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Library & Archives

Manuscript Collections



Collection 10

Holmes Family

Papers, 1698-1851

Processed by

Lois R. Densky


Edited by

Gregory J. Plunges


Monmouth County Historical Association
70 Court Street
Freehold, New Jersey

July 1980


Captain Thomas and Josiah Holmes were merchants and navigators in Middletown and Shrewsbury, New Jersey. Thomas, a Quaker, came to New Jersey from Gravesend, Long Island, about 1720. He had three children: two daughters and a son named Josiah by his first wife, Sarah (?) who died in 1736.

When Thomas first came to Middletown, he was a partner with William Hartshorne (1670-1748). They operated a shipping business between New York and Middletown, and owned the ships PORTLAND and MARY, both of which Capt. Holmes commanded. From about 1725, Thomas also operated a general store in Middletown.

On July 14, 1727, Thomas bought 150 acres along the Swimming River from Samuel Hoffmire. On May 23, 1738, he bought an additional twenty-five acres in Shrewsbury from David Lippincott.

When Josiah came of age, he became a partner with his father. It is unknown what became of the Thomas Holmes/William Hartshorne partnership. It is possible that Josiah ran the new Shrewsbury store, while Thomas continued at Middletown. Their shipping activities expanded during the 1730's to include ports in Boston, Rhode Island, and the West Indies, as well as New York. In many cases, they acted as middlemen for other merchants and tradesmen bringing many items to Monmouth County that could not be obtained locally.

Josiah was brought up a Quaker, but converted to Episcopalianism. In 1738, he helped establish Christ Church in Shrewsbury where he served periodically as vestryman and church warden. On November 16, 1738, Josiah married Hannah Dennis (b. 1721). They had eleven children: Jacob, Thomas, William, Samuel, Josiah, Esther, Anthony, Hannah, John Garrison, Clemence, and Benjamin.

On May 10, 1738, Thomas married a second time to Susannah Slocum, a widow from Long Branch, NJ. Thomas died ca. 1750 and was buried in Christ Church graveyard on March 28, 1750. Susannah Slocum Holmes returned to Long Branch to live with her children by John Slocum until her death about 1773.

After Thomas' death, Josiah continued the family mercantile and shipping business in Middletown and Shrewsbury. He evidently employed Jonathan Fowler as a manager for one of the stores.

In addition to his business activities, Josiah was an active member of Christ Church and in civic affairs. Between 1758 and 1760, Josiah served as manager of a lottery held on Bibles Island in the Delaware River which raised funds for the construction of a new church building. Between 1761 and 1771, he was appointed a justice of the peace for Monmouth County. In 1769, Josiah resigned his post as Christ Church warden because of a dispute over the proposed design of the new building.

As an advocate of American independence, Josiah was involved in pre-Revolutionary activities. In 1774, he was an elected member at the Provincial Convention in New Brunswick and a member of the council of safety representing Monmouth County. In 1775 and 1776, he was a member and chairman of the Shrewsbury Committee of Observation at the Provincial Convention. In 1776, he was elected a Monmouth County deputy. In 1776 and 1777, he was appointed Shrewsbury town clerk. Josiah also served as executor of numerous Monmouth County family estates. He died ca. 1790.


The Holmes Family Papers contain a variety of material primarily documenting Thomas and Josiah's mercantile and shipping activities. In addition to the business records, the collection includes correspondence, miscellaneous manuscripts, subject files on Christ Church, the Revolutionary War, and Josiah's children, estate records, and the Shrewsbury Township records. The bulk of the material dates from 1720 to 1795.

The correspondence primarily contains incoming letters to Thomas or Josiah Holmes detailing business activities. Of note are the letters from Jonathan Fowler who acted as both the Holmes' agent on buying trips. The correspondence includes letters from other business associates and family members. A file of letters to and from John Lambert (1746-1823) and his family is also included in this series. Lambert was a U.S. Senator from New Jersey (1809-1815), and father-in-law of Josiah's grandson Abraham Holmes (1771-1818) who married Lambert's daughter Jerusha (d. 1833) in 1805. (Please see Appendix B for a list of correspondents.)

