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Mr. and Mrs. George T. Holt Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
Mr. and Mrs. George T. Holt

Residents of Grandview, Missouri and former tenants of a house located on the Truman family farm property.

Grandview, Missouri
February 2, 1981
by Niel M. Johnson

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened February, 1985
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri


[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


Oral History Interview with
Mr. and Mrs. George T. Holt


Grandview, Missouri
February 2, 1981
by Niel M. Johnson


JOHNSON: I might mention for the record that I have both Mr. Holt and Mrs. Holt with me. I'll start by asking Mr. Holt about his background. Would you tell me when and where you were born and your parents' names?

HOLT: I was born in Barry County, Missouri, near the little town of Golden. The old birthplace is now a part of Table Rock Lake. My parents were Jiles Burlingame Holt and my mother was Neatie Jane Hartley. Neatie Jane's grandfather, Jesse Wilson, Hartley, came to Webster County, Missouri in 1843, from Tennessee. He had moved from North Carolina to Williamson County, Tennessee, in 1839.

I was born on June 21, 1914. I had a twin sister, Georgia May Holt. She died on November 17, 1914, and was buried at Timber Ridge Cemetery in Webster County, between Eckland and Marshfield. My father sold his


land in Barry County, and we moved to a place in Webster County, about a mile from the Timber Ridge Baptist Church. I lived there until my wife, Ruby, and I were married. We were married on January 17, 1935 in Springfield, Missouri. We were married by my brother, Reverend Wilbern E. Holt, a Baptist minister.

Shortly after that, in 1936, we moved to the State of California and then came back to the Grandview area in October 1942 from California and have lived in this area since.

JOHNSON: In 1942. Where did you set up your home?

HOLT: Well, we at first lived in Kansas City, and I was employed at the Pratt Whitney Engine Plant which was on Bannister Road where Bendix Corporation now has their operation. Due to gasoline rationing and tires being rationed, I started looking for a place where I would be close to work. So we rented a house from Vivian Truman which stood where the Grandview Truman Corners shopping center is now. We lived there until late 1945 when we moved to where we now live at the south edge of Grandview.


JOHNSON: So the first time you moved to this area was 1942?

MRS. HOLT: Yes, we came from Fresno, California.

JOHNSON: To get a little background on you, Mrs. Holt, when and where were you born and what were your parents' names?

MRS. HOLT: Well.. I was born the 11th of November, 1914, at 925 N. Kansas Avenue in Springfield, Missouri, Greene County. My father was William McCord Justice and my mother was Alice May Emmart Justice.

JOHNSON: Then I think you mentioned that you were married in 1935.

MRS. HOLT: The 17th of January, in Springfield, Missouri.

JOHNSON: And moved out to California in . . .

MRS. HOLT: In '36.

JOHNSON: And you were out there then until '42 when you moved back here.


MRS. HOLT: Yes, October '42.

JOHNSON: By the way, the Oakies and the Arkies, I guess they were called, were migrating in large numbers to California in the mid thirties. Is that what you saw along the road?

HOLT: I would say that was at the height of the Oakie migration to the State of California.

JOHNSON: These were sharecroppers that had lost out on the land, victims of drought and so on?

HOLT: Yes.

JOHNSON: Was that your reason for going out there?

HOLT: Well our reason for going out there was I didn't have any employment in the State of Missouri and I did have some relatives out there. Through correspondence with them we had found out that things were a little better there.

MRS. HOLT: He went out in a car with his brother, Wilbern Holt, who was a Baptist minister, and a brother Jesse Bentley Holt. They went in a car and later in March


I went by train with our young daughter, Georgia Lee Holt, five months old.

JOHNSON: Did you happen to know about, or hear about or maybe even see, Mr. Truman when he was running for the Senate in 1934? He did get around to various areas of the state.

MRS. HOLT: We weren't here then, in '34. We were in Springfield.

JOHNSON: Yes, but do you recall the Truman campaign in that part of the state at all in those days?

MRS. HOLT: I don't remember.

JOHNSON: Did that name ring a bell with anybody in your part of the country, so to speak, back in the midthirties or early thirties?

HOLT: I wouldn't want to say.

JOHNSON: But you don't recall his Senatorial campaign?

HOLT: I know he worked with some people who were active politicians, yes


MRS. HOLT: His [George T. Holt’s] father was a Democrat, but they lived in Webster County at that time, and I lived in Greene County.

JOHNSON: I haven’t checked that itinerary recently, but my guess is that Harry Truman did campaign in Springfield, around Springfield, in 1934 and again in 1940.

MRS. HOLT: They had what they called the Jackson Day in Springfield for the Democrats.

HOLT: When dad [J.B. “Burley” Holt] was physically able he always attended that dinner in Springfield.

JOHNSON: The Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner?

HOLT: Yes.

JOHNSON: So, when was the first time you heard about or knew about Harry Truman?

HOLT: Well, the first time Harry Truman drew my attention was when he was a Senator and he was appointed to investigate World War II expenditures and corruption. That is when Harry Truman first attracted


my attention and from then on I began to follow his activities.

JOHNSON: Were you in California then when you first heard about Harry Truman and his committee?

HOLT: Yes, I believe we were.

MRS. HOLT: I don't remember that.

JOHNSON: That committee had started in '41 before you moved back. So you had gotten acquainted with him by long distance, so to speak, while you were out on the West Coast.

HOLT: Maybe I paid a little more attention than some people would since my middle name is Truman.

JOHNSON: Is that right? George Truman Holt?

HOLT: Yes sir.

JOHNSON: Well, how is it that you came to rent the tenant house there on the Truman farm? How did that come about?

