Elizabeth "Lizzie" Holmes (c1846-1928)
Updated: Apr 26, 2022
Lizzie Holmes' ties to Shawnee County date to pre-territorial Kansas—several years earlier than any of the other known burials at Ritchie Cemetery. She came to the area in the late 1840s with her mother, Ann Davis Shattio, the first African American to settle in Shawnee County.
Lizzie Holmes’ childhood homes in Shawnee County are marked by stars on the map above. In chronological order, they include: 1) Uniontown, 2) a farm on the south side of the Kansas River, and 3) the Shattio farmstead on the south branch of Shunganunga Creek. (Map is an excerpt from "Map of Eastern Kansas," by E.B. Whitman & A.D. Searl, 1856, accessed via the David Rumsey Map Collection.)
The first mention in the post of a person buried at Ritchie Cemetery
is highlighted in red bold italic font.
The early years
Note: Kansas was not yet an organized territory at the time of Elizabeth "Lizzie" Holmes’ birth and early childhood. As a matter of convenience, today’s place names are used when referring to the period prior to 1854.
When Ann Davis Shattio became the first African American to settle in what would become Shawnee County, she was accompanied by two small children, likely her daughter Elizabeth "Lizzie" and her son William. Lizzie was still a toddler when they arrived early in 1848 (or perhaps late 1847), and what we know of her early life can be gleaned only through historical accounts about her mother.
Ann Davis (known then as Ann Crisp) and the children came to Shawnee County because they were bound to Samuel Lewis at the time. Exactly how and when Ann first met Lewis is unknown, but they both were frontier residents of southeast Kansas in the mid-1840s.
Lewis worked for George and William Ewing, brothers from Indiana whose companies traded with Indian tribes. He had been employed by the Ewings since 1840, first with the Ewing & Clymer Company, and then with the W.G. and G.W. Ewing Company. In the mid-1840s, the Ewings’ business operations in pre-territorial Kansas included two locations of interest here—a Sugar Creek post which traded with the Potawatomi, and a Neosho River post which traded with the Osage. (See vicinity map below.)
Ann’s situation was a much more onerous and complicated one. She was born free in Illinois, but had been kidnapped as a child and enslaved for many years in southwestern Missouri, much of the time by members of the Crisp family. In August 1844, Ann paid John Crisp an installment of $200 on a $450 agreement between them to secure her freedom. Also at that time, she left Missouri and crossed the border to work for the sutler at Fort Scott. Ann would remain in Kansas from that time onward.
Crisp had given Ann permission to “hire [out] her own time,” and at some point she left Fort Scott and was employed by Lewis. Ann recalled working at the Neosho River post, close to the Osage Mission. Other records mention Lewis more often in connection with the Ewings’ Sugar Creek post, farther to the north.
Both Lizzie and her brother William were born after Ann came to Kansas but before her move to Shawnee County. Birth years from the period aren’t exact, but census records from 1860 indicate that Lizzie was born circa 1846 and William, circa 1848 (but most likely, sometime in 1847).
Lizzie Holmes probably was born somewhere in the area bounded by the red rectangle during the period her mother lived in southeast Kansas. Possible birth locations include Fort Scott, as well as trading posts along Sugar Creek on the Potawatomi Reserve and the Neosho River near the Osage Agency. (Map is an excerpt from "A Map of Indian territory: Northern Texas and New Mexico," Sidney E. Morse & Co., 1844, accessed via the David Rumsey Map Collection.)
As the end of 1847 approached, a major change was in the offing. The Potawatomi tribal members in Kansas were being “removed” from southeast Kansas to a new reserve along the Kansas River, which meant the traders doing business with them also needed to relocate. Perhaps in response to the imminent move, Samuel Lewis entered into a transaction dated December 29, 1847 whereby he "purchased" Ann and two children for $157. Because Ann had previously made partial payment to Crisp for her freedom, the amount of the Lewis transaction may have reflected the remaining balance.
With the ties to Crisp severed, Ann and her children left southeast Kansas with Lewis in January 1848 (or perhaps late 1847). The eventual destination for Lewis and other traders was Uniontown, the site designated in March 1848 to serve as the new trading post for the tribe.
For Ann, Lizzie, and William, the association with Lewis and the move to Uniontown were highly consequential. In June 1848, Lewis signed a legal document declaring his intent to free Ann and the children. Less than a year later, a deed of manumission was filed in Independence, Missouri.
