Mercy Caroline (Loveland) Holderman
(Photo taken in Kansas about 1861)
On May 1, 1775, twelve days after the battles of Lexington and Concord, a seventeen year old boy named James Swinnerton enlisted in the Continental Army in the town of Oakham, Massachusetts. During the war, James Swinnerton reenlisted several times, and on October 18, 1776, was wounded in the neck and shoulder by a British musket ball fired at him in the battle of Pell's Neck on Long Island, New York. Following his injury, he was transported to Bedford, Massachusetts, where he recovered in a hospital. After his release from the hospital, he again enlisted in the army.
When the war was finally winding down, James Swinnerton married Eleanor Guilford in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on March 2, 1780. By 1800 James and Eleanor Swinnerton had moved to Leicaster, Vermont, and had seven children living (six other children all died shortly after birth). Their fourth oldest living daughter, Mercy Swinnerton, was born March 30, 1792, probably in Leicaster. During the years following 1800, the family evidently spent some time living near Paradox Lake in New York, but by July 31, 1806, were clearly living in what was then Franklin County, Ohio, near the town of Delaware. On this date, James Swinnerton's oldest living son, James Guilford Swinnerton, Jr., was married to Lucy Carpenter in Franklin County.
On March 12, 1810, the Swinnerton family witnessed the marriages of two of its daughters in (I believe) Hartford, Ohio. Lucinda Guilford Swinnerton married Ira Carpenter, brother of the Lucy Carpenter who James, Jr., had married four years earlier, and Mercy Swinnerton married a young man who had also grown up in Vermont, Merriness Willet Loveland.
Merriness and Mercy Loveland established a residence near Delaware, Ohio, where Mercy became pregnant with their first child in January of 1811. This child was born on October 8, 1811, in Delaware, Ohio, and was named Mercy Caroline Loveland after her mother. Tragically, the nineteen year old mother lived only thirteen days after the birth of her daughter after evidently experiencing complications during childbirth. She is buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Delaware, Ohio. Merriness Loveland must have been overwhelmed by the situation in which he found himself. His own family was still in Vermont, and he suddenly had a thirteen day old daughter to care for. He ended up turning to his deceased wife's parents, James and Eleanor Swinnerton for help raising his daughter. On June 2, 1812, before his daughter's second birthday, Merriness Loveland enlisted in the army and fought in the War of 1812. After a three month stint in the army, Merriness returned to civilian life and married for a second time - this time to Ruby Sturdevant, the daughter of Roswell Sturdevant. Merriness and Ruby Loveland, and Roswell Sturdevant and his wife subsequently moved to Madison County, Illinois, where their names appear in the 1818 Illinois State Census.
It is likely, therefore, that Mercy Caroline Loveland, the subject of this essay, knew neither of her parents. The first public documentation of her existence I have discovered is in the Revolutionary War pension application of James Swinnerton, dated October 4, 1820, in which he describes the members of his family: "My family consists of my wife aged fifty-nine years, one son aged eighteen years rather sickly (William B. Swinnerton), two daughters Elmira age twenty-two, Adeline age twenty-one, both unhealthy, and an orphan grandchild, Caroline Loveland, aged nine years." On October 13, 1821, Eleanor Guilford Swinnerton, grandmother of Mercy Caroline Loveland, was the first white person to die in the Grand Prairie Township of Marion County, Ohio. She is buried in the Grand Prairie Cemetery. The job of raising Mercy Caroline Loveland was probably assumed by James Swinnerton's two daughters still at home, Adeline and Almira. James Swinnerton continued receiving his Revolutionary War pension until his death on December 6, 1824. He is buried next to his wife.
Very little is known about Mercy Caroline Loveland's life for the next several years. The next public record of her life occurs on April 19, 1832, when at the age of twenty she married Jacob Holderman, the son of Abraham Holderman (originally from Chester County, Pennsylvania) and his wife Charlotte O'Neal (whose family had come from Maryland). The marriage ceremony was conducted at the Swinnerton homestead by John Kirby, a justice of the peace. One of the witnesses of the ceremony was Adeline Swinnerton, Mercy Caroline Loveland's aunt, who, ironically, married John Kirby, the justice of the peace, ten years later.
After their marriage, Jacob and Mercy Caroline Holderman evidently became land speculators; the deed books of Marion County, Ohio, are filled with land transactions involving not only Jacob and Mercy Caroline Holderman, but also Abraham and Charlotte Holderman, Jacob's parents. As it turns out, Abraham Holderman was extremely successful in business, and ended up quite wealthy. In 1831, one year before Jacob and Mercy Caroline Holderman were married, Abraham and Charlotte Holderman sold their vast Ohio land holdings and moved west to what was then La Salle County, Illinois, to a place later called "Holderman's Grove." In 1841, Kendall County, Illinois, was formed from La Salle County, and "Holderman's Grove" was renamed "Apakesha Grove"; it is near the town of Newark, Illinois.
