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Holme family papers


Held at: Historical Society of Frankford [Contact Us]1507 Orthodox St., Philadelphia, PA, 19124

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Frankford. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The Holme family in the United States can be traced to John Holme (1632-1702), who came to America in 1686 from England. The Holmesburg section of Philadelphia, PA, is named after the Holme family, who resided there until 1928. (John Holme was not related to Thomas Holme (1624-1695), Surveyor General of Pennsylvania, who also resided in the area.)

John Holme was an early and influential member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Council., marrying the widow of Nicholas More of Manor of Moreland. His son, John II (1673-1741), was a mason who worked on the Pennypack Bridge during the 1690s. In 1702, John II married Martha Dale, the widow of Peter Dale. John II became the owner and operator of the Pennypack Mill, which had been owned and operated by Peter Dale prior to his death, as well as 240 acres of land. The mill was passed onto John III (1706-1775), the son of John II and Martha, upon the death of John II in 1741. John III constructed Box Grove in the 1750s, the Holme family mansion, which is still standing. John II sold the family’s interest in Pennypack Mill in 1765, but retained the land.

Upon John III’s death in 1775, the 240 acres of land were to be left to his sons, John IV (1744-1811) and Thomas (1749-1826). John IV was a major in the Pennsylvania Militia during the American Revolution, and Thomas served as a captain. Their older brother, Enoch, served as an ensign, or 2nd lieutenant. By 1790, the brothers divided the land in half, with the lower half becoming the property of John IV while Thomas took the upper half, including Box Grove.

Although Thomas inherited Box Grove mansion, John IV was left a large house built for him by John II, located on the King’s Road. John IV expanded the house, turning it into an inn. Originally known as Holmes’s, the inn was renamed Washington Tavern in the early 1800s. John IV also operated a lumber yard behind the inn, known as the Holmesburg Lumber Yard. John IV passed away at the age of 67 in 1811, survived by his wife Ester and ten children. However, John IV left no will and his family dissipated.

Thomas Holme passed away at the age of 77 in 1826. Thomas had retained most of the land he inherited from his father John III, which was passed to his son, George W. Holme (1789-1864). George gradually sold off this land, donating property for the site of the Holmesburg Baptist Church. George’s son, Furman Holme (1833-1892), sold the land of the Box Grove estate, leaving the family only the mansion. The Holme family continued to live at Box Grove until they sold the house in 1928.

The Holme family papers is a collection of some 200 digital scans of documents pertaining to the Holme and related families of the Holmesburg area of Northeast Philadelphia, as well as 55 physical documents and photographs. The digital files in the collection include scans of loose papers – receipts and financial accounts, deeds, petitions, letters, wills, indentures, legal papers, and various other notes and writings – as well as some maps, broadsides, newspapers, and several photographs. Scanned bound items in the collection include Captain Thomas Holme’s 1774-1826 Day Book and 1796-1826 Account Book, seven volumes of diaries of Furman Holme from 1865 to 1888, and two family photo albums.

The collection documents the Holme family and its activities in and around Holmesburg for some 240 years. In addition to records pertaining to land transactions and family personal, financial, and legal matters, there are materials pertaining to related families such as the Moores (including documents on the Manor of Moreland), the Craigs, the Blakes, and others. There are early maps and documents relating to the Pennypack Mill and Pennypack Creek (including a detailed account of expenses incurred in building the Kings Highway bridge over the Creek in 1701), and materials relating to the Holme family estate, Box Grove, including maps, broadsides, and other documents of the subdivision and development of the property beginning in the 1880s. (The mansion itself, dating from the mid-18th century, is still standing). The 1865-1888 Furman Holme diaries and the family photo albums are particularly rich sources of information as well.

There is a 1683 land survey document signed by Thomas Holme (the only Thomas Holme document in the collection) and several documents written by Thomas Fairman, Deputy Surveyor General under Thomas Holme, and himself Pennsylvania Surveyor General in 1702 and a prominent Quaker leader and provincial official in early Pennsylvania. Other prominent Holmesburg individuals, families, and institutions show up often in the papers also. Additional highlights in the collection include a detailed 1688 account of medical services provided to the Holme and Moore families by John Goodson - including charges for bleeding, vomiting potions, and other medical services - and a printed 1752 broadside announcing a meeting at "Bussel-town" (Bustleton) of "Dwellers on a Tract of Land, called The Mannor of Moreland" regarding a dispute with John Holme over rights to the land. There are 55 documents and photographs included in the collection which date from 1687 to the 1910s that relate to families and lands in the Holmesburg area other than the Holme family. The materials include deeds, maps, photographs, and other papers. Some of the photographs are duplicates of photographs included in the digital files.

The collection also includes 13 recently-taken photos of eighteenth and nineteenth century Holme Family artifacts - paintings, furniture, a tea set, and other items - that are in the Conroe family possession (see Custodial History note below).

An inventory of the collection is available onsite.

The collection is owned by Bruce and Barbara Conroe who live in upstate New York. Barbara Holme Conroe is a descendant of the Holme family and the collection came down through the family to her and her husband Bruce. Bruce Conroe organized the collection and compiled an inventory to it in the 2000s. He also wrote a narrative account of the family and its ancestral home, Box Grove, based on information in the collection. The Conroes loaned the collection to the Historical Society of Frankford (HSF) in October 2008 so that all the items could be copied for research purposes. HSF hired a photographer to take digital images of the documents in late 2008 and early 2009, and these digital images were then transferred to CD format for viewing. The project was funded by the Trustees of the Lower Dublin Academy, an area philanthropic organization that was established with proceeds from funds set aside for the Holmesburg community in the will of Thomas Holme.

The Conroes also donated 55 documents and photographs from the collection to the Historical Society of Frankford in October, 2008.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2014-2016 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact the Historical Society of Frankford directly for more information.

Historical Society of Frankford
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Jack McCarthy, March 2009. EAD conversion was completed through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories.
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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