Monday, September 22, 2014

Panola County Historical & Genealogical Association is now housed in the Old Panola County Jail Museum and Genealogy Library

213 North Shelby • Carthage, Texas 75633
(903) 693-3388

Panola County, adapted from the Cherokee word for cotton, ponolo, is located in northeastern Texas. Carthage is the county seat. In 1846, the Texas Legislature incorporated Panola County from pieces of Shelby and Harrison counties. Two years later (1848), Panola County chose Carthage as its seat. Various tribes of the Caddo Indians inhabited the area until European advancement in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
During the fifteen years before the Civil War, the county expanded in size and diversified its economic infrastructure through the sale of cotton, sweet potatoes, and livestock. After the war and through the 1920s, Panola County began to stabilize and recover, primarily through the cotton and logging industries. Railroads created additional jobs and helped to build the county's infrastructure. Throughout the 1920s, the county's population decreased slightly, but cotton helped stabilize the uncertain market.
After the Great Depression, the population declined because of a sharp nosedive in property values and available land. The only industry that remained strong through the depression, cotton, took a permanent hit and never recovered. After World War II, Panola County's population decreased over the next several decades because of a combination of permanent decreased land values and decline of the cotton industry. However, by the 1960s and 1970s, the county government worked hard to reinvigorate the depleted soil, but the oil and gas industry became the prominent economy force in the 1970s.

Panola County Historical and
Genealogical Association
The Leila Belle LaGrone 
Family History Center

213 North Shelby
Carthage, Texas 75633
(903) 693-3388

Our History

The Panola County Historical and Genealogical Association
(PCHGA) was founded by ordinary people in the community
 who had an interest in family and local history and who 
wanted to preserve our heritage. So, they met and formed 
PCHGA to serve those ends.

The charter members were all volunteers, so they asked 
Panola County to give them a long-term lease on the old 
1891 Panola County jail which was no longer in use. The 
jail use was discontinued in 1954 and the old jail had fallen
 into a state of disrepair. 

These charter members not only raised money from others, 
but also donated their own time and money, and ultimately
 rebuilt a structure  that would house history, family books 
and artifacts in a stable, controlled environment.

The upstairs of the Old Jail is now used as a museum. 
The old cells and locks are still intact. The bottom floor of 
the jail is where the jailer's family lived and where meals 
were prepared for the prisoners by the jailer's wife. The 
bottom floor now has three book rooms with a good 
representation of states, counties and family history
; a computer room with four computers for public use;
 and an office with one computer for keeping up with 
the daily affairs of PCHGA.

The PCHGA Old Jail Library is open three days per 
week: Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday afternoon. 
There is no user fee or membership  cost. Normal hours
 are from 10:00 AM until 3:00 PM on Tuesday and
 Wednesday, and from 1:00 PM until 5:00 PM on Sunday.
 We invite the public to visit us during any of these times.
We have three to four volunteer staff members to assist 
you with researching your family tree  or maybe the history
 of your home county, town or state. You can also use our 
computers to research on the internet. We also welcome 
any and all tour groups.

Spearman "Major" Holland March 18, 1801-1872 by Barbara Bonner: Holland Quarters Slave Master, Spearman "Major" Holland.

