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Friday, July 3, 2009

The Mystery of Mary Adams Brown Holloway

I got the following message from Laura Matecha who was looking for information on her great grandmother, Mary Adams Brown Holloway who was born in New Gretna in 1867 but lived in Batsto, in Washington Township, most of her life. Laura was looking for suggestions to gather additional information.

My name is Laura Matecha. I am researching my family tree and have hit a road block in New Gretna. I was wondering if you could give me any suggestions. My great grandmother's name was Mary O. Adams Brown Holloway. Her birthdate is February 1867 in New Gretna. She lived in Batsto, NJ most of her life and married Charles Brown and then Joseph Holloway. Any suggestions of where to go from here? I believe that she is buried in New Gretna as well.

As someone who enjoys Bass River history and genealogy, I love a challenge and started a search for Laura's great grandmother. Since Laura reported that she was born in New Gretna in 1867, the best starting place for information seemed to be the 1870 Bass River Township Census. If the family still lived in Bass River three years after Mary's birth, we should find her there. Unfortunately, there was no record of a Mary O. Adams in the 1870 Bass River census. Since Laura didn't provide the names of Mary's parents. I have to assume that they are unknown which makes the search more difficult. Searching the 1870 census in the neighboring communities of Little Egg Harbor, Washington Township, and Randolph Township also failed to turn up a Mary Adams. No one ever said that this genealogy stuff is ever easy.

My next plan was to review the New Gretna Methodist and Presbyterian Church records, hoping to find a birth or baptism record for Mary Adams in 1867. Unfortunately, that did not pan out either. The Methodist Church records that I have don't start until 1873 and my Presbyterian Church records, which begin in 1863, don't mention a Mary Adams.

Since a search for Mary's birth wasn't successful, I decided to move to the end of her life. Laura said that she believed that Mary was buried in New Gretna. If so, she would have been buried as Mary Holloway, the surname of her last husband. A quick look at my Bass River Township cemetery records quickly showed a Mary O. Holloway, born 1867 and died 1940, buried in the Hill section of Miller Cemetery. The last name and birth date match Laura's information. Finally, a break!

After breakfast I decided to ride down to Miller Cemetery and take a photo of the grave stone and look at the surrounding stones to see who may be buried with Mary and what information that may present about Mary's life. I found the grave quickly; however, a look at the surrounding graves was disappointing. Mary was buried by herself in a single grave. There are no members of the Adams, Brown, or Holloway family in the area. However, the existence of a headstone and curbing around the grave suggests that someone cared about her.

Mary O. Holloway's tombstone to the rear of the Hill Section of Miller Cemetery, confirms Laura's information regarding Mary's birth year and marriage to a Holloway. It also tells us that Mary died in 1940 but, unfortunately, not where. (July 2, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Mary is buried in a single grave which gives us no clues as to a relationship of those buried near her. (July 2, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Strange, I murmured to myself. Why would Mary end up buried by herself in New Gretna? From 1870 through the 1930 Bass River census reports there was no record of Mary living in Bass River, either as Mary Adams, Mary Brown, or Mary Holloway. There must be some continued family connection with Bass River if she ended up buried here, especially since Laura reported that Mary had lived most of her life at Batsto. Older Miller Cemetery records are spotty, at best, and I was not able to find out who purchased Mary's grave from the New Gretna Old Home Society records. (Note: The New Gretna Old Home Society is the name of the non profit organization that owns and maintains Miller and Hillside cemeteries in New Gretna.)

Shirley Whealton and I have been working on collecting area obituaries and organizing them in a computer database. So far we have over 5,000 obituaries in the database, including 17 Holloways. Unfortunately, none of them are related to our Mary Adams Brown Holloway mystery.

A trip to the Internet seemed advisable. My first stop was the LDS Family Search site found at: I typed in "Mary Adams, United States, birth 1867, State of New Jersey" and got the following hit that looked promising: Mary A. Adams, born 01 MAR 1867 in Bass River Township, Burlington, New Jersey. Parents: John and Phebe A. Adams. The middle initial did not match; but it's not unusual for an "A" to look like an "O" given variations in handwriting styles. Laura said that Mary was born February, 1867, so close to March 1, 1867 for me not to believe it was a coincidence. This may be our Mary! Unfortunately, the source of the LDS information was not given.

