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He didn’t make history; he lived it

Among the employees of Marion’s prominent mercantile, Loveless and Sackett, in the late 1890s was Sidney Holder (second from left, back row), one of the community’s most storied residents.

Son of a North Carolina slave and a half-Cherokee Indian mother, he was born in 1847 in North Carolina. His mother, a freewoman, relocated the family to South Carolina, where she sought employment but was tricked by a white woman into having the family visit a plantation in Mississippi, where the mother awoke to find that she and her three sons had been sold into slavery.

The mother escaped about a year later. Holder never saw her again. He and his brothers eventually were sold to a Confederate soldier. Separated from his brothers, he was put to work in a Confederate hospital in Chattanooga and continued working for Confederate forces in Tennessee, tending horses and performing other chores.

Freed at the end of the war, he worked hauling goods by wagon. In 1883, ten years after he married, he moved his family to Marion, which he had heard about from soldiers during the war. He worked initially with stonemasons constructing downtown buildings, then for a lumberyard before beginning a long career in 1889 with various Loveless mercantile businesses.

There, he tended the back room of the store’s grocery department and began selling plants, especially sweet potatoes. He continued selling them after being hired in 1915, shortly before the Loveless firm closed, by Marion Produce Co. He kept the business going from his home until turning it over to one of his nine children, daughter Lizzie, at age 97. He died 14 days after his 100th birthday and is buried in Marion Cemetery.

All nine of his children, including Lizzie, who died in 1988, and Al, who worked as a barber until his death in 1966, also are buried there.

“Sid,” as he was known, figured prominently in newspaper accounts of the period. In 1887, he won a popular contest in town by guessing within 19 the number of beans (11,281) in a jar. And from the Marion Record of 1906 came this story:

“Sidney Holder — ‘Sid’ — the good natured, honest old fellow who for many years has looked after things in the back room of Loveless and Sons’ grocery, where the butter and eggs and poultry are handled, had a time on Main St. the other day chasing a chicken that had ‘flew the coop.’ Heedless of the various suggestions offered by impertinent onlookers, he kept right after it with his long-handled hook arrangement until that chicken was his’n. And he marched off to the store with that chicken with the air of a conqueror.”

Last modified May 17, 2018

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