Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hous Holt's Pardon

(Transciption at bottom of this post)

Northly Houston Holt, commonly known as Hous Holt, was married to Sarah Ann West, daughter of John & Barbara (Harmon) West. John West was the brother to our director ancestor, Susan Evaline West Leffel.

Hous Holt got into a fight with his wife's uncle, John Haning (husband of Rebecca West Haning). John lost his eyesight and was blind the rest of his life. Some say it was a gun fight in a saloon. The minutes of the Old Settler's Association of Grayson County, Vol. 1, gives the following report of the fight: "This is the man (John Haning) who lost his eyesight in 1870 through the merciless attack of a desperado named Hous Holt, well known to our community and now wearing stripes for murder."  An 1879 newspaper article from Denison Daily News (Denison, Texas) states the following: "This famous desperado, is the same who punched out the eyes, with a pistol, of a man now in Sherman being led about by a little boy."
Denison Daily News, 9 April 1879
In 1878, Houston Holt was charged with murder in two cases. First was the 1878 murder of a man by the name of Powers for a remark about his horse (Sherman Daily Register). Hous was also charged with a second murder that had occurred years earlier. This was the murder of a man named Beard who has accused Houston Holt's father of being a member of an insurrection party. He was mostly referring to the "Peace Party" or Unionist party that had so many members hanged in the Great Hanging at Gainesville in neighboring Cooke County.

Houston was not charged with killing Beard until after the charges of killing Powers was filed against him. He was found guilty of both murders and sentenced to life-time or a total of 104 years in prison (99 years plus 5).

In the 1880 census, N.H. Holt listed in the Huntsville, Walker County, Texas as an inmate in prison. His wife Sara is listed in the 1880 Denton County, Texas with her two children by Holt, James & Ninnie, and her son by Calvin Dale, John F. Dale.

In the 1890 Veteran Schedule, which was suppose to list only Union Veterans, N. H. Holt is listed in the Rusk Penitentiary, Texas. No records have been found to support his service in the Union or Confederate armies. His obituary, states that he was a confederate veteran.

In 1894, Houston Holt was pardoned by Governor Hogg after serving 15 years for the murder of Beard and Powers. (Sherman Daily Register, Friday, 8 June 1894)

Sarah divorced Hous prior to 1887 when she married again in 1887 to George Mead. She would live the rest of her life in Vermilion, Illinois where in 1919 she died and was buried. Their daughter, Nina, died in 1886 shortly after the birth of her only daughter. Son, James, died in 1908, when he was hit by a train.

Northley H. Holt can be found in the 1910 census for Denton County, Texas. He is living alone and states he is a widower. He also stated he was a veteran of the Civil War.

Houston lived out his life in Denton County, Texas. He married again to a Mrs. Polly Solomon, who was left his widow. Hous died 20 Apr 1915 at his home near Club Lake community in Denton County, Texas and was buried in the Cooper Creek Cemetery.
Obituary: Denton Record Chronicle; N. Houston Holt; Death 20 Apr 1915; obit 21 Apr 1915

