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Abraham James Holderman, Sr. Perhaps a great majority of successful Kansans came to the state poor men and carved their fortunes from the opportunities here presented and by a wise and capable direction of their private affairs. There were some, however, who brought with them considerable capital and left behind in their older communities a record of successful business experience. One of these is Abraham James Holderman, banker, farmer and business man of El Dorado.
For a great many years the Holdermans have been numbered among the wealthiest and most influential farmers and stock men in Northern Illinois. In that section of the prairie state, at the Town of Morris, county seat of Grundy County, Abraham James Holderman, Sr., was born May 17, 1854. His paternal ancestors go back to Pennsylvania, where they were of the so-called Pennsylvania Dutch stock. Mr. Holderman’s paternal grandfather, Abraham Holderman, Sr., was a native of Chester County, Pennsylvania, and from there removed to Ross County, Ohio, where he became extensively interested in farming and stock raising. He operated there in the early days before railroads became common, and frequently drove his cattle across the mountains to markets in Philadelphia and Baltimore. In 1831 he removed still further west to Illinois, and acquired land at what is now known as Holderman’s Grove near Newark in Kendall County. That was his home the rest of his life. He had pioneer experiences both in Ohio and in Illinois and was distinguished by a rugged ability to overcome and compete with the difficult circumstances of his time. In Illinois he developed large interests as a stock raiser and became quite wealthy.
Abraham Holderman, Jr., father of the El Dorado banker, was born in Ross County, Ohio, January 22, 1822, and was nine years of age when he went to Illinois. In business affairs he largely followed in the footsteps of his father, but his success was even greater. At the age of twenty-three he began farming for himself and from the first he put his chief dependence in livestock. For many years he lived in Grundy County and his land holdings there aggregated 7,000 acres. He was reputed to be one of the wealthiest men in Northern Illinois and his estate was valued at $600,000. He distinguished himself hardly less by the faithful performance of his duties as a citizen. For twenty years he was supervisor of Grundy County, was a school director twenty-five years, and for twenty years was road commissioner. From the formation of the party he was active as a republican. He was a noted hunter, and devoted himself to that sport with great zeal and prowess. Over many sections of Illinois he was known and esteemed as “Abe” Holderman. On May 6, 1847, he married Mary Hoge.
The Hoge family, representing Mr. A. J. Holderman’s maternal ancestry, had an interesting record. The family was founded in America by William Hoge, who came from Scotland in the seventeenth century and located in Pennsylvania. He married Barbara Hume, who was a relative of the historian and philosopher Thomas Hume. William, a son of these immigrant ancestors, was the first one of the family to take up the Quaker religion. He removed from Pennsylvania to Virginia in 1754. His son, Solomon, who was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, May 2, 1729, died in Loudoun County, Virginia, March 7, 1811. Joshua Hoge, son of Solomon, was born in Loudoun County, Virginia, February 8, 1779, and died April 5, 1854. He married Mary Poole. Joshua Hoge acquired extensive farming interests near Washington, District of Columbia.
William Hoge, father of Mary Hoge, and maternal grandfather of A. J. Holderman, Sr., was born in Loudoun County, Virginia, July 5, 1801. He was the first permanent white settler in Grundy County, Illinois, where he located in 1829. He is to be remembered not so much because he was one of the largest land owners of Grundy County, but because of his very forceful and valuable participation in establishing civilization and institutions in that pioneer community. In 1835 he erected at his own expense the first schoolhouse in the county. Eighty years have passed away, revolutions have occurred in schoolhouses and school methods, but the old building is still standing, an interesting landmark of early times. Though a Quaker, William Hoge gave his time and influence to the energetic prosecution of the Civil war, and actively supported it throughout.
Abraham James Holderman was the oldest of the five children reared by his parents. His father died November 28, 1887. The younger children were: Albert Henry, a farmer and stock raiser at Morris, Illinois; Martha, wife of M. D. Wilson, a farmer near Morris, Illinois; Landy S., a farmer near Paxton, Illinois; and Samuel, who occupies the old homestead in Grundy County.
Abraham James Holderman thus had home and influences during his youth such as would stimulate his high ideals and would procure for him the best advantages. He attended the public schools of Grundy County and also the Morris Classical and Scientific Institute. He learned farming not by haphazard experience but under the direction and with the advice of his father, known as one of the most skillful agriculturists and stock men in Illinois. In 1876 he began farming for himself, and through farming and stock raising he rapidly gained financial independence.
