James Monroe Holderfield

Submitted by Sandra Nichols


James Monroe "Jim" Holderfield was born July 4, 1844, in Tennessee. He made his first fiddle at age 13. He played the instrument throughout his lifetime, winning many contests and many fiddles. One is owned by Claud Bradford, and one is owned by Fred Estes Hodge.

In September 1857, he and his father William Kelley Holderfield, joined a wagon train going to the California Gold Rush. They were detained at Fort Smith, Arkansas, to repair wagons and thereby escaped the " Mountain Meadow Massacre". His mother and the rest of the family had planned to join them in California, but when the daughter, Mary Margaret, was never heard from, Hulda Holderfield, his mother, refused to leave and Kelly and Jim returned to Bee Branch, Arkansas.

At the begining of the Civil War, he and his father served as scouts and guerilla fighters for the Union Forces in Arkansas. By September 17, 1863, he and his brother, Josiah "Joe" Holderfield, had joined a group of volunteers who hid in caves, making their way to join (enlist) in Company H, llth Missouri Calvary, at Rolla, Missouri. Military papers show that he was 5 ft. 6 inches tall, had blue eyes, light complexion, and dark hair. James Monroe and Josiah were with troops that captured Batesville, Arkansas on December 25, 1863, Jacksonport, Arkansas, April 20, 1864, and defended DeValls Bluff the summer of 1864. He was discharged at New Orleans, Louisiana, July 27, 1865.

During the war, his mother died and his wife, Susie Daniels Holderfield, and infant son died in the refugee camp at Rolla, Missouri. An elderly couple took his daughter, Nancy Jane Holderfield. When he returned to take her, they begged to keep her. She stayed with them until age 16, when he brought her back to Bee Branch, Arkansas. After the war, he played the fiddle on a Mississippi River boat, then taught ferriers at the army blacksmith shops at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

James Monroe married Virginia Bryant, September 13, 1866. He bought a store at Bee Branch, Arkansas, where he was postmaster, January 26, 1871-February 25-1875, and served as county treasurer, September 1868-January 26, 1871. The family then moved to Hatchett City where Virginia Bryant Holderfield died of typhoid fever, October 15, 1881. He then married a Mrs. Frances Seay, July 30, 1882, seperated in 1887, and obtained a divorce on grounds of cruelty. He then purchased a store and farm in Hattiesville where he served as postmaster. His fourth marriage was to Mrs. M. Ballinger, Feb. 13, 1888. She died November 15, 1900 of cancer. On June 30, 1901, he married Mrs. Nancy (Massey) Bradford and purchased land adjoining her farm.

James Monroe Holderfield died of pneumonia at the home of his stepson, G. Howard Bradford, 409 Olive Street, Park Hill, March 15, 1921. He was buried at Cleveland Cemetery, Cleveland, Arkansas, with a Civil War Marker.

Note--Above information is from research done in the 1970's by a grandaughter of Nancy (Massey) Bradford Holderfield, fifth wife of James Monroe Holderfield. She generously shared her research with the James Monroe Holderfield Family.