Stephen F. Austin State University

Thomas C. "Goldie" Holmes - Revolutionary War Soldier (March 2014)

Thomas C. "Goldie" Holmes - Revolutionary War Soldier
By Jonnie Miller

Thomas C. Holmes was born in Wayne County, North Carolina in 1759. He was a teenager when he entered military service during the Revolutionary War as an express rider. Records show he changed his name to Thomas Gwinn or Guin to avoid detection from his family. The First Provisional Congress met in August of 1774 at New Bern (first capital of North Carolina) to establish six Military Districts under the new government. Fierce strongholds of Tories still existed. These were mostly wealthy coastal merchants and plantation owners, and Scottish highlanders who received land in exchange for loyalty to the king. There were also German and Quaker populations who were against the idea of the war.

By 1775 provisions for a new government were firmly set in motion. All citizens in the colony were asked to pledge their support for the new Continental Congress. Very soon after that the governor of North Carolina, a royal supporter, fled and royal rule ended.

Thomas' father died when he was young and Thomas was under the care of his grandfather. When he was 14 or 15 he decided to join the fight. Since he was underage, he knew his grandfather would not give him permission to join. Finally, he left; traveled to South Carolina and joined under an assumed name, Thomas Gwinn (Gwinn was an indigent from his hometown).

Thomas served in both the 1st and 2nd Regiments based on his sworn statement and surviving pay stub. He served at one point under Colonel Charles C. Pinckney in South Carolina's 1st Regiment and under General Francis Marion in South Carolina's 2nd Regiment. He was known as the swamp fox because he used decoys and ambushes to disrupt enemy communication and to gather intelligence. He also freed many American prisoners held by the British. For the rest of his life Thomas would recount many stories of his service as an express rider under General Marion. Thomas was a crack shot "with a quickness and certainty of aim."

Express riders traversed and crisscrossed dangerous routes, dusty roads, looking for food and avoiding the enemy to deliver their critical messages. He made $40.00 a month. Ordinary infantry and artillerymen were paid $26.00 a month. They carried important dispatches, communiques, and commissions from their regiment officers to officers on other battle fronts. He often told the story of killing a British Captain to save the life of a Colonel. General Marion awarded him the officer's horse and equipment for saving the American colonel's life. After several re-enlistments, Thomas was mustered out near the end of the war in 1783. He married Elizabeth Jourdan in 1794. They had five daughters and three sons. When he married he was 35 years old and Elizabeth was 24. They started their life in South Carolina and raised their family for about 11 years before the allure of new lands caused them to migrate to Spanish West Florida. The trip was through a government sanctioned area called the Creek Indian Nation. A white man was required to have a passport to travel through these areas. On June 12, 1810, Thomas applied for a Spanish permit for 800 acres of land located on the Pearl River. They remained there through March 1813. During this period the United States annexed West Florida from Spain. Soon after, Thomas was appointed as Justice of the Peace and then to the office of the Justice of the Quorum, a very prestigious and powerful position. He was later removed from this office for some reason.

In 1828 or 1829, Thomas moved his family to Mississippi in Hinds County. However, in 1830, the Mexican Government advertised in various Mississippi newspapers seeking persons to settle in the southeastern Gulf area of Texas. The government needed to maintain control of the area and by attracting Angle-Americans to settle they could. These foreigners could gain title to land here by establishing residence if they swore and oath promising to obey the Mexican federal and state constitutions, practice Christianity and prove their morality and good habits. At this time a major cholera epidemic was going on and it was especially bad in Hinds County. This may have influenced the family to move west. By 1834, Thomas had moved his family to Texas. The Mexican Government offered large sections of land in the Mexican state of Coahuila, de Zavala which would later become Jasper and Newton Counties. Thomas was 75 years old and he needed his oldest son to come with him as well as two of his grandsons. War with Mexico soon broke out and his land grant application was incomplete. Thomas was too old to fight for independence but he did provide supplies for the volunteer militia of Captain Chessher. By March 2, 1836 the fight for freedom was officially over. The Republic of Texas was born.

On September 14, 1840 Thomas C. gave the Republic of Texas a promissory note of $44.60 for 4,605.52 acres of land on the waters of Big Cow Creek in Jasper County. On July 2, 1841 Thomas C. Holmes is named the grantee for his two patented certificates of land. A short time later he and his son, Thomas, would purchase a plot of land from Isaac Winfrey that lay part way between their two plots. In 1845 the U.S. annexed Texas and Jasper County was split, forming Newton County out of the eastern half of the original county. The Holmes family was now Newton County citizens.