Celebrating a Kentucky Pioneer and Entrepreneur
Generations of Kentuckians and travelers from around America have gathered at Holder’s Tavern at Hall’s On The River to enjoy our signature drinks, craft beers, a great lineup of bourbons, live music and a wide variety of unique appetizers like Hall’s Snappy Beer Cheese. Business deals, marriage proposals and countless UK Wildcat basketball celebrations have taken place here. And even though thousands have passed through our doors, many don’t know the true extent of our namesake’s many heroic deeds and contributions to the development of Kentucky.
Captain John Holder was one of the defenders of Fort Boonesboro, and eventually became commander of the fort. Holder married Francis (Fanny) Callaway, a daughter of Col. Richard Callaway, one of the founders of Boonesboro. Fanny, along with her sister Betsy, and Jemima Boone, Daniel Boone’s daughter, were captured by the Shawnee in 1776. Without delay, Holder and a group of men from the fort pursued and rescued the girls. This is one of the historically significant events on the Kentucky frontier.
John Holder established himself as a man of property, acquiring well over 100,000 acres of Kentucky land. He was a commercial-industrial innovator involved in farsighted business enterprises. Under Holder’s leadership, the settlement he established about a mile downstream from Boonesboro grew to include a store, tavern, boatyard, ferry, warehouse and mill. His landing on the Kentucky River became a major departure point for flatboats loaded with produce and bound for New Orleans. Holder’s enterprises led to other factories locating in the valley and resulted in Lower Howard’s Creek becoming one of the first industrial areas of Kentucky.
Dr. C.R. Smith of Winchester wrote a history of the Lower Howard’s Creek area in Clark County during that time: “Col. John Holder was far more than a pioneer and soldier… he was also an entrepreneur, a visionary, and a politician. He was a big man physically and mentally. Many prominent people settled on the creek, but none had his vision, wisdom, or entrepreneurship… Holder’s Station wasn’t your normal Kentucky frontier settlement… Holder’s Station was his brainchild… it wasn’t a fortified station as such but an elaborate industrial and manufacturing complex, the first and largest west of the Alleghenies, extending from the river to Providence Church… he donated land and money for one of the first churches… advocated Fort Boonesboro as the state capital and was willing to donate 300 pounds toward this goal.”
The Seige of Boonesboro and Captain John Holder
In the summer of 1779 after the breakdown of false treaty negotiations, the Shawnees had held the Americans at Boonesboro under siege for three days. As nightfall descended on the third day, the Shawnees set fire to a bundle of flax next to the stockade wall. Seeing the blaze, Captain John Holder slipped out the gate and dashed water on the fire, then scampered back inside with bullets striking all around him. Holder enjoyed renown as a cursing man, one of those “habitual swearers,” said historian John Dabney Shane, who “think no sentence smooth and euphonious, which is not filled up in their style.” Throughout this episode, as Holder risked his life, he cast forth loud and creative curses at the Indians in his thundering voice, which everyone in the fort heard. When he was finally back inside, panting and still profaning, his mother-in-law, the irrepressible Mrs. Callaway, scolded him for his language, saying, “It would be more becoming to pray than to swear.” “I’ve no time to pray, — dammit,” he shot back. It was a moment remembered by many.
— from Daniel Boone, The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer by John Mack Faragher