Thomas Ridgeway Holmes Monument, Allegheny Cemetery


Thomas Ridgeway Holmes was born in 1816  and died in 1859, and that is the sum of what Father Pitt knows about him. He has no presence on the Internet, as far as Google can tell—except an occasional reference to this monument. But he must have been rather wealthy: his monument suggests that he dealt in shipping and in geared and belted machines of some sort—a sawmill, perhaps? The reliefs are eroded, but it looks like a circular saw to the left of the second picture below. Is the hexagon a ship’s wheel? Then perhaps his business was shipbuilding, and it all fits together.


3 responses to “Thomas Ridgeway Holmes Monument, Allegheny Cemetery”

  1. Thomas Ridgeway Holmes
    (1816-1859)

    Thomas Ridgeway Holmes was the third child, but eldest son, of Nathaniel Holmes and his wife Eleanor Kerr Holmes. Nathaniel and Eleanor came to Pittsburgh from County Tyrone, Ireland around 1807. Nathaniel, a gregarious and trustworthy Irishman, sold wine and spirits to a growing Pittsburgh, and around 1822 started a private banking firm called N. Holmes & Sons, which prospered on his and his descendants good management, together with the phenomenal growth of Pittsburgh commerce. It was the first, and one of the longest lasting private banking houses west of the Alleghenies, and lasted through the rest of the century.

    Thomas R. Holmes, receiving a public school education and perhaps some “local college” befitting its time, entered into the partnership of N. Holmes & Sons, as he was the first son, probably around 1836, and over the succeeding two decades earned a reputation for being a skillful financier. Historians remarked that N. Holmes & Sons financed “all lines” of business in Pittsburgh.

    Probably in 1851, Thomas married a first cousin to Edwin M. Stanton, Jane B. Stanton, who had grown up in Connecticut, the only girl in a big family. Her father had moved them to Ashtabula, OH., when she was a teenager. Edwin M. Stanton, a lawyer who came to Pittsburgh from Steubenville(later was to serve as Lincoln’s Secretary of War) in 1843 to practice law, and was successful. One of his clients was Thomas R. Holmes. Most likely Edwin introduced his friend and client, Thomas Holmes to his cousin Jane, and they were married.

    In 1857, Thomas’ lot changed for the worse. He and Jane had had a son, “Tommy” Jr. in 1856, but little Tommy died of dysentery the next year, and they secured the cemetery plot in the new Allegheny Cemetery, separate from his father’s lot. Perhaps Thomas was ill already with the kidney disease that killed him; perhaps business conflicts had come between him and his first cousin John Holmes– Thomas dissolved his interest in N. Holmes & Sons that year, and he wrote a codicil to his will replacing cousin John as executor with his new lawyer-friend William N. Shinn– the codicil’s author?–Edwin M. Stanton! And William Shinn was already an executor for the cotton millionaire and abolitionist, Charles Avery.

    Thomas himself had been the financier, and had himself a 1/8 interest, in the Anchor Cotton Mill, the biggest and oldest such mill in Pittsburgh.

    Sadly, in August, 1859, on the threshold of the Civil War, Thomas Ridgeway Holmes died, at the age of 44. The Pittsburgh Dispatch said with irony, “he died with a fair share of the world’s goods.” His estate approximated $100,000 in 1859: his widow was lavishly provided for, and with a bequest of the remainder he favored his older sister’s six children–the Puseys–who lived a mile north of Allegheny City.

    Interestingly, his executor, William N. Shinn, hired the same sculptor as was in the process of executing the massive Charles Avery memorial in Section 2 of Allegheny Cemetery to fashion Thomas Holmes’ own monument: Holmes’ figure grieving closely resembles “Justice” and “Charity” on the Avery monument; the material is the same Carrera marble which does not wear well in our climate.

    A broken column draped with a laurel is typically symbolic of an honorable life cut short–appropriate in this instance. The belgian-born sculptor, Louis Verhaegen repeated this composition, in fact, for the much larger monument to William Lytle, a Union General killed in the Civil War in 1863 on a large, prominent lot welcoming you into Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. This memorial of extreme prominence–the Lytle Monument at Spring Grove is the Cincinnati equivalent of the Charles Avery Memorial in Pittsburgh–and it features a broken column topped by laurels, identical to the Holmes composition.

    Mrs. Jane B. Stanton Holmes remained a widow, moved to the 14th ward, and saw to the care of her aging mother, who died in 1874. Jane Herself succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 51, in 1876. Earlier that same year she had sued two swindlers, unsuccessfully, who had managed to relieve her of most of her inheritance from Thomas. There is no stone to mark either Jane’s grave, or her mother’s, but they still lie under the grass.

