While our physical offices are closed until at least April 13 due Austin's COVID-19 "shelter-in-place" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Robert Wooster

HOLMES, THOMAS (1800–1869). 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.

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).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, Robert Wooster, "HOLMES, THOMAS," accessed April 08, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fho41.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...