Upon regaining her freedom, Ann reclaimed her birth surname of Davis, and became a “boarding house keeper and baker.” In 1850, she married Clement Chattilon (aka Shattio), a White man of French descent from the St. Louis area. Two years after that, the family left Uniontown and moved 12-15 miles east, where Shattio started farming on land owned by Alex Bushman, near today’s Auburndale Park in Topeka. Shattio is credited with being the first White settler to cultivate land in Topeka Township.
The Shattio family relocated for the final time circa 1854, to a farm located on the south branch of Shunganunga Creek in Section 14, Township 12S, Range 15E. Their 100-acre farm was a few miles southwest of what would become the center of the new Topeka community—and in close proximity to the land that would become Ritchie Cemetery. During Lizzie’s youth, the size of the family grew, with the new additions including Francis, Margaret, Laura, Ogeal, and Henry. Lizzie also had at least three older siblings born in Missouri, including Sampson Crisp and Jack English. The Crisp and English siblings remained enslaved, and were taken to Hopkins County, Texas when some members of the Crisp family migrated there in the early 1840s. One other brother, Jordan, remains a mystery.
Lizzie and William
In the mid-1860s, Lizzie married Lewis W. Holmes, also an African American, who at the time went by his middle name of William. The couple lived on Jefferson Street in Topeka, where William worked as a laborer in 1870 and 1875. In 1880, he gave his occupation as farmer. The census records for those years show no children in the Holmes household, but around 1883 Lizzie bore a daughter, Susan. By then, however, the marriage had become untenable for Lizzie and not long after Susan’s birth, she left William.
For more than three decades, she and William Holmes led separate lives in separate states. That they had parted ways wasn’t legally recognized in Kansas until 1891, when William—now going by Lewis W. Holmes and L.W. Holmes—filed a divorce petition. In it, he complained that Elizabeth had deserted him several years earlier and fled to Colorado. He was baffled as to why (he said), because he “always treated [her] kindly.” Holmes had wanted her back and sent travel money so she could return to him, but she had no interest in doing so.
Lizzie and Susan had indeed relocated to Colorado, where she is known to have resided in Arapahoe, Lake, Teller, and Mesa counties. In 1885, the Colorado State Census placed her in Denver, working as a laundress and living with Susan in a boardinghouse. She soon found a new mate, Charles Tolliver, a miner, and they lived together in Colorado’s mining districts for at least 15 years. After Charles Tolliver, Lizzie married again, this time to a man named Eddie Hutchinson. How and when that marriage ended has yet to be learned. During at least some of her years as a Colorado resident, two of her siblings—Ogeal Smith and William Shattio—lived in that state as well.
William Holmes also remarried, taking Paralee Turner (later named Paralee Washington) as his new wife in 1895. Their marriage lasted about a decade before Paralee, like Lizzie, abandoned him. Once again, Holmes was slow to officially dissolve the union, waiting until 1918 to file for divorce.
Then, in 1919, something extraordinary happened. Lizzie and William, both well into their 70s, remarried.
The Topeka State Journal suggested the couple had reconnected because of love, at least on William’s part. However, the Topeka Daily Capital told of a different motive. When Reverend B.H. Baker, the presiding minister, was asked why the couple decided to marry at such a late stage in life, he replied that “…the Bible…says for a man to get back his first wife or he will go to hell.” The rationale given was consistent with a tenet of Holmes’ church, the Church of God and Saints of Christ. William Crowdy, founder of the church, had issued an epistle on the subject in the early 1900s. In it, he gave an instruction to church members: if they were married to someone other than their first spouse, they must leave their current partner and reunite with the original one.
Topeka newspapers took notice when Lizzie and William remarried in 1919. The article on the left was published in the State Journal on August 6, 1919 (page 6) and the article on the right, in the Daily Capital on August 12, 1919 (page 6).
Lizzie and William’s second marriage was marred by hardship. Infirmity required that they rely on others for support, and they lived out their final years in poverty. As age took an increasingly harsh toll, the Church of God and Saints of Christ became their safety net. When William was deemed “feeble-minded” in 1925, the guardian appointed to look after his affairs was the church minister, Charles Flippens. And, when Lizzie died in June 1928, her residential address was one associated with the church, presumably because it had assumed a caregiving role in the last chapter of her life.
