A Biography of Abraham Holderman

Abram (Abraham) Holderman was by descent a Pennsylvania Dutchman. Abram Holderman Sr., was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and when eighteen years old removed to Ross County, Ohio, where he married Charlotte O'Neal. They were a prosperous and prolific pair, and seven sons and seven daughters grew upon the household tree. Eleven of the family reached maturity, and ten of them married and raised families of their own. The total number of their children was 101. (I doní't think this number is right. Perhaps it was supposed to say grandchildren.)

Abram, Sr., was an extensive farmer and stock-raiser in Ohio, and used to drive herds to the Philadelphia and Baltimore markets. In July 1831, he took the western fever, and came into Illinois prospecting. There were no white settlements in this part of the state at that time, and upon reaching Door Prairie, Indiana, he hired an Indian to pilot him through. He had no definite idea where he wanted to go, but came seventy miles into the Indian country before stopping. They rode on horseback through pathless prairies, slept in their blankets when night overtook them, with their saddles for pillows, and on the morning of the third day a lovely grove, in the midst of broad prairies, invited his possession, and he stuck his stakes.

The land had been surveyed a couple of years previously, and he selected eighty acres of timber on what proved to be seminary lands. Returning for his family, he made ready as soon as possible, and started for the land of promise. One great Pennsylvania wagon, drawn by four horses, one common two-horse wagon, and one large ox wagon, eleven horses, nineteen head of blooded cattle and three yoke of oxen formed the great cavalcade. Like his ancient namesake, "he, with all his goods possessed, turned his footsteps toward the West." But while he could not boast of as many wives, he had more children and almost as much substance as Jacob himself, the father of the twelve patriarchs.

The journey was an immense undertaking in those days, when roads and bridges existed only as a result of a far-off civilization, but it was full of excitement and pleasing, as well as painful, incidents. They had to ford and sometimes swim the streams, and flounder through the sloughs, in which they were often mired, but they had plenty of help, and always conquered. Their route lay along the southern shore of Lake Michigan, and they had Chicago in mind as one stopping point; but failing to get through as expected, night overtook them when about twelve miles out. Their provisions being exhausted, they all went supperless to bed, and their teams as hungry as themselves. Morning came, and no breakfast, but they were sustained by visions of plenty in the young city twelve miles away, and started early for the land of promise and a square meal. Imagine the feelings of that hungry crowd when two bushels of oats, at $4 per bushel, and a solitary loaf of brown bread, was all the embryo city could produce to feed eleven persons, eleven horses, and a herd of cattle.

The frugal mother had a little Ohio butter left in a jar, and one slice of bread and butter each sufficed to stay their hunger till they could escape such inhospitable shores, which they did, as Lot escaped from Sodom, in haste and without looking behind them. Twelve miles more through mud and water, ankle deep and upward, brought them to the Widow Berry's Point. Here they struck supplies, fed and rested till the following day. Forty-seven dollars paid their little bill and laid supplies for the rest of the journey, now only about fifty miles further. To Plainfield, the nearest town, was thirty miles, which they reached that night without further incident than the inevitable floundering through bottomless quagmires which about every day brought them.

Another twenty miles, and Kellogg's Grove was reached, between which and the new home lay the forbidden depths of Big Stough. Here the whole party mired down, and it took two days of hard work to get the wagons through to hard ground, one by one, with all the force they could muster. But the end was reached at last, in October, 1831, and for two weeks the party found shelter in the cabin of hospitable Edmund Weed. Another eighty acres of the choice timber was immediately added to the former purchase. Two small cabins had been erected on it by the former owner, in one of which the family wintered. Mr. Holderman and one of the boys went with a team to the Vermilion River, were they succeeded in buying twenty-six bushels of wheat and ninety pounds of an animal somewhat resembling the modern hog, but called by the boys prairie shark. They succeeded also in buying a fine fat steer, whose carcass, frozen solid, furnished the family with meat all winter.

Before spring, however, the flour was all gone. and for six weeks the family lived on pounded corn, so poor the horses refused to eat it. With the opening of navigation, Abram went to Saint Louis, purchased seed corn, groceries, and provisions, amounting to about $400, and had them brought by a keel-boat as far as Ottawa. The stuff made five wagon-loads, and consumed four days in transportation from Ottawa. On the morning of May 17, which was the day following the safe arrival of the last load of their summer supplies a friendly Indian, by the name of Peppers, came with a hasty message from Shawbenee that eighty of Blackhawk's Indian braves were on the war-path, and that their only hope was an immediate flight to Ottawa.

Five families has by this time gathered around Holderman's Grove in a fine, compact settlement, and they all collected at Holderman's in hot haste for defense or instant flight. It was near night, and dreading lest they should meet the treacherous redskins on the journey through the darkness, they resolved to await the coming of the following day. Peppers has reported that Hollenbeck and family, who had settled on Fox River, were murdered, as he heard the report of guns after he left them, but it afterward proved erroneous. Hollenbeck was absent, and the boys had fired off their guns to reload with a fresh charge, and the whole family had secreted themselves in the brush. Before day Holderman, Cummings and Keilogg went out with their horses toward Hollenbeck's to reconnoiter. At daybreak they came in sight of the savages, who after murdering the family, as their friends supposed, were making merry with the whisky and tobacco which Hollenbeck had on hand. A sentry posted on the cabin roof dropped to the ground at sight of the three horsemen, and the whole band, forty strong, vanished like rabbits in the burrows. Only one, peeping from behind the corner of the house, sought to engage the white men in a parley, while others, skulking through the ravine, got in range from their ambush and fired upon them. This stampeded the little party, without further injury than a few bullet holes through coat and hat, but the whole howling band of savages were instantly in full pursuit. Although well mounted, they had little ammunition, and soon realized that they were leading the savages upon their defenseless families, to their certain destruction. A shrewd maneuver alone saved them. Reaching a rise of ground, with the Indians in full sight, at the suggestion of Holderman the party suddenly halted, and Holderman, swinging his hat and shouting at the top of his voice, seemed to be signaling a reserve force to come on. This bold action convinced the Indians that a large party were beyond their sight, and taking counsel of their fears, they beat a hasty retreat and left the neighborhood.

