Thomas Michael Holt, Governor

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Thomas Michael Holt

Birthdate: (65)
Death: 1896 (65)
Immediate Family:

Son of Edwin Michael Holt and Emily Holt
Husband of Louisa Matilda Moore

Managed by: Faustine Darsey
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Thomas Michael Holt, Governor

Governor of North Carolina from 1893-1897.

Col. Thomas Michael Holt (July 15, 1831 – April 11, 1896) was a prominent North Carolina industrialist who served as the 47th Governor of North Carolina from 1891 to 1893. Formerly a North Carolina State Senator and Speaker of the House of the North Carolina General Assembly, Holt was instrumental in the founding of North Carolina State University, as well as in establishing several railroads within the state and the state's department of agriculture. Holt was also responsible for the technology behind the family's Holt Mills 'Alamance Plaids,' the first colored cotton goods produced in the South – a development that revolutionized the Southern textile industry.

He was born in Alamance County, North Carolina, July 15, 1831. Thomas Michael Holt was a descendant of Michael Holt or Holdt, one of the earliest settlers of the Germanna Colony in Virginia in the early 18th century. Holt studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for one year before briefly moving to work in a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, dry goods store.

In 1858, Thomas and his father, Edwin M. Holt, acquired Benjamin Trollinger’s bankrupt textile-manufacturing mill later known as the “Granite Mill,” (located in Haw River, North Carolina). In 1861, Thomas acquired his father's interest in the mill and moved to Haw River to oversee the mill’s operations. (Edwin Michael Holt had formerly manufactured the so-called Alamance Plaids, the first cotton goods produced in the South on power looms. Edwin Holt established his Alamance Cotton Mill in 1837, thus beginning the Southern textile industry.)

In 1868, Thomas 's brother-in-law, Adolphus "Dolph" Moore, became business partners with Thomas and the operation was renamed Holt & Moore. In 1876, Moore was murdered, and the mills were consolidated as the Thomas M. Holt Manufacturing Company. (Other members of the Holt family were operating the Haw River Mills, Glencoe Mills, Carolina Mill, Lafayette Mill, the Pilot Mill of Raleigh, and others in their expanding family empire.)

After Thomas’s death in 1896, his son, Thomas Jr., took over operations of the mills and expanded them. In 1900, the mills were organized by a local labor union, which sponsored a strike that was eventually broken by lockouts and mill housing evictions by the mill management.

Thomas’s party affiliation was Democratic, and he served as a local magistrate, a county commissioner, as a member of North Carolina’s state senate (24th District) in 1876, as a member of North Carolina’s state house of representatives from Alamance County, 1883–1887, as the sixth Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, 1889–1891, and upon the death of Governor (Daniel G. Fowle), as 47th Governor of North Carolina, 1891-1893.

As Governor, he was actively involved in establishing a new system of county government, in the construction of the Western North Carolina and the Cape Fear and Yadkin railroads as well as the North Carolina Railroad, which Holt served as president, as well as in increasing the funding for public schools, the University, and the state hospitals. He pushed for the establishment of an institution for the deaf at Morganton. An outstanding accomplishment was his getting the holders of bonds for the North Carolina Railroad to release the State from the lien on the State's shares. This saved the State money as the property was valued at more than $5 million. The Holt family had long ties to the railroad company, and these were undoubtedly useful in Holt's striking a deal with the bondholders. Following his service as Governor, Holt sat on the boards of both the University of North Carolina and Davidson College.

Holt was aided in the burgeoning Holt family mill empire by his brother-in-law, James Nathaniel Williamson, who had married Thomas Michael Holt's sister Mary. The Holt family eventually became the largest textile barons in the state, running scores of different mills, under various names, and as various Holt heirs and their in-laws broke off from the main enterprise and founded their own companies. Ultimately, however, the Holt mills were sold by the family and became the backbone of the emerging Burlington Mills (later Burlington Industries, overseen by rival industrialist Spencer Love.

Thomas Holt died April 11, 1896 and is buried on the outskirts of Graham, Alamance County, North Carolina.

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Thomas Michael Holt, Governor's Timeline

Age 65