BLACK HISTORY of Panola County, TX

Research provided and submitted
by Barbara Bonner

to the Texas Genealogy Web Project  

Spearman "Major" Holland
March 18, 1801-1872
by Barbara Bonner

January 1842 - THE FINAL JOURNAL Holland’s Plantation
The parents of Spearman Holland were Kemp Holland and Judith Sanderson. The Holland family Bible reflects that Spearman was born March 18, 1801, in Virginia and died after the Civil War in 1872. He was born in Virginia and lived in Tennessee, where he was a member of the State Legislature during the period when Sam Houston was Governor. He later moved to Mississippi and from there, in January, 1842, to Texas. He brought with him 43 slaves, an overseer, two laborers, his wife, Nancy, three sons: Spearman, Jr., Devereux, and James Kemp (a State Representative). Devereux, the middle son, was married and had one child by 1850.
In this new land after making his final journey, he established Holland’s Plantation deep in the Piney Woods of East Texas. As he made a new life for his family and a better life for his slaves, he continued with his political ambition. He was considered a fair man, what some called a civil servant. For his compassion toward the slaves, he would leave a legacy of unbelievable wealth. The community grew and became well-known as Holland Quarters (a community of African Americans).
THE SOUTHWEST PASSAGE Alabama-Georgia trail
The Journey started on the East Coast and ended on the Gulf Coast, through the Alabama Georgia trail. Although this was not the first time Master Spearman Holland had traveled this path, it would be his final trip.
Master Holland would stop along the trail to rest for days, weeks or even months. Shanties (shacks or houses) were built and left standing for the next ones who passed this way, striving to see the new land.
Slave owners would buy or trade slaves from nearby States and Territories.
Families were reunited, people died, babies were born, families were split up, and at times there were Jumpings of the Broom (marriages), having a sort of understanding that their agreement shall continue until one or both chose to form some other ties and even of wishing to continue faithful until death. They knew their master deemed their vows null and void, if he chose to separate them, and he often did this without scruples, by selling one or both.
Slaves had first names given to them in secret by family members in hopes that they would meet again.
When families were reunited, they were reunited by things they remembered from the past and hearing tales from other family members before they were split up.
All those who began the Journey did not complete the trip due to age, influenza (flu), fits (seizure), scarlet fever, spider bites and other diseases.
Those who died left behind children and loved ones to tell the tale of where they began or where they were picked up along the way on the Journey.
THE PORTAGE Hard and Treacherous Journey
Their feet were sore and tired from the hard ground, even though the land had been softened some by other travelers. They took turns walking because there were not enough wagons for everyone to ride.
The Journey was hard and days were long. At night or at the end of a long day they went to sleep instantly. They were so tired from sun-up to sun-down, working, and walking for miles before resting. They never gave up on the dream of reaching the promised land.
As they were getting closer to the new land that Master From the outside the old Masonic hall in Holland quarters looks more like a project. had promised them and where he had hoped to settle, he would send scouts ahead to check out the passage.
If he were informed, in some way, that one of his black families was not complete, he would purchase the missing family member. This kindness distinguished him through life as a fair man.
At one time, he was known to have purchased a fair complexioned young girl and gave her to a slave (woman) on the plantation to make her life complete. The woman had no husband or children.
Spearman Holland was one of the richest and most powerful men in the area. He represented Harrison County at the Convention of 1845 and in the first Legislature.
Spearman Holland was credited for naming the near-by town Carthage for his hometown of Carthage, Leake County, Mississippi.
The name was suggested to the honorable Issac Van Sandt, Harrison County member of the Texas Legislature.
Van Sandt wrote the act which named the town Carthage and it passed.
Judicial System in 1842-Authorized in 1846-Named in 1848.
Panola County was created out of Harrison and Shelby County.
Panola is an Indian word for cotton.
The Panola County Census reflect that Spearman, his wife, two sons, an overseer, two laborers and 43 slaves are listed.
Late 1850 - BIRD HOLLAND The Purchase
Bird Holland was a brother to Spearman Holland. Bird came to Texas in 1837, landing at Galveston with L. B. McGill. He was a long-time civil servant. He would purchase slaves just to give them their freedom. In late 1850, he bought Milton M., William H. and one other son of Jack and Emily Holland. He had the three brothers educated at Oberlin College in Ohio. In 1860, he was chief clerk and assistant secretary in the State Department. From March 16 to November 1861, he was Secretary of State and went into the Confederate Army. During the Battle of Mansfield in April of 1864, he was killed and his remains returned to Austin for burial.
Accomplishments (2 brothers):
Milton M. Holland was born on August 1, 1844, to Jack and Emily Holland. Jack was Toby’s first recorded son.
Milton is the third generation of African Americans born as slaves to the Holland Family Plantation.
Milton M. Holland enlisted as a private in Company C, 5th U.S. Colored Troops. The 5th Ohio was raised in Ohio and accredited to that State.
He was the first African American Texan to earn the Medal of Honor.
He was mustered into the Union forces on June 22, 1863, at Delaware, Ohio. Assigned to the 5th United States Colored Troops commanded by General Benjamin F. Butler, Holland saw considerable action in the swamps of North Carolina "capturing forage and emancipating slaves" under the recent Emancipation Proclamation.
As first sergeant of Company "C", Holland was with the James River fleet in its advance on Richmond when his company was ordered to make the attack. They struck the first blow at Petersburg by capturing the Confederate flag, the signal station, and the officers at the station. On September 29, 1864, his regiment was in front of Richmond at Deep Bottom where he, as Sergeant Major, led his unit in the most brilliant and daring fight of its career. With the officers (white) having been killed, and he himself wounded, they fought a fierce battle at Chaffin’s Farm. It was here that Holland’s daring and courage earned him the Medal of Honor.
Milton was mustered out of the service on September 20, 1865.
He died of a heart attack on May 15, 1910, on a farm near Silver Springs, Maryland. He is buried in the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
In 1849, William H. Holland was the youngest son born to the parentage of Jack and Emily Holland.
He married E. H. James; they became parents of two daughters.
He taught in various schools in Texas cities including Austin and worked in the Austin post office.
In 1876, William represented Wharton County in the House of the Fifteenth Legislature and introduced the bill for the establishment of Prairie View University.
He was instrumental in the establishment of the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Institute for Colored Youth (later the Texas Blind, Deaf, and Orphan School). He was president of the institute from 1887 to 1897 and later served another 3-year term as president.
He was founder of an organization called Friend in Need, which gave aid to needy African Americans.
William H. Holland died on May 27, 1907, in Mineral Wells, Palo Pinto County, Texas.
1851 - JAMES KEMP HOLLAND 1822/5-26-1898
U.S. Marshal
James Kemp Holland followed his father into politics by representing Panola and Rusk counties in the Third Legislature. He was a United States Marshal for Eastern Texas in 1851, but returned to politics as a Senator in the Fifth Legislature. He declined nomination to the Secession Convention, but represented Brazos, Grimes and Montgomery Counties in the Ninth Legislature. He served as a colonel on Governor Pendleton Murrah’s staff during the Civil War.
He was killed in a fall from a buggy while riding in Tehuacana, Texas, on May 26, 1898.
Only Spearman Holland and his wife are listed.
1865 - CIVIL WAR
Spearman "Major" Holland served with the Texas State Troops during the Civil War.
When slavery was abolished in 1865, Major thought enough of his ex-slaves (blacks) to leave the land to them because they were the ones who had farmed and harvested the land.
The name Spearman, and his brother’s name, Bird, were remembered and passed down for three generations in memory of the slave master.
1866 - LEFT PANOLA COUNTY A man among men
Spearman "Major" Holland and his wife, Nancy, left Panola County.
Holland’s Plantation is now called Holland Quarters, a community of African Americans.
Major is not listed. African Americans are now listed by name instead of by number.
1872 - DEATH
Spearman (Major) Holland is dead.
8-1996 - HIS DESCENDANTS Together in brotherhood

