Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens


GENERAL COLLEY B. HOLLAND. No name in the annals of Springfield and of Greene county, occupies a more enviable position than that of Colley B. Holland; and no history of either city or county would be complete without a sketch of his life and work.

Mr. Holland, like a large majority of the pioneers of this region, was a native of Tennessee, being born in Robertson, county in that state on the 24th of August, 1816. While yet a mere lad he was left fatherless, and, boy as he was, being the eldest of four children, found himself with the responsibility of the support of his widowed mother, and the younger children. Evidently the industry and business acumen that were to prove his strong characteristics all through life, were even at that early age strongly developed. For we find that not only was the family kept in comfort, but that before he left home to seek his own fortune, he had bought for his mother a home for her old age, and when he started in life for himself she was left well provided for.

The educational advantages in Tennessee in those early times were of the scantiest, and the young man owed but little to their aid. However, he was gifted with an active and retentive mind, and few indeed of those who have had a regular collegiate training could compete in their store of practical information with this self-taught, and self-made man.

Early in life he had determined to learn some good trade, and having chosen that of tailoring he applied himself to it with earnestness until he had mastered it in all its details. With his occupation as his only capital, he felt himself justified in establishing a home for himself, and he was married to his boyhood's sweetheart, Miss Emeline H. Bigbee, daughter of a neighbor in his Tennessee home, and with whom he had been acquainted from their mutual childhood. At the age of twenty-five, in the year 1841, with his mother provided for, and seeking a wider field for his own efforts, Mr. Holland emigrated from Tennessee to southwest Missouri.

With his young wife, and his brother, John L. Holland, he reached Springfield, and at once, with his brother as a partner, opened a tailor shop. It is interesting to look back for a moment to the little frontier town to which the young man had come, and in the future of which he was to have so important a part. It was then but little over ten years since the Indians had been sent out of the region, and it was less than three years since the town had been incorporated. The record says that when thus made into an incorporation Springfield had "About two hundred and fifty people." The place was then, as it has always been, the commercial center of a vast region, but in 1841 that region was but thinly populated, and it is probable that the entire trade of the little town did not exceed fifty thousand dollars per annum. In the census of 1840 Greene county is credited with a population of five thousand three hundred and seventy-two, and this small number, it must be remembered, was scattered over an area out of which more than a score of counties were afterward carved.

There is little to tell of Mr. Holland's life for the next few years. Certain it is that he was busy and successful, for the records in the office of the recorder of deeds for Greene county, show that from time to time he was putting his earnings into Springfield realty, a habit which was laying strong, wide and deep the foundations of the success the future was to bring him. General Holland was indeed gifted with that faculty, possessed by few men, and not to be acquired, but is born in, its possessor, of knowing at a glance the right piece of real estate in which to invest. It would be wholly safe to wager that Colley B. Holland never bought a piece of realty on which he lost money.

With all his other interests we find that he found time for doing his part in public matters. In 1845 the Springfield branch of the Missouri State Bank was established, and Mr. Holland was one of the directors. Here he soon showed those qualifications of business integrity and sagacity that were to lead him in later years, to such a high place in the banking business. In 1852 he was appointed postmaster at Springfield, but resigned at the end of a year. Having felt the deprivation of a school training himself, he was always glad to lend a hand to the promotion of educational advantages for others. Thus we find that he was one of the incorporators, in 1859, of the Springfield Male Academy, and was a liberal contributor toward its establishment, and a member of the building committee. This school at once took a front rank in the Southwest, but was destined to but a short life, for it died never to be resurrected, when the Civil war broke out.

In the spring of 1861 the storm of war between the states struck the land, and Springfield, holding a position that was strategic in war as it was in commerce, became at once a center of strife. During the four bloody years that were to follow Colley B. Holland was to show a new and surprising side of his strong character. Looking over his previous life one would hardly consider it as the training school for a soldier. Those who had known the man all his life would hardly have selected him as the successful leader in desperate battle; but this man proved himself both.

Quiet, unobtrusive, attending strictly to his own affairs, there was. nevertheless a strain of iron in his blood; a stalwart determination to stand for those, things which he believed to be right, a calm personal courage that never failed him, even when men were falling on every side, and when the battle seemed lost to all but himself. He, had as a young man, served as-a non-commissioned officer in the Seminole war in the swamps of Florida, in 1836-37, and the experience then gained proved invaluable to him in the great conflict now pending. From the first whisper of secession Mr. Holland had openly declared himself an uncompromising Union man; and when Sumter was fired upon, and Lincoln issued his call for seventy-five thousand men, he was one of the first to volunteer.

