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Delaware County, Iowa

 Biography Directory


Capt. H. W. Holman


Delaware Township




      CAPT. H. W. HOLMAN, county attorney for Buchanan county, was born in Erie county, Pa., August 22, 1841, a son of Joseph S. and Polly (Brainard) Holman. Joseph S. Holman was a native of Massachusetts, and died in 1882, at the advanced age of eighty-five years. His later years were spent with our subject, and at his death his remains were carried back to his old home and interred in the cemetery at Conneautville, Pa. Mrs. Polly Holman was a native of New York and died in Erie county, Pa., in 1845, and was buried in Waterford cemetery. To Joseph S. Holman and wife were born twelve children, the following of whom are now living:  David, of Rockville, Iowa; Frank, of Minneapolis, Minn.; Harrison, our subject, and Nancy, living near Waterford, Pa.


     At the early age of nineteen years, H. W. Holman entered upon the career of a soldier in the Civil war. April 17, 1861, he was mustered into the three months’ service at Conneautville, Pa., in the Erie regiment. At the end of three months the regiment was reorganized and went out as the Eighty-third Pennsylvania volunteer infantry, with which he served until January, 1862. He was then transferred to the signal corps of the United States army, in which he served as first sergeant, and as signal officer was honorably discharged, August 21, 1865, with character given as “Excellent, faithful, intelligent and reliable,” signed by Paul Brodie, first lieutenant, signal corps U. S. A., commanding. In the general order, No. 3, of headquarters, Army of the Potomac, signal department, bearing date March 22, 1865, Capt. Holman is mentioned in the following commendatory terms:


The zeal and vigilance of Sergeant H. W. Holman and his party on station at the WaIthall House is commended. Sergeant Holman, in his operations between the twelfth and fifteenth of February last, obtained information of great value, not only to the signal corps of the army, but to the entire army of the United States. It is not deemed prudent, how ever, to publish the nature of this information. This order will be read to alt the departments of the signal corps of the army. By order of the chief signal officer.

                                                                        (Signed) FRED S. BENSON,

                                                                                        Lieut. Signal Corps, U. S. A.,



     The capture of the rebel code of signals was the information secured by Sergeant Holman, and military and naval men know the great value of such knowledge in time of war.


     The first time Capt. Holman was under fire was at Yorktown, Va., April, 1862. He was also in the following battles, besides numerous skirmishes: Williamsburg, Fair Oaks, Gaines’ mills, Orchard station, Savage station, Frazier farm, Malvern hill, Grovetown, South mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburgh, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Bristoe station, Mine run, Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Reams’ station, Appomattox, and at Lee’s surrender. He never missed a day of service from sickness or disability. At Savage station he was wounded in the face, and now bears the “honorable scar.”


      After the war, Capt. Holman went to the oil regions of Pennsylvania. In 1865 he came to Iowa, settling in Allamakee county, and was there engaged in black­smithing for five years, during which time he studied law. While blowing his bellows he had his law book laid so that he could study it, and also studied at night. In this way, and under these difficulties, he laid the foundation for, and, in fact, acquired, his legal education in this way. His advisor and preceptor was Capt. George R. Miller. He still owns one of the law books he studied by his forge; with the coal dust still perceptible on its pages. He was admitted to the bar in December, 1868, and began the practice of his pro­fession in the same year, succeeding his preceptor, Capt. George R. Miller, who went to Mason City to practice. In 1871 Capt. Holman went to Waterloo, forming a partnership with Lewis Lichty. He had learned stenography in the meantime, and in 1872 was appointed, by Judge J. M. Brayton, shorthand reporter for this judicial district, which position he held until 1877.  In 1874 he had moved from Waterloo to Dubuque, where he lived until May, 1877, when he came to Independence.  In 1886 Capt. Holman was elected county attorney for Buchanan county, was reelected in 1888, and is now holding that office.


     During the time he has been holding the office of county attorney the great question of prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors came before the county.


     In no county in the state was the liquor interests more determined and stubborn. Fifteen saloons and two breweries were in full operation in defiance of law, and a liquor league was backing their operation with money and the best legal talent that money would bring. Captain Holman commenced a vigorous prosecution, both by indictment and injunction, and succeeded in closing every place in the county and entirely suppressing the sale of intoxicating liquors.


    October 27, 1868, he was united in marriage with Miss Hattie Smith, daughter of John Smith, a native of Vermont, who afterwards lived and died in Ohio. Mrs. Holman’s mother, Eliza (Moore) Smith, subsequently married Isaac Grimwood. To Mr. and Mrs. Holman are born four children, viz.:  Grace, wife of Hugh McGibboney, of the noted McGibboney family (musicians); Leta, May Bell and Harold.


     Captain Holman is identified with the Masons; Legion of Honor; E. C. Little Post, No. 54, of Independence, G. A. R., and the I. O. O. F. In politics he is a republican. The first vote he ever cast was for Abraham Lincoln, during the war, when he sealed his vote and sent it to his home in Pennsylvania, the soldiers being permitted to cast their votes in that way by a special act of the legislature of Pennsylvania. He has regularly voted the republican ticket, and for the last twenty years has been active in the canvass, and his voice has been heard in different parts of the state explaining the grand principles of the republican party.


~ source: Biographical souvenir of the counties of Delaware and Buchanan, Iowa; Chicago : F. A. Battey, 1890. Page 699; LDS microfilm #985424

~ contributed by Thom Carlson