Charles Holden

Page 275-278 Charles Holden who now holds the office of United States collector of internal revenue for the Fourth district of Michigan, with headquarters in the federal building in his native city of Grand Rapids, is a scion of a family that has been one of prominence and distinction in Michigan history. Mr. Holden was born in a little three-room house that stood at the southeast corner of Lyon street and Lafayette avenue, Grand Rapids, on the 7th of February, 1860, and is the eldest of the three children of Hon. Ebenezer G. D. and Melissa E. (Smith) Holden. His one brother, Henry Smith Holden, is now a resident of the city of Chicago, and his sister, Mary Ellen, is the wife of Judge Willis B. Perkins, of Grand Rapids, who is now presiding on the bench of the circuit court of this Michigan circuit. Hon. Ebenezer G. D. Holden, who was Michigan secretary of state in the period of 1875-79, was born at Kirkland, Cuyahoga county, Ohio, February 18, 1834, and the closing years of his long, worthy and useful life were passed at Coquille, Oregon, where he established his residence in 1899 and where his death occurred August 20,1912. He had there served as justice of the peace and had been much of a leader in the civic affairs of that community. A section of the public library in that little Oregon city has been memorialized in his honor, by reason of the many books that were taken from his splendid private library after his death and presented by the Holden family to this library. Mr. Holden was about ten years of age when he accompanied his parents on their removal from Ohio to Michigan, in 1845, and the family home was established on a pioneer farm in Byron township, Kent county. Here he was reared to manhood and here he became a citizen of major prominence and influence. He found ways and means to acquire a liberal education, attended Knox college, Illinois, and also to prepare himself for the legal profession . He was admitted to the Michigan bar in 1859, and forthwith engaged in the practice of law in Grand Rapids. He was prosecuting attorney of Kent county in the period of 1862-64, and he was for many years chairman of the Kent county Republican committee, besides having given prolonged service as a school official in his home city. He was a leader in the councils and campaign activities of the Republican party in this section of Michigan, and long held precedence as one of the leading members of the Kent county bar, besides which he here developed a substantial and representative general insurance business. His maximum official service to Michigan was in his able administration as secretary of state, 1875-79. He was one of the organizers of the Grand Rapids Savings Bank, and he continued as one of the honored and influential citizens of Grand Rapids until his removal to Oregon, as already noted in this context. Mrs. Holden, whose death occurred at Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1915, was a gracious gentlewoman whose memory is revered in the city that was long her home, and in the social and cultural circles of which she was a prominent figure. She was one of the foremost in the organization of the West Side Ladies Literary Club of Grand Rapids, in 1875, and was a leader in the affairs of this organization, in connection with the history of which she has been affectionately designated the mother of the club.

