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Holland, William H.(1841?–1907) - Soldier, politician, Chronology

texas colored holland’s youth

William H. Holland was born a slave in Marshall, Texas. There are conflicting dates for Holland’s birth. In Negro Legislatures of Texas , Brewer records his birth year as 1849 while other sources such as the Dictionary of American Biography records Holland’s birth year as 1841. Holland was reared as the son of Captain Byrd (Bird) Holland, former onetime secretary of the state of Texas. In the late 1850s, Byrd purchased William and his brothers Milton and James. Upon Byrd’s death, William and his brothers were taken to Ohio to attend school. Albany Enterprise Academy, a school owned and operated by blacks, provided William and his brother Milton with their early education.

Holland’s military service began with his enlistment on October 22, 1864 in the Union Army 16th Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops, which was organized in Clarksville, Tennessee and continued in Nashville. This regiment included enlisted black men from Ohio and runaway slaves from Kentucky. Colonel R. D. Mussey served as the commissioner for the regiment of colored troops, which had as many as 24 officers and 504 men before mustering out on April 30, 1866. The 16th U.S. Colored regiment participated in the Nashville and Overton Hill battles in pursuit of John Bell Hood to the Tennessee River and in garrison duty in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Holland, like many other black soldiers that volunteered, saw combat and served behind the lines. Holland’s brother Milton received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic service in the Battle of New Market Heights on September 29, 1864.

After serving in the military, Holland turned his attention to pursuing a college education. In 1867, he entered Oberlin College in Ohio. It is believed that it was Holland’s time at Oberlin that prepared him intellectually and socially for challenges he later encountered. It is not known if Holland graduated. However, after two years at Oberlin, Holland returned to Texas to become principal in the Austin Doublehorn community. Holland’s passion for education and the education of children later led him to sponsor legislation that sought the educational interest of children.

The congressional reconstruction of Texas brought with it African Americans and carpetbaggers. Holland, like many other African Americans, joined the Republican Party, which was mostly made up of white men. Their presence was more collaboration than control of the party. Nevertheless, Holland’s affiliation with the party gained him an appointment with the post office. The exact date of Holland’s move to Waller County is not known, but in 1876 he won election to the fifteenth legislature as a representative from Waller County. It was during this time when the legislature convened that Holland sponsored a bill to establish an agricultural and mechanical college for the white and colored youth of Texas. On August 14, 1876 the Fifteenth Legislature passed an act to establish an Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas for the benefit of Colored Youth.

Other than the credit given to Holland in the Handbook of Texas Online , very little information is credited to him as the father of Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas for Colored Youth. However, the Second Morrill Act of 1890 links Holland to what is known today as Prairie View Agricultural & Mechanical University. The Morrill Act of 1890, which passed in the Fifteenth Legislature, provided for the creation of land grant schools of higher learning for African Americans. As a result, seventeen land grant institutions were created in the southern states. African Americans were much disfranchised during the 1890s by state and federal constitutional laws that prohibited equal access. The establishing of the seventeen land grant institutions gave strength to the separate but equal doctrine.

After he was chosen as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1876 and 1880, Holland sponsored a bill in the Texas legislature to establish a school for the deaf and mute. Six months later, on April 5, 1887, the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Institute for Colored Youth was opened. Approximately $50,000 was appropriated to construct on a 100-acre site two miles outside Austin. The institute offered the children instruction in trades and industries such as broom making, mattress making, shoe-making, and repairs and cooking. Governor Lawrence S. Ross appointed Holland as its first superintendent on August 15, 1887. This appointment made Holland the first black man in the United States to head a public institution. For the next eleven years Holland remained as superintendent and was later joined by his wife Eliza, in 1890, as an instructor of the deaf.



Born in Marshall, Texas (some sources say 1849)


Captain Byrd (Bird) Holland purchases William and his brothers


Enlists in the Union Army’s Sixteenth United States Colored Troops


Enters Oberlin College


Wins election to the Fifteenth legislature and sponsors bill to create Prairie View A&M University


Sponsors bill to create and is appointed superintendent of Texas Institute for Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Colored Youth


Dies in Mineral Wells, Texas on May 27

The institute was governed by an all white board of trustees that had complete faith and trust in Holland’s leadership. In 1898, another African American, S. J. Jenkins, succeeded Holland as superintendent. At the death of Jenkins, on April 21, 1904, Holland was again appointed superintendent where he remained until his death on May 27, 1907, at his home in Mineral Wells, Texas, having suffered a heart attack.

Living up to Oberlin’s motto and spirit to live large and unselfish led to Holland’s establishing an organization in the Negro community known as the Friends in Need. This organization provided financial assistance to Negro students who were unable to meet their educational expenses. While Holland was very generous with his finances, he never looked for praise. Reaching out and helping others was the epitome of his life.

Not much is known about Holland and his personal life other than the fact that he married Eliza H. James, a school teacher. Eliza worked with Holland for a short while at the Texas Institute of Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Colored Youth as an instructor. Holland and Eliza had two daughters.

Hollerith, Herman - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Chronology: Herman Hollerith, Social and Economic Impact [next] [back] Holinshed, Raphael (c. 1525–1580) - BIOGRAPHY, CRITICAL RECEPTION

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about 6 years ago

Methinks that you have confused two different W.H. Hollands! This article states:

However, after two years at Oberlin,
Holland returned to Texas to become
principal in the Austin Doublehorn
community. […] Holland’s affiliation
with the party gained him an
appointment with the post office.

Noah Smithwick chronicled early Texas and observed this during his stay in Double Horn:

The Doublehorn people were all in
comfortable circumstances and had an
excellent school, presided over by
Professor W. H. Holland, a Yale

Please let me know hat you think about a possible mistaken identity case.