Biography of Harry A. Holmes

Harry A. Holmes, an influential citizen of Oacoma, South Dakota, has played a vital role in the growth and development of Lyman County. Born in Wisconsin in 1860, Holmes became a skilled blacksmith and ventured to Dakota in 1883. Settling in Oacoma, he established the town’s first blacksmith shop, which flourished over the years. Holmes actively participated in public affairs, serving as deputy sheriff and making significant contributions to the town’s prosperity. He was a dedicated Republican and a respected member of various secret and benevolent organizations. Holmes, a cherished family man, married Lizzie E. Elliott, and together they raised their children in a loving home.

HARRY A. HOLMES.— Identified with the city of Oacoma from its earliest history to the present time and an influential actor in the material growth and development of Lyman County, South Dakota, Harry A. Holmes, mechanic, official, and representative citizen, enjoys marked precedence in the place of his residence and is entitled to specific mention with the leading men of his adopted state. The subject’s father, George W. Holmes, a native of New York, was, in early life, a miner, subsequently turned his attention to agricultural pursuits and in connection therewith spent about fifty years as a blacksmith. He married Miss Elizabeth Webb, who bore him five children, and moved to Wisconsin a number of years ago where he became quite successful, accumulating a handsome property in that state besides large landed interests in Kansas. A Democrat in politics, he took an active part in the public affairs of his community, lived a long and useful life, and was highly esteemed by all with whom he came in contact.

Harry A. Holmes was born in Iowa County, Wisconsin, on March 19, 1860. He was reared to agricultural pursuits, attended during winter seasons until his eighteenth year the public schools of Mineral Point, and grew up strong of body and independent of mind, becoming a skillful worker at blacksmithing. In 1883, young Holmes started out to make his own way in the world and carve out his own destiny. Thanks to his efficiency as a worker in iron, he had something upon which to rely of much greater value than ready capital, and when he came to Dakota in the above year and located in Plankinton, Aurora County, he found ample opportunity to ply his trade. After working in a shop at that place for two years, he changed his location to White Lake, where he followed his chosen calling until 1890 when he moved to the present site of Oacoma, in the county of Lyman, at that time a frontier military post, occupied by a company of soldiers whose duty it was to guard the rights of the Indians in the vicinity.

Shortly after his arrival at camp in Oacoma, Mr. Holmes entered the employ of the government as a blacksmith and after continuing as such for a period of three years, started a shop of his own, settlers having arrived meanwhile until the place took the appearance of a thrifty and promising western town. Having the first and, up to the present time, the only blacksmith shop in the place, Mr. Holmes soon had more work than he could accomplish and in order to meet the demands of his steadily growing patronage was in due season obliged to secure the help of assistants. His business grew so rapidly that he was compelled after a while to enlarge the capacity of his establishment, and without interruption, it has continued to increase in magnitude and importance to the present day. Being one of the first settlers, he very naturally became interested in the growth of the town and to him more perhaps than to any other man is due the prosperity which has made it one of the flourishing little cities and important business centers in the southern part of the state.

Mr. Holmes not only took an active and leading interest in the growth of Oacoma but also became a prominent factor in the general development of the county and an influential participant in the public affairs of the same. He served for eight consecutive years as deputy sheriff and discharged the duties of that exacting and trying position in such a way that his name became a terror to evildoers, the administration with which he was identified becoming noted for the enforcement of law and respect for order throughout the entire jurisdiction. In politics, Mr. Holmes has been a staunch Republican from the time of exercising the franchise, and his activity and influence in party circles led to his being chosen the first delegate from Lyman County to the state convention which convened at Yankton in 1894. He has also been much interested in the course of education and for a number of years has served on the school board of Oacoma, at one time being chairman of that body, and at this writing, he is treasurer of the same for the second term. In business matters, he has by no means been slothful, but on the contrary, has so managed his varied interests that he is now in independent circumstances, owning, in addition to much valuable city and personal property, a fine tract of farming and grazing land in Lyman County, also a beautiful island of one hundred acres in the Missouri River, the latter covered with a dense growth of fine timber, which ere long will doubtless prove a source of considerable wealth.

Mr. Holmes is a leading spirit in several secret and benevolent organizations, notably among which are the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Modern Woodmen of America, and the Ancient Order of United Workmen, having as a charter member assisted to establish the first-named society at Chamberlain, besides holding important official stations in the different brotherhoods. Personally, the subject enjoys a large measure of popularity, being the soul of genial companionship, a favorite in social gatherings, and his kindly disposition and proverbial hospitality have gained for him hosts of friends whose loyalty and devotion strengthen as the years go by.

Mr. Holmes is a married man and the head of a family which is highly esteemed in the city of his residence. His wife, who was formerly Miss Lizzie E. Elliott, of the state of Iowa, and to whom he was united in the bonds of matrimony in 1887, has borne him sons and daughters as follows: Florence E., Daisy E., Harry B., Calvin H., and Willa G., all under the parental roof and constituting a most happy and mutually agreeable home circle. The best educational advantages the community affords have been provided for these children, and they are now pursuing their studies under favorable auspices, the older ones having already laid plans for their future careers.


Robinson, Doane, History of South Dakota: together with mention of Citizens of South Dakota, [Logansport? IN] : B. F. Bowen, 1904.

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