Jacob and Mercy Caroline Holderman prospered in Ohio and had many children. Gilderoy Holderman was born January 24, 1833, and was probably named after Gilderoy Swinnerton, one of the children of James and Eleanor who died in infancy. Adeline Amanda Holderman was born April 24, 1835, and was probably named after Adeline Swinnerton, the aunt who raised Mercy Caroline Loveland. Jane Anne Holderman was born December 13, 1836, and was probably named after Jacob Holderman's sister. Almira Holderman was born October 11, 1838, and was probably named after Almira Swinnerton, Mercy Caroline Loveland's aunt.Marion Holderman was born November 23, 1840; remembering that Jacob and Mercy Caroline Holderman were big land speculators, one could speculate that he might have been named after Marion County, Ohio. Scott Montgomery Holderman was born May 15, 1843; again, speculation, but there are townships in Marion County called the Scott Township and the Montgomery Township. Olive Fowler Holderman, named after another of Jacob's sisters was born December 16, 1844. Guilford Holderman, named after Eleanor Guilford, was born November 13, 1846. With eight children in their family, Jacob and Mercy Caroline Holderman sold off the last of their land in Marion County in 1846 and moved to Knox County, Illinois. I do not know what prompted the Holderman family's move, however it is interesting to note that Mercy Caroline Holderman's father, Merriness Willet Loveland had been living in nearby Green County, Illinois, and died in July, 1846. One might speculate that he left his daughter some land in Illinois. I have not had the opportunity to examine the deed records in Knox County to validate this hypothesis. From other evidence, it is clear that Mercy Caroline Holderman must have at least corresponded with her father and step-mother because she knew the birthdates of her Illinois-born step-brothers (children of Merriness and Ruby Loveland).
During the next six years in Knox County, Jacob and Mercy Caroline Holderman had three more children: Jacob Clapp Holderman, Jr., born August 27, 1848, Eleanor Holderman (named after Eleanor Guilford Swinnerton) born August 7, 1850, and Mercy Caroline Holderman, Jr., born October 4, 1852. On February 6, 1853, Jacob and Mercy Caroline Holderman's daughter Adeline married Charles Prickett, the son of James and Rebecca Wisham Prickett, in Kendall County, Illinois. It turns out that James and Rebecca lived in Holderman's Grove near Adeline's grandparents, Abraham and Charlotte Holderman. Adeline and Charles must have met when Adeline was visiting her grandparents.
Then tragedy again struck the life of Mercy Caroline Holderman when her daughters Jane Anne and Almira drowned while bathing in the Spoon River on June 14, 1854. This article appeared in the Knoxville Journal published in Knoxville, Illinois, on June 20, 1854.
1854 had one bright spot when Charles and Adeline Prickett presented Jacob and Mercy Caroline Holderman with their first grandchild, Jane Ellen Prickett, born in the Erienna Township of Grundy County, Illinois, October 6, 1854. The last of Jacob and Mercy Caroline Holderman's own children, Ruth Huber Holderman, was born December 25, 1855, in Knox County, Illinois.
The late 1850's were turbulent times in the United States. It was becoming increasingly obvious that war was inevitable over the slavery issue, and as new territories lined up to enter the Union as states, debates arose as to whether the new territories would enter as free states or as slave states. The Kansas-Nebraska Act passed by Congress on May 26, 1854, dictated that those two territories would enter the Union on the side chosen by the popular majority of citizens in those territories. Both free staters and slave staters attempted to "stack the deck" in their own interests. At an early election in 1855 in Kansas, for example, thousands of slave staters from Missouri crossed the state line to vote in Kansas, and succeeded in electing a territorial legislature which favored slavery. This legislature immediately expelled any members who espoused the free state position. Two of Jacob Holderman's brothers, Henry Holderman and Barton Holderman, had already settled in some of the border counties of Missouri. Jacob's father, Abraham Holderman, had been raised as a Mennonite in Chester County, Pennsylvania; it is not clear whether this Mennonite influence was the source of the belief, but according to at least two sources I have uncovered, Jacob Holderman was an ardent abolitionist. In early 1858, Jacob and Mercy Caroline Holderman sold their land in Knox County, Illinois, and moved to Bates County, Missouri, near Jacob's brothers. They stayed in Bates County only a few months before finally settling in Linn County, Kansas, near the town of La Cygne. Almost immediately the slavery issue flared up. On May 19, 1858, Charles A. Hamilton, a proslavery settler from Georgia, with a party of about thirty men, arrested a number of free-state men, eleven of whom were taken to a ravine near the Marais des Cygnes River in Linn County and shot. One of the first public records of the Holderman's in Linn County indicates that Jacob Holderman was a juror in the trial of William Griffith, one of Hamilton‘s men. The jury found Griffith guilty of murder and sentenced him to death by hanging on October 30, 1863.
