On Thursday, December 6, 2018, the Mayor and the Brentwood City Commission, along with the Friends of the Brentwood Library, the Library Board and the Historic Commission presented two plaques at the John P. Holt Brentwood Library. The plaques are to commemorate the $4.2 million donation to the library in 2017 from John and O’Delle Holt and the unnamed enslaved people who worked the Holt farm. At the event, Brentwood Mayor Jill Burgin said, “These plaques will remind everyone who enters the city’s library that the full story of our community’s heritage needs to be shared and that the Holt family’s commitment to their community will last for generations.”
The dedication ceremony began in the library meeting rooms and followed the annual lunch hosted by the Friends of the Brentwood Library. The guest speaker, Tina Cahalan Jones from the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County, was accompanied by Carolyn Hatcher, a great-great granddaughter of Lucretia Holt, an enslaved woman who was born on the plantation around 1833. During the plaque unveiling, Hatcher stood smiling at the plaque meant to honor her ancestors.
Mayor Burgin said, “it’s important also to honor the unnamed enslaved people who worked the Holt farm, but whose history here is not as well known. Without their work, the Holt family fortune would not have been possible.” Brentwood Commissioner and Historic Commission member, Anne Dunn, said “the Holt family has been in this community for many generations. Ms. O’Delle Holt chose to share their good fortune with the residents of the city. It is befitting that the plaques will recognize both the family with its long stewardship of the land and the enslaved people who worked it.”
“The Holt family were founding members of the original Williamson County Library,” said Brentwood Commissioner Betsy Crossley who also serves on the Brentwood Library Board. The Holt family has a long history as library advocates. We wanted to have a visible and permanent reminder to recognize their generous contribution to our library,” Crossley added.
“I hope citizens will read these plaques and be very thankful for what our predecessors did for future generations,” said Brentwood City Commissioner Ken Travis. “Their hard work and vision allowed for a very generous gift to Brentwood. This much appreciated gift will be used now and for generations to come,” added Travis.
Friends of the Brentwood Library, Kathy Dooley-Smith said, “The John P. Holt Brentwood Library is the perfect example of a transformative library, always full of diverse citizens, reading, working, learning, and connecting.”
John Page Holt married O’Delle Kelly, of Waco, Texas. They lived in the historic home for a while, then built and lived in another home on the property. Mrs. Holt was a teacher at Lipscomb Elementary School. Mr. and Mrs. Holt had no children, but Mr. Holt’s nephew, Charles Witherspoon, Jr., lived with them. Mr. Witherspoon lived on the property from the time he was two years old. He became a teacher and musician and served as the organist at Brentwood United Methodist Church for 43 years. Mr. Witherspoon died in 2017. The property was operated as a plantation in the 1800s and various reports indicate between 14 and 100 slaves worked on the plantation over the years. You can read more about the family and its history online.
The presentation by Tina Cahalan Jones titled, Holtland and the Holt Enslaved: Two Families’ Stories, is available for viewing online here.