Richard and Amelia Holding, A Vintage Vignette

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Richard and Amelia Holding
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
June 12, 2008

When the international airport was being constructed between County Line Road and Wall-Triana Highway, several pioneer family cemeteries had to be moved or were destroyed. One that was moved contained the remains of Richard and Amelia Holding and one of their sons. The Holding graves were moved along with their markers from the air cargo and intermodal area to the old section of the Madison City Cemetery in 1984. Today the two Holding obelisks are the tallest monuments in the cemetery, easily visible toward the south from Mill Road near Hughes Road.

Richard Holding was among the wealthier men of the region during the plantation era. His tombstone says that he died in 1863 (during the Civil War) in the 73rd year of age. That would mean that he was born in 1791. The census records consistently stated that he was born in North Carolina. He was enumerated in Madison County in the 1830 and 1840 censuses but in the Somerville Post Office area of Morgan County in the 1850 and 1860 censuses. Richard held large amounts of land in Madison County, including portions of what is now Redstone Arsenal. He may have inherited some land in Morgan County through his first wife. Madison County records show that he married here twice. His first known marriage was to Susan Echols (1792-1825). She was a daughter of William Echols III and Mary Elizabeth Farmer (born 1775 in Virginia). Susan’s father was born in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1771. Susan is buried in the Echols-Hollowell Cemetery located between Stegers Store and Sulpher Springs, immediately south of the junction of Moores Mill Road with Stegers Road. However, after her death and the passing of Richard’s second known wife (Amelia Wright Martin), he was living in Morgan County among several Echols families.

Richard Martin married Amelia Martin in Madison County in 1828. The epitaph on Amelia’s obelisk reads as follows: “In Memory of Amelia W. Holding, Consort of Richard Holding, & Daughter of Capt. Wm. Martin, Died Feb. 18, 1846, in the 39th Year of Her Age.” That inscription is followed with: “ Died the 20th Feb. 1848, Benjamin F. Holding, Son of Richard & Amelia Holding, Born June 4, 1830, Aged 17 Years, 8 Months, & 16 Days.” Amelia and Benjamin share a separate obelisk from that of Richard, but these large monuments are very close spaced.

Benjamin was probably named in honor of one of Amelia’s brothers, as her father William Martin (1786-1867) and her mother Matilda Mitchell had several children in addition to Amelia. These included her brothers Williams Wright Martin and Benjamin F. Martin. As of this time, there is no known connection of Amelia’s Martin family to that of Madison’s first resident and storeowner, George Washington Martin. However, both Amelia’s grandfather Robert Martin and her great grandfather Benjamin Martin were born in Virginia, as were ancestors of George Washington Martin. Even the complete family of Richard and Amelia Holding remains something of a mystery, as there are no postings on Ancestry.com for their children. The census records listed the children of Richard in 1850 as Willis (age 22), Martha (19), Susan (17), John R. (15), and William W. (10) Holding. Richard’s wife of 1850 was listed as Mary, age 50 and born in Virginia. (Richard apparently liked to be married, as Mary was at least his third wife.) There was also listed last an Elizabeth Holding in Richard’s 1850 household whose age was out of the normal sequence, indicating that she was possibly a widowed daughter-in-law at age 26. Susan and William Holding were still in Richard’s household in the 1860 census, as was his daughter Martha Holding Sharpe, who evidently had married but was still living at home, perhaps widowed.

It is not known which of the children erected the large obelisks to Richard and Amelia, but they commemorated the emplacement with the inscription “This Monument is Reared by Filial Love, to Mark the Spot Where Repose the Sacred Remains of a Father” on the back of Richard’s spire. Therefore, an enormous symbol of children’s love for their father stands tall in Madison’s old cemetery, after being moved from its original site about four miles to the south.

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