HOLT: Well, we were trying to find a place close to the


Pratt Whitney Engine Plant, and we had been in Peculiar, Missouri to look about a house down there. As I remember, on the way back to Kansas City we passed the house of Vivian Truman's on 71 Highway and a Mrs. Fogle, who we were then renting from, was with us and she said, "Well, look, Truman's little house looks like it's vacant." She said, "Well, they live back up on Blue Ridge, back of the house." So we went up, contacted them, and later rented the house from them.

MRS. HOLT: Not that day. There had been another family in there and the wife got sick and she went back to St. Louis and they just picked up and left. The Trumans didn't even know they were gone, and they said, "Well, we'll wait awhile and if they don't come back, then you can rent it."

JOHNSON: Do you know how long that house had been there?

HOLT: I have no idea.

MRS. HOLT: It was formerly a tenant house for them, the caretaker's.


JOHNSON: But you don't know when it was built?

MRS. HOLT: No. It's still sitting over there on Grandview Road.

JOHNSON: It was moved?

HOLT: It was moved, and it sits between the old Grandview Cemetery and the Kansas City Southern Railroad underpass, on the east side of Grandview Road.

JOHNSON: When was it moved?

HOLT: When they found they were going to develop the Truman Corners shopping center; that was when it was moved.

JOHNSON: Did the Trumans have any of their furnishings in that house?

HOLT: No sir, they did not.

JOHNSON: Were there any tools there that came from the Truman farm that you recall?

MRS. HOLT: The only thing I remember was an old iron


stove in the shed out there, but I don't know where it is.

JOHNSON: You had a shed there next to the house?


JOHNSON: I suppose it was demolished?

MRS. HOLT: Well, I'm sure it was.

JOHNSON: You say an old iron stove? Which may have been used once you think in the Truman farm house?

MRS. HOLT: Well, it probably was the Truman's.

HOLT: I suppose it had been used in the tenant house we rented.

MRS. HOLT: Now these are pictures that were taken on the Truman farm. Right in back of our house was a locust tree and there was a water pump right there. This is where their feedlot for their cattle formerly was, and we made our garden there. Here's the old shed.

JOHNSON: Is that a cornfield out there?


MRS. HOLT: Yes, we planted corn, and raised other vegetables.

HOLT: Just our garden.

JOHNSON: Talking about crops, let's take the Truman farm in two phases. Do you have any idea about the crops that were grown there when Harry Truman farmed it? This goes back even before World War I.

MRS. HOLT: He grew corn I'm pretty sure, because in one of these articles I have here, his mother was telling how her son plowed the straightest furrow.

JOHNSON: I know corn was one of the crops, yes.

When you arrived in 1942, what kind of crops were they growing out there at that time? What seemed to be the dominant crops, do you recall?

MRS. HOLT: I don't remember.

HOLT: Hay, more than anything.

MRS. HOLT: They had cattle.

JOHNSON: A lot of the land was given over to pasture and


to hay?

HOLT: Yes.

JOHNSON: Was this dairy cattle?

MRS. HOLT: Yes, dairy.

HOLT: Dairy cattle, I believe. I know we did buy milk from them.

MRS. HOLT: From the boys, sons of Vivian and Mrs. Ella Truman, Gilbert and Harry.

HOLT: It wasn't really on a large scale, more of just a family operation for family use.

JOHNSON: In 1940 Harry Truman's mother, Martha, and his sitter, Mary Jane, moved into town. Who was living in that farm house, do you recall, when you came in 1942?

MRS. HOLT: There was somebody by the name of Logston lived there, and I don't know what their first names were.


JOHNSON: Did they help farm the land?

MRS. HOLT: I don't recall anybody helping them. Now I can't remember their first name, but I know they had children who were similar to the ages of our daughters. Later, I knew of a Nadine McWilliams who used to iron for Mrs. Vivian Truman. The McWilliams lived on Grandview Road.

JOHNSON: I know a Maxine Williams who lives there now. In fact, she's the one that mentioned you coming out to see her, and that's how I got your name. Her husband died about two months ago.

Do you have any children?

HOLT: We had two children when we moved there, and our oldest son was born while we lived there.


MRS. HOLT: This is our son; he was born September 29, 1943, when we lived there.

JOHNSON: I see, and what are the names of your children?


MRS. HOLT: Georgia Lee Holt is the eldest; she was born October 7, 1935; and then Alice Jane was born August 6, 1937 in Fresno, California. Georgia was born in Springfield. And Ted, Theodore Lewis Holt, was born the 29th of September 1943. Second son Jack William Holt was born 19 August, 1949, and a son Robert Edward Holt was born 21 May, 1953, both born in Kansas City, Missouri.

JOHNSON; You commuted to the Pratt Whitney factory?

HOLT: It was the Pratt Whitney Engine Plant, yes.

JOHNSON: And so you didn't farm any of the land?

HOLT: No sir.

JOHNSON; How much acreage did you have there? You had a garden . . .

MRS. HOLT: Maybe an acre.

HOLT: Possibly an acre, a garden and a lawn.

JOHNSON: You mentioned earlier to me, that there was some equipment, or implements, and I want to be


sure to get this on the record.

HOLT: I remember seeing some old farm implements in the field that belonged to the Trumans. They were west of the Kansas City Southern Railroad tracks and to the north of Greaves Road. Now the field sits between Greaves Road and Martha Truman Road, probably known to a lot of people as Kernodles Road.

JOHNSON: Who does that land belong to, do you know?

HOLT: I have no idea who that belongs to now.

MRS. HOLT: I don't know, but there's a Cartwright Trucking Company south of Kernodles Road there.

HOLT: That building is on part of the land.

JOHNSON: This was what kind of equipment, do you recall? What kind of implements?