Holton Family

Holton Family History Part 1 – The Freedom Seekers

For this month’s family history, we will be highlighting the Holton Family, beginning with John Holton. John, who is sometimes referred to as Randolph, married Susan Scott who, according to the Museum’s records, was born on April 15, 1832 to a man with the last name Scott and a woman with the first name Lydia. Our records also indicate that Susan had a sister named Martha, who died in 1869, and a half sister named Sarah “who was the mother of Mrs. Saunders.” The Museum’s records include a note stating that “Mrs. Susan Scott Holton with her living children were emancipated by their owner, Mary Kirk, at Cincinnati, Ohio, by a document witnessed by John Joliffe and Levi Coffin.” Coffin (see image) is often referred to as the “President of the Underground Railroad.” The records also say that Mary Kirk provided the Holton family with funds sufficient to purchase a plot of ground with shelter.

Found in the Museum’s collection is a “Synopsis of the Emancipation of Susan Holton and Children” which says “Mary Kirk, widow of Richard Kirk, of Kentucky on the thirteenth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred fifty eight had personally appeared before the Honorable George H. Hilton sole Judge of the Hamilton County Probate Court in Cincinnati in the State of Ohio and brought with her into open court Susan Holton and John M. Scott Holton, (son), and Laura Dorcas Holton (daughter), (the father was Randolph Holton, a slave on the plantation neighboring the Kirk’s; he later escaped and joined his family in Amherstburg.) The said Mary Kirk stated in open court that she brought said persons from the State of Kentucky into the State of Ohio for the purpose of emancipating them and the Court now find and adjudge that the said Susan Holton and John M. Scott Holton and Laura Dorcas Holton are free persons and the said Mary Kirk also produced to the Court her deed of Emancipation to the said above named persons which deed the Court having examined carefully the same find and adjudge is well executed and ordered the same to be recorded. The affidavit of Mary Kirk states she swears that she brought Susan Holton and her children into the State of Ohio from Kentucky.”

According to a death notice for Susan, printed on April 9, 1920 in the Amherstburg Echo, Susan passed away on Saturday March 27th, 1920 at the age of 87. Unfortunately, we were not able to find an obituary for Susan, but her death record lists her as being born in Lexington, Kentucky, widowed, and a housekeeper. The informant was her daughter Laura Holton Adams.

Susan and John Holton had at least five children: John Mercedo Scott Holton (b. December 4, 1855), William Fenton Holton (b. November 20, 1856), Laura Dorcas Holton (b. July 26, 1857), Luke B. Holton (born November 26, 1860 and died July 17, 1861), and James Holton (born July 16, 1862). The 1871 Census shows John and Susan Holton living in Anderdon with four of their children: John, Laura, James and William. Both John and John Jr. are listed as farmers and everyone but James and William (who were born in Ontario) are listed as being born in the United States. The 1881 Census does not list John who likely passed away at this point but lists Susan and her children including John and his wife Mary, Laura, William, and James. The 1891 Census shares an extra detail that John Jr. was working as a “Cook on Vessel.” John’s brother James is listed under a separate household in 1891 and he is shown as living with his wife Annie and their son Forrest.

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for part 2.

Holton Family History Part 2 – The Disappearance

In 1901, the Census lists John Jr. as still living with his mother Susan and his daughter May who is from his first marriage. At this point, John’s wife Mary is not listed, meaning that she likely passed away before the Census was taken. The 1901 Census also lists John as a farm labourer. The Museum’s family history binder for the Holton family states that John worked for 20 years for “The Borrowmans.” John married twice. His first marriage was to Mary Bissell and the couple had a daughter named May. As mentioned, the 1901 Census lists John living with his daughter May, but it also records May’s birthday as November 28, 1887. Further research led us to a marriage record for May Irene Holton, daughter of John Holton and Mary Bissell, to a man named Guy Fortson, the son of Thomas Fortson and Micea Hayden. The couple married on May 31, 1911 in Windsor. This record lists Guy’s father as a teacher, while May’s father was a farmer. It is likely that May married a second time because her father John’s obituary lists May as Mrs. Ward, of Cleveland.