    The base of the Holmes monument features two bas-reliefs, the one showing is machinery in a cotton mill: leather belts drive wheels and gears which wind cotton fibers on spools from battens. It is one of the earlier artistic representations in a Pittsburgh of the increasingly mechanized factory capacity that was changing Pittsburgh’s manufacturers. On the opposite face is a triangular relief showing an anchor fronting bales of cotton and barrels in a warehouse of the mill, obviously a pictorial metaphor for Thomas’ interest in Anchor Cotton Mill–the largest, and oldest, cotton mill still then working in Pittsburgh in 1859.

  2. Thomas Ridgeway Holmes
    (1816-1859)

    Thomas Ridgeway Holmes was the third child, but eldest son, of Nathaniel Holmes and his wife Eleanor Kerr Holmes. Nathaniel and Eleanor came to Pittsburgh from County Tyrone, Ireland, around 1807. Nathaniel, a gregarious and trustworthy Irishman, sold wine and spirits to a growing Pittsburgh, and around 1822 started a private banking firm called N. Holmes & Sons, which prospered on his and his descendants good management, together with the phenomenal growth of Pittsburgh commerce. It was the first, and one of the longest lasting private banking houses west of the Alleghenies, and lasted through the rest of the century.

    Thomas R. Holmes, receiving a public school education and perhaps some “local college” befitting his time, entered into the partnership of N. Holmes & Sons, as he was the first son, probably around 1836, and over the succeeding two decades earned a reputation for being a skillful financier. Historians remarked that N. Holmes & Sons financed “all lines” of business in Pittsburgh.

    Probably in 1851, Thomas married a first cousin to Edwin M. Stanton, Jane B. Stanton, who had grown up in Connecticut, the only girl in a big family. Her father had moved them to Ashtabula, OH., when she was a teenager. Edwin M. Stanton was a lawyer who came to Pittsburgh from Steubenville(later was to serve as Lincoln’s Secretary of War) in 1843 to practice law, and was successful. One of his clients was Thomas R. Holmes. Most likely Edwin introduced his friend and client, Thomas Holmes, to his cousin Jane, and they were married.

    In 1857, Thomas’ lot changed for the worse. He and Jane had had a son, “Tommy” Jr. in 1856, but little Tommy died of dysentery the next year, and they secured the cemetery plot in the new Allegheny Cemetery, separate from Thomas’ father’s lot. Perhaps Thomas was ill already with the kidney disease that killed him; perhaps business conflicts had come between him and his first cousin John Holmes– Thomas dissolved his interest in N. Holmes & Sons that year, and he wrote a codicil to his will replacing cousin John as executor with his new lawyer-friend William N. Shinn– the codicil’s author?–Edwin M. Stanton! And William Shinn was already an executor for the cotton millionaire and abolitionist, Charles Avery.

    Thomas himself had been the financier, and had himself a 1/8 interest, in the Anchor Cotton Mill, the biggest and oldest such mill in Pittsburgh.

    Sadly, in August, 1859, on the threshold of the Civil War, Thomas Ridgeway Holmes died, at the age of 44. The Pittsburgh Dispatch said with irony, “he died with a fair share of the world’s goods.” His estate approximated $100,000 in 1859: his widow was lavishly provided for, and with a bequest of the remainder he favored his older sister’s six children–the Puseys–who lived a mile north of Allegheny City.

    Interestingly, his executor, William N. Shinn, hired the same sculptor as was in the process of executing the massive Charles Avery memorial in Section 2 of Allegheny Cemetery to fashion Thomas Holmes’ own monument: Holmes’ figure grieving closely resembles “Justice” and “Charity” on the Avery monument; the material is the same Carrera marble which does not wear well in our climate.

    A broken column draped with a laurel is typically symbolic of an honorable life cut short–appropriate in this instance. The belgian-born sculptor, Louis Verhaegen, repeated this composition, in fact, for the much larger monument to William Lytle, a Union General killed in the Civil War in 1863 on a large, prominent lot welcoming you into Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. This memorial is of extreme prominence–the Lytle Monument at Spring Grove is the Cincinnati equivalent of the Charles Avery Memorial in Pittsburgh–and it features a broken column topped by laurels, identical to the Holmes composition.

    Mrs. Jane B. Stanton Holmes remained a widow, moved to the 14th ward, and saw to the care of her aging mother, who died in 1874. Jane herself succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 51, in 1876. Earlier that same year she had sued two swindlers, unsuccessfully, who had managed to relieve her of most of her inheritance from Thomas. There is no stone to mark either Jane’s grave, or her mother’s, but they still lie under the grass.

    The base of the Holmes monument features two bas-reliefs, the one showing is machinery in a cotton mill: leather belts drive wheels and gears which wind cotton fibers on spools from battens. It is one of the earlier artistic representations in a Pittsburgh of the increasingly mechanized factory capacity that was changing Pittsburgh’s manufacturers. On the opposite face is a triangular relief showing an anchor fronting bales of cotton and barrels in a warehouse of the mill, obviously a pictorial metaphor for Thomas’ interest in Anchor Cotton Mill–the largest, and oldest, cotton mill still then working in Pittsburgh in 1859.

