The Jesse Holt Family Grave Sites in Tennessee

Holt, Jesse b. 1873

Jesse Holt and Elizabeth Davis are my 4th Great-grandparents.  Jesse was born on 11 October 1782 in Halifax, North Carolina.  He married Elizabeth there in 1803.  She was previously married to Joshua Crossland, with whom she had 3 children:  Joshua, Sarah and Lucretia.  Elizabeth died in 1818, a year after the birth of her 9th child.  She and Jesse had 6 children:  James b. 1804 (my 3rd Great-grandpa), Nancy b. 1806, Isom b. 1807, Jesse Washington b. 1810, Laban b. 1814 and Elijah Durham b. 1818.

Lucretia was Jesse’s second wife.  They were married in 1820 and had no children.  Jesse died 15 October 1844 in Bartons Creek, Wilson, TN.  Lucretia died in September 1867.


From the History of James Holt son of Jessie and Elizabeth Davis Holt
“My father, Jesse, married Elizabeth Davis, daughter of Isom Davis. She was the widow of Joshua Crossland and had three children by her former husband, viz: Joshua, Sarah, and Lucretia. She had six children by my father, viz: James, Nancy, Isom, Jesse Washington, Laban and Elijah. After my mother’s death, my father married her daughter, Lucretia Crossland.

My father was of a religious turn of mind and joined the Baptists, with my mother. He also joined the army and was in the War of 1812. During that time he and his family moved near Grandfather Davis’s about 8 miles northwest of Lebanon. After the war, he bought a mill site, near by what was called Barton’s Creek, where he erected a grist mill and a saw mill. There he resided, doing a flourishing business until his death, which occurred October 15, 1844.”

Holt, Jesse 1830 US Census, Wilson TN

Jesse Holt in the 1830 US Census for Wilson, TN

Holt Family Headstone, TN

Jesse Holt Family Headstone, TN

A Narration on the Holt Gravesites in Tennessee
By Bernice Liebhardt

In June of 1989 I was going through a box of genealogy that I’d had for some time. In this box was a letter that was written by S. N. Holt from Lebanon, Tennessee to a relative of my Mother’s, Thomas M. Holt. He was a guide at the Utah State Capitol Building. He had written to the Lebanon County Clerk and asked if there were any descendants of Jesse Holt, an early pioneer of Wilson County, Tennessee still living there.

When he received an answer written by S. N. Holt, Thomas gave my mother, Clara Holt Chadburn a copy. This letter was written November 24, 1936. It had a list of all the children of my great-great grandfather, Jesse Holt, and a little about each. Also it told where Jesse was buried. I really don’t know if I had seen the letter before. It was with some of my mother’s papers. She died October 18, 1985. I read the letter over several times and then went to my genealogy book so see if I had all the information that was in the letter, which I did.

A few days after I read this letter in 1989, our son Michael who resides in Kailu, Hawaii, called. He said that on August first of that year their family was coming to the mainland for three weeks. Besides visiting us, they ware going to Lebanon, Missouri to visit with his wife’s folks that live there. He asked that my husband and I go with them. They were also going to Franklin, Tennessee to visit with Phil Dixon and family. Phil was one of Michael’s converts when he was on a mission in New York and Phil was a student there in Tennessee. My husband John insisted I go. He felt he should stay home and take care of things here and thought the trip would be too long and hot for him.

I immediately wrote to the court house at Lebanon, Tennessee, mailed my letter July 17, told them I would be leaving for there August 4th and wondered if any of the people mentioned in the letter SN Holt wrote still lived there. I mailed them a copy of that letter. I found out when I got to Tennessee that the court house just turned my letter over to a researcher and she wasn’t able to help me but did say that if I needed a researcher, she would be available.

