One of the prominent older citizens of the county is Col. John F. Holt, who at the age of 12 years came to Texas to make his home with an uncle, John Plunkett, a native of Ireland and an extensive planter of Matagorda county. Young Holt was born in Andover, Mass., in 1838, and it was in 1850 when he came to live with his uncle, Mr. Plunkett having come to Texas in 1830, and died in 1886 after acquiring a large cattle interest, at the age of 70 years. His sister, mother of John Holt, came to make her home also with Mr. Plunkett, and died in 1855.
John Holt was educated at Matagorda, and engaged in stock raising, but, in 1861 when the bugle sounded he joined the first company organized in this county, that one organized by Dr. Pearson at Matagorda, and captained by Capt. Jas. Selkirk. With this company he was assigned to the Sixth Texas Infantry and took part in some of he leading battles of the war, including Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge and Arkansas Post, in the latter of which his company was captured and held at Camp Butler for five months and exchanged, promptly re-entering for the balance of the war. He was wounded in the battle of Atlanta, and returned home.
He again engaged in stock raising, soon accumulated much cattle and thousands of acres of land. In 1866 he married Miss Wilkinson, and bought the elegant home which was built by Jno. H. Gibson before the war, the fine old Colonial mansion standing now in the center of an extensive ranch, and there he lived in peace and prosperity, his family consisting of two daughters and their grand-children. One of his daughters married Ed Kilbride, a stock man and merchant of Bay City and another married J. H. Mayfield of Wharton county also one of the prominent cattlemen of the county and manager of the Colorado Canal Company, whose home is now here. Col. Holt is an Odd Fellow and a member of the Episcopal Church; and a citizen of whom Matagorda county is justly proud. He has never held or sought public office but served one term as County Commissioner on demand of his neighbors, and has been foremost in enterprises and movements for the development and welfare of the country. In 1898 he was one of the organizers of the Colorado Canal Co., which constructed the canal of that name opening up thousands of acres of Bay Prairie to irrigation and rice growing. In this as in other movements he has been a public benefactor, he being now one of the most progressive of the canal men in encouraging the efforts of the farmers in using water for other crops than rice, and with fair success. His name will go down in history as one of the successful men of the county, and one of the kindest, and most useful to his fellowmen. Col. Holt wears a long beard, now grown gray, giving him a patriarchal appearance which well becomes the dignity of this unostentatious and useful citizen.
While, in a measure prepared for the sad news, the notice of the death of our beloved fellow-citizen, Col. John Holt, which has cast a pall of sorrow over the city and was received with extreme sadness by the numerous friends of the family, all of whom were with him when the end came.
Col. Holt was one of Matagorda County's oldest and most prominent citizens. He has spent a long life as a resident here and was a man of exalted mind and bearing. He has figured prominently in all of the county's development and saw Bay City grow from an open place in the prairie to its present city-like status. His name has been associated with the affairs of Matagorda County, business and social, from an early day on down through the long span of his over 80 years of life. In the earlier days, when homes were scattered and the population sparse the Holt home stood as one celebrated for its Southern hospitality and "open door" policy. And this fame, so richly deserved, was maintained during the later years of his life.
Chivalrous by birth and spending most of the years of his life here, Col. Holt possessed all the traits of the true Southern character and nobleness of nature, for which the South has ever been celebrated.
Col. Holt is survived by his wife, a life-long companion, and two daughters, Mrs. E. J. Kilbride and Mrs. J. S. Mayfield.
A more fitting tribute to the
memory of the life of this excellent man, which has been
furnished The Tribune by a life-long friend, is published
in another column of today's paper.
John F. Holt
To the Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of St. Mark's Church, Bay City, Texas:
Your special committee appointed to submit resolutions upon the death of John F. Holt, respectfully submit the following: Be it Resolved,
In the decree of an All-wise Providence there has been removed from our midst an old, honored, respected and much beloved member of our church and for many years Senior Warden on this Vestry.
His service on this Vestry and in the capacity of Senior Warden had been continuous for over 25 years, and upon retirement this Vestry unanimously elected him honorary Senior Warden for life without duties, and now this position has been made vacant by his death to the extreme sorrow of this Vestry, and every member of St. Mark's Church.