Within several months after Lizzie’s death, resources in the Holmes’ meager estate were depleted. So, the decision was made to place William on a train destined for Portsmouth, Virginia, where he was to be cared for in a home for the aged. The national headquarters for the Church of God and Saints of Christ was located in nearby Belleville, so the home was almost certainly church-affiliated. The date of his death is unknown.
1. Lizzie Holmes' biological father is unknown. The only references to a childhood surname were found in census records as a member of the Shattio family. Her younger brother William (who came with Ann and Lizzie to Shawnee County), retained the Shattio surname throughout his life. Two older brothers born in Missouri each had different surnames (Samuel Crisp and Jack English).
2. Lizzie is one of two Shattio family members known to be buried at Ritchie Cemetery. Her brother-in-law, Scott Smith, was interred at the cemetery in 1888. We believe it possible that other family members may be buried there as well, including Ann Davis Shattio and her husband Clement. Their farm was located close to the cemetery, and no other local cemetery has recorded a burial for them.
Two additional family members may also be potential burials at Ritchie Cemetery. According to the mortality schedule included in the 1870 federal census, 18-year-old Francis “Frank” Shattio died in October 1869. His burial location has not been determined. Margaret Shattio, born about 1852, appeared in the 1860 census, but not in any subsequent state or federal census. Her fate is unknown, but she was not one of the living children named by Ann Davis Shattio when she prepared her will in 1877.
3. Tracing the course of Lizzie’s life was challenging because of the many name variations associated with her story. Regarding the “Shattio” surname, the best available clue regarding the original French spelling is the use of “Chattilon” in the 1875 article, “Aunt Ann’s Story.” A seemingly countless number of spelling variations for the surname appeared through the years, all of them based on Americanized, phonetic derivations from the original French pronunciation.
The task was even more daunting in researching her adult life. The starting point was the obituary (Topeka State Journal, June 29, 1928, p4), which named Elizabeth Holmes and her surviving husband, William. Those names (or their corresponding nicknames, abbreviations and initials) are consistent with census records for the years of their first marriage. During the long expanse of years that followed, however, both Lizzie and William were known by other names—Tolliver and Hutchinson for her, and Lewis, Lewis W., and L.W. for him. At the time of their second marriage, her surname was Hutchinson, and he was identified as Louis Holmes.
Below is a timeline recap of some milestones in the adult lives of Lizzie and William, which also provides a sampling of the names by which they were known at different times. Eventually, the keys to confirming that the different names refer to the same two individuals all relate in one way or another to the fact that Lizzie was a member of the Shattio family. See “Source Notes—Lizzie and William.”
The first sources we found about Lizzie's adult life used the names "Elizabeth and William Holmes" in connection with both her early and late adulthood. Initially, we had no hint of the couple's separation or the other names they came to be known by.
Source Notes—The Early Years
1. The main source of information about Ann Davis Shattio (and therefore, about Lizzie’s early years) is “Aunt Ann’s Story,” published in the Topeka Weekly Commonwealth, May 13, 1875, page 2. Also see “Historical Sketch of Shawnee County,” by William W. Cone, 1877, document pages 4-5.
2. That Lizzie and William were the two children who came with Ann to Shawnee County is inferred. As described in the Weekly Commonwealth article cited in Note 1 above, the $157 transaction between John Crisp and Samuel Lewis “conveyed” Ann and two children. The children also are mentioned in the Commonwealth article’s reference to both the manumission deed and the statement of intent to emancipate them. The census record for Topeka Township in 1860 identifies Elizabeth and William as the two oldest children in the Shattio household, and indicates that both children were born in Kansas—Elizabeth about 1846 and William about 1848. Because the "purchase" transaction in late December 1847 mentioned two children, it is likely that William was born before 1848, however.
3. About the time Samuel Lewis signed the document declaring his intention to free Ann and the children, he left the employ of the Ewings’ company, and went to work for Richard Cummins, the agent in charge of the Office of Indian Affairs’ Fort Leavenworth Agency, based in Westport. In it unknown whether the change in jobs involved his relocation. Some additional information about Samuel Lewis can be found in the “Ewing Investigation,” Report 489, 31st Congress, 1st Session, United States Congressional Serial Set: Volume 585, digital page 409. (The following digital pages relate to Lewis: 482, 484-487, 513, 516, 518, 523-525, 560, 563-564, 569-571.) For more information about the Ewings and their business interests, see Indian Traders on the Middle Border: The House of Ewing, 1827-54, by Robert A. Trennert, Jr.