The mercantile records include legal and financial records, correspondence pertaining to accounts, shopping lists, and memoranda. The financial records include promissory notes, receipts, accounts payable and receivable, bills, account books, day books, and cash books. The legal records include bonds and permits. The shopping lists, as do all the business records, record the transactions for purchase of furniture and household goods, construction material, foodstuffs, liquor, and drygoods. In addition to the Holmes business records, the series contains some business records of other Monmouth County and New York merchants and tradesmen. These include Abraham Brinkerhoff, Jacob Dennis, Josiah Halstead, William Hartshorne, Hugh and William Jackson, Thomas Morford, Capt. John Mount, Lewis Morris, Capt. Jeremiah Stillwell, Cornelius Tyson, Cornelius Vanderveer, and Peter Voorhees. (Please see Appendix C for a selected list of names.)

The Miscellaneous manuscripts include Josiah Holmes' guardianship paper for Peter Slocum, land surveys, herbal medicinal remedies, a religious exercise, deeds and other legal papers, and unidentified manuscripts. The Shrewsbury Christ Church records contain printed material on the 1758 and 1759 lotteries including ticket stubs and advertisements, accounts and receipts of tickets sold, and letters detailing lottery problems. Of note is the 1769 letter to the Rev. Samuel Cooke (1723-1795) from Josiah Holmes voicing his opposition to the design of the proposed church building and tendering his resignation as church warden because of this dispute. The letter also includes a line drawing of Josiah's conception for the design.

The estate records pertain to the estates of William Jackson, Mary Wilkinson, Samuel Job, Susannah Bedlow, Casper Grim, Humphrey Wady, Henry Arnold, Mary Letson, Mary Davis, George White, and Robert Lee. These records 8include correspondence pertaining to settlement of estates, receipts, inventories of estates and accounts of goods sold at public vendue, bills of sale, William Jackson's deeds, Susannah Bedlow's account book, and miscellaneous items.

The Revolutionary War material contains minutes of meetings, petitions, correspondence, and advertisements. Of note is a manuscript concerning tax aid to Boston, and an appeal by Dr. Nathaniel Scudder of Freehold to support the American cause.

The records of Josiah Holmes' children include material on Jacob, Benjamin, and John Garrison Holmes. This material includes letters, accounts, receipts, summonses (Jacob also served as a justice of the peace), and a copy of an application for a road in Howell and Shrewsbury.

The Shrewsbury Township records include court records, tax records, lists of Shrewsbury town officials, and petitions. The court records primarily reflect Josiah Holmes' term as justice but include papers before and after his term. These records include bills of costs (court fees), notice of trials, records of debtors and small claims court cases, judgments, warrants, summonses, opinions of cases, depositions and testimony, orphan's court records, records of animals killed by dogs, and Josiah's notebook summarizing cases. The tax records detail property rates, poor taxes, and dog taxes.

Items removed form the collection include oversize material pertaining to the Christ Church lottery, and Hugh Jackson's deeds. (Please see Appendix D for disposition of this material.)

The Holmes Family Papers are particularly significant for documenting Eighteenth-Century trade in Monmouth County. The mercantile papers have been very helpful to the Association's Museum staff for researching furniture and household goods appropriate for acquisition and display in the Association's historic properties. Other subjects of interest to researchers will be the history of shipping and shipping brands, 18th Century whaling, New Jersey lotteries, the Revolutionary War, the history of Shrewsbury and Middletown, NJ, and the history of Shrewsbury Christ Church.

A related manuscript that pertains to the Holmes Family Papers is an account book (1735-1739) of Thomas Holmes housed at the New York Historical Society Library in New York City.

PROVENANCE: Acquired between 1937 and 1940, a gift of Mr. Charles Holmes Thomas, Franklin, PA, in memory of James Steen.


SIZE OF COLLECTION: 1.5 Linear Feet.


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This page last updated 24 July 2014

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