Elihu Our â€œBrick Wallâ€
& Is Lt. John Hollister (b 1612) â€œFather Hollisterâ€?
After reflecting on my 2nd visit to the Hollister â€œbase campâ€ in the new world (Glastonbury, CT) I came away with a few strong impressions. First, that the study of heritage is fun. I was on a layover in Springfield, MA with little on the agenda and a rather boring afternoon in store. But with the help of a rental car and a specific mission, a new game had begun. Off to Glastonbury. Just visiting this quaint colonial burg was interesting enough, with its colonial design and 1600â€™s buildings. But it became loads more interesting knowing that our family tree had likely rooted here with the likes of some uniquely interesting early settlers.
We have been head to head with a brick wall for at least 18 months with the pedigree of Elihu Hollister. Of the eight surnames that I have begun tracking, this one by far has been the most stubborn, but potentially also one of the most rewarding. We simply cannot connect Elihuâ€™s early 1800â€™s life with his parent lineage and the major American Hollister clan out of CT. So the mystery about who he was and where he came from builds. Was he an immigrant from England or was he connected to the extensively charted CT Hollisters who descended from Lt. John?
Enter a trip to the SLC Mormon Genealogy Library in the Fall of 2000. Trying to make a Hollister sibling connection to Elihu or his wife Susan Beebee, I began noticing a large concentration of Hollisters with the same mailing address, Glastonbury, CT. This village kept surfacing over and over again with every Hollister name I pulled up. So a little time spent in the microfiche dept and actual film images of early Glastonbury vital records started to reveal for a fact what I have been affectionately calling the mother lode, ground zero, the omega of the â€œAmerican Hollistersâ€. It was just a hunch but I started to pursue Elihuâ€™s lineage --- top down! A couple of early facts to reckon with. Hollisters came on the American scene with Lieut. John Hollister about 1641 in CT. Hard to find or verify any other named Hollister here in the new world earlier. He settled in one locale (unlike the later west ward pioneers) and they populated prolifically. Literally hundreds of Hollisters have lived in the Glastonbury area. And the third fact was our record of our Elihu in Cattarangus Co., NY in the 1850 census coincides nicely with the â€œtamingâ€ of the lands to the west and the need to spread out a little from the original base settlement. Up to this point what did we have on Elihu Hollister? Well, we knew that the name comes from the book of Job. Not one of Jobâ€™s condemning friends, but rather the eloquent man of great humility who knew well the ways of God. Besides the name origin, we had an unnamed images of him and Susan and a small card (with names) announcing his daughterâ€™s death. In addition we find his name also appearing in a 1850 NY & and 1860 OH census. And that was the extent of our knowledge. Now the big mystery. Why isnâ€™t there any vital records available for this man? Birth records, marriage info, childrenâ€™s records? A possible explanation came from the CT librarian that the 1790-1850 was and is the genealogy trouble spot. Vital records were performed for a â€œfeeâ€ and because of it whole generations refused to submit info. Should that discourage the hunt. Naw, in fact it makes it more fun.
So the plot thickens. Like many early American settlers, families often settled in close proximity to aid and abet one another. Certainly this was true of this clan with the well recorded history of Glastonbury. So when Hollisters ventured westward it would likely be a family thing. In fact that is exactly what a studied Hollister researcher, William Hollister suggests. He states that the clan moved â€œin clansâ€ as they spread into NY and points west. Brothers or cousins would originally help one another and likely reside nearby. So we are trying to find a sibling or child with a record trail in Cattarangus Co., but the online internet sources so far have proved quite fruitless. Well, then how about the hunch. How about â€œassumingâ€ (yeah I know about the dangers of assuming) that Elihu is part of John Hollisterâ€™s descendants. We should seek out who may have moved westward from CT. Enter Josiah (b1754) and Samuel L. Hollister (b1788) found on a printed tree at the CT Genealogy Society Library. Both of these descendants of John moved west and settled in NY. Which CO you ask? Well, would Cattarangus ring a bell. That is right John Hollisterâ€™s des. involved in a migration from Glastonbury to Cattarangus CO., NY. Wow, a little hunch may be paying be dividends. I now believe there is a strong reason to place weight, that Elihu is linked to the CT Hollisters which simplifies the task of the linkage a great deal as the CT Hollisters are well documented. There is still an outside chance that Elihu immigrated form England to join his cousins or that he is not part of this line at all but simply happened to be there by coincidence. I am not holding much weight on either of these notions simply based on odds. But as to the exact link_____for now, still a mystery!
This hypothesis raises the importance of one Lieut. John Hollister who immigrated to CT in 1641. This big man who had an enormously important roll and was one if not the earliest settler in the Glastonbury area, has a fascinating bio. He ventured outside the â€œprotectionâ€ of the fort-like burgs to live and â€œco-operateâ€ with the Indians with agriculture and fort building projects. Well, respected and definitely a forerunner this manâ€™s life is better detailed in the note section of the family tree.
Now, that I believe John Hollister is involved in our family lineage I started to research and record info about his life. Of course connecting the immigrant back to the motherland has always been a goal. With John I noticed a real brick wall when it came to his parentage. Literally hundreds of family tree charts that include his name along with when and where he was born fail to record his parents. Intriguing! Just a few days prior I was given a Hollister family crest that included a text description. The text indicates that the Hollister name is not recorded in the English museum records of the time suggesting that it likely is an Americanized name. No Hollister parents? Could that be? After following this hunch during research, I found a couple of family trees that do indeed show a parentage for John Hollister. This rogue is listed along with his Hale siblings as a child of Thomas Hale & Joan Kirby. Was he a stepchild? Adopted? Is the genealogy simply in error? Or could John Hollister (listed in one tree as John Hollister Hale) actually be a Hale only to change his surname in the states? Well, it is worth pursuing hard verification but this mystery will take some effort. Two of his siblings Samuel &Thomas Hale (direct ancestors of the famous Nathan Hale, hung for treason by the crown who left this quote, â€I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.â€) Also immigrated to the new world a few years earlier in 1634. And where did they settle? If you guessed CT you would be doing good. They first located at Weymouth but later, they followed Big John to Glastonbury. Brothers? Well, it may be a little too soon to say for certain but there is evidence leaning that way. So if John was born a Hale why did he change his name to Hollister? Though that is somewhat of a mystery, it would be a big step, but it wasnâ€™t uncommon that settlers wished to separate in many ways from their past life for one reason or another. I believe John came across in the wave of puritan migration that had had enough of the Anglican Church. (Please see: Was John Hollister a Pilgrim or a Puritan? The Pilgrims and PuritansTotal Reformation for the Glory of God by Samuel T. Logan. Jr) .It is possible that his religious positions entered into one deciding to change his name. But whether he changed his name, is non-related to the Hales, a stepchild, or a blood brother I am sure we will learn the truth in time. With these assumptions about Elihu however, it may well be that the Hollisters of CT are the originators of most American Hollisters and our entire line. And that Lieut.John Hollister may be referred to as the American Father of Our Family.