In gathering data for this sketch the writer naturally turned to a former history of Greene county published in 1883, and which contains much valuable information compiled from county and other records. To his surprise he found that the name of Colley B. Holland is not to be found in the book! Such an omission can only have been intentional on the part of those responsible for the publication, and tends to lessen the confidence of future writers, in the correctness of the whole work.

In this connection it is recalled that the late Dr. E. T. Robberson, himself a resident of Springfield before, during, and after the war, once said to me: "General Holland has never received half the credit due him for his war record. Especially for the part he played in the defense of Springfield at the time of the Marmaduke raid." Doctor Robberson was the very soul of probity and honor and such words from him carry weight with all who knew him in life.

In this short sketch the only desire of the writer is to "Give honor to whom honor is due," and that the story of the part General Holland acted in those stormy years may receive truthful and permanent record. In that sterling and authoritative work, "The Encyclopedia of Missouri History," printed in 1901, is an outline sketch of General Holland's life, and from it and local sources have been drawn the statements herein made, of his part in the Civil war.

The work above named states that Mr. Holland was made captain of Company D, in the famous Phelps Regiment, organized in the summer of 1861. Whether General Holland took part in the battle of Wilson's Creek or not, we are unable to state, but he was in the great engagement at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, the heaviest battle west of the Mississippi during the entire war.

General Holland was promoted to the position of lieutenant colonel of the reorganized Phelps Regiment, and in the fall of 1862 he aided in recruiting the Seventy-second Regiment, of Missouri State Militia, and was commissioned colonel of that organization, his commission bearing date of September 9, 1862. In about six weeks from that date he received a commission from Governor Gamble, as brigadier general of Missouri Militia, bearing date of October 29, 1862.

After this he made his headquarters at Springfield, and held the responsible office until the end of the war. His district included all of southwest Missouri, and all the militia in that region were under his command.

It was while acting in this capacity that General Holland was called upon to take part in the defense of Springfield against the attack of a Confederate force under Gen. John S. Marmaduke, on the 8th day of January, 1863. The forces defending the town were officially stated to number one thousand five hundred and sixty-six men, while the Confederates were said to number "about two thousand."

It is not the province of this sketch to describe the battle of Springfield, except so far as to give the part taken by General Holland in that fight. In the Missouri history mentioned above, we are told: "He acquitted himself as a true soldier, and at critical times restored confidence when the fight was well nigh hopeless." Surely no higher tribute need be asked than those words. The same authority continues: "Particularly was this the case when about three o'clock in the afternoon Gen. E. B. Brown (ranking officer, and in chief command) was wounded, and he (Holland) became the commander."

So the battle was fought and won, and Springfield with its vast stores for the Federal army was saved to the Union. And to no one man was the result more attributable than to Colley B. Holland. He was never the man to sound his own praises, and he had no publicity bureau, then or since, to publish abroad his fame, thus it is only simple fairness that at this late day, more than half a century after the event justice be done the quiet, efficient man who commanded the Missouri Militia on that fateful day.

At last the war was ended, and to General Holland it ended at once and forever. He was not the man to exult over a defeated and despairing foe. Rather was it now his part to help in building up the waste places, to bind up the wounds left by the conflict, and to give his potent aid to rehabilitate the little city that was his home, and which he had so well defended.

He entered actively into the financial and manufacturing interests of this place. He was one of the men who organized the Springfield Cotton Mills, and he served as president of that enterprise for several years. In 1875 he, with his two sons, T. B. and W. C. Holland, established the Holland Banking Company, an institution which was to prove the greatest of all his successful ventures. In the panic of 1893 six out of the ten banks of Springfield failed, and meanwhile the deposits of the Holland Banking Company more than doubled. Comment is needless.

And so, known and honored of all men, Colley B. Holland drew near the end of his long and useful life. He had helped to organize the First Cumberland Presbyterian church of Springfield, and had served as its stated clerk for nearly forty years; he had reached a helping hand to struggling educational institutions; he had served his country at the risk of his own life upon the battlefield. He had "acted well his part," and on the fifth day of May, 1901, when nearly eighty-five years of age, "an old man and full of years," he closed his eyes upon earthly scenes, to open them upon a fairer world.

[1744-1749]


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