Holland, Clarence St. Elmo (1867–1945)

By: Frank B. Lander II

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Updated: March 3, 2017

C. S. E. Holland, banker and leader in the Intracoastal Canal Association, son of William Allison and Eliza Jane (Van Nuys) Holland, was born in New Castle, Kentucky, on April 27, 1867. His father, a descendant of Lord Holland of England, established the weekly Constitutionalist in Eminence, Kentucky. Holland attended Eminence Seminary and later Eminence College, while helping his father with the newspaper. When he was eighteen, he and his brother Allison bought the Chattanooga (Tennessee) Democrat; they established the Chattanooga Sunday Argus in 1885. In 1886 Holland met William B. Traylor, a prominent rancher from Victoria, Texas, and his daughter Elizabeth on a train in Tennessee. That fall he took a trip to Victoria and was a guest on the Traylor ranch. The next year he left his newspaper business in Tennessee and returned to Victoria, where he and Elizabeth were married on November 28, 1887. They had four children.

In 1889, after a short time on the Traylor ranch, Holland joined the Houston Post. During the 1890s he became interested in encouraging commerce on the Guadalupe River from the Gulf to Victoria and in promoting a canal to carry barge traffic from the Mississippi River to Houston and Corpus Christi and later to the Rio Grande. He is perhaps best known as a promoter of the Gulf Intracoastal Canal. In 1905, as president of the Business Men's Association of Victoria, he called a "representative convention" of cities along the Texas and Louisiana coasts to discuss the feasibility of plans for a coastal canal and to organize a canal league. Out of this meeting grew the Interstate Inland Waterway League, which eventually became the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association. Holland was elected president at the founding of the league and held this position until his death.

In 1902 he was elected a vice president of the First National Bank of Victoria, which in 1913 became the Victoria National Bank and later the First Victoria National Bank. He held the post until he moved to Houston in 1919. In Houston in 1919 he organized and became president of the First Texas Joint Stock Land Bank, and in 1920 he was elected vice president of the Lumberman's National Bank (later the Second National Bank of Houston). In 1927 he became president of the Houston National Bank.

His wife died on April 6, 1917, and Holland married Sarah Handy Swett in Victoria on August 16, 1918. She had a daughter from a previous marriage. Holland was a Mason, a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Houston, a director of the Houston Club, and president in 1923 of the Houston Chamber of Commerce. He was a charter member of the River Oaks Country Club. He died in Houston on January 24, 1945, and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Victoria.

Lynn M. Alperin, Custodians of the Coast: History of the United States Army Engineers at Galveston (Galveston: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1977). Houston Chronicle, January 24, 25, 1945. Houston Post, January 25, 1945. Houston Press, January 24, 26, 1945. Dale Miller, "Victoria Meeting Founded the Intracoastal Waterway," Victoria Magazine, Fall 1955. Victoria Advocate, January 24, 25, 26, 1945, August 7, 1955, March 19, 1967, April 21, 1986.

Time Periods:
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Frank B. Lander II, “Holland, Clarence St. Elmo,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 11, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/holland-clarence-st-elmo.

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February 1, 1995
March 3, 2017

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