We went to church with the Dixons and after dinner Phil Dixon asked if I’d like to go to the old cemeteries. I said I would love to. We searched in three, but found nothing. When Tuesday morning came, I went in one of Dixon’s rooms to pray I’d find what I came to Tennessee for today. Anne Dixon and I left about 7:30. We first went to the Court House in Lebanon. I looked through some of the records from the beginning of Tennessee. There were lots of things pertaining to land of my ancestors so I copied a few things. I also obtained a county map that showed where Barton’s Creek was and indicated known cemeteries with a cross.

After searching the area and talking to different people, Anne and I drove up to a white house. We knocked on the door. When the lady answered, I asked her if she knew any Holts in the area. She said no she didn’t. I then asked her if she knew where the old cemetery we showed her on the map was. She said, “I do not know of an old cemetery there. If there is it would be so covered over with weeds and growth and no road you wouldn’t be able to get into it.” I was kinda disappointed. I then asked her if I could look in her phone book to see if any Holts were listed in the area. There was almost one fourth of a column of Holts. After dialing several without success I saw one listed as J. Holt. I thought my Great Grandfather was James Holt and his father, Jesse Holt. So I decided to try that.

When a lady answered, I told her I was from the West and I was looking for Holts that were related to me. I said my mother had a letter written in 1936 by a S. N. Holt. She said that’s my brother. Her name was Jessie Holt. She was excited to talk to me and I was so happy the find a relative there. I told her I wanted to meet her. I said that in the letter my mother had, it told about the old Holt Farm. She said it was still in the family. She asked if I knew where the library was. I said, “yes, we were there this morning.” She said she lived up the street a half block from there. We left right after that for Jessie Holt’s place. She was anxiously waiting for us on her porch. She was a small white haired lady 87 years old. She was so happy to meet me and also likewise for me. She took us inside her house and showed us pictures of her family.

Her father was Thomas Norvell Holt and was a typical Holt with snow white hair. Jessie was the only one alive still carrying the Holt name in her family as she had never married. Her brother Snigley Norvell died in 1969 and never had any children. I was fortunate indeed to find her.

With Jessie as guide we went out of town about five miles to Bartons Creek to the farm that was purchased in 1804 when the Holts came from North Carolina. We parked the car and walked in weeds and grass to the family cemetery where Jessie’s father and mother were buried. Buried there was Thomas Norvell Holt, born Aug 18, 1860 died July 6 1936. We took some pictures. The cemetery was all covered with Ivy. She said, “If I’d known you were coming, I’d have had this cemetery cleared off if I’d had to do it myself.” We drove around the edge of the farm, took some pictures of Barton’s Creek. Jessie wanted to take us to dinner but we told her we didn’t have time. It was after 1:00 and we were supposed to be back at the Dixon’s home by now to start for home.

She said: “The next time you come, let me know so we can have the cemetery cleared off.” It was so overgrown with ivy that it was hard to find the graves. I asked about Jesse Holt and Elizabeth Davis, my great-great grandparents, where their graves were. She said they had been trying to locate them. We bid her goodby, and I said I hope to see you again soon.

Back at the Dixons Anne said: “This is like ‘Believe it or not’ isn’t it? The only one you got on the phone on the Holts’ turned out to be your relative.” Yes, the things I’d come to Tennessee to find and from the feelings I had I knew I was going to have success. Jessie Holt wrote me and sent a picture of her father and also one of her brother with the old Holt Home in the background when I got back to Utah. These I received on September 19th.

I wrote Jessie Holt on Oct. 9 and sent her a picture of my great grand father and great grandmother James Holt and Parthenia Overton. I sent her a sheet on my father and mother and brothers and sisters and asked her for information on Jesse Holt and Lucretia Crossland’s families. On the 21st of October I received a letter from Ann Smith, Jessie Holt’s niece that she had told me was interested in genealogy. She sent me several sheets on family. I was so glad to hear from her. I wrote out a copy of all our Holt genealogy. I worked on it for over a month to send a copy of all of it to Ann Smith. I got it there in time for her Christmas.

