Henrietta Howard Holdich
At a Glance
Hannah Howard Holdich was the author of children's stories and poems in Harper's Magazine and other periodicals. She was also the author of a story which was an inspiration for the founding of the Daughters of the American Revolution, "Hannah Arnett's Faith."
Henrietta Howard Holdich, who published her first story at 17, was the only girl from the “North” to attend the Burwell School. Henrietta was the daughter of Lydia Kollock and Joseph Holdich, born in Connecticut where her father was a professor of “Moral Science and Belle Lettres” at Wesleyan College. Although she lived most of her childhood years in Connecticut and New Jersey, Henrietta also had strong ties to Hillsborough, North Carolina through her mother’s distinguished and extensive family, the Kollocks. Two maternal great-aunts and three aunts lived for at least some periods of time in Hillsborough.
Henrietta’s mother, Lydia Kollock Holdich, was the youngest child of Shepard Kollock, Jr., a Revolutionary War soldier and patriot who published a prominent New Jersey newspaper. His wife Susannah Arnett, (1755-1846) was one of three daughters of Hannah Arnett (1733 – 1823), a New Jersey Revolutionary War heroine.
Susannah’s Kollock’s two sisters spent some of their married lives in the Hillsborough area. Her sister Abigail Arnett (1768 – 1835) married Joseph Brown and is buried in the Hillsborough Old Town cemetery; another sister, Hannah Arnett (1778 – 1845), married the Rev. Robert Chapman (1771 – 1833) in New Jersey but later lived in Chapel Hill from 1812 – 1816 when the Rev. Chapman was the second President of the University of North Carolina.
Susannah and Shepard Kollock raised nine children in Elizabethtown, NJ. The sons distinguished themselves in the American Presbyterian church and the law, and the daughters “married well” – judges, ministers, and lawyers. Mary Kollock, the eldest daughter, married Frederick Nash, New Bern native and son of a former Governor of North Carolina; Frederick Nash went on to be a Hillsborough attorney, state legislator, state Supreme Court justice and Chief Justice. He and Mary had nine children, all born in Hillsborough. Another sister, Sarah Kollock, married first a New Bern, NC judge and later a prosperous North Carolinian landowner; she died a young mother in Hillsborough and is buried in the Nash plot of the Old Town Cemetery near two infant children. A third sister, Susan Kollock, married John Knox Witherspoon, the son of a leader in the Presbyterian Church and a young man of huge promise who served congregations in Hillsborough and South Carolina. Their daughter, Mary Knox Witherspoon, briefly attended the Burwell School during one of their prolonged stays in Hillsborough.
Henrietta’s father, Joseph Holdich, was raised in England and immigrated to the United States. He established an impressive career in the Methodist Episcopal Church and in academia. Joseph Holdich married the widowed Lydia Kollock Hillyer in 1829; their daughters were named for two of Lydia’s older sisters. In addition to his academic career at Wesleyan, Rev. Holdich held the post of Corresponding Secretary of the American Bible Society for some years. His biography of the first President of Wesleyan College, The Life of Wilbur Fisk, D.D., First President of Wesleyan University, published in 1842, was much admired.
Although we do not know the precise year or years of Henrietta’s attendance at the Burwell School, it was certainly after 1850, when she appears on the US Federal Census as a 9-year-old in her parents’ New Jersey household, but before 1857, when the Burwells closed the school. When she arrived in Hillsborough to further her education at the Burwell School, Henrietta would most likely have boarded with her Aunt Mary Kollock Nash and uncle Frederick Nash on Margaret Lane in Hillsborough, where the nine Nash children were raised and where her much older cousin Sara Jane Kollock was raised after the death of her young mother. Sara, the daughter of Henrietta’s widowed uncle Shepard Kollock, received her entire education at the Burwell School and became a teacher there. It is quite possible she was her young cousin Henrietta’s French or art instructor. Sara Kollock and two of her Nash cousins later founded the much-admired Nash & Kollock School in Hillsborough. Nothing specific is known of Henrietta’s time at the Burwell School, but since Mrs. Burwell paid rigorous attention to grammar and composition with all her pupils, Henrietta’s time at the school would have served the young woman well, as she was an aspiring author. Henrietta went on to be a writer of stories and was published in several popular periodicals of the day.
After her time at school Henrietta returned to New Jersey to live with her parents. The 1860 US census shows her at home, 19 years old, with her father, Joseph, 55, “Sec. of Bible Soc.,” mother Lydia, 55, and her older sister (Mary) Josephine, 27. The 1880 census finds the family living in Morristown, NJ; Henrietta’s mother Lydia had died by that time. Mary Josephine Holdich is now Josephine H. Morton, married and perhaps widowed, and living in the household with her son Frederick Nash Morton, named for Aunt Mary Nash’s husband. Josephine also had an older son, Henry Holdich Morton, who went on to a distinguished career in medicine, according to his entry in the 1933, VOL V Edition of The Compendium of American Genealogy, First Families of America.
