night, July 26, 1778, from the prison ship in which he was confined. Before he could reach the New England settlements, he was retaken and carried back to Montreal. Again, on the night of Sept. 18, 1778, he escaped by leaping from a window of his prison, and after much fatigue and hardship, arrived at a frontier settlement at Monckton, Vt.
After this, he retired from the tumult of war, to the peaceful abode of his father in Springfield, Vt., where he entered on married life, as already stated. He settled on a farm in Springfield, and lived there until 1793,when he removed with his family to Sherburne, Chenango Co., N.Y.* He resided in the latter place till March, 1805, when he moved to Pomfret, Chautauqua Co., N. Y. He was one of the earliest pioneers of that County. A notice of him and of his daughter Ruth, may be found in Orsamus Turner's History of the Holland Purchase, p. 510. He held the office of Postmaster, and was an elder in the Presbyterian Church in that town. He continued to reside there until 1833, when he moved with his wife to the town of Killbuck, in Holmes Co., Ohio,where his son Abner had preceded him. He died Aug. 26, 1835, æ. 78. His wife Ruth died Oct. 7, 1835. Both are buried in the village of Oxford, in the same County.
Their children were—
Born in Springfield, Vt.—
275. † Alanson,6 b. March 11, 1781; m. Olive Lee.
276. †Abner,6 b. April 10, 1783; m. Betsey Young.
277. †Brilliant,6 b. Oct. 22, 1785; m. John Scott.
278. Origen,6 b. March 7, 1788; unm.; d. in Pomfret, N. Y., Jan. 1, 1806.
279. †Ruth,6 b. Sept. 20, 1790; m. John Ellis Marshall.
280. Augustine,6 b. Jan. 31, 1793; d. Jan. 24, 1802.
Born in Sherburne, N. Y.--
281. †Myron,6 b. May 19, 1795; m. Sally Taylor.
282. †Asher,6 b. Sept. 28, 1797; m. Eliza Elmore.
283. †Laurana,6 twin, b. March 10, 1800; m. Lewis Wooster
284. †William,6 twin, b. March 10, 1800; d. May 12, 1800
285. †Augustine,6 b. June 4, 1803; m. Sarah Ley.
* Jerusha, the widow of Disbro Webb, m. Jacob Sartwell. Ruth Webb had a brother, Joseph Webb, who m. Betsey Williams; they lived for a time in Weathersfield, Vt., and removed to the Black River, (in the State of New York).
* An interesting account of the Holmes Family may be found in Hatch’s History of Sherburne, N. Y., published at Sherburne in the Spring of 1862.
In a list of Revolutionary War Soldiers who had resided in Chautauqua County but were buried elsewhere appears Holmes, Orsamus - buried Killbuck, Holmes Co., Ohio.
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