On May 5, 1859, Gilderoy Holderman, Jacob and Mercy Caroline's oldest son, became the second of their children to wed, when he married Sarah Jane Francis in Mulberry, Missouri. This was to be the last "happy" event for a period of several years. After the beginning of the year in 1861, Southern states began seceding from the Union; Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state on January 29; and on April 12, 1861, armed Southern forces captured Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, officially marking the beginning of the Civil War. With emotions running high, it did not take long for the Union Army recruiting drive to reach the new state of Kansas. On August 17, 1861, Jacob Holderman and his sons Gilderoy, Marion and Scott enlisted in Company D of the Sixth Kansas Cavalry at Fort Scott, Kansas. Their service is recorded in later pension applications which note a number of events during their tenure in the army. On June 14, 1862, Marion Holderman was struck in the head by a comrade while in camp near Fort Scott. On July 17, 1863, Gilderoy's unit was fighting the confederates in the battle of Honey Springs, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). At about 11 a.m. he was "shot through the right lung by a conical ball...He was born off the battle field in an ambulance to Fort Gibson and then on August 8, 1863, was moved to the Male Seminary near Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation (now Oklahoma)." Gilderoy never fully recovered from his injuries and, according to his pension application, "was unable to perform normal work for the rest of his life." About this time, Jacob Holderman contracted "camp fever" - a form of dysentery common in army camps - and was discharged on August 27, 1863. According to his discharge papers, this 54 year old man was "discharged on account of old age and general debility." The documents indicate that he was five feet, ten inches tall, light complexion, blue eyes, gray hair and had been a farmer prior to joining the army.
On July 27, 1864, Marion Holderman was captured by the Confederates at Massard Prairie, Arkansas, and taken to Camp Ford, a Confederate prisoner of war camp near Tyler, Texas. On October 25, 1864, the war came home to Linn County when retreating Confederate forces led by Sterling Price fought Union forces led by Samuel Curtis at the battle of Mine Creek. The battlefield was less than ten miles from the Holderman farm. On December 22, 1864, Jacob Holderman died of "chronic diarrhea"; Mercy Caroline Holderman, his widow, was left at home with six children. In Linn County probate court on December 31, 1864, Mercy Caroline Holderman names Jacob Holderman's heirs as: "Gilderoy Holderman, Marian Holderman, Scott M. Holderman, Olive F. Holderman, Gilford Holderman, Jacob C. Holderman, Elener Holderman, Mercy C. Holderman, Jr., Ruth H. Holderman in Kansas, and Adaline A. Pricket of Illinois, Grundy County." On April 8, 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, marking the beginning of the end of the Civil War. General Kirby Smith surrendered Confederate forces west of the Mississipp River on May 13, 1865. Marion Holderman was paroled from the POW camp in which he was held on May 22, 1865, and was mustered out of the army at De Valls Bluff, Arkansas, on June 6, 1865. He suffered from a chronic diarrhea condition developed in the POW camp until his death in Oklahoma in 1917.
The most important of Scott Holderman's wartime experiences was the friendship he developed with Elias Foster, another soldier in his company. By the time the war was over, Scott and Elias had become quite rough. Scott married Harriet Josephine Williams, the daughter of a minister from Tennessee, on July 2, 1865, in Linn County. Soon he and Elias Foster teamed up and began robbing travelers through the area. On September 25, 1865, Scott and Elias murdered John Carver, a soldier from Wisconsin who was returning home after the war, and stole his money. For the next several months the duo played a cat and mouse game with the local sheriff, making side trips to Texas, Arkansas and Mexico. Finally, on July 2, 1867, Scott Holderman was captured at his home in Polk County, Missouri. Tragically, after Scott's capture, Scott's brother, Guilford, was shot and killed on September 1, 1867, by bushwhackers who mistook him for his brother, Scott. Scott was brought to trial later in September, 1867, and was sentenced to be hanged on November 15, 1867.
This article appeared in the Lawrence Tribune, published in Lawrence, Kansas, on November 16, 1867.
