Sunday, March 16, 2014

Orsemor Sumner Holden (1843-1914)

From the Centennial Celebration, Together with a Historical Sketch of Reading, 1874.

   A lifetime resident of Vermont, Orsemor Sumner Holden was for over five decades one of Windsor County's foremost citizens, being active in both local business and politics. A two-term member of the Vermont State House of Representatives from the town of Reading, Holden also gained additional repute for being a popular "singer of sentimental songs" as well as a multi-instrumentalist, two pastimes as far removed from politics as one can imagine!
   One of two sons born to Felchville, Vermont hotel operator Joel Holden (1804-1850) and his wife Priscilla (1806-1883), Orsemor S. Holden was born in Reading on July 20, 1843 and received his education in schools local to his place of birth. Holden is described by the "Men of Vermont" as inheriting a gift for music, and was a multi-instrumentalist, becoming a proficient player of the organ, banjo, and guitar. Possessing a "cultivated baritone voice", Holden is also mentioned as being a singer of then-popular sentimental songs, eventually joining up with a traveling minstrel troupe, Whitmore and Clark's Minstrels, in 1864. His time with this group extended for a period of five years, and during the Civil War enlisted for service on three occasions, but "could not pass the physical examination."
   For over fifty years Orsemore Holden made his living as a house, sign and carriage painter, while also taking part in singing engagements and musical performance. He married in July 1873 to Andover, Vermont native Julia Ella Nutting, who later served Reading as its Superintendent of Schools during the 1880s. The couple were married for over forty years and remained childless through the course of their marriage.
    Beginning in middle age Holden began to take an active role in Reading political affairs, serving as a town selectman from 1883-1892. He became a justice of the peace in 1885 and town road commissioner, and in November 1885 was elected to his first term in the Vermont House of Representatives, taking his seat in January 1886. This term saw him sit on the house committee on claims, and he was returned to the house for a second term during the 1890 election year. 
  Following his service in the legislature, Orsemor Holden continued to serve Reading in various local offices, including that of "road commissioner, town agent and auditor" in the mid-1890s and maintained a membership in the Mt. Sinai Lodge #22 of the International Order of Odd Fellows. In 1901 Holden proved that even at nearly 60 years of age he could still carry a tune, and during Old Home Day in Reading on August 14th sang a "greeting song" to a large crowd assembled in town. 
  Orsemor Sumner Holden died at age 71 of pernicious anemia on June 28, 1914 and was survived by his wife Ella, who is listed in an death record as dying sometime in 1947. A burial location for both Holden and his wife remains unknown at this time.

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