It was in the spring of 1885 that Mr. Holderman came out to Butler County, Kansas. Here be bought 640 acres of the finest land in the county. This land is located along the Walnut River at Chelsea. Since then his holdings have been increased to 1,400 acres, and there is hardly a farm in the state that possesses greater fertility, both by nature and by wise conservation and is more scientifically conducted. It is operated as a general farming proposition, and Mr. Holderman in the average season feeds a herd of about 500 cattle. This farm includes one of the historic sites in Butler County. It is in Chelsea Township, and the old Town of Chelsea is included within its limits. Chelsea was at one time the county seat of Butler County. At different times Mr. Holderman bought all the old buildings of the town, excepting the old schoolhouse and the church. Both these structures still stand well preserved, with the verdant fields of the Holderman farm as their background. Mr. Holderman donated the ground upon which the church was built. Besides the home farm Mr. Holderman had another place adjoining El Dorado on the west. This is also one of the show places of the rural districts of Butler County. Mr. Holderman had constructed a large artificial lake, and it is well stocked with bass and croppie. These fish afford game sport to the owner and his friends.
Since 1886 Mr. Holderman had directed his various business affairs from his home in the City of El Dorado. In 1898 he became a stockholder in the Farmers and Merchants National Bank of El Dorado. He was one of the directors from that time and in May, 1909, was elected president to succeed R. H. Hazlett. The Farmers and Merchants National Bank was organized in 1894, and is now the oldest bank in point of continuous existence in El Dorado. Its standing and resources are proportionate to its age. It had a capital of $50,000, surplus of $50,000, and its deposits aggregate $500,000. This was not Mr. Holderman’s first participation in banking. During the late ’80s he and W. T. Clancy conducted the Bank of El Dorado, a private institution, which they subsequently liquidated.
Associated with R. H. Hazlett, Mr. Holderman also organized the Butler County Telephone Company, and was president of that organization until it was sold to the Bell Company in March, 1916. This company was one of the largest independent telephone companies in the state. It covered with its lines the entire county and had exchanges in all the towns except Potwin and Whitewater.
The larger life of the community as well as its business affairs had benefited much by Mr. Holderman’s residence of more than thirty years at El Dorado. He was elected mayor of the city in 1903 and re-elected in 1905. His two terms proved a high water mark in the municipal government. During those terms the city commenced the construction of its sewerage system, acquired the waterworks under municipal ownership and constructed the concrete dam on Walnut River, rebuilt the standpipe and made other permanent improvements at a total cost of $50,000. Mr. Holderman is a republican in politics.
On March 6, 1877, he married Miss J. Virginia Bashaw. Mrs. Holderman is a daughter of Robert Hume Bashaw of Warrington, Virginia. Mrs. Holderman is one of the most cultured women of El Dorado and had presided with wonderful dignity and grace over their fine modern home on High Street, considered the best residence in Butler County. It is a home widely noted for its hospitality. Mr. and Mrs. Holderman are the parents of five children.
Mary Virginia, the oldest, was born March 28, 1878, and is the wife of Robert H. Ramsey, elsewhere referred to in this publication.
Theodore W. Holderman, oldest son of A. J. Holderman, was born in Illinois September 29, 1888, was reared and educated in Butler County, and since coming to his majority had been more or less actively identified with farming and stock raising. He now owned and operates a 160-acre farm in Chelsea Township, and apparently possesses the family faculty of handling and growing stock with a high average of success. He was married July 1, 1907, to Miss Mattie Lee Hunt, daughter of Joseph and Sarah Belle (Wood) Hunt. They have one child, Alfred Donald.
Grace Pearl Holderman, the third child, was born January 3, 1890, and had completed a five year course in the Mount Carmel School at Wichita, Kansas. The youngest sons are Abraham J, Jr., and Curtis Malcolm. The latter was born November 25, 1900.
Abraham J. Holderman, Jr., was born at El Dorado, Kansas, December 16, 1894, was educated in the grammar schools and put in one year at the high school, was a student in the Tennessee Military Institute a year and a half, and finished his education with a year and a half in the Florida Military Academy at Jacksonville. He was graduated from the Florida institution in 1914 with the rank of captain adjutant. During the year 1916 he attended the Kansas State Agricultural College at Manhattan, and was commissioned to the rank of captain by Governor Arthur Capper of Kansas. He is a member of the Scabbard and Blade military fraternity, the most exclusive and distinctive organization of the kind in the world. He is also a member of the El Dorado Loyal Order of Moose, is a member of the Presbyterian Church and in politics is independent. In 1917 A. J. Holderman, Jr., became bookkeeper in the Farmers and Merchants National Bank at El Dorado, of which his father is president.