My great-granddad Charles Holst was one of 3 great-grandparents who were alive when I was born, and one of 2 I can actually remember, although the memory is fuzzy. Grandpa Charlie (so-called by my aunt and uncles to differentiate him from the other grandparents) was born in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, California, on 18 October 1884, to Peter Holst, who was 37, and Caroline (Thomsen) Holst, who was 41.
Charlie had an older sister, Annie, born in 1875, an older sister Mary born in 1881. Another son, named Peter, was stillborn a year before Charlie was born. Reportedly, there was another brother, George, who was born in 1885, but I have found no records backing up his existence.
The Holsts did not live in town, but instead on a ranch on Dry Creek Road, about 4 miles from Healdsburg proper, back in the hills. Charlie’s father had a vineyard and a winery; the winery remained in production until Prohibition.
Grandpa Charlie’s parents were ethnically Danish, having both been born in the Duchy of Slesvig near Flensburg – an area which is now in Germany, and, in fact, became part of Bismarck’s Prussian Empire before they immigrated to the United States.
There is little I know about my great-grandfather. I don’t know if he spoke Danish in addition to English. I don’t know where he went to school, if he went to school at all – presumably there was a local school in the Healdsburg area. I don’t know how he met the woman he would marry, Hazel Hannah Englehart, but possibly it was through her father, who reportedly built (or painted?) the Holst farm house, as he was a painter and carpenter.
In any case, I had always been told that Charlie and Hazel married in January 1908, in Marin County, just south of Petaluma. But when I ordered a copy of their marriage record, I discovered they married on 28 January 1909. Their firstborn, a son named Charles (Junior) and called “Sonny”, was born just 6 months later on 2 August 1909.
Their next child was my grandmother, Elizabeth, born in June 1914. Another son, William, was born in 1921, and then a stillborn baby girl in 1928.
|My great-granddad with his horse Spirit, circa 1940|
|Charlie Holst with Charlie Moisan, his wife's brother-in-law|
With Prohibition arriving in 1920, Charlie and his father ripped out all the vineyards they were cultivating, and starting growing plum trees. Charlie’s father, a viticulturist, died before the repeal of Prohibition, as did his mother. Charlie remained on the land, and made a living off the land until he died in 1968.
His children grew up and moved away, one serving in World War II and another having a family in Sonoma County, then divorcing his wife, and later moving to Oregon with his second wife.
Their land off Dry Creek Road was where we visited when I was a four year old. I remember the pink house they lived in, the sunshine, the hills which seemed to hug the house they were so close. I remember going outside, and seeing my great-grandpa in the vegetable garden they had alongside the house, wearing denim overalls. Although my mom tells me both my great-grandparents saw me as a baby, before we moved to Florida, that is my only memory of my great-granddad. He died 2 years later in April 1968, and is buried in Oak Mound Cemetery in Healdsburg.
|Hazel, Grace, Bill (with dog), Charlie, Charlie Jr in 1961|
|Grandpa Charlie's death certificate|