Schoharie County NYGenWeb Site

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Judge Charles Holmes

Judge Charles Holmes.

The subject of this brief sketch was born in the town of Fulton, Schoharie County, N. Y., March 26, 1826, then being the third, but only surviving child of the late Hannah and James Holmes, Jr. His paternal grandfather, James Holmes, was a native of New Jersey, and a soldier in the War of the Revolution, after the termination of which, he married Miss Mercy Hunt, also a native of that State. About the year 1801, they settled near the location of the Union church, on what is still known as "Sapbush Hill," in the immediate neighborhood of which Judge Holmes was born and passed his childhood years. His maternal ancestors, John Spickerman, and Mary, his wife, (whose maiden name was Decker,) were natives of Columbia county, in this State, and among the early settlers of that part of Fulton known as :Rossman Hill," near which many of their descendants still reside.

His grandfather Spickerman was also a soldier in the Revolutionary war, and his father a soldier in the War of 1812-1815, which may in some degree account for the martial spirit and passion for military excitement and display, which was a prominent characteristic of his younger days. At the early age of nineteen years he was elected and duly commissioned as Captain of a militia company by Governor Silas Wright, and continued to serve as such until the re-organization of the military system of the State. He was afterwards selected, commissioned, and for several years served as Quarter-Master of the 108th Regiment of the "National Guard of the State of New York," on the staff of Colonels Wakefield and Ferguson, and until the Regiment was mustered out of service, by a reduction of the National Guard.

His father died in 1837, leaving him as the eldest of six surviving children, under the supervision of his excellent widowed mother, to assist in caring for and looking after their welfare, and the management of a small farm, left to them for support.

In early life he evinced an earnest desire and ambition for the acquisition of general knowledge, and more especially for the profession in which he afterwards became an active member, until his promotion to the Bench, in his native County. Being left an orphan at the early age of eleven years without patrimony or the means or facilities for obtaining a better, or more liberal education, he was compelled to content himself with self-improvement and the poor advantages afforded by the common school of the neighborhood in which his early life was passed. This was his Alma Mater, except for one term in the "Jefferson Academy," and another in a "Select School" at Richmondville, in his native County, where he sought to improve and add to the little store of covered knowledge, acquired by him under so many adverse and discouraging circumstances.

In 1846, he married Miss Sarah Baird, of Richmondville, daughter of Jacob, and Lydia Baird, nee Phillips. Of the fruit of such union, five children still survive, the youngest, Welligton J., having died when a little more than two years of age. Of the remaining children, the eldest, Demosthenes L. Holmes now resides in the city of New York, being married, and an Assistant Deputy of the County Clerk, which position he has satisfactorily filled, for more than five years. The maiden name of his wife was Carluta E. Coy, of New York City. The second, Lewis C. Holmes, an attorney and counselor at law, is present clerk in the Surrogate Court of Schoharie County, and resides in Cobleskill village, where he married his wife, Miss Helen Courter. The next, was their only daughter, Mary Adelaide, who married Dr. James E. Allen, of Schenectady, (now deceased) the issue of such marriage being the only surviving grandchild, Addie Emerson Allen, a sprightly, favorite pet of all who know her, now being in the fifth year of her age, and residing with her mother, at the parental home in Cobleskill village. The next is their son Charles H. Holmes, who is also an attorney and counselor at law, residing and practicing his profession in Cobleskill, where he married Miss Hattie Ottman. The remaining, and youngest surviving child, Lyman S. Holmes, has also chosen the profession of his father, is unmarried, and a member of the law firm of "Thorne & Holmes" at Middleburgh, Schoharie County, as successors of "Sanford & Thorne."

Judge Holmes began the study of his profession, subsequent to his marriage, at Cobleskill village. He entered the law office of the late Demosthenes Lawyer, then County Judge, and ex-officio Surrogate of Schoharie County, in January, 1849, and was admitted as an attorney and counselor at law, in September, 1852.

It was during the period of his clerkship in the office of his preceptor, Judge Lawyer, while a student, enjoying the advantages derived from his varied experience in the formal proceedings and practical administration of the laws as applicable to Surrogate Courts, that he became so eminently fitted for the correct and careful discharge of the difficult and responsible duties involved in this most important branch of our judicial system.

In November, 1855, he was elected Member of Assembly from Schoharie County, and although less than thirty years of age, when he took his seat, he soon became an active and efficient member of that branch of the Legislature. He was exceedingly popular among his associates, and acquitted himself with great credit, in the successful management, and in procuring the passage through the Assembly of the Albany & Susquehanna Railroad town bonding bill. Although with a single exception, he was the youngest member of the House, he was appointed a member of the Judiciary Committee, served on several special committees, and near the close of the session, without his previous knowledge or solicitation, was appointed a member of the "Select Committee," to perfect and forward all bills and measures, meriting and deserving special legislative action.

After the close of his legislative term, he resumed the practice of his profession at Cobleskill village, in the various courts of this State, and upon his subsequent admission to practice as attorney and as counselor in the Circuit and District Courts of the United States, formed a special partnership with the late William H. Young, of Cobleskill, in bankruptcy cases.

In the fall of 1871, he was unanimously nominated by the Democrats of Schoharie County, for the office of County Judge, who in this County is also ex-officio the Surrogate of the County, to which office he was elected by his full party majority. In the fall of 1877, he was unanimously re-nominated to the same position, and at the Republican County Convention held a few days subsequent to his re-nomination, a commendatory resolution of approval of his official course was adopted, accompanied by a resolution not to make any nomination for that position---which resulted in his unanimous re-election, by a vote largely in excess of the vote polled by his party at that election.

Politically, Judge Holmes has always been recognized at home and abroad, as one of the most firm and reliable members of the class of politicians who enjoy and rejoice in the proud appellation of "Schoharie Democrats."

Prior to his election to his present judicial position, he was an earnest, active, local politician, was frequently a delegate to County and State Conventions; was for over ten years chairman of the County committee, and in 1881, was without his desire, elected a member of the Democratic State Committee, and by that body made a member of its executive committee.

Personally, he is known as frank and outspoken in respect to all issues in which he feels and takes an interest, or becomes interested, either for himself or his friends, apparently being more zealous in serving others, that in doing for himself. He is bold and fearless in waging his contests, is never influenced by motives of policy alone, to court or receive public approval from superior numbers, against his sense of justice and right, in a war against injustice and wrong. He is apparently most happy in serving the indigent, oppressed, and defenseless, against the cupidity and rapacity of the covetous and avaricious, whose greed is for gold. In short, he abhors and detests every one whose sycophantic servility makes them time-servers for personal preferment, or advantage, and turns with disgust and disdain from the hypocritical pretenders, who would sacrifice principle and betray friends, to accomplish personal ends, and gain a temporary local popularity.

Socially, he is among the number who delight in contributing to the happiness and pleasure of all, instead of striving to monopolize all the homage and attentions that by the self-conceited are exacted as their exclusive privileges and prerogatives. To his friends, he is ever faithful and sincerely devoted, as well in adversity as in prosperity, and never fails to face his foes. He never displays a flag of truce while the contest is waged against him, or the friends, or cause for which he has enlisted. And finally, he has never yet been known to forsake a friend, or forget an enemy.

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