Shirley Whelaton, my genealogy buddy, who knows more about local family genealogy than anyone I know, reports that Little Egg Harbor marriage vital stratistics, 1848-1880, show John S. Adams, 22, Bass River, marrying Phebe A. Cobb on October 11, 1862. This is likely Laura's great-great grandparent's marriage. Remember, Bass River Township was still a part of Little Egg Harbor prior to May, 1865.

I figured I might be on to something with this John and Phebe Adams connection, so I went back to the 1870 Bass River Census and searched for the John and Phebe Adams Family. They were listed as Household 145 with three children: Rebecca A. (Age 6), Ophelia O. (Age 3) and Augusta M. (2 months). No Mary A. as listed in the LDS records, so it's unlikely that the census was the source of the LDS information. No help there.

The 1880 Bass River census lists the John Adams family as Household 118. His wife Phebe is not listed and has probably passed away. The following children are listed: Rebecca A. (Age 17),Ophelia (Age 13), and Augusta M. (Age 10). Shirley Whealton, points out that Ophelia may be our mystery Mary O. Her name might be Mary Ophelia which is reported Olphilia in some census records. That is a possibility.

My next stop on the Internet was I typed in three different combinations: Mary Adams, Mary Brown, and Mary Holloway in Bass River, Washington Township, and Randolph Townships. I hit pay dirt in the 1900 Washington Township census where Charles and Mary O. Brown are listed in Household 119, having been married for 15 years, with a daughter, Nettie M. (Age 14).

The 1910 Washington Township census shows that Mary had remarried Joseph H. Holloway in 1905. They are listed in Household 6, as having been married 5 years, with two sons: Paul (Age 4) and Charles (Age 2 months). Mary is listed as having a total of 4 children with three still living. The extra two children resulted from her earlier marriage to Charles Brown. Nettie would have been 24 years old and not living with the new Holloway family. There probably was another sibling who had died.

Well, that's about all the information I could find on Mary Adams Brown Holloway. Hopefully, it will be a help to Laura. I sure would love to know how Mary ended up in a lonely grave on the hill at Miller Cemetery. Perhaps, someone out in the Blog-O-Sphere may be able to shed some light on that mystery and maybe provide a photo of Mary.

Pete S


  1. Pete,

    Great Work. Try: for ordering (for a fee) Birth, Marriage and Death records+. Or one can spend hours searching microfilm in Trenton.

    Can do online for marriages 1848-1878 and deaths june 1878-June 1884. For Example: I found the death record for Phebe Adams, 37y,F,Burlington County: Bass River, 22 Aug 1879,Citation 1879-80. 10-A1 (microfilm roll)

    Also Marriage: Adams, John S. and Cobb, Phebe A. in Tuckerton, Burlington County: Little Egg Harbor, 7 Oct 1862, Reference Bk. C-2: Pg. 247.

    Phebe and John are in LEH 1860 census households 384 and 17.

    John S.(57) and Phebe A.(19-dau) as boarders with Mary Gaskell in 1900 Bass River Census.

    Keep up the great work.

    John Allen

  2. John,

    Thanks for the "heads up" on the State Archives Site. The searchable databases on deaths, marriages, etc. are particularly good at:

    Everyone into genealogy should bookmark them for future use.

    Pete S

  3. Thank you so much Shirley and Pete. I am so very thankful for the hard work that you have done on my behalf. I do have some information to add to what you have uncovered.

    I have Mary O Adams Brown Holloway's personal Bible in my possession. On the front cover she has written: Miss Mary O Adams New Gretna, Burlington County, NJ December the 9th 1884 her book. Age 17 The next entry says: Mrs. Mary O Brown December the 27th 1886 New Gretna, Burlington County, New Jersey. When you turn to the next page of the Bible in someone else's handwriting you read: Mary O Holloway died December 9, 1940 Sunday 8:30pm Buried December 11, 1940 age 73 years.