Charles Holden received his early education in the Grand Rapids public schools. He was a mere boy when he assumed the prerogative of becoming entirely dependent upon his own resources, and he thus developed self-reliance and a command of expedients. He left the parental home in 1875, when he was fifteen years of age, and his early activities included service as newsboy, Western Union messenger, grocery and delivery boy, and farm worker. When his father became Michigan secretary of state, in 1875, Charles Holden was given employment as messenger boy in that department of the state government, and two years later, at the age of seventeen years, he was promoted to a clerkship in the department, with which he continued his association eight years, including the four years of his father's administration as secretary of state. After leaving the state capital Mr. Holden returned to Grand Raapids, where he studied law in the office of Judge John W. Stone and Wesley W. Hyde, while later he continued his studies under the preceptorship of the firm of Smiley & Earl. In 1879, while still in the capital city of Lansing, Mr. Holden enlisted in the Company H, First Infantry Regiment of the Michigan National Guard, and after his return to Grand Rapids he there organized and equipped a division uniform rank of the Knights of Pythias, he having been the drill master of this fine organization at the time when it won first prize in the Michigan drill contest and second prize in the national contest. Mr. Holden was for a number of years one of the most active and popular members of the Grand River Boat Club, of Lansing, Michigan, which he served as secretary, and while in the capital city he was a member of the Lansing baseball club that gained honors as one of the best in the state. Mr. Holden made a record as an all-round athlete, and he still finds his maximum enjoyment and recreation in outdoor life. For some time Mr. Holden was manager of the book department of the old and important Eaton & Lyon book store, that had its headquarters where the Boston Store of Grand Rapids is now located. He was actively concerned in the organization of the old Board of Trade, which was the nucleus around which has been evolved the present Grand Rapids Association of Commerce, of which latter he has been a director twenty-five years, this making him the dean of the board. Mr. Holden was chairman of the agricultural department of the old Grand Rapids Board of Trade at the time when that organization instituted its vigorous compaign to advance the cultivation of alfalfa in Kent county. From an original area of fifty acres here devoted to this great forage crop, the county has advanced to the point where 1,000 acres are given to alfalfa. Mr. Holden has not given much attention to the practice of law, as he has found other fields for successful achievement. In 1885 he was manager of the Lyon Furniture Collection Agency, and thereafter he was employed a number of years as traveling salesman for a leading wholesale grocery house in the city of Chicago. In 1885 he became associated with his father in the insurance business, and at the age of twenty-five years he organized the E. G. D. Holden & Sons Insurance Agency, with the management of which he continued his executive connection until 1922. In 1895, when he was elected representative of the First district of Kent county in the state legislature, in which he served one term. The most important measure that came up for consideration before the house of representatives with Mr. Holden's term was that looking to the abolishment of capital punishment in the state. He was a vigorous opponent of this measure, and to his forceful and logical speech before the house was attributed the defeat of the bill, three thousand people having been present when he delivered this strong and eloquent address, and the state press having given him high commendation in the connection. After his service in the legislature Mr. Holden was, for fourteen years, associated with Major Wm. G. Hardy in the general insurance business in Grand Rapids, and this partnership alliance was severed by the death of Major Hardy, in May, 1914. Mr. Holden can now lay consistent claim to being the dean of Michigan insurance men. In 1908 he was president of the Grand Rapids Credit Men's Association, the largest in western Michigan and in 1925 he is regarded as the leader in the legislative matters of the National Credit Men's Association. He was for five years a member of the Grand Rapids board of education, and in 1903 he represented this board at the National Educational Association convention, held in Boston, Massachusetts, where he was called upon to deliver an address on the subject of new departures in school administration. While a member of the board of education he aided in the establishing of the Grand Rapids Museum and the pruchase of its present building. Mr. Holden has been an ardent worker in the ranks of the Republican party and has been a frequent delegate to party conventions. He has served as president of the Michigan Insurance Agents' Association and has delivered numerous addresses on insurance subjects. He served a short term as acting postmaster of Grand Rapids, and is perhaps the only former postmaster in the United States to have become a life honorary member of the National Association of Postoffice Clerks. He was one of the influential and enthusiastic workers in the campaign that resulted in the adoption by Grand Rapids of the commission system of municipal government. Though not formally a member of any religious body, Mr. Holden has been for forty-five years active in church, Sunday School and Y. M. C. A. work. He is now custodian of the Federal building in Grand Rapids and ex-president of the Federal Business Association in his native city. He has one of the largest and best selected private libraries in Grand Rapids, is known for the breadth of his intellectual ken, and in his travels he has visited every state in the Union. Among his personal friends he numbers some of the best known of American statesmen, poets, authors, politicians, clergymen, educators and publicists. In the World war period Mr. Holden gave valuable service in the advancing of patriotic work, including the campaigns in support of the government war bonds, Red Cross and Y. M. C. A. service, etc. Since February, 1922, Mr. Holden has been United States collector of internal revenue for a district that comprises the western half of the lower and the entire upper peninsula of Michigan. He is affiliated with the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, and on the maternal side he is a direct descendant of John Webster, a colonial governor of Connecticut. In 1900 Mr. Holden was united in marriage to Miss Marie Sprague, of Jamestown, New York, she being a graduate of the Jamestown Theological Seminary. Mr. Holden has five children: Marion Louise is the wife of Eldon Bemis, of East Lansing; Charles Fluhrer, who was named in honor of Rev. Charles Fluhrer, a leading clergyman in Grand Rapids for seventeen years, remains in his native city; Mary Elizabeth is (1925) a student graduate of the University of Michigan; and the two younger children are Willis Sprague and Harriet Theodosia. Mr. Holden is a thorough American in lineage and loyalty, and to his native state and city his loyalty is that of deep appreciation and gracious memories. In his eligibility for the Sons of the American Revolution his claims are based on the service of five patriot ancestors--one lieutenant-colonel and four minute men.

Transcriber: Gloria Paas
Created: 25 November 2002