Edward Holland


Edward Holland was born in Albany in 1702, the eldest son of English garrison officer Henry Holland and Irish-born Jenny Seeley. As his father later became sheriff of Albany and the holder of other provincial appointments, Edward grew up in an advantaged Albany home where he learned the multi-faceted nature of his father's enterprise.

Listed on the rolls of garrison companies from an early age, Edward Holland was a part-time soldier during a long period of peace on the northern frontier. During that time, he focused more on his father's business as he ran frequent errands to frontier outposts and downriver to New York.

By the mid-1720s, the Hollands were invested in New York commerce which included supplying military outposts at Albany and beyond and shipping out the bounty of upriver farms and forests. Representing his father's interests among the English-speaking business community of New York, Edward Holland made an important personal contact in 1726 when he married Magdalena Bayeux - daughter of a prominent downriver business family. The union produced a large family - with four of the children surviving to maturity. The couple set up housekeeping in Albany in one of Henry Holland's houses on Court Street. Like his father, he was a frequent baptism sponsor at the nearby Dutch church. Also like Henry Holland, Edward became an active member of St. Peters Anglican church.

During the 1720s, Edward Holland established himself as a leading Albany merchant. Civic responsibility followed. From 1728 to 1733, he was an Albany alderman and particularly active as a member of the Commissioners of Indian Affairs. He also was held in high regard by royal officials in New York. In 1733, he was appointed mayor of Albany and presided over the city corporation until 1741. During his long mayoralty, he negotiated an Indian deed for the tract of land at the confluence of the Mohawk River and the Schoharie Creek that had been granted in the city charter of 1686 but so far had eluded Albany's grasp.

During the 1730s, native son Edward Holland emerged as a leading Albany figure and as a prime upriver contact for an increasingly interested royal government in New York. However, he lost his strongest ally when, after a lengthy illness, Henry Holland died in 1736 - leaving Edward to administer his substantial estate. Edward's first, wife, Magdalena, died in 1737. Two years later Edward Holland wed Frances Nicoll of New York City.

By the mid-1740s, Edward Holland had moved his base of operations to Manhattan. He owned a number of ships and became even more prosperous and prominent. In 1747, Holland was appointed mayor of New York City - serving until his death in 1756. In 1748, he was named to the governor's advisory Council and also was appointed to the provincial chancery court. By mid-century, this Albany boy had reached the top rung of the provincial hierarchy.

Fifty-four-year-old Edward Holland made his will on November 8, 1756. At that time, he identified himself as a New York City merchant. After dividing a large estate among his four children and their children, he provided his "beloved wife" Frances with an annuity of 750 pounds as long as she remained a widow. Edward Holland died two days later was buried in his vault at Manhattan's Trinity Church. He was the only man to serve as mayor of both Albany and New York City.

biography in-progress


the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of Edward Holland is CAP biography number 8487 This sketch relies chiefly on family and community-based resources. The most knowing source on the Holland family is an article by Henry Hoff in NYGBR 111:219-20. This offering concentrates on Edward Holland's Albany life and career which all but ended when he moved to New York City during the 1740s. This extraordinary character deserves a more extensive biography.

In 1708, an Edward Holland was listed as a "centinell" (private) in Lord Cornbury's company of fusiliers. Governor Cornbury (Edward Hyde) had been this Edward's baptism sponsor six years earlier. Subsequently, young Holland's name appeared on other provincial muster rolls as well. Without further explanatory resources, the nature of his military service is open to speculation.

Three decades free from warfare from 1713 to 1744 empowered the initial development of the New York lands beyond the lower Hudson Valley corridor. The Mohawk Valley - from Schenectady all the way to the new fort and trading posts at Oswego, began to fill with settlers, whose roots were in populated New York areas, but also with newcomers from Germany, Scotland, and New England. The population of geographically huge Albany County jumped from 2,273 settlers in 1703 to 10,634 in 1749 - or a 6.5 times increase. During that time, most of the best settlement locations were spoken for and were pioneered. The Mohawk Valley represented the most desirable of development locations.

The so-called Dongan Charter gave Albany a tract of 1,000 acres in the Mohawk Valley at a place called Tionnderoge or Fort Hunter. That prime location also was known as "the Mohawk Flats." In 1734, Mayor Holland negotiated a deed with the Mohawks (in the name of the King, for the benefit of Albany, and for the protection of the Mohawks) to the Fort Hunter tract. But because powerful interests throughout the colony coveted the location, Albany was unable to assert or act on its claim to Fort Hunter as it had done with Schaghticoke twenty-five years earlier. Holland's deed is considered in NYCD 6:14-16.

first posted: 9/19/00; re-cast and revised 12/24/12