As mentioned, John married more than once. His second marriage was to Mary (Jones) Banks who was previously married to Thomas William Banks, the son of Irvine S. and Hester Anne Banks. Mary’s parents are also listed as Samuel D. and Charlotte Jones. Mary married her first husband on January 8, 1883 in Amherstburg and they had several children. Before we move forward to discuss the union of John Holton and Mary Jones Banks, we will share some details about Mary’s children from her first marriage. Mary and Thomas had several children including Carl, Lulu, Anna, Charles, Thomas, Arthur, Clarence, and William. Carl married Phebia Chairs, the daughter of Thomas Chairs and Malinda Harris on February 7, 1927 in Windsor, while Lulu married Robert Gaskins and Anna married Lionel Conway, son of George Conway and Pearl Brooks, on June 21, 1924 in Detroit. Charles Banks was born on October 28, 1883 in Colchester, while Thomas Ulysus Banks was born on July 29, 1885 in Colchester. Next is Arthur Banks who was born circa 1887 and passed away on April 5, 1908 in Philadelphia. At the time he was 21 years old, a labourer, and single. Arthur’s brother Clarence Jones Banks was born on December 9, 1890 in Colchester, while William Banks was born on September 2, 1892 in Virginia and passed away on January 29, 1924 in Amherstburg. At the time he was single, and the informant was William’s brother Carl.

Mary Jones Banks married John Holton on February 5, 1919 in Amherstburg. At the time, John was 62 and Mary was 58. Their marriage record also reveals the last name of Mary’s mother: Abner.

On December 8, 1922, the Amherstburg Echo reported an interesting story that said “A good deal of excitement was caused in town Monday afternoon by the disappearance of John Holton, Perry (Ferry?) street, Mr. Holton has not been well for a couple of weeks and was gone some little time before his wife noticed it. Search parties were at once organized and when word came that he was last seen in the vicinity of the quarry, the whole countryside to the Canard and even as far as Essex was combed, but without success. It is feared that in his state of health, the rain and cold weather would chill him, and that creeping into the shelter he perished. Word has been sent throughout the district, and the searching will be kept up until he is located. Wednesday forenoon he surprised his family by coming in from Windsor on the street car, but can give no connected account of his wanderings.”

It was just a few years later in 1925, on February 20th, that the Essex Free Press reported John’s passing. His obituary shares “John Holton, died Monday of last week at London. His remains were brought to Amherstburg for interment. Mr. Holton was a native of Kentucky but moved to Amherstburg when a child. He was twice married first to Mary Bissell who bore him one daughter, now Mrs. Ward, of Cleveland. His second wife, who survives him, was the widow of the late Thomas Banks. He is also survived by his sister, Mrs. W.H. Adams, of Amherstburg, and a brother, James, of Cleveland. Mr. Holton spent his whole life in and around Amherstburg.”

Several years later, on August 6, 1937, the Amherstburg Echo shared news of the passing of John’s wife, Mary. Her death announcement says that she passed on July 31, 1937 at the age of 77, but her obituary shares more details of her life. The article, titled “Dies In Detroit,” says “A resident of Amherstburg for the past 30 years, Mrs. Mary L. Holton died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Gaskins, Detroit, Saturday evening following a short illness. Mrs. Holton was born in Anderdon Township 77 years ago, and was the daughter of the late Samuel Jones. She was twice married, her first husband being Mr. Thomas Banks of Colchester South, and her second husband being Mr. John Holton of Amherstburg who predeceased her seven years ago. Surviving are two daughters, (Lula) Mrs. Robert Gaskins of Detroit; Anna, Mrs. Lionel Conway, of Amherstburg, one son Carl, also of Amherstburg. Funeral services were conducted Wednesday afternoon at 1 o’clock, from the first Baptist Church and interment was made in Rose Hill Cemetery. Mrs. Holton was a member of the first Baptist church and the ladies’ Guild for many years.”

The next child of John Holton and Susan Scott is William Fenton Holton. His date of birth is November 20, 1856. The only other detail that could be found is from the 1891 Census that lists William as a “Cook on Vessel.”

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for part 3.


Lorene BridgenHolton Family