On June 10, 1990, I received a letter from Ann Smith. She said that she and Jessie went out to an elderly man’s house by Barton’s Creek and he took them down to the old Holt Place to where he thought the graves of Jesse Holt, Elizabeth Davis and Lucretia Crossland were located. She said you will be disappointed as there isn’t much there. But I was so excited to think they finally had been located and could hardly wait to go there and see the place. She said there were no head stones.

We finalized our plans for our trip to Tennessee on August 1st. I called Ann Smith to have her find out how much a head stone would cost for the graves. When I received a letter from Ann Smith she said a head stone would be about $700.00. She said you could put it on the Thomas Crossland Holt lot as where the other graves were would be hard to get to. She said you can decide what you would like to do.

I had been corresponding with Andrea Storm from Portland, Oregon. She’s a distant Holt relative through James Holt and Mary Paine and she had found me through records in the Salt Lake Library. Both of us had questions on the actual date of Jesse Holt’s death. As she found things she would send them to me and likewise I would do the same for her but we had never resolved the question on his death date. When I wrote to tell her of Ann and Jessie finding the burial plot of our Jesse Holt, she was rejoicing and hoped to be able to meet me at Lebanon when we traveled back there.

John and I arrived in Lebanon on September 18 and I called Ann Smith from our R. V. Park and left a message saying we had arrived. When Ann came we had her come in. It was so nice to meet her. As we talked I said, “You know I’m a Mormon, don’t you?” She said “No.” I said “well I am.” I’m glad I told her for other things that came about while there. She said “Jessie has been waiting for you all day.” We went with Ann to Jessie’s and it was so good to see her. She looked so good. As we discussed getting some dinner Ann called her husband he said Andrea Storm had arrived and was at a motel near our R. V. Park. Ann then called her cousin, Overton Cragwell to bring his wife and meet us at Andrea’s room. Andrea and her friend looked good after their long trip. We all had such a good visit.

Ann Smith had a picture album type book with her. She said to look in it and see if there is anything she hadn’t sent me. After all of our hunting for the dates on Jesse Holt, there was a page photo-copied like it was out of a family Bible on the Jesse Holt and Lucretia Crossland family. I asked, “Where did you get this?” Ann said she didn’t know and thought her Aunt Hattie had given it to her. There it was, all the birth dates of all the children of Jesse Holt and Elizabeth Davis and also of Lucretia Crossland children. The birth date of Jesse was there and also his death date of March 24, 1845. I had hunted for so long and it was so wonderful to finally find it. What a glorious night indeed. We had a great time together with cousins. We were so busy we never even thought about eating. This was a very eventful day for me. I felt really blessed. Here I’d been corresponding with Ann Smith about these dates and she had them all the time and didn’t know it.

The next morning Ann came for me. It looked like rain, so John didn’t go with us. Ann thought we should go to the cemeteries first. We went by the motel, Ann, Jessie and I to get Andrea and her friend Mary to follow us. We went out to the Thomas Crossland Holt farm. He was half-brother to my James Holt and the eldest son of Jesse and Lucretia. I had found the deed where Jesse had given part of his farm to his eldest son Thomas Crossland Holt. This was where the graves were that I’d visited with Jessie the year before. Jessie had arranged for someone to clear the cemetery all off and it looked good.

It started to rain before we left there. We were going to the spot where Jesse Holt was buried, but because of the rain we went to the home of Luther Conaster. He was the one who had taken Ann and Jessie down to the grave site. We talked to him about the Holt family. He was only 78 and didn’t know a lot. Andrea couldn’t stay any longer. She had to be in Memphis to meet with someone on our Read lines. We drove back to town and Ann left me at the library where I found lots of dates I didn’t have. I stayed there until 3:00 and then walked to Jessie’s for a dinner she had fixed. When Ann took me back to our R. V., I spent the evening going through her book for any information I never had.