Descendants of the slave master and I have been in contact since the completion of The Legacy. I sent invitations for them to attend the dedication. They declined because they celebrated a family reunion during the same time. But at my request they did come down later in the month.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had a dream for the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. Instead the vision was fulfilled by daughters. We had lunch at Benitez Mexican Restaurant in Carthage, visited the local KGAS Radio Station and the Panola Watchman Newspaper office. From there we headed to the old plantation site (the "Quarters"). We stood inside Pine Grove Baptist Church, because this is the site where Spearman’s home once stood. Our research became one as we spoke briefly of the old school. Lost history surfaced, as we walked among the spirits of the historical Holland Quarters Cemetery, making note of how names still matched. The historical marker and the monument in which it stands reveal the life and legacy of African Americans and whites of the 18th century. On this day, the children of the 1840’s reunited in the 20th century, to compare and admire the changes with an open mind of how this day made history for the Holland Quarters Community.
We took lots of pictures and paid special attention to the Old Masonic Hall (and outhouse) of the early 1900’s. As it stood like a beacon in the sky, we spoke of how magnificent it would be to restore the site in memory of our ancestors.
We didn’t look upon each other as black and white, but as descendants whose past has surfaced because each were interested in researching family roots, and to see how far both sides had come. After an hour or so, my friends and I hugged and said good-by. They went back home, with the promise that I would visit them, and we would stay in touch. Pictures reveal the great time we had in the "Quarters".
In April of 1998, I submitted an application with narrative to the Texas Historical Marker Commission in Austin, Texas, for a marker for Holland Quarters Slave Master, Spearman "Major"  Holland. The application was approved on August 28, 1998.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Milton M. Holland, a Civil War soldier, was the first Texan to be awarded the Medal of Honor. However,he was not related to Dr. V. M. Holland.

