Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Howard-Holland

A simple grave with a lot of history. This past weekend saw the biannual Howard-Holland Family Reunion held this year in Hamilton, Ontario. It wasn't until 1991 that the Holland family knew the rest of the story of their slave history and the connection between the Holland and Howard families was established and the reunions were expanded to include the Canadian connection with gatherings alternating between the US and Canada.

Thomas John Holland was one of five children of August and Leatha Howard. Leatha was a free woman who willingly moved into the slave colony so that she and August could be together. Thomas was watched carefully since he was a tall, strapping lad and a 'valuable' slave. But he feigned illness and even starved himself to lose some of his strength. After years of pretending to be unhealthy the overseers paid a little less attention to him and by 1860 he escaped via the Underground Railroad and swimming the Niagara River to freedom. The brothers changed their name to Holland to avoid bounty hunters. It wasn't until 1873 that he met Henrietta Shortt and together they had 13 children one of whom would be John C Holland, a great source of social awareness in the city who would be named Hamilton's Citizen of the Year in 1953 just months before his untimely death. Thomas and Henrietta owned a feed store and to help earn some money, it is said that Thomas joined a choir and Henrietta was known to raise geese, making mattresses and pillows from their down before selling the birds.

And now, over 200 descendants have come to see where they made their home.


for a Taphophile Tragics at the Hamilton Cemetery

5 comments:

Nicola Carpenter said...

What an interesting post. I am glad that Thommas John was able to escape to his freedom.

Herding Cats & Beneath Thy Feet

Julie said...

The journey of the sons is remarkable, but also the commitment of their mother, Leatha. To move into a slave colony to be with the man you love, is a very deep love indeed. And to have lost 2 of her 13 in this way. No closure, I suspect. I wonder how many of the other 11 perished through childhood illnesses etc.

It is so very heartwarming to know that their descendents, those of the sons, and those of the parents, are now reunited. What a heart-warming story in the end.

CaT said...

imagine that. people were and are so cruel! keeping someone else as a slave....
and yes, amazing she willingly went into slavery for her man!

Lowell said...

What a great story. I think it impossible for white folks in the 21st century to comprehend the horror of slavery, how it demeaned, indeed denied people their basic humanity..

Re your comment about odours and OTOW: We live in Stone Creek, just north of OTOW and the cattle are mostly around our borders. I haven't noticed any manure smell, but we can sometimes hear the cows lowing at night...

hamilton said...

...or how much these people must have endured to escape. it is not like they could get a fake passport and book a flight.