Most of the information about Mercy Caroline Holderman's life in the next several years is currently unknown. The remaining children all ended up marrying. Marion Holderman married Mary Covel in Denmark, Iowa, on July 21, 1866. Olive Fowler Holderman married John R. Woods on December 15, 1872, in Linn County, Kansas. Jacob Clapp Holderman married Mrs. Rebecca Childers on February 17, 1880, in Live Oak County, Texas. Elenor Holderman married Samuel W. Woods on November 9, 1873, in Linn County, Kansas. Mercy Caroline Holderman, Jr., married Newton J. Flint before 1880, probably in Linn County, Kansas. Ruth Huber Holderman married William Amasa Gage on March 2, 1879, in Linn County, Kansas.
After all of her children were married, Mercy Caroline Holderman evidently lived with several of her children. For example, on January 19, 1880, in an affidavit supporting a pension claim on Jacob Holderman's military service, Mercy Caroline Holderman indicates her address was Bates County, Missouri, where Gilderoy was living. Later that year Gilderoy moved to Dayton, Washington Territory (now Washington state). In the 1880 Federal Census taken in June 1880, Mercy Caroline Holderman is listed with Mercy Caroline Holderman, Jr., and her husband, Newton J. Flint. Ellsworth Holderman, son of Scott Holderman evidently accompanied his grandmother. His father had been hanged in 1867, and his mother had remarried and died. In the 1880 census, Ellsworth is listed with his grandmother. I suspect that this pattern was typical during this period. At some point during this time, Mercy Caroline Holderman lost her eyesight.
Mercy Caroline Holderman's daughter, Elenor Holderman Woods moved in the 1870's or early 1880's to Oregon; the Woods family evidently settled near Cottage Grove in Lane County. On May 20, 1884, Mercy Caroline Holderman and her grandson, Ellsworth, went to Cottage Grove to spend some time with the Woods family. While she was there, she became ill; she died on May 19, 1886, at the age of 74 in Cottage Grove and is buried in the Shields Cemetery in Cottage Grove. This obituary appeared in the La Cygne Journal on June 5, 1886.
Ellsworth Holderman, the only child of Scott and Harriet Josephine Holderman moved with his grandmother, Mercy Caroline Holderman, in 1884 to Cottage Grove, Oregon. Ellsworth married Eva Jane Veatch in Eugene, Oregon, on November 1, 1890. Harvey Scott Holderman, third child of Ellsworth and Eva was born April 18, 1900, in Cottage Grove. Harvey Holderman married Vera Cochran on May 21, 1921, in Cottage Grove, and their first son, Barton Scott Holderman was born in Cottage Grove on July 21, 1922. Bart Holderman married Sonia Ehramdjian in Cairo, Egypt, on September 26, 1956. Bart and Sonia have three children. After working many years at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, Bart retired in September, 1988, and moved to Panama City, Florida. Bart has been a valuable source of both new information and for confirmation of information I had accumulated from other sources. It was Bart who told me where Mercy Caroline Loveland Holderman was buried.
Jane Ellen Prickett, first grandchild of Jacob and Mercy Caroline Holderman, married Charles Egner Miller on January 27, 1886, in Grundy County, Illinois. George William Miller, the Miller's second child, was born September 20, 1888, also in Coal City. Jane Ellen's parents, two sisters, three brothers, and the Millers homesteaded on the plains of eastern Colorado in Yuma County in about 1890. George William Miller married Mary Irene Collins on August 22, 1912, in Greeley, Colorado, and their first child, Floyd Wendell Miller was born in Greeley on April 8, 1916. Floyd Wendell Miller married Dorothy Elizabeth Ostegren on August 21, 1941, in Denver, Colorado. I am the second child of Floyd and Dorothy Miller, Donald Floyd Miller, born October 21, 1952, in San Antonio, Texas. I married Charlotte Ruth Champion in Oxford, Mississippi, on May 18, 1984. In June, 1984, I began working for Digital Equipment Corporation in Maynard, Massachusetts. Our son, Charles Tobin Miller, was born February 8, 1985, at a hospital in Concord, Massachusetts, located just three miles from the site of the April 19, 1775, battle which began the Revolutionary War. I currently work for Scientific Atlanta in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
Recently I got the opportunity to visit Cottage Grove and the Shields Cemetery. As if to add insult to injury, Mercy Caroline Holderman's tombstone has been vandalized - broken in half. Her name is incorrectly listed on the broken stone as "Mercede C. w. of J. Holderman" and her death date is incorrectly listed as June 19, 1886.
For much more information on this family visit visit Don's excellent web site at