Milton M. Holland, a Civil War soldier, was the first Texan to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Born a slave in Panola County in 1844, he and his two brothers, William H. and James, were purchased and freed by their supposed father, Bird Holland, who sent them north to be educated. Their mother was a slave owned by Spearman Holland.

After the war, Spearman gave his plantation to his ex-slaves, since they had farmed and harvested the land. Holland’s Quarter still exists in Panola County. Ironically, Bird Holland was killed at Pleasant Hill on April 9, 1864 as a major in the 22nd Texas Infantry.
Milton enlisted in the 5th United States Colored Troops. He was promoted to Sgt-Major of the regiment by August 1864. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his courage on Sept. 29, 1864, at the Battle of New Market Heights or Chaffin’s or Chapin’s Farm. The citation stated: “Took command of Company C, after all the officers had been killed or wounded, and gallantly led it.”
A ceremony honoring Milton M. Holland will be held on the south steps of the State Capitol on Saturday, September 27th, from 1 to 3 p.m. All are welcome to attend this ceremony, which will include the presentation of the colors by Buffalo Soldiers re-enactors, a short speech on Sgt. Holland, and presentation of a plaque honoring him.
If any Holland family members are able to attend the ceremony, they will be acknowledged during the event.
The above notice was published in The Panola Watchman on September 12, 2014 and is based in part on this piece published online in The Handbook of Texas by the Texas State Historical Society:
NOTE TO MY READERS : While checking the internet about Spearman Holland,  I was surprised to see a photograph from this blog  included with the article of my father Dr. Virgil M. Holland and his brother, Samuel L. Holland labelled as “decedents of Spearman Holland”.  

Samuel L. Holland with his brother Dr. V.M. Holland
There is no relationship between the Hollands of Holland Quarters and the Hollands that settled in the Fairplay Community of Panola County.  Major Holland was an earlier settler in the county.  My father and his family came from Benton, County Tennessee at a later date. 
 My family is also not related to the defender of the Alamo, named Tapley Holland.

HOLLAND, TAPLEY (1810–1836). Tapley Holland, Alamo defender, one of six children of Margaret (Buck) and Francis Holland, was born in Ohio in 1810. His father had migrated from Canada to Louisiana and moved to Texas in 1822 as one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred settlers. Tapley Holland, a resident of the Washington Municipality (present-day Grimes County), took part in the siege of Bexar. Later he served in the Alamo garrison as a member of Capt. William R. Carey's artillery company. Holland died in the battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836.
Daughters of the American Revolution, The Alamo Heroes and Their Revolutionary Ancestors (San Antonio, 1976). Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Muster Rolls of the Texas Revolution (Austin, 1986). Bill Groneman, Alamo Defenders (Austin: Eakin, 1990).
Bill Groneman


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.
Bill Groneman, "HOLLAND, TAPLEY," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed September 19, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