Henrietta lived with her father until her fifties, writing especially for young readers. Nine stories appeared in Harper’s Monthly Magazine (or as was then called, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine):
“Aunt Eunice's Idea;” “Aunt Rhodanthe's Mistake;” “Back Windows;” “Latitude and Longitude;” “Master Robby's Romance;” “My Georgie;” My Mother's Objections;” “H. Vandeleur;” “Woman – a Story.”
Henrietta also published stories in St. Nicholas Magazine, including a story entitled “Why Walter Changed His Mind” in 1875 and “Master Hyrax” in 1881.
Perhaps Henrietta’s most important story written was “Hannah Arnett’s Faith,” first published in the New York Observer in 1876 when Henrietta was 35. This was a dramatic account of Henrietta’s great-grandmother’s role in convincing the men of her New Jersey town to side with the cause of the American Revolution.
Hannah Arnett overheard a meeting in her home of the men of Elizabethtown, NJ, discussing an offer by the British for “protection of life and property” in exchange for loyalty to the Crown. Storming into the meeting, she called them traitors and cowards. Her husband Isaac tried to get her to leave the room, but she continued to berate the men and announced that she would leave her husband if he deserted the Revolutionary cause. Inspired by her fervor, the men refused the British offer and sided with the Revolution.
This story must have caught the eye- and the imagination -- of a Washington, DC society matron, Mrs. Mary Lockwood, who retold it years later in an essay for the Washington Post.
As reported by Charles Henry Browning, the editor or author of the American Historical Register, (1897), the “Sons of the Revolution” had been formed, but there was some controversy as to the worthiness of establishing a similar organization honoring the contributions of women to the Revolution. Mrs. Lockwood’s story, with the title “Hannah Harnett’s Faith,” appeared in the Washington Post on July 13, 1890, and helped to create a groundswell of support for honoring female Revolutionary heroines. The story “attracted the attention of Mr. William O. McDowell, Hannah Arnett’s great great great grandson,” who called for the establishment of an organization honoring Revolutionary era women. (Mr. McDowell was descended from Henrietta’s aunt Jane Kollock McDowell). Mrs. Lockwood and others persevered in their efforts and the Daughters of the American Revolution was officially established on October 11, 1890.
Mrs. Lockwood’s authorship of the piece in the Washington Post was confirmed by her in an article in an 1897 issue of The American Monthly, the journal of the DAR. She is quoted as saying in a summary of the history of the DAR that she had penned a short article about Hannah Arnett, although it had already been “in the papers long before.”
Mrs. Lockwood clearly had used Henrietta Holdich’s story as a model for her little article -- and had even used the same title. This incident was addressed in another publication, “Authors and Writers Associated with Morristown: With a Chapter on Historic Morristown Second Edition...” By Julia Keese Colles, Vogt Publishers, 1895. Ms. Colles reports that when Mrs. Lockwood’s article appeared in the Washington Post, several letters were published in the Post asserting that the true author of that story was Henrietta Holdich. Mrs. Lockwood insisted that no plagiarism was intended. Henrietta Holdich was “urgently requested to become Regent of the Morristown (NJ) Chapter” of the DAR; she accepted that office and remained a member of the DAR the rest of her life.
Hannah Arnett’s story endured. A memorial “honoring the patriotic dead of many wars, . . . especially a noble woman Hannah White Arnett” was erected in 1938 in the cemetery of the First Presbyterian Church, Elizabeth, New Jersey, by the Boudinot Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution. A marker on the cemetery wall, now too worn to read, said in part, “Near here rests Hannah White Arnett . . . Her patriotic words, uttered in the dark days of 1776, summoned discouraged men to keep Elizabethtown loyal to the cause of American independence.”
Joseph Holdich died in 1893. His daughter Henrietta traveled to England the following year, stating in the ship’s book that she intended for her stay to be permanent. She apparently returned to the US briefly after that visit and applied for a new US passport on February 24, 1896. She stated her birthday as June 3, 1841, her birthplace as Connecticut, and her residence as 100 South Street, Morristown, NJ. She noted that her father was a “naturalized” citizen of the United States. The Rev. Holdich was born in Cambridgeshire; he arrived in Philadelphia from England in 1826.
Descriptions were used in the days before passport photographs, and Henrietta’s follows:
Stature: 5 feet, 2 inches tall
Eyes: Bluish Gray
Henrietta sailed for England in 1896. The 1901 English Census lists her as living in Warwickshire, England, in Shakespeare’s birthplace, Statford-Upon-Avon. Clearly her romantic and imaginative nature led this lifelong author to move across the ocean and start a second life in a place special to all lovers of literature. The 1911 Directory of the DAR listed her as still residing there.
Henrietta lived in England for almost 15 years. The England and Wales 1914 Death Index for Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire notes the death of Henrietta H. Holdich, age approximately 70 (she was actually 73) in Chipping Norton, a village about 20 miles from Stratford-Upon-Avon. The cause of her death, and her burial place, are unknown.
Henrietta Howard Holdich was born on June 3, 1841, in Connecticut. She died in 1914, and was buried in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England.
Places of Residence