Strangers to Us All
Lawyers and Poetry

Jesse Lynch Holman

Kentucky & Indiana

--lawyer, novelist, poet, city planner, and preacher

[David J. Bodenhamer & Randall T. Shepard, The History of Indiana Law 305-307 (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2006]

"Hon. Jesse L. Holman was born in Mercer County, Ky., October 22, 1783. When he was sixteen years of age he united with the Clear Creek Baptist church. For his life-work he directed his attention to the profession of law, and was admitted to the bar in Newcastle. On account of his opposition to slavery, he crossed the Ohio river, and made his home in Indiana, on a bluff to which he gave the name Verdestan, and where he continued to reside during the remainder of his life. In 1814, he was elected a member of the territorial legislature, and near the close of the same year he was made presiding judge for his district. Under the state government, in 1816, he was appointed a judge of the supreme court, a position which he filled with honor fourteen years. In 1831, he was a candidate for United States senator, and was defeated by a single vote. Four years later he was apppinted United States district judge for Indiana, and in this office he continued until his death, March 28, 1842.

Mr. Holman took a deep interest in missions, Sunday-schools, Bible and temperance work. In 1834, he was ordained, and on his circuits he frequently addressed large audiences upon topics connected with these enterprises. For many years he was a vice-president of the American Sunday-school Union. He was also president of the Western Baptist Publication and Sunday-school Society. For five years he was president of the Indiana Baptist Convention. . . .

In 'Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Songs,' compiled by Rev. Absalom Graves, 2d ed., 1829 . . . is a hymn (263) by Mr. Holman, consisting of nine stanzas. It also appears in Miller's 'Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs' (30th ed., 1842), Buck's 'Baptist Hymn Book' (1842), and some other collections, but only six of the nine stanzas are inserted. . . .

Another hymn (79) by Mr. Holman, in the same collection, consists of eight stanzas . . . ." [Henry Sweetser Burrage, Baptist Hymn Writers and Their Hymns 260-262 (Portland, Maine: Brown Thurston & Co., 1888)]

Holman was born in a Mercer County, Kentucky cabin. [Richard Elwell Banta, The Ohio 421 (New York: Rhinehart, 1949)(Banta identifes Holman as the first Kentucky and Indiana novelist. Id. at 545.] He studied law in the office of Henry Clay.

Holman moved to Kentucky in 1810, or 1811; he was twenty-seven years old.

Holman was one of the first three original judges of the Supreme Court of Indiana. He served on the court from December 28, 1816, to January 28, 1831. In 1834 was apppointed a U.S. District Judge--he was commissioned in 1835--a position that he held until his death in 1842.


Biographical Directory of Federal Judges


Jesse Lynch Holman, The Prisoners of Niagara, or, Errors of Education: A New Novel, Founded on Fact (Frankfort, Kentucky: Printed by William Gerard, 1810)(Westminster, Maryland: Fireside Fiction, 2006)


Israel G. Blake, The Lives of William Steele Holman and His Father, Jesse Lynch Holman, dissertation, Indiana University, 1941

Research Resources

Jesse L. Holman Papers
Manuscript Section, Indiana Division
Indiana State Library

William Steele Holman
[Jesse Lynch Holman's son]