It’s beyond heartbreaking, even given the terrible infant mortality rates of times. Of Jasper and Matilda Holmes’ 11 children, only three lived to see the 20th century. Matilda herself died giving birth to her last child, who lingered a few months before slipping away. Others died in clumps, compounding the family’s grief to unimaginable intensity.
Robert, the first child, was born in 1864. He lived long enough to be recorded in the 1880 census of Charles City County, but was dead before his father’s estate opened in 1899.
Walter and Angelina, born in 1868 and 1870, died within six months of each other in 1887, felled by tuberculosis.
William and Joseph, born in 1871 and 1874, died on consecutive days in January 1875, victims of whooping cough.
Emma, born in 1876, lived long enough to marry Cornelius Jefferson in November 1899 and to give birth to son, Jesse Holmes Jefferson, the following January. (Though, oddly, she is not listed in a transfer of property to Jasper’s heirs on 30 December 1899.) She died when Jesse was an infant, however, and the boy was reared in his aunt Agnes’ family.
My great-grandmother Mary Agnes, born in 1877, lived into her 80s. Her death in 1961 came more than 60 years after the death of all but one of her siblings.
Martha, called “Mattie,” born 1879, married Jesse E. Smith, in May 1899. She received a share of her father’s estate in 1899, but died during the next decade.
Julia Ellen, born in 1882, lived the longest of all the children. She was close to 90 in 1961 when she was listed in her sister’s obituary as the sole remaining Holmes.
The last babies, unnamed infants, died at or within months of birth. The first, a boy, died in 1880 at the age of 2 days; the second, a boy, in 1884 at the age of 6 days; and the last in 1885, weeks after his mother gave birth to him.