Thomas Holman’s life was a Portsmouth rags to riches story.  He was the immigrant miner who worked his way up to becoming Superintendent of the coal mines.  His role in the “Murder at the Coal Mines,” however, is shrouded in mystery.

Holman was born in Gwinear in Cornwall, England.  Thomas’ parents were poor and they died when he was very young.  He had little opportunity for education and found himself working in the copper and lead mines by the time he was eleven years old.  He continued to work in the mines in Cornwall until 1840 when he decided that there was little chance for advancement in England.  Twenty-two year old Thomas headed directly to Portsmouth where he could get better pay for his mining skills. There are records of Cornwall families migrating to Portsmouth and to Pennsylvania were other Holman family members resided.   He became well known for his skill at mining and he worked himself up to the position of Superintendent of the Portsmouth Coal Mines.

Thomas Holman may have worked at the coal mines until 1877, but he was preparing himself for the farming life.  He started by buying farmland nearby the Coal Mine village which later became the Benjamin Hall farm..  Over time he bought the “Hill Township Farm” which is known as Seameadow Farm today.  His farm covered over 100 acres and he was successful at general farming and stock raising as well.  Thomas married into two prominent Portsmouth families. He was married to Mary Sherman and after she died, he married Hannah (Anna) Barker Albro.

The article on Thomas Holman in Representative Men and Old Families of Rhode Island relates that “He was a man who made a success of life, which he accomplished by hard work, and strict attention to his business.  He never received much education in the schools of his native country, but he was a self-educated man.  He was much devoted to his wife and family and was a good citizen in every respect.”  (pg 2277)

Most prominent Portsmouth citizens held some town office, but outside of serving on the School Committee, he declined all other offices.  Maybe he valued education more than most because of his lack of opportunity to gain an education in England.  He was active in the community as a staunch Republican and vestryman at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

In 1875 Holman testified at the trial that formed the basis of “Murder at the Coal Mines.”  We know through genealogy records that Thomas Holman was actually the uncle of the victim, but there was no mention of the family relationship in the newspapers or in the court records.