And now bowing to the will of a merciful Father, we state that in the death of Jno. F. Holt (Frank, as his intimates were wont to call him), the church and this Vestry have sustained a distinct loss, and we sorrow as if one mind that a great and good man and member has been taken from us for service in God's vineyard elsewhere.
Mr. (Col. as he was often called) Holt came to Texas and to Matagorda County at the age of 12 years. He was born in Andover, Mass., in the year 1838, and had reached the ripe old age of 82 years, 11 months and 3 days at the date of his death, having died at 7 o'clock on the morning of March 31, 1921. In 1861 he joined the first company organized in Matagorda County, known as Dr. Peareson's Company of Matagorda, and was afterwards assigned to the Sixth Texas Infantry and took part in many of the leading battles of the War Between the States, including Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge and Arkansas Post, in the latter battle he was captured--and held prisoner at Camp Butler for five months, and exchanged but promptly re-entered for the balance of the war, and was wounded in the Battle at Atlanta and returned home, and in 1866 he married Miss Nell Wilkinson, who survives him, together with two daughters, Mrs. Jas. S. Mayfield and Mrs. E. J. Kilbride, all of whom reside in Matagorda County, Texas the latter in Bay City and the two former at Tanglewild, in said county, which is the name of his palatial residence, some several miles distant from Bay City, where the weary traveler was always a welcome guest and entertained in a princely manner. There also survive him several grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Besides long a member of the Episcopal Church, Jno. F. Holt was at his death an honored member of Matagorda Lodge No. 47 I. O. O. F. and has been a continuous member in good standing of this lodge for over 50 years, and the 50-year-old Jewel in this order had been awarded and bestowed upon him by his mother lodge at a special meeting for that purpose. During his career he engaged in many public enterprises in his adopted county, and was one of the organizers of the Colorado Canal Company, in this county in the year 1893, and for many years was president of said company, which canal opened up many thousands acres of Bay Prairie to irrigation and rice growing, and in this as in other movements he has been a public benefactor.
Jno. F. Holt was one of God's noblemen in the true sense of this expression; a useful citizen, unostentatious, nothing boisterous of unseemly about him; a man of true dignity of rare judgement, of prudence and vigilance in business, or energy and purpose where action was necessary, and tolerant and broad-minded in all the affairs which elicited his interest.
He was never intemperate of judgement or speech. He possessed an innate love of culture, was just in his relations with his fellow-man, was never known to speak ill of anyone and in all his long life he was an exemplar of those fine qualities of manhood which...American citizenship. At all times a disinclination to court prominence, modesty was one of his pronounced characteristics. He was indeed a man of truth and honor, and one who served his day and generation well.
It is hereby ordered that a copy of the resolutions be spread upon the minutes of the Vestry, a copy furnished the family, and a copy given to the Tribune for publication.
Wm. E. Austin: Committee
Mrs. J. F. Holt, who has been making her home with her daughter, Mrs. E. J. Kilbride, died this morning at 11 o'clock, following a long siege of illness.
The funeral services will be held tomorrow afternoon at 3 o'clock at the Episcopal church, immediately after which the remains will be conveyed to Matagorda for burial.
A further and more detailed account of this, another Matagorda county pioneer, will be furnished the Tribune for a later issue.
The Tribune, May 4, 1928
The Passing of a Pioneer Woman of Texas
In the death of Mrs. John Francis Holt, Matagorda county has lost one of its gentle women of the old regime, a true daughter of of the South and of Texas, having been born in the old town of Matagorda when the state was still a republic. Helen Matilda Wilkinson Holt was born on October 8, 1839. Her father, John Frederick Wilkinson, came from North Carolina and Tennessee to New Orleans, then to Texas and landed at the mouth of Caney, where their boat wrecked and they lost everything except their slaves. They made their home in the old town of Matagorda, where so many of our brave and courageous pioneers settled. Mrs. Holt's father was one of those brave men who fought in the battle of San Jacinto.
