Biography of Joseph Holman

JOSEPH HOLMAN. – This pioneer of the North Pacific was born in Devonshire, England, in 1817, and came to the United States when nineteen years of age. Three years later he was at Peoria, Illinois, at which place he listened to a lecture on Oregon by Reverend Jason Lee, and was one of the party organized to cross the plains which left early in the spring of 1839, reaching the Willamette after fourteen months of travel, toil, hardships and privation. Many of the incidents of his trip are mentioned in the biographical sketch of Francis Fletcher in this book, he being one of the party of four that remained together during the entire trip to Oregon Territory. The party that left Peoria consisted of sixteen, all of whom but four became dissatisfied upon reaching the junction of the Fort Bent and Santa Fé roads, and turned off upon the later.

Holman’s party of four was determined to come on to Oregon, and adopted a motto, “Oregon or the Grave;” and Oregon it was. The three companions of Holman were Francis Fletcher, Amos Cook and R. Kilborne. They reached Brown’s Hole on Green river, where they wintered with Doctor Newell, chief trader of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and the Indians, leaving early in February for Fort Hall, where they arrived after two months of desperate traveling over a route that was ordinarily traveled in twelve days. For four days they were without food, finally killing a dog, which served them until some friendly Indians whom they met furnished them some buffalo meat, which served them until they reached Fort Hall, where they were supplied with salt salmon and a few other things; but, although they were over a year on the road, they never ate a particle of bread from the time they left Arkansas until they arrived at Fort Vancouver.

Mr. Holman was engaged at Fort Vancouver as mission carpenter until 1843, when he took up a claim near Salem, which he farmed for six years, abandoning it to go into the mercantile business at Salem. In 1872 he was appointed one of the three commissioners on the new penitentiary buildings. He was also appointed superintendent of the state capitol, both of which places of trust he filled with credit to himself and to the general satisfaction of the people at large. While serving as mission carpenter at Vancouver he was married to Miss Almira Phelps.

Mr. Homan was one of the foremost of Oregon’s early pioneers, and filled several responsible minor positions before he received the appointments above mentioned. Under all circumstances, in adversity and prosperity, the life of Joseph Holman exemplified the truism, that “the rank is but the guinea’s stamp.” He was pure gold. He died June 25, 1880.

MLA Source Citation:

History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889. Web. 31 January 2015. - Last updated on May 29th, 2011

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