By preconcerted arrangements, the families kept a lockout, and on a signal from the returning scouts, the horses were hitched to the wagons, the women and children and a few hastily gathered supplies were bundled in, and when the party reached them all was in readiness for flight. The sleeping children were snatched from their beds, and some of them tossed into the wagons in their night-clothes. A speedy trip to Ottawa saved their lives, for the outwitted savages, on discovering that they were not followed, returned and wreaked their vengeance on Holderman's summer supplies, destroying what they could not carry off, and driving away all the stock in the neighborhood. However, they only got them as far as the Fox River, when, in attempting to get them across, the cattle escaped and returned home. After a few weeks spent in Ottawa, where they helped to build a rude log fort, the company went to Pekin, Illinois, and did not find their way back to their homes till the following August, when the war was over.

After this the settlement prospered and grew rich. Holderman followed his former occupation of cattle-raising and farming, and grew rich too. He at one time sent a drove of 313 head of fine fat cattle to Philadelphia, in the care of his sons, Barton and Abram Jr., then a lad of eighteen years. They got 312 of them through, and sold at $52.50 a head, more than doubling their money after paying all expenses.

Source: The United States Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-Made Men, Illinois Volume, American Biographical Publishing Company, H.C. Cooper, Jr. & Company, Proprietors, 1883, selections compiled at the Morris Library, pages 275-277.
This article sent to us by Edwin Cunnea on 01/07/2003.

Abraham HOLDERMAN, son of Jacob HALDEMAN, grandson of Michael HALDEMAN, great grandson of Michael HALDEMAN
was born 8 Feb 1781 in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and died 8 May 1861 in Kendall County, Illinois.
He married Charlotte O'NEAL 13 Jan 1807 in Ross County, Ohio, daughter of Barton O'NEALE and Mary DYSON.
She was born 6 Sep 1790 in Frederick County, Maryland, and died 6 May 1856 in Kendall County, Illinois.
She was buried in Hoge-Holderman Cemetery, Grundy County, Illinois.

   Children of Abraham HOLDERMAN and Charlotte O'NEAL are:
   +  2     i.    Jacob HOLDERMAN was born 12 Dec 1808 in Ohio, and died 22 Dec 1864
                  in Linn County, Kansas.
      3     ii.   Harriet HOLDERMAN was born 21 Feb 1810 in Ross County, Ohio, and died 8 Apr 1887
                  in Sheridan, Lasalle,Illinois.
                  She married Peter MILLER 18 Dec 1828 in Grand Prairie Twp,Ohio.
      4     iii.  Henry HOLDERMAN was born 22 Mar 1812 in Ross County, Ohio, and died 29 Oct 1882
                  in Freeman, Cass County, Missouri.
                  He married Mariah FORD 28 Apr 1836 in Lasalle County, Illinois.
      5     iv.   Mary HOLDERMAN was born 11 Oct 1813 in Ross County, Ohio, and died in Ross County,
      6     v.    Rue-Ann HOLDERMAN was born 26 Mar 1815 in Ross County, Ohio, and died 11 Mar 1891
                  in Joliet, Illinois.
                  She married Isaac REYNOLDS 10 Apr 1834 in Lasalle County, Illinois.
      7     vi.   Barton HOLDERMAN was born 1 Jun 1816 in Ross County, Ohio, and died 10 Oct 1892
                  in Newman, Hinds County, Missourri.
                  He married Charity WHITE 7 Apr 1840 in Lasalle County, Illinois.
      8     vii.  Phereby HOLDERMAN was born 17 Mar 1818 in Ross County, Ohio, and died 1822
                  in Ross County, Ohio.
   +  9     viii. Matilda HOLDERMAN was born 17 Apr 1820 in Ross County, Ohio, and died 14 Feb 1898
                  in Morris, Grundy County, Illinois.
                  She married Samuel HOGUE 23 May 1839 in Lasalle County, Illinois.
      10    ix.   Abraham HOLDERMAN was born 22 Feb 1822 in Ross County, Ohio, and died 27 Nov 1887
                  in Morris, Grundy County, Illinois.
                  He married Mary E. HOGE 4 May 1847 in Grundy Co, Illinois.
      11    x.    Dison HOLDERMAN was born 9 Jun 1823 in Marion County, Ohio, and died 21 Nov 1878
                  in Morris, Grundy County, Illinois.
      12    xi.   Caroline HOLDERMAN was born 17 Jan 1825 in Marion County, Ohio, and died 25 Apr 1899
                  in Kendall County, Illinois.
                  She married Isaac HOGE 22 Sep 1842 in Kendall County, Illinois.
      13    xii.  Amandy HOLDERMAN was born 26 Apr 1826 in Marion County, Ohio.
      14    xii.  Samuel HOLDERMAN was born 9 Oct 1828 in Marion County, Ohio, and died 14 Dec 1886
                  in Morris, Grundy County, Illinois.
                  He married Martha H. COKE 1 Jul 1852 in Grundy Co, Illinois.
      15    xiv.  Jane Ann HOLDERMAN was born 4 Aug 1830 in Marion County, Ohio, and died 25 Aug 1863
                  in Letts, Louisa County, Iowa.
                  She married Nehemiah M. LETTS 21 Apr 1852 in Grundy Co, Illinois.