    Going through the Bible I found a slip of paper in Mary O Adams Brown Holloway's handwriting that says: Richard W. Brown was born November the 28th 1890 New Gretna Died April the 6th age 4 months and 14 days. Buried Wednesday, April 9, 1901. That explains the 4 children on the census, but only 3 children alive.

    Going further into the Bible there is another piece of paper in Mary's handwriting that says: John S Adams was born June 27th 1841. I am assuming that this is Mary's father.

    Going further into the Bible I found Mary's obituary from a local paper. It reads: Mrs. Mary O. Holloway dies at home sunday. Mrs. Mary O. Holloway, 73, wife of Joseph H. Holloway, died at her Cedar Street home, Point Pleasant Borough, Sunday evening, following a lengthy illness. Mr and Mrs. Holloway moved to Point Pleasant from New Gretna, eight years ago. Funeral services were held at the H. Allen Van Hise funeral parlor, Wednesday afternoon, with Rev. John Townley oficiating. Intenment was made in New Gretna. Beside her husband and one daughter, Mrs. Arthur Morris of Lehaska, PA, two songs, Paul of Rumson and Charles of Point Pleasant, and one sister, Mrs. Agustus Gifford of Atlantic City, survive.

    Moving to the back of the Bible I found more handwritten entries: John S. Adams died January 7, 1918 Age 77 years, 6 months, 11 days. Pheba A. Carson died February 9, 1920 age 39 years, 5 months, 6 days. Monday evening 7:20

    Another entry says: Charles Brown died February 8th 1903 Sunday Morning at half past 9. Age 40 years, 3 months, 13 days. Buried Tuesday, February 10, 1903

    Another entry says: Joseph H. Holloway died Thursday, November 7th 1957 1:35pm Buried Saturday 9, 1957.

    As for Mary being buried in a single grave at Miller Cemetary, I really have no answers. I do remember visiting this grave as a child. My mother, Gertrude Mary Holloway Case, father, Emil Richard Case and my grandfather, Paul Henry Holloway would go each spring to this grave in Miller Cemetary. We would clean around the grave and plant flowers before Memorial Day each year. We would also visit the Pleasant Mills Cemetary near Batsto, NJ. Joseph Holloway and Charles Holloway are both buried there. I do not know why Mary is not buried with Joseph at the Pleasant Mills Cemetary. I do not know when that family plot was purchased. I was hoping that someone in New Gretna might have some answers. I wonder if it was a monetary issue. Maybe someone already owned this single plot and gave it to the family. It was 1940 and my mother was only 5 years old at the time. She passed away in 1996 so I cannot get any answers from her either. I am amazed at the answers that I have found in Mary's Personal Bible though. Once again, thank you for your kind help.

    Laura Case Matecha

  4. Was just cruising the blog and came across the Mary O. Holloway mystery and her grave in Miller Cemetery. We're assuming she is the only burial on that lot. From your photo of the tombstone, it appears the lot is capable of more than one person. Perhaps her baby Nov 1890-Apr 1901, is buried there. Being Charles Brown died Feb 1903, age 40, its possible both are in that same plot and simply never had a tombstone. Often when there are multiple marriages the surviving spouse, even if remarried, will be buried with their first marriage partner. Would also be why Joseph Holloway is buried in Pleasant Mills Cemetery with his family.

    A copy of the death record in Trenton may have the cemetery listed. One for the baby, maybe, but surely for Mr. Brown.

    Shirley W

  5. Richard Brown's death date should be Apr 6, 1891 aged 4months 14days. Trenton vital records. S.

  6. I am looking for Uriah J Allen married to Phoebe Leek and father of John P Allen. Uriah's parents were Thomas and Anne Marie Cranmer Allen. If anyone can help me with the Uriah/Phoebe/John link I would most appreciate it.
    Thank you,
    Sara Pugh