Obadiah Holmes PortraitHOLMES FAMILY HISTORY


From "Baptist Piety: The Last Will and Testament of Obadiah Holmes", Edwin S. Gaustad Arno Press 1980.

D. Testimony to his Children


His nine children presented him with some forty-one grandchildren. If that rate of productivity continued to the end of the colonial period, Obadiah and Catherine Holmes would have been responsible by that time for a progeny of more than twenty thousand persons! It is, of course, impossible to follow more than a couple of lines. Of the immediate children, four migrated south, either to Gravesend on Long Island or across Lower New York Bay into New Jersey, forming there a settlement named Middletown in honor of the Rhode Island home. Among the twelve original patentees of Monmouth County, New Jersey were Obadiah Holmes, Jr. and John Bowne, the husband of Lydia Holmes. Obadiah, Jr. later settled in Cohansey (West Jersey), which became a major Baptist center; he served as a lay preacher as well as "at the time of his death in 1723 a judge of common pleas for Salem County."[*] Jonathan Holmes also settled in Middletown, where he was elected deputy to the New Jersey assembly in 1668. A decade later he and John Bowne served on the Middletown-Shrewsbury court. Bowne, in fact, later became "a great figure in East Jersey"[1] And it is through Lydia and John Bowne that the senior Obadiah Holmes stands as an ancestor of Abraham Lincoln."**"

Obadiah Holmes Portrait

Mary Holmes, the eldest daughter, married John Browne, son of Chad Brown, the Baptist minister in Providence, Rhode Island. From this union emerged the remarkable "Browns of Providence Plantations," that family so central to the economic, cultural, and educational life of the colony-state from that day to this.[***] The second daughter, Martha, married a man named Odlin, [Olin] a fact known only through the reference to her in her father's will. The same minimal information is available for the youngest daughter, Hopestill, who married a Taylor and died sometime before her father made out last final will in 1681. Samuel Holmes, who also died before his father did (in 1679), was, along with his wife, among those migrating to Gravesend. John Holmes apparently remained in the Rhode Island region, for he witnessed a land sale by John and Mary Browne in 1669;[2] he was twice married and the father of nine children. Jonathan Holmes, also the father of nine children, purchased the family farm (see Section G, below), returned to Newport and joined his father"s church. He was not the eldest son, but was probably chosen because he could make the desired financial settlement. Jonathan in turn left the farm to his son, Joseph, who expanded the holdings considerably, leaving an estate valued at nearly £8000 (compared with the estate of his grandfather, valued at about £130).[3] In Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey, and ultimately in the nation that Obadiah Holmes never knew, his children "and their children's children" came to constitute an imposing monument.

In colonial New England, among Puritans and Baptists alike, a parent was expected to offer counsel and wisdom to his children before his death. Richard Mather, for example, wrote of his "be loved sons" near the end of his life:

. . . I think it not amiss, for the furtherance of their spiritual good, to lay upon them this serious and solemn charge of a dying Father, that none of them presume, after my decease, to walk in any other way of sin or wickedness, in one kind or in another, or in a careless neglect of God or of the things of God and of their own salvation by Christ....[4]

Roger Clap began his memoirs in this fashion: "I thought good, my dear children, to leave with you some account of God's remarkable providences to me.... The Scripture requires us to tell God's wondrous works to our children that they may tell them to their children, that God may have glory throughout all ages."[5] And it was far better for a father to speak the words too early "in Holmes" case, seven years before his death"than to wait until it was too late. John Barnard's father delayed too long, and his son noted in his diary: "He spake but a few words which is a very great aggravation of my sorrow; had it pleased God to have given him the use of his tongue, he might have spoken something that might have had a great and lasting impression upon my heart...."[6]

Obadiah Holmes thus followed a respected and pervasive tradition as he faithfully discharged this serious paternal duty. In writing to his children, some of whom were "in Christ" and some of whom (judging from external appearances) were not, Holmes reminds them of the biblical models for whom they are named. Biblical names were bestowed not just because they were familiar or conveniently "at hand," but because they held forth a standard anda goal by which one's growth in "wisdom and in stature" might be measured. The family enjoyed a closeness which Holmes hoped would not be shattered by his death; he enjoined that their love, one to another," continue and increase...visit one another...take counsel one of another...advise...reprove...and take it well."

As was the case in the Puritan tradition generally, Holmes does not counsel a withdrawal from the world or a monastic sort of asceticism. What God has given, enjoy—and "be you content with your present condition." Meat is good, gluttony is not; drink is good, drunkenness is not; living in and with the world is good, yet attachment to and reliance upon the world is a costly and eternally damning sin. But the pervading mood of Holmes' letter to his children is that it is now up to them—and to God. "Although my care and counsel has been extended to you," now it is beyond my ken and control. Let your life be "squared" with the Scriptures; and be prepared, as courageous sons and daughters, to part with all else "for truth's sake."

*John E. Pomfret, The Province of East New Jersey, 1609-1702 (Princeton, 1962), pp. 42-44; Pomfret, The Province of West New Jersey, 1609-1702 (Princeton, 1956), p. 274; Norman H. Maring, Baptists in New Jersey (Valley Forge, Pa.,1964), pp.14f.,23,38, 41,74.