The first boarding school in the state was in Matagorda, conducted by Mrs. Nancy Thompson. Mrs. Holt went to school here, and in those days the quaint old town was the center of great social life, and Mrs. Holt, a charming and gracious belle. It was just after the Civil War that Joseph Pelly published a book, A Soldier's Letters to Charming Nellie.* These letters had been written to her by the author during the Civil War. Mrs. Holt was a life long and devoted member of the Episcopal faith. She and her mother were among those who established the first Episcopal church in the state which is in Matagorda. She was confirmed by Bishop Freeman, who was the first missionary Bishop.
She was married to Colonel John Francis Holt November 4, 1866 and to them were born two daughters, Elizabeth Holt Kilbride and Louise Holt Mayfield. The Holt home was known far and wide for cultural and intellectual life and wonderful hospitality.
Mrs. Holt was a young woman of high intellect, great dignity and fine integrity keeping her mind modern and her interests in world affairs until the beckoning finger of death came upon her. In a day when Texas was rough and a pioneer state, she ever kept her ideals and social standards.
Her death leaves a gap in the bridge that has so long connected the heroic deeds of the early days with the present time. Those wonderful women of another generation can not be replaced, and we can only miss them and know that their spirit goes marching on in their descendants. Mrs. Hold was buried in the old, old cemetery of Matagorda, beside the body of her husband, in the land she loved so well. Many lovely floral offerings expressed in a small way the great esteem and love in which she was held. She is survived by her two daughters, Mrs. E. J. Kilbride and Mrs. Jim Mayfield, her two granddaughters, Mrs. Craig Cates, of Tiptonville, Tenn.; Mrs. Blakley Winston, of Richmond, Texas; Mrs. Carol Rosaire, Homer, La.; Mrs. Edward Castleton, Birmingham, Ala.; Mrs. Norman Barkley and Mrs. Weldon Smith, Bay City and seven great-grand children.
Matagorda County Tribune, May 11, 1928
*An internet search will reveal numerous sites
where A Soldier's Letters to Charming Nellie can be read. There are
several sites where the book is read orally.
Death Thursday ended the life of a life-long Matagorda County resident, whose plantation home as a child and as a young woman was glowingly described in Arda Talbot' Allen's "Miss Ella of the Deep South;" and whose spacious colonial home in Bay City after her marriage was equally prominent as a social center for a large group of cultured and refined friends.
Mrs. Ann Elizabeth Holt Kilbride, born in Matagorda County in 1874 the daughter of plantation parents, Colonel and Mrs. Frank Holt.
In childhood, she was tutored by the gentle and colorful "Miss Ella" Talbot; and then attended school in Salem, North Carolina. Later she went to Bellewood Seminary in Anchorage, Kentucky, where she graduated with honors.
She was married to Edward J. Kilbride of Matagorda June 7, 1893; and the couple were blessed with one son, Frank Holt Kilbride, who died at the age of four; and with three daughters, Mrs. Helen Cates and Mrs. Norman Barkley of Bay City and Mrs. Weldon Smith of Houston.
In addition to her daughters, she is survived by seven grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
Mrs. Kilbride's contributions to community life were well woven into the pattern of the community. She was an active member of the Episcopal Church; a member of the D. A. R.; the Colonial Dames, and the D. R. T. She helped to found and was a charter member of the Bay City Public Library; and served for years as Librarian.
Mrs. Kilbride is described by a friend as "a great lady in her own right; cultured, highly intelligent, and gracious. She had a charming personality and a warm humanity.
Interment was in Matagorda Cemetery, Friday,
Mr. Edward John Kilbride, age 68 years, 9 months and 17 days, died at his family residence here at Ave. F. and 3rd., this morning at approximately 6 o'clock. "Mr. Ed," as he was affectionately known by the entire county, died after many months of suffering and illness.
Born in the town of Matagorda June 7, 1870, Mr. Kilbride was a life long resident of this county. In his younger days he was ranchman and an extensive landowner.
A man, generous and thoughtful, loving and kind, he drew to his friends and associates who knew and loved him.
Surviving him, are his wife, three daughters, Mrs. Helen Cates, Mrs. Norman Barkley, Mrs. Weldon Smith, two granddaughters, Helen Cates, Betty Gene Smith and two grandsons, C. C. Cates and Norman Barkley. He is also survived by two sisters, Mrs. Mamie Klein of this city, and Mrs. Alex Hooper of Waco; and one brother, George Kilbride of Matagorda.
