Thomas M. Holmes – Doctor, Soldier, Citizen
Dr. Holmes was born in McKownville, NY (now Guilderland), on February 19, 1882. He attended Union College Albany Medical College, graduating in 1909. After living for a few years in the Town of New Scotland, he settled in Delmar and lived on Kenwood Avenue. At the age of 35, he enlisted and went to war.
The Abstract of Military Service for World War I states he served overseas from July 1917 until March 1919 and was discharged in June 1919. While overseas he participated in the medical corps and was affiliated with battles in Cambrai, Somme Defensive and Lys. The records state he was slightly wounded in January and February 1918. He then served in London as part of the British Medical Corps, performing surgery. His participation in the war was followed by local media, predominantly The Altamont Enterprise, who published some of his letters home. In a letter to William H. Frazier, a Civil War veteran, dated October 26, 1917, Holmes writes:
“Have been up to the front line several times and had a good look
at what is called “No Man’s Land” and it is well named such.”
Once back in Delmar, Dr. Holmes resumed his duties as a doctor. Holmes’ name is sprinkled throughout newspaper articles from the 1910’s until his death in 1945. He was called on more than one occasion to attend to patients who had fallen from the cliffs in Thacher Park; he served as an expert witness in various trials pursuant to patients he attended; he served as an assistant to the coroner as well.
When the famous gangster Jack “Legs” Diamond was shot at the Aratoga Inn outside of Cairo, NY, in April 1931, his associates brought him to the hospital in Albany. Dr. Thomas Holmes became his doctor and was called to testify during one of Diamond’s local court cases. One newspaper article alludes to Dr. Holmes being awakened early one morning in December 1931, by Diamond’s chauffeur, to attend to Diamond but the criminal was dead when Holmes arrived at the boarding house at 67 Dove Street.
As a citizen of Delmar, he was instrumental in many important civic capacities. Dr. Holmes was very supportive of public education. In fact, he allowed his house to be used as an experimental high school in 1917-1918 while he was at war. He was also on the Board of Education in the 1920’s. In his capacity as a military veteran, he was a founding member of the Last Man’s Club and was involved in planning of the current Veteran’s Park though the Park was put in place after he died. Dr. Holmes was an active leader in the Bethlehem Republican Party for more than twenty five years
Also within the community Dr. Holmes was a founding member of Normanside Country Club. In a newspaper article from 1933, Dr. Holmes is mentioned as testifying in a case where two caddies had fought at Normanside, one sustaining a knife wound. Dr. Holmes attended the injured caddy. It is certain that doctors in those days had to be prepared to handle a myriad of situations and Dr. Holmes seemed able to do it with ease. As a testament to his reputation, all businesses in town were closed on the day of his funeral after he passed suddenly from a heart attack on July 15, 1945. He is interred in the Bethlehem Cemetery.
Ira Van Allen – A Life of Service
Ira Van Allen was born in the town of Bethlehem in 1846. His was one of the many Van Allen families who farmed throughout the town. He is listed as a student in the 1870 Census for Bethlehem Center. Samuel is listed as the head of the family and there are other Van Allen families listed on the same census page. During that time, Ira attended Rutgers University and then the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, graduating in 1875. From that time he served as a minister in many Reformed churches throughout the Mohawk Valley, Syracuse and Skaneateles. Rev. Van Allen was well known in the Fonda and Mohawk areas as well as Owasco Lake in central New York. It is during his time in Syracuse that he made an even more important commitment.
At the age of 72, in 1918, Van Allen went to work as a Western Union messenger in Syracuse so that the usual 20 year old messenger could join the war effort overseas. Van Allen said, in an article appearing in the Albany Evening Journal of April 23, 1918, “Preaching, my life work, is an honorable calling and so I consider my messenger work.” He added, “Some seem to think it strange that I should take it up, but, I saw in it one way to help and took it up.” Originally given a band to put on his hat to identify him as a messenger, Western Union eventually asked Van Allen if he would mind wearing the traditional messenger cap. “I told them I did not.” Rev. Van Allen was happy to step in to aid the war effort, knowing at his age he was unable to serve overseas. He continued to preach until he passed in Skaneateles in 1930.