The Holliday family


The Holliday family is a fascinating one and certainly pertinent to Fayette County’s history.

The family came to this county from Laurens, South Carolina about 1829-1830. Coming with them were relatives, the McKey family (pronounced Mackey) and Anny Buroughs, age 70.

The 1830 census indicates Robert Holliday, 60, was a hotel keeper.

One of Robert’s children, John Stiles Holliday, became a doctor and built the Holliday House we still have in Fayetteville. It is owned by the city of Fayetteville and is now a museum open several days a week.

Another son, Henry Burroughs Holliday, had joined the United States Army and first fought in the Mexican-American War in the 1840s. When he returned from this war, he brought with him a Mexican orphan, 12 year old Francisco Hidalgo. The boy had to be snuck on the train since he was not exactly a United States citizen. His is a fascinating story I will tell in another column.

In 1861, at the beginning of the War Between The States, he was appointed as a Quartermaster in the 27th Georgia Infantry Confederate States of America. When I wrote the book on William Thomas Overby, who served in this conflict from Coweta County, I have copies of his pay slips with Holliday’s name on them as paymaster. I do not know if this is his actual signature or someone making out the pay slip.

When he retuned from the Mexican American War, he married Alice Jane McKey in January, 1849 and they started housekeeping in Griffin. Unfortunately, Alice had tuberculosis and their first child, Martha Eleanora, died at the age of six months, possibly because of Alice’s condition.

Their second child, John Henry, was born on August 14, 1851. He was delivered by his uncle, Dr. J. S. Holliday.

He was born with a cleft palette and his Uncle John taught Alice how to feed her new son with an eye dropper and a small teaspoon. If not fed properly, this newborn could choke to death.

The new father prevailed upon his brother to perform surgery as soon as the infant was able.

Dr. Holliday sought advice concerning the future surgery from his wife’s cousin, Dr. Crawford W. Long, the first physician to use ether as an anesthetic.

When John Henry was eight weeks old, the two doctors performed the surgery successfully.

Determined that her son would not speak with an impediment, Alice spent many hours teaching her son to speak sounds correctly. She was assisted in this endeavor by ladies of the First Presbyterian Church, Griffin, where John Henry was later baptized. 

Also baptized here – poet Sydney Lanier.

As the War Between The States neared Atlanta, Henry Burroughs felt he needed to get his family far away and moved them to Valdosta. Soon after their arrival, Alice became ill and died September 16, 1866. It is assumed tuberculosis was the reason.

More on the Hollidays next week.