A MEMORABLE BRAMWELL PIONEER

DR. WILLIAM ALEXANDER HOLLEY

Text from: United States Department of the Interior National Park Service National Register of Historic Places Registration Form:

African-American, Dr. William Alexander Holley. Dr. Holley was born in Wytheville, Virginia on July 6, 1863. His father was John Holley, for many years a foreman for the Western Union Telegraph Company and his mother was Martha Woodson. His mother died when he was three years old and his father was responsible for educating him. WA spent his childhood studying, often with a private tutor and attending school as much as eleven months of the year.

He completed higher education at Lincoln University, taught school for a little while and than went on to the School of Medicine at Howard University where he completed his medical degree in 1892. He purchased the house in Bramwell that same year. While in medical school he published a weekly newspaper called the Southwestern Press, the first publication of its kind in the coal fields. He also earned extra money while teaching as a successful book agent.

Dr. Holley helped to organize and was at one time the President of the Flat Top Medical Society. He was also a member and ex-President of the State Medical and Dental Association and belonged to the National Medical Association. Dr. Holley was also a member in the Masons, Odd Fellows and Pythians and was a medical examiner at one time for all those organizations. He was delegate to several state conventions and was elected and served on the Town Council of Bramwell. He was probably the only AfricanAmerican to do so. He was the first Grand Master of the York Masons. He was also the medical examiner for the National Benefit Insurance Company of Washington, D.C. This was for the death and injury benefits of the African-American coal miners.

Dr. Holley was married twice. He married Maria J. McGee of Knoxville, Tennessee on June 6, 1891. Maria was a school teacher and she they had two children, George and Emma. He was married the second time to Ella Wit of Tazewell, Virginia and he and Ella had five children: Lillian E.; Julia A.; Elizabeth; William; and John Holley.

As with most African-Americans at the time, Dr. Holley was a Republican. Dr. Holley was responsible for organizing the first African-American Masonic Lodge in West Virginia. He was granted the power of authority to do so in 1890. He and several other men gathered for a meeting on the railroad tracks across from the Bluestone Church and from this meeting the first lodge was organized in 1893. It was the very first black lodge in West Virginia and was known as “The King Hiram Lodge #1, Free and Accepted York Rite Masons of Bramwell, West Virginia.” Initially the Lodge meetings were held in member’s homes. They then rented space from the Odd Fellows Lodge and finally purchased their own building in 1942. This building was remodeled into a Lodge hall and recreation center, known as Pinkard Hall and was located in Freeman, West Virginia.

Holley was not only responsible for the local Lodge but he organized the statewide organization affiliated with the National Grand Lodge. Holley was instrumental in bringing the sixteenth triennial session of the National Grand Lodge to Bluefield. At the Lodge’s high point its membership was close to 200, the building was open every day and was a center for activities within the African-American community. The building purchased in 1942 by the Lodge still stands,

Dr. Holley and wife Ella are both buried in the Bryant Cemetery that is located between Bramwell, WV and Pocahontas, VA.

Dr. William A. Holley: 1863 - 1932

Wife: Ella A. Wit Holley: 1878 - 1956

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