Ann picked me up the next morning. After briefly visiting the office of vital statistics we went to the cemetery where Jessie will be buried. She wanted me to see it and some of her family, and get some dates off them I didn’t have. Then we went to change clothes for hiking and got into walking shoes. John went with Ann and I. We went as far as Ann dared drive on a hill to the Jesse Holt, my great-great grandfather’s property. John said he never could walk down into the place so he stayed at the car and took videos of the place. Ann and I walked down the hill and it was a steep one. We went to the area where Luther told Ann and Jessie he thought the graves were of the Jesse Holt family. I said, “Ann, this is terrible if this really is where the cemetery is” as there had been a good mound of dirt put on top. I said, “I really can’t see any sign of any graves.” I was so disappointed at this time, I could have cried. Ann said, “Bernice, I knew you would be disappointed.” I said: “Let’s walk over the farm and see if we can see any sign of where their home was.”

We walked up through the brush, trying to locate anything that looked like any part of a house and found nothing. We did find an old tree. I took a couple of pictures of Ann standing under it. I’m sure the tree could have been 150 years old or more. We came back to the suppose-to-be grave site. I told Ann that if graves were there, we would be able to see sunken places. There was just nothing. I said, “let’s walk down towards the lake.” On Bartons Creek where my Jesse Holt had a grist mill and a saw mill there is a lake now. You can’t see the remains of the old grist mill and saw mill as they are under the water.

We started to walk toward the lake, and stayed close to the fence so we could look over it to see if we could see anything of importance. The fence was on our right. We had gone a ways, probably about a block when I looked to the left and on a little knoll not too far in the field I saw about a dozen old trees in a square. I said, “Look, Ann, at that-what is it?” She didn’t know so I said, “Let’s go see.” When we got there, I know it was the cemetery. We could see where the ground was sunken down in several places like graves. Each place was marked with a sandstone type rock standing upon its end and driven solid into the earth. I felt like crying, I was so overcome and happy with our find as I knew the way I felt that my Father in Heaven had helped to find this hallowed spot. There were six graves we could really tell.

Jessie had said the day before that she remembered Bailey had been buried there as he was the youngest child of Jesse and Lucretia, being born March 10, 1940 and was just five when his father died. The farm had been willed to him and a sister Martha Jane. She was born January 22, 1828 and she never married.

I think the graves are Jesse Holt, his first wife who was my great-great grandmother Elizabeth Davis, Jesse Holt’s second wife, Lucretia Crossland, his daughter Martha Jane, his son Bailey and Baileys wife Lillie Beard. Jesse’s son Norvel who died during the Civil War may also have been buried there.

Well, to me it’s been wonderful finding this cemetery. Ann and I had quite a climb up the hill to get back to the car. My face was so red from the climb. It’s a good thing I’ve been used to walking every morning or I’d have never made it. We went by Luther’s to tell him we had found the cemetery. I wish he and John could have been with us during that wonderful find. Ann took us to our RV so we could clean up and go out to eat with some of the family. We did have a good time. We met another cousin. His name is James Cragwell. He’s a double-cousin to Overton Cragwell that we met the other night. Had such a good visit. When Ann brought us to our RV I bid Jessie goodbye and gave her a hug and kiss, told her I loved her. She said, “You better just keep on doing that, too”


In 1997 Gary and Joyce Holt traveled to Lebanon, Tennessee with funds provided by the James Holt Family Organization. Working with Ann Smith the Jesse Holt Cemetery was cleared of all the vines and bushes, making clearly visible 6 grave sites with stones sticking out of the ground marking each of the grave sites. A chain link fence was also installed around the entire area. Gary gave a report of this project at the 1998 James Holt Family Reunion, showing a few minutes of a video of the event and the before and after appearance of the cemetery.

Holt, Jesse & Elizabeth Davis headstone 1

Here is a photo of Jesse Holt.  In some places, the wife pictured here is noted as Elizabeth Davis and in other places she is identified here as Lucretia Crossland, about 1844.  I do not know which is correct.  If you have more information about this photo, please let me know.

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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4 Responses to The Jesse Holt Family Grave Sites in Tennessee

  1. Steven Andersen says:

    Do you have the address for the Holt Family cemetery?

    Want to visit with my mom who is a descendant of Jesse.

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