HOLLAND, MILTON M. (1844–1910). Milton M. Holland, one of sixteen black soldiers to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Civil War, and the first African-American recipient from Texas, was born probably in Austin, on August 1, 1844. He was the slave and perhaps son of Bird Holland, who later became Texas secretary of state. Bird Holland freed Milton and his two brothers, James and William H. Holland, and sent them to school in Ohio during the late 1850s. Holland attended the Albany Enterprise Academy, a school operated by free African Americans.
Holland, too young to enlist into the United States Army at the start of the Civil War, worked as a shoemaker for the quartermaster department of the army until he was allowed to enlist. In June 1863 in Athens, Ohio, he joined the Fifth United States Colored Troops, commanded by Gen. Benjamin F. Butler. He fought in the battle of the Crater in the Petersburg campaign in Virginia during 1864 and at Fort Fisher, North Carolina, in January 1865. He rose to the rank of regimental sergeant major. All of the white commanding officers either were killed or wounded during the engagements at Chaffin’s Farm and New Market Heights, Virginia, between September 28 and 30, 1864. Holland assumed command and led the black troops in battle. He routed the enemy and led them to victory. For leading the charge, during which he was wounded, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor on April 6, 1865, for his bravery in Virginia. Holland was promoted to captain, but the War Department refused the commission on grounds of his race.
In January 1865 Holland patrolled the lowlands of North Carolina and captured Confederate guerilla fighters and freed slaves in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation. Holland was mustered out of the army at Carolina City, North Carolina, on September 20, 1865. His father and former owner, Bird Holland, had been killed at the battle of Mansfield (see RED RIVER CAMPAIGN) in April 1864 while serving as a major in the Confederate Army.
After the war Milton Holland lived in Washington, D.C., where he worked in the Auditor Office of the United States government; he later became chief of collections for the Sixth District. He also established the Alpha Insurance Company, one of the first African-American-owned insurance companies, in Washington, D.C. Holland married Virginia W. Dickey. He died at the age of sixty-five of a heart attack on May 15, 1910, at his farm near Silver Springs, Maryland, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, United States Senate, Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863–1973 (Washington: GPO, 1973). Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston,eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982). Marion L. Martinello and Melvin M. Sance, A Personal History: The Afro-American Texans (San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1982). National Park Service: Holland, Milton M. (, accessed August 20, 2012. “Sgt. Maj. Milton M. Holland,” African-American News & Issues (, August 20, 2012. Texas State Cemetery: Milton M. Holland (, accessed April 23, 2013.
Paul M. Lucko, rev. by Omar Carrizales


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.
Paul M. Lucko, rev. by Omar Carrizales, "HOLLAND, MILTON M.," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed September 19, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on May 22, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.


HOLLAND, SPEARMAN (1802–1872). Spearman Holland, legislator and soldier, was born in Virginia in 1802 and soon moved to Tennessee, where he was a member of the state legislature when Sam Houston was governor. He later moved to Mississippi and from there in January 1842 to Texas, where he settled on a farm near Marshall. He represented Harrison County at the Convention of 1845 and in the First Legislature. After Panola County was separated from Harrison in 1846, Holland represented the new county in the House of the Seventh and Ninth legislatures and in the Senate of the Tenth. He made his home in Carthage and served with the Texas state troops during the Civil War. He died in 1872.
James K. Holland, "Diary of a Texan Volunteer in the Mexican War," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 30 (July 1926). Texas Democrat, May 20, 1846, Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941).
Carolyn Hyman


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.
Carolyn Hyman, "HOLLAND, SPEARMAN," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed September 19, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Gov. Rick Perry has reappointed Bill O'Neal of Carthage as Texas State Historian

Gov. Rick Perry has reappointed Bill O'Neal of Carthage as Texas State Historian for a term to expire two years from the date of his honoring ceremony.
O'Neal is an award-winning non-fiction author and a retired history instructor at Panola College. He is president of the West Texas Historical Association, member of the Texas State Historical Association, Society for American Baseball Research, Western Writers of America and the Wild West History Association Advisory Board, and a fellow and past president of the East Texas Historical Association. 

He is also a board member of the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, volunteer Sunday school director for Central Baptist Church in Carthage, and past board president of the East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System.

O'Neal received a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in history from East Texas State University, attended post graduate studies at The University of Texas at Austin and received an honorary doctor of letters from Texas A&M University-Commerce.