A Short Biographical Profile
by Chip Cunningham
University of Virginia Anth 509, Summer 1996
Edward Holman arrived at Plymouth Colony aboard the Anne in 1623. We are informed that he returned to England in 1632 for a short period, although there is no account of his business in travelling. He seems to have taken up a more permanent residence in Plymouth after this point.
With or Without You
There is no mention in the records of any genealogy surrounding Edward Holman, so we are left somewhat uninformed as to whether he had any relatives in Plymouth colony and who those relatives might have been. There are no references to Holman being married, but the records do mention a Richard Willis, who was referred to as the "soon in law" of Edward Holman. Unfortunately, there has been no evidence to date to support or defeat this connection. The records do inform us that Willis was put in the service of Gyles Rickard Sr. as an apprentice, which makes for interesting speculation about Holman's social relationships concerning those with whom we know he had contact .
Although we are not certain of Holman's marital status during his Plymouth settlement, it certainly did not prevent him from carrying on a "dangerous liaison" with the wife of Thomas Shrive, Martha; he is warned two times by the Court to sever his contact with her (she receives the same warning). The final warning involves the threat of corporal punishment for both. This admonition must have worked, as there are no further records involving the two together.
Man and Merchant
Holman seems to have been a businessman, because in several references we see him trading land and boats with others who were known to be in the same line of business (see next paragraph). The records also indicate that Holman owned his share of livestock, including at least two horses, which would suggest that he was financially secure.
He also participated in the "quick turn-around" style of land acquisition/sale. However, the records referring to his occupation are not overly abundant, and we do not know how profitable his ventures were.
The records indicate that Holman shared a business relationship with John Barnes, as there are two seemingly different accounts of land/boat deals between the two men. We also know that Holman and Barnes shared hay grounds at the Gurnets Nose, which, among other things, would have been used to feed livestock (although there is no mention of livestock trading between the two men). Interestingly, Holman, like Barnes, was brought before the Court more than once for his drunkenness, and it would be interesting to know if this was an occupational hazard in seventeenth century Plymouth. As mentioned above, Holman also had contact with Gyles Rickard Sr. (in apprenticing Richard Willis) which would suggest that Holman at least had a working relationship with both Barnes and Rickard; and although we have no certain accounts of the three being together in a social atmosphere, I think one could speculate that Holman was a marginal but noticable figure in the Barnes-Rickard tradition (what I would call "the grumpy old men" theory).
Holman owned several different properties in his lifetime, two of which may have included houses. His neighbors at these properties included John Barnes, John Done, John Winslow, and Isaac Allerton.
Duty and Lawdogs
The records indicate that Holman was not the most civil-minded individual. He is never listed as a Freemen or as taking the oath of fidelity, and the only roster where Holman's name appears in a civic reference is as a soldier in a war with the Pequin Indians. On the other end of the spectrum, Holman had his share of Court appearances. He sued other colonists three times, and is in turn sued, fined, or warned in Court at least eight separate times. His offenses included stealing, breach of sabbath, lying in Court, meeting "at unseasonable times of night" with another man's wife, entertaining another man's servant, and public drunkeness. One of his more interesting Court appearances involves a shipwreck, in which Holman took goods from the wreck and then demanded the Court pay him for what he took when he is caught. He must have been a "fast talker", as he convinced the Court that his original purpose was to bring the goods back to Plymouth, and thus they pay him. Certainly, this manner of behavior would fit him right into the Barnes-Rickard tradition with which we are familiar (also of interest is that Holman "plundered" the shipwreck with Joshua Barnes, who may or may not have been related to John Barnes).
There are no records of Holman employing servants.
Holman disappears from the records after 1661, as we do not even have a will or an account of his death.