At twenty-six John H. Holland (b.1838)
left a wife and two sons at home when he volunteered
to fight as an
infantryman in the Union army in 1864. As a
Company A, Pittsfield, MA volunteers, in the
61st Massachusetts infantry, he saw action
Petersburg and at the surrender of Richmond.
After the war John founded a successful retail paint and wallpaper
store in Des Moines, Iowa (see accompanying picture
of one of his newspaper advertisements), buried two wives and
fathered three more children.
He was sixty-five
years old and had been widowed for three
months when he joined his daughters on an afternoon
Mr. Bluebeard matinee at the Iroquois theater
on December 30, 1903 in Chicago. The Iroquois Theater fire
spared the lives of two of his daughters –
Bell Holland Whitcomb and Mabel Holland Ray Sims
– but took the lives of John and his thirty-six year old
stepdaughter, Lillian M. Pelton (b. 1867).
John Holland had
married Mary Koenig Pelton (1842-1903) in 1889
following the death of his first wife, Cincinnati native, Evelyn H. Seever Holland (1838-1884)
– his wife for twenty-five years and mother of his five children.
John's second wife, Mary, died in September,
1903, three months before the Iroquois fire.
Prior to her marriage to Holland Mary was
divorced from bricklayer Louis William Pelton (1842-1909).*
Daughter Lillian, who died at the Iroquois with
John, was named after Louis's sister, Lillian Pelton McFadden.
survivors were his children:
- Charles A.
Holland, artist (see below)
- John E.
Holland (1861-____), Boston
- Iroquois survivor
Anna Bell Holland Whitcomb,
Chicago resident (1867-____)
- Iroquois survivor
Sims (1871-1932), divorced** from Raphael
William Sims, with 1 child, Evaline, named after
- Ruth Holland
The Holland family home in
Des Moines was at 1068 24th St. near the
intersection with Cottage Grove. (In 1903
during he and Lillian's 10-day visit in Chicago,
D. H. Sleeper, a relative of
Mary's, stayed there to keep an
eye on things. Was possibly
A Massachusetts native, Holland
was founder and president of Holland & New, a large
wallpaper and paint retailer in Des Moines doing
business at 608-610 Locust St. The
claimed to be the
largest such retailer west of Chicago. In addition
to selling goods the company performed contract
painting and decorating
services. Product offerings including paint,
wallpaper, picture framing, mirrors
sign painting and window
glass. As a young
man John's first job in the decorating industry was as
a fresco and sign painting artist. After the
civil war he joined his father's business
for a few years then relocated to
Des Moines in 1878.
Both John's and Lillian's
by a W. F.
Wilson, relationship unknown. Two
diamond rings and diamond earrings were missing from
Lillian's body. It is not known if her
jewelry was discovered but probably not; the
few cases of recovery were well publicized.
A double funeral was held in
Des Moines, Iowa the Monday after the fire. John and his late wife had been members of
the Methodist church but it is not known who
conducted the services for he and Lillian
or where they were held. Both are buried at the Woodland
Cemetery in De Moines.
marriage and divorce
Lillian was married to a St. Louis native, Leonadis
"Lee" H. Cordry (1866-1944), vice president and
manager of the Des Moines Dairy company for whom she
worked as a clerk. City directories
the Iliad hotel in Des Moines. He later
separated during the second half of 1900, Lee
returning to Saint Louis and Lillian taking a
clerking job. By 1901 they were divorced and
Lee had remarried. Lillian
continued to go by Cordry but retook her maiden name
in city directories and Pelton was used in her
estate settlement papers. The Cordry name was
given to newspapers in the first few days after the
fire, probably by relatives searching for her body,
so she appeared twice in some of the early lists, as
both Lillian Cordry and Lillian Pelton.
and her mother spent the summer of 1902 in Colorado,
then Lillian spent the winter in
St. Louis and by 1903 was living with her
mother and stepfather on 24th St. in Des Moines.
her death Lillian's assets were were initially
thought to be $248 for a share and a third of
stock in her stepfather's paint dealership,
valued at $223, and a single share in Nissly's
restaurant in Des Moines worth $25. (Owned by
Joe Nissly, the restaurant was in the midst of union
disputes around the time Lillian's estate was being
settled but probably repurchased the share from the
estate, as did Holland family members Lillian's
share in their father's decorating business.)
$19.60 was deducted from Lillian's
estate to pay her
outstanding account at Younker Bros. for
her last purchase there – a $5 hat,
dress fabric and sewing notions – and
undertaking fees of $225.50 for Charles
O'Donnell (owner of Western Granite)
and Henry Gray (see undertaking
accompanying picture of invoice submitted to estate).
The administrator of Lillian's estate,
attorney E. D. Samson, sent letters in an effort to
find her father but when there was no
response her estate was closed in early 1905, the
only known relatives two cousins,
thirty-two year old F. P. White of
Chicago, residing at 615 Monadnock Bldg in Chicago
and forty-three year old C. H.
White, living at 180 Claremont Ave
in Jersey City, NJ.
Pelton, appeared in Des Moines soon after the estate
was closed. He and his family had been living
in Wisconsin but at his death in 1909 he lived in
Chicago, without his wife. If the marriage
broke up and he relocated to Chicago, Samson's letter may have
been forwarded by Pelton's estranged wife, thus
delayed. Pelton brought with him $1,000 in
thought was part of Lillian's estate that was later
determined not to have belonged to Lillian.