  3. Thomas Ridgeway Holmes
    (1816-1859)

    Thomas Ridgeway Holmes was the third child, but eldest son, of Nathaniel Holmes and his wife Eleanor Kerr Holmes. Nathaniel and Eleanor came to Pittsburgh from County Tyrone, Ireland, around 1807. Nathaniel, a gregarious and trustworthy Irishman, sold wine and spirits to a growing Pittsburgh, and around 1822 started a private banking firm called N. Holmes & Sons, which prospered on his and his descendants good management, together with the phenomenal growth of Pittsburgh commerce. It was the first, and one of the longest lasting private banking houses west of the Alleghenies, and lasted through the rest of the century.

    Thomas R. Holmes, receiving a public school education and perhaps some “local college” befitting his time, entered into the partnership of N. Holmes & Sons, as he was the first son, probably around 1836, and over the succeeding two decades earned a reputation for being a skillful financier. Historians remarked that N. Holmes & Sons financed “all lines” of business in Pittsburgh.

    Probably in 1851, Thomas married a first cousin to Edwin M. Stanton, Jane B. Stanton, who had grown up in Connecticut, the only girl in a big family. Her father had moved them to Ashtabula, OH., when she was a teenager. Edwin M. Stanton, was a lawyer who came to Pittsburgh from Steubenville(later was to serve as Lincoln’s Secretary of War) in 1843 to practice law, and was successful. One of his clients was Thomas R. Holmes. Most likely Edwin introduced his friend and client, Thomas Holmes to his cousin Jane, and they were married.

    In 1857, Thomas’ lot changed for the worse. He and Jane had had a son, “Tommy” Jr. in 1856, but little Tommy died of dysentery the next year, and they secured the cemetery plot in the new Allegheny Cemetery, separate from Thomas’ father’s lot. Perhaps Thomas was ill already with the kidney disease that killed him; perhaps business conflicts had come between him and his first cousin John Holmes– Thomas dissolved his interest in N. Holmes & Sons that year, and he wrote a codicil to his will replacing cousin John as executor with his new lawyer-friend William N. Shinn– the codicil’s author?–Edwin M. Stanton! And William Shinn was already an executor for the cotton millionaire and abolitionist, Charles Avery.

    Thomas himself had been the financier, and had himself a 1/8 interest, in the Anchor Cotton Mill, the biggest and oldest such mill in Pittsburgh.

    Sadly, in August, 1859, on the threshold of the Civil War, Thomas Ridgeway Holmes died, at the age of 44. The Pittsburgh Dispatch said with irony, “he died with a fair share of the world’s goods.” His estate approximated $100,000 in 1859: his widow was lavishly provided for, and with a bequest of the remainder he favored his older sister’s six children–the Puseys–who lived a mile north of Allegheny City.

    Interestingly, his executor, William N. Shinn, hired the same sculptor as was in the process of executing the massive Charles Avery memorial in Section 2 of Allegheny Cemetery to fashion Thomas Holmes’ own monument: Holmes’ figure grieving closely resembles “Justice” and “Charity” on the Avery monument; the material is the same Carrera marble which does not wear well in our climate.

    A broken column draped with a laurel is typically symbolic of an honorable life cut short–appropriate in this instance. The belgian-born sculptor, Louis Verhaegen repeated this composition, in fact, for the much larger monument to William Lytle, a Union General killed in the Civil War in 1863 on a large, prominent lot welcoming you into Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. This memorial is of extreme prominence–the Lytle Monument at Spring Grove is the Cincinnati equivalent of the Charles Avery Memorial in Pittsburgh–and it features a broken column topped by laurels, identical to the Holmes composition.

    Mrs. Jane B. Stanton Holmes remained a widow, moved to the 14th ward, and saw to the care of her aging mother, who died in 1874. Jane herself succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 51, in 1876. Earlier that same year she had sued two swindlers, unsuccessfully, who had managed to relieve her of most of her inheritance from Thomas. There is no stone to mark either Jane’s grave, or her mother’s, but they still lie under the grass.

    The base of the Holmes monument features two bas-reliefs, the one showing is machinery in a cotton mill: leather belts drive wheels and gears which wind cotton fibers on spools from battens. It is one of the earlier artistic representations in a Pittsburgh of the increasingly mechanized factory capacity that was changing Pittsburgh’s manufacturers. On the opposite face is a triangular relief showing an anchor fronting bales of cotton and barrels in a warehouse of the mill, obviously a pictorial metaphor for Thomas’ interest in Anchor Cotton Mill–the largest, and oldest, cotton mill still then working in Pittsburgh in 1859.

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