4. An excellent source of information about pre-territorial Kansas is the Beginning of the West: Annals of the Kansas Gateway to the American West, 1540-1854, by Louise Barry, 1972. The annals for some years, but not all, are available online in the “Kansas Before 1854: A Revised Annals…” series published in issues of the Kansas Historical Quarterly.
5. The original document identifying the location of the Shattio farmstead is a land patent for 160 acres in the NE 1/4 of Section 14, Township 12S, Range 15E (under the name Clement Chatieu). Clement and Ann Shattio subsequently retained 100 acres of the tract. The index to transactions related to that parcel is cited in Note 5 of "Source Notes—Lizzie and William," below.
6. Federal and state census records for 1860 and 1865 were accessed through ancestry.com: 1860 —“Clements Chattean” family, Kansas Territory, Shawnee County, Topeka Township, page 34; 1865—”Clems Shettien” family, Shawnee County, Topeka Township, page 16. (The surname was transcribed in the ancestry.com index as “Shelton.”)
Source Notes—Lizzie and William
1. Topeka newspaper articles were relied upon for several elements of Lizzie and William’s story.
2. Among the records accessed through ancestry.com were 1) federal and state census records and 2) county marriage records from Colorado. The 1885 Colorado State Census, however, was viewed at familysearch.org (must be logged in to access).
3. Ann Davis Shattio’s will identifies Elizabeth Holmes as her daughter. See “The last will and testament of Ann Shatteo,” Shawnee County Probate Records, Volume 16, pp 382-383. Accessed through familysearch.org, film #7666294, image 364 (must be logged in to access).
4. Mrs. Elizabeth Tolliver was identified as a descendant of Ann Davis in an application by Shattio family members to be added to Osage tribal rolls. (The application was based on a misrepresentation of family history, and was denied.) See “Hearings before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Matters Relating to the Osage Tribe of Indians,” page 79, Senate Documents, 60th Congress, 2nd Session, Vol. 22, 1909.
5. A series of transactions involving Shattio land occurred around and after the time of Clement Shattio’s death. Names appearing in the documents include Elizabeth Holmes, L. William Holmes, Lewis W. Holmes, L.W. Holmes, Paralee Holmes, as well as other Shattio family members. An index to transactions related to NE 1/4 of Section 14, Township 12-S, Range 15-E begins on page 111 of the Numerical Index for Township 12, Shawnee County Register of Deeds. Accessed through familysearch.org, film #8561924, image 432 (must be logged in to access).
6. In 1925, William was placed under the care of a guardian. Among the contents of the guardianship case file for “L.W. Holmes - Feeble-minded” are: 1) a statement filed by Mrs. Scott Smith (Lizzie's sister Ogeal) and H.C. Wilson (husband of Lizzie's sister Laura) which documents their relationship to L.W. Holmes (and to Lizzie), and which provides information about the Holmes couple’s circumstances; 2) a copy of the Stonestreet invoice for expenses related to Elizabeth Holmes’ burial; 3) information about William’s relocation to Virginia; 4) expenditures made by the guardian; 5) index of probate court actions related to the guardianship. See Shawnee County District Court Probate Case File for “L.W. Holmes — Feeble-minded,” Case 9064, on file at the Kansas Historical Society, microfilm reel MF 4161.
7. William’s affiliation with the Church of God and Saints of Christ is explicitly documented in “Church of God & Saints of Christ Minutes of 1917” (page 29), where his role in the Topeka tabernacle is identified as Father Abraham. The document is one of several included in a set of church materials on file in the manuscript collection of the Kansas Historical Society (“Church of God and Saints of Christ, Collection No. 67”). The Topeka congregation is well represented in the known burials at Ritchie Cemetery, which will be the subject of a future blog post.
8. For documentation of Elizabeth "Lizzie" Holmes' burial at Ritchie Cemetery, see "Pioneer Woman Is Dead," Topeka State Journal, June 29, 1928, p14, and Stonestreet Mortuary Records, Volume 5, p44, on file at the Kansas Historical Society, microfilm reel MF 659.