Transcription of the newspaper article at begining of this post:
Hous Holt's Pardon (News Article) Date: 1894-06-08; Paper: Dallas Morning News Historical Archive
Sentenced to One Hundred and Four Years in the Texas Penitentiary.
After serving Fifteen Years He is Liberated by Executive Clemency – Holt’s Experience within the Wall – The Crime
Seated at the corner of a grocery store here was a man surrounded by a good sized crowd of auditors. He was Houston Holt, who was the past week pardoned by Gov. Hogg after serving fourteen years in the state penitentiary on a 104 years sentence. He was convicted of murder in two cases, first for killing an old man named Beard during the war. The killing was said to be the results of an accusation that Holt’s father was a member of some insurrection party. The last killing was about the year 1878 and was brought on by some remarks made by Powers about a horse Holt was riding and trying to trade.
The versions of the killing are told differently and the opinions about them are diverse. One fact, however, is that Holt was not tried for the killing of the old man Beard until after the charge of murdering Powers was filed against him. The first trial was for the murder of Beard and was before the late Judge Joseph A. Carroll. A conviction was had, as heretofore stated, which resulted in a life-time sentence or ninety-nine years. The other case was tried in Cooke county on a change of venue and resulted in a conviction and a five years sentence.
The “Hous” Holt, as he was familiarly known, was a hale and hearty man, had a long beard, large brilliant blue eyes and he possessed activity uncommon for a man of age. Now he is minus the beard, with a face which looks careworn and wrinkled. The cases are notable and at the time they were disposed to attract wide attention. The best legal talent was employed on both sides, the state was represented by Judge J. Millert (?), who is now on the court of criminal appeals. Senator ___ C. Smith, Messrs. Lovejoy and Dickson and District Judge D. E. Barrett. The defense had such counsel as the late Gov. Throckmorton, Judge Hare of Sherman and Judge Piner of Denton.
“The penitentiary is a peculiar place,” he told those who stood around him. “I was there long enough to find out what it is, and I want to say that people have a deluded idea regarding the place. Prisoners there are treated humanely, and not abused, as I have heard. During my fifteen years’ confinement there I was only in the hospital five days. When I first went there I was closely watched. I knew I was and I determined to impress upon the officers that I was not such a bad man as I was reported to be, although then I bore a terrible name. Privately one day Capt. West came to me and said: ‘Holt, we have been receiving some letters from Denton county giving you a hard name, but I have watched your course since have been here and I do not think you are as bad a man as you are reported to be.’
“I thanked the captain very kindly and told him that he could rely upon my doing a man’s part. And I did it. No matter what kind of labor I was ordered to do, I did it if I was able, and as a result I fared better and am her today to begin life anew. I know a man that you Denton county people are acquainted with, sent from Wise county, who is now studying medicine in the penitentiary, and is making wonderfully rapid progress. He is a bright fellow, and being trained by such skill as the penitentiary affords, cannot but make a success.
“I never was whipped,” he continued. “The nearest I ever came to receiving the licks was on an occasion when I was called to Superintendent Goree’s office and told that I was guilty of insubordination and mutiny. I was charged along with a number of others. When my turn came I demanded to know of the superintendent who had made the charge against me. He replied a convict, hereupon I replied that no convict would dare come before him in my presence and make the charge, and I requested that I be given a chance to defend myself. The case against me was dismissed.
“But those days are past and gone. Let them be what they are, but from now on Houston Holt will found a different man. I have tasted of the bitter, and now it is time to enjoy the sweet.”
Such is the history of a man whose name was a household word throughout north Texas fifteen years ago.
Judge F. E. Piner, who defended Holt in both cases and who has worked unceasingly for his pardon was asked how it came about that Gov. Hogg pardoned Holt. He said: “The main reason, I suppose, why Gov. Hogg pardoned Holt was that Holt ought never to have been indicted or convicted for the killing of Beard. I have no disposition to exercise or find fault with those extra patriotic citizens of Texas, who during the dark days of the war took the law into their own hands and executed men for political opinion. Communities in those dark and bloody days were easily wrought up into a state of unreasoning excitement, and upon very slight evidence or no evidence at all took the lives of those who differed from them on the questions of the hour. Holt killed Beard because that man caused an angry and excited mob to arrest his (Holt’s) old father and because he was arraigned on false testimony before the then influential vigilance committee as the leader or a member of a secret society of union men whose object was to rise in rebellion against the confederacy and after committing all the outrage possible to go north and fight against the confederacy. Under the circumstances then prevailing such a charge sworn to and filed in the hands of the vigilance committee almost amounted to a death sentence, and but for the cooler heads among the mob and the good sense and wise supervision of a conservative and honest vigilance committee would have caused the death of old man Holt.
“A young man appeared at about the same time, Mr. Cox, tried to escape from the guards and was shot and mortally wounded. This man had been guilty of no offense, nor had Holt. Both were prisoners suffering from Beard’s lies. It is true that after the excitement had been aroused to the fever heat he retracted his charges and admitted that his entire testimony was false. But this was not announced until the chairman of the vigilance committee read out the testimony to the crowd and also the retraction. It was learned for the first time that Hous Holt learned upon whose testimony his father had been so wrongfully imprisoned and threatened with death. Smarting with the wrong done his father and feeling that the man had cruelly and causelessly wronged the old man, Holt went to the house where Beard was and killed him. His crime, committed under the sudden heat of passion, was nothing more than man-slaughter.” Were all other men indicted and convicted for all the technical and real violations of law committed during the war, then it would be proper to punish Houston Holt, perhaps, but I know of no reason for singling him out as the only one to punish for a war time act. As for the Powers case, I have only to say that Holt was tried by as good a jury as ever assembled in Cooke county, found guilty of murder in the second degree and served his sentence without motion for a new trial or appeal. And besides, he has served nine years for killing Beard. No one can complain that Holt was not well prosecuted in the Powers case, when the state was represented by Judge J. M. Hurt, Senator Emory Smith, Judge D. E. Barrett and Lovejoy and Dixon

Hous, born about 1837 in Tennessee, was the son of James & Ann Holt. He is listed as 12 year old Northley H. Holt in the James Holt household in 1850 census of Tishomingo County, Tennessee. He is also listed as Northly Holt, age 22, in the 1860 census of Sugar Loaf, Arkansas.

Hous left Arkansas and moved to Texas in July of 1860. On the 25 July 1860, N. H. Holt buys land located on the waters of the Choctaw Bayou in Grayson County, Texas from Susan West Leffel. Susan's niece, Sarah, later marries Hous.

On 18 Mar 1863, N. Houston Holt marries Sarah A. Dale in Grayson County, Texas. Sarah Ann West Dale is the divorced wife of Calvin Dale.

Hous and Sarah Holt can be found listed in the 1870 census for Sherman, Grayson County, Texas. He is listed as N. H. Holt age 30 born Tennessee, a farmer, $2000 real property, $100 personal property, wife, Sarah A., 30, f, m, keeping house, Illinois. They have two children, James F.S. age 7 and Nina B. age 5. Sarah's widowed mother, Barbara West, is also living with them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you know the full names of the men that Holt killed? Has anyone found the court records?