Thomas Holmes, early settler and first chief justice of Newton County, son of Thomas C. and Elizabeth (Jourdan) Holmes, was born in South Carolina in 1800. He married Elizabeth Odom, a native of Georgia, and lived in Mississippi long enough to father at least three children. The family moved to Bevil Municipality, Texas, in 1834, and Holmes served as one of Bevil's five delegates to the Consultation of 1835, although he took little part in the proceedings. By 1840 he had acquired taxable properties including seventeen slaves and twenty cattle. In 1846 Newton County was marked off from the eastern half of Jasper County, formerly known as Bevil Municipality. In July of that year the new county's electors chose Holmes as their first chief justice, a post he held until 1848. He was elected one of four county commissioners in 1853. Later that year, however, he lost a bid to become state representative for Newton, Jasper, and Sabine counties to John R. Burke. Holmes owned more than twenty slaves during the antebellum period (see ANTEBELLUM TEXAS) and was therefore one of Newton County's largest slaveholders. Basing his operations on several large tracts in central and western Newton County patented by him and his father, he raised livestock and grew a variety of crops. At least eight children were born to Holmes and his wife in Texas. In 1860 he owned more than 600 cattle and 200 swine and produced twenty bales of cotton. During the Civil War, the former chief justice invested heavily in Confederate treasury notes. Holmes was last reported in Newton County on an 1866 tax roll; he was buried in Jasper County in 1869.
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Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941). Gifford E. White, ed., The 1840 Census of the Republic of Texas (Austin: Pemberton, 1966; 2d ed., Vol. 2 of 1840 Citizens of Texas, Austin, 1984).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 22, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
February 1, 1995