Funeral services will be held at the Episcopal Church, Saturday morning at 10 o'clock. Interment will be in the Matagorda Cemetery. Taylor Bros., are in charge of arrangements.
The Daily Tribune, March 24, 1939
The marriage of Miss Helen Kilbride and Mr. Craig Cates was celebrated yesterday afternoon at three o’clock at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, the Reverend John Sloan officiating. For an hour before that set, the ushers, Dr. S. R. Sholars, Mr. Pierce Hamilton of Matagorda and Mr. Wayman Peareson of San Antonio, found themselves fully occupied in seating the friends and acquaintances who thronged to the church, and who enjoyed in the interval the cool beauty and artistic setting of green and white, with the soft glow of pink within the chancel.
The christening font, within the doors, showed a mass of sprengiri sprinkled with the fragile white star of Bethlehem, which played an exquisite part through the decorations. The pews for the relatives were reserved by scarfs of intertwined white and green maline, and the approach to the chancel was marked by palms, graduating into groups of trailing fern, star scattered, and stately white lilies tinged with pink. The pulpit, veiled in green, held pink asters and lilies, the choir rail was in the same blending shades, and everywhere were the massed ferns. White asters alone shone from the altar, beneath the plumose-draped frame of the reredos.
The altar candles were lighted by Richard Gaines as the hour pealed forth, and the first notes of the lily-decked organ softly stole out, announcing the presence of Miss Lucille Ruckman in the chancel. The dainty pink lily effect of Miss Ruckman’s attire merged with perfection into the whole, but scarcely prepared the waiting listeners for the splendid tones of her contralto which rang out in D’Hardelot’s triumphant Because.
Its last note sank into the mysterious beauty of the Lohengrin wedding chorus, played by Mrs. E. L. Hawkins, and Mr. Cates, accompanied by his cousin, Mr. Clifton Cates, of Tennessee, came from the vestry, while Miss Cornelia Mayfield, as maid of honor, preceeded the bride and her father, Mr. E. J. Kilbride, up the aisle. Miss Mayfield wore the smartest of gowns in green and black chiffon taffeta, with yoke, sleeves and castellated hem of green chiffon, and a drooping black velvet hat shaded the flower face. Her roses and fern, tied with wide pink arm bouquet was of pink Killarny satin streamers.
The bonny bride, who charmed even the sulky sky into smiles, was in her going-away gown of dark blue chiffon broadcloth, belted by mahogany silk cording, ending in heavy mahogany and blue tassels, the whole being relieved by the colored embroidery in tone about the military collar, cuffs and pocket, and the delicate pink of the blouse. Her hat was a close fitting blue velvet toque, embossed by three outspread bluebirds, winging to happiness. The bouquet was of bride roses and maidenhair, with tube roses on showers of pink gauze ribbon, and held together by a white chiffon scarf. Sand-colored boots and lighter gloves complemented the costume, and we who love her thought her at her fairest.
The searching beauty and solemnity of the service, initiated at the chancel and continued through the giving by the father of the daughter in marriage, completed itself at the altar rail in the pledges and the marriage benediction, and to the swell of the Mendelssohns’ march, they left the altar.
The white satin cushion upon which the pair knelt was from the skilful hands of those who cared for the bride, and the stole worn by the officiating priest was the gift of her handiwork by Mrs. Holt, grandmother of the bride, to Mr. Sloan upon his assuming charge here many years ago, and it is now a valued relic. The book from which the service was read was presented to the young couple by the rector, having been sighed throughout by the three.
A rice-laden throng pursued the couple to the station, where there were some moist eyes, but more merriment. Miss Eleanor Jones made the fortunate catch of the bridal bouquet; and little Eugene Wilson provided the legendary good luck with a small and ancient piece of foot gear, which fell on the platform as the train rolled out.
Mr. and Mrs. Cates today
Miss., and later go to their home in Tiptonville, Tenn.
Photos courtesy of Matagorda County Museum
Copyright 2010 -
Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
Dec. 26, 2010
Apr. 1, 2013