from History of North Orange, Massachusetts : including leading events from the first organization of Orange, 1781-1924., ,
The Patriarch of North Orange

This book would be incomplete without some reference to John C. Holston, properly called the Patriarch of North Orange. Mr. Holston died February 18, 1923 at the age of 100. Had he lived until the 21st of June he would have been 101. For 15 years he had made his home with his son, John D. Holston. On his 100th anniversary there was a notable gathering at the home when patriotic organizations in Orange and friends throughout the district gave him a reception which was keenly enjoyed by him and his well-wisher. He retained all his mental faculties at that time. It was a festive occasion with a family dinner at noon and the reception following in the afternoon. Remarks were made, reminiscences told and the songs which Mr. Holston liked so well, sung with the same spirit if less vigor and adherence to the key, as in the days gone by. Bouquets of beautiful roses, over 100 in number, a large birthday cake and the warmest of greetings contrived to make the event a fitting testimonial to his long life and as it proved, a final farewell. Many will remember with what pleasure they grasped his hand as he sat upon his bed and greeted the hundred or more who braved a "pouring" rain to do him honor.

Mr. Holston wa a unique and interesting character, a sturdy son of the old school which thought for itself and spoke as it thought. He was one of those rugged types who seemed to thrive on labor and up to the age of 90 never flinched at a day's work. He was not unlike the proverbial hickory nut in his physical and mental make-up, a rugged New Englander, the like of which is pictured in book and drama. Mr. Holston had a war record of which he had reason to be proud.

Born at Portland, Me., he began his notable experiences at the age of three by shaking hands with Gen. Lafayette, being held in his mother's arms at the time. That he should have had fighting instincts was natural because his grandfather, William Hance, was so keen on doing his part in the country's fight for liberty that he walked from Portland, Me., to Boston, a distance of 150 miles, to take part in the Battle of Bunker Hill. He continued to fight throughout the Revolution, serving with distinction. The Civil war had scarcely broken out when John Holston, on March 10, 1862, enlisted for service in Andrews' Sharpshooters, attached to Co. 1, 15th Masssachusetts regiment. He saw service under Gen. McClellan, taking part in the bloody battles of Yorktown, West Point, Fair Oaks, Savage Station, White Oak Swamps, Malvern Hill, second Bull Run, South Station and Antietam. In the latter battle he received wounds which incapacitated him for further service and which troubled him during the remainder of his life. It was a thigh wound and as a result, his legs became so impaired that during the last few years of his life they had become useless.

In the battle of Antietam he fell within the rebel lines, shot through the thigh, and lay on the ground for three days and two nights. Except for aid from a Confederate officer who gave him water and bound a towel around his leg to stop its bleeding, he was left to die, considered too far gone even to be taken prisoner. On the third night, however, the Confederates retreated, and he was rescued by the Union forces and carried to a barnyard where he was left eight days. He was finally taken to Frederick City and thence to Washington, where he was placed in an old meeting house which had been converted into a hospital. While at Washington it was his fortune to find the rebel officer among a large number of prisoners who wer brought in and he seized the opportunity to repay him for kindness received on the battle field of Antietam.

After the war Mr. Holston located in Wendell where he carried on a farm for 41 years. For 28 years under Governors Bullock, Washburn, Ames and Greenhalgh he served as justice of the peace, marrying 19 couples in that period. Mrs. Holston, whose maiden name was M. Maria Jackson, died in 1907 at the age of 77. When Mr. Holston went to live with his son in North Orange, the latter's wife's mother, Mrs. Alsamena Dudley, was also living there. She died at the age of 95 years and nine months, the two elderly people having enjoyed the comforts of their children's home together for seven years. Mr. Holston had voted for 20 presidential candidates, the first being cast for Henry Clay at Fryburg, Me. He had always voted the straight Republican ticket which he often contended was "good enough" for him. Although Mr. Holston was unable to get about during the past two or more years of his life he retained his mental capacities almost to the very last, finding much enjoyment in reading and conversing with people. He always liked a good joke and knew how to tell one, a fact which served to make him a good entertainer.