The following listing is drawn largely "though not exclusively " from J. O. Austin, Geneological Dictionary, pp. 103-104.
(John?, "infant of Obadiah Hulmes of Redish" buried at Stockport June 27, 1633)
1. Mary (?-1690+); married John Browne; 7 children
2. Martha (1640-1682+); married ____ Odlin
3. Samuel (1642-1679); married Alice Stillwell; 6 children
4. Obadiah (1644-1723); married ____Cole; 5 children
5. Lydia (?-1682 +); married John Bowne; 5 children
6. Jonathan (?-1713); married Sarah Borden; 9 children
7. John (1649-1712);married, Frances Holden; M. Greene; 9 children
8. Hopestill (?-between 1675 and 1681), married Taylor
9. Joseph (?- 1682 + ); mentioned in will; no other record

**The discovery of the direct line from Holmes to Abraham Lincoln was made by Wilbur Nelson, who published a small booklet on the subject: Obadiah Holmes,Ancestor and Prototype of Abraham Lincoln (Newport, 1932). The chart below is found on page 156.

Lincoln Chart

***James B. Hedges, The Browns of Providence Plantations: Colonial Years (Cambridge, Mass.,1952). A portion of the chart found on p.21 is given below:

Browne Chart

By the end of the nineteenth century, at least one dozen "Obadiah Brown's" occur in this lineage; see [A. I. Bulkley], Chad Browne Memorial . . . I638-1888 (Brooklyn, 1888).

From "The Lincoln Kinsman", Nbr 23 published by Lincolniana Publishers, F.t Wayne, IN:

The article starts with information on Richard Saltar and continues to the Bowne family and then to John Bowne's wife's family, the Holmeses.

Not only were the Bownes important in colonial political history but Captain bowne married into a family equally influential in the field of religion. Captain Bowne's wife was Lydia Holmes, youngest daughter of the Reverend Obadiah and Katherine Hyde Holmes.

Reverend Obadiah Holmes, the pioneer, landed at Salem Massachusetts, about four years after Captian Bowne, so...can be traced back to Salem, where Samuel Lincoln landed in 1637.

Obadiah was born at Preston, Lancaster, England in 1606, the son of Robert Holmes (spelled Hulme). Upon arriving in America in 1639 he worked at glass making in Salem for seven years....

Obadiah Holmes united with the baptists shortly after 1646 and, because of the persecutions he was obliged to undergo, moved to Newport in 1650. The following summer he was arrested for preaching doctrines contrary to the belief of the established church. He was taken to Boston and imprisoned for several weeks. Finally he was taken to the whipping-post on Boston Common and given thirty strokes with a three-corded whip which left him for weeks in a frightful physical condition. As soon as he was able he returned to the pastorate at the First Baptist Church at Newport. He preached here about thirty years, serving until the time of his death of October 15, 1682. He was buried at Middletown, five miles from Newport.

Several of the eight children migrated to New Jersey, among them his son Obadiah and his youngest daughter,Lydia Holmes Bowne, the wife of Captain John Bowne....

The holems were among the first land purchasers in New Jersey, Obadiah and Jonathon Holmes acquiring land as early as 1668. In 1675 a list, containing the names of those with Rights of Land due according to the concessions, contained the name of "Obadiah Holmes for self and wife 240 acres."

The Holmes family took a vital interest in political activities of New Jersey, and when a provincial Congress was called to take action on "tyrannical acts" of Great Britain in 1774, two of the delegates from Monmouth County were members of the Holmes family."

This articles gives the following information on Obadiah and Katherine Hyde Holmes and their eight children:

Obadiah b: about 1607 in Reddish, Cheshire, England, baptized: March 18, 1609/1610  Didsbury, Lancashire Co, England-1682 m. November 20, 1630 at Manchester's Collegiate College, Lancashire Co, England to C/Katherine Hyde: b: October 26, 1608 Lancashire, England d: 15 OCT 1682 Middletown, Newport County, Rhode Island. Obadiah d: October 15, 1682  Newport, Newport Co, Rhode Island.

Burial:   Holmes Lot (also known as Rhode Island Historical Cemetery), Middletown, Newport Co, Rhode Island
Details: "In Memory of Catherine, wife of the Revd. Obadiah Holmes"

Mary (1639-1690) m. John Brown
Martha (1640-1682)
Samuel (1642-1679) m. Alice Stilwell
Obadiah (1644-1723) m. Hannah Cole
John (1649-1712) m. 1) Frances Holden (2) Mary (Sayles) Green
Jonathon ( -1713) m. Sarah Borden
Hopestill (no dates) m. _______ Taylor
Lydia (1669-1714) m. Captain John Bowne


1Pomfret, East New Jersey, pp.44, 56, 96

2 Early Records of the Town of Providence, 21 vols. (Providence: 1892-1915), I, 17.

3 Newport Historical Society, Vault A, Box 50, Folder 9. Jonathan Holmes received one of the largest land grants in Monmouth County-761 acres. He also served as captain of the Middletown (N.J.) militia in 1673. See Edwin P. Tanner, The Province of New Jersey, 1664-1738 (New York, reprint 1967); and Documents Relative to the Colonial History of New York (Albany, 1858), II, 608.

4 Quoted in Gordon E. Geddes, "Welcome Joy! Death in Puritan New England,1630- 1730" (Ph. D. diss., University of California Riverside,1976), p.136.

5 Ibid., pp. 135-136.

6 Ibid., p. 135.

Other Resources

Wikipedia entry for Obadiah Holmes with lots of links


Obadiah History Site/

Pictures of Obadiah's gravesite

Blog discussing Obadiah Holmes

Another Holmes line

Other Holmes information on my site

A DVD has been made recently about Obadiah Holmes.

Other sites of interest:

Olin Family Society

Olin Family Society Facebook Site

MacGillivray Clan Facebook Site

Spencer Historical and Genealogy Society (SHGS)

SGHS Facebook Site

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