The Historical Society of Cecil County has dozens of collections that are valuable to genealogists and local history researchers. One of those that greatly helps those delving into the past is the Holt Collection. Consisting of a six volume unpublished history and twelve archival storage boxes of supporting materials, it has many notebooks with newspaper clippings, pamphlets, photos, booklets, and correspondence.
The author of the manuscript was J. Frank Holt, who’d been born about 1893 on a farm near Union Church. He moved to Seattle, WA in 1935 and became co-founder of the Arden Farms Company. When the growing business acquired a number of dairies in California, he moved to Los Angeles, serving as the president of the enterprise from 1951 until his retirement in 1963. He died on September 2, 1964, at the age of 71 in Glendale, CA.
In the midst of the Great Depression, the successful businessman decided he wanted to publish an updated history of Cecil County. As it had been fifty years since George Johnston produced the last comprehensive title many changes had transformed the area. It was going to be detailed look at the area, with lots of supporting source materials as Mr. Holt had collected his data for decades and enlisted the aid of genealogist back in the county.
But the nearly complete manuscript was never finished. A few years after Mr. Holt passed away, his son, Joseph Holt of Van Nuys, California, who’d served in the U.S. House of Representatives, donated the many cartons of material to the Society in the late 1960s.
There is a wealth of material to be found in these pages and the abundance of source materials he collected. While it traces local history in Cecil from the earliest days to the 1940s, it has great strength for those researching the last decades of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, a period in the writer’s life. It also broadens the earlier works on Cecil, providing a modern perspective to their interpretations and adding subjects that was unexamined by earlier writers. As an example, Johnston’s History of Cecil County published in 1880 doesn’t include a chapter on the Civil War or the critical dilemmas before or after those bitter, divisive years. It also contains a considerable amount of information on old families in Cecil. There is also a considerable amount of material relating to World War II.