JOHN A. HOLDOWAY. The bulk of the bakery business in Sparta is controlled by the Holdoway interests, and has been for a considerable period. John A. Holdoway is the actual head of the business, and it is to his peculiar ability in the culinary line that the splendid success of the project is manifestly due. While the business is now carried on under the active management of his sons, Harry and William, Mr. Holdoway is their counselor in all things, and his hand and brain can be traced in the policies of the concern at all times.
John A. Holdoway was born under the British flag in Wiltshire, England, October 14, 1834. He is the son of John Holdoway, born in England in 1804, a man whose whole life was devoted to the baker's trade. John Holdoway, Sr., was twice married in England. His first wife was Elizabeth Wibley, who became the mother of Elizabeth, afterwards the wife of George Horsey, of Melbourne, Australia, and of John A., now of Sparta, Illinois His second wife was Elizabeth Batt, whose death occurred before the family immigrated to America. Her children were Edwin, of St. Louis, Missouri; Henrietta, the wife of Ben Bull, and she later died at her home in England; Albert, who passed away in New Mexico; Emily, now Mrs. Arnett, residing at Los Angeles, California; and Ernest, who also died in New Mexico.
The father died in Sparta in 1886, having come to America at the time when his son John A. immigrated.
John A. Holdoway was somewhat of a rover by nature. His early education was neglected, the only geographical knowledge he gained of the world in his youth being what he acquired by actual travel. He was a constant traveler for many years while he was a youth coming into years of manhood, and he has seen and become familiar with most of the English speaking people of the globe in their native environment. In 1857 he went to Australia, and he passed a number of years in Melbourne, Sydney and other cities of note. While there he gained a livelihood either as a baker or as a miner, and while his fortunes were still in the making he was one of the many who headed for New Zealand, and there the pick and shovel and pan, or the "dough-board," kept away want and the pangs of hunger in that wilderness, while he fed an inordinate desire for adventure and travel, mingled with the hope that he would eventually make his fortune as a gold miner.
In 1867, after ten years of hardships, he returned to England, where he resumed his old trade, in which his father had early trained him and well, and there he settled down to the actual task of establishing a business and saving out of his labors the money which he had been unable to make as a soldier of fortune. After some years yearnings for the New World seized the man, and in 1873 he brought his family to the United States, accompanied by his father and others of the family who were still members of the household. They located temporarily in St. Louis, after having reached this country without any untoward incidents, and after a short time moved to Sparta, where he invested in the bakery business of one Ortman, long identified with that industry in Sparta, and he has given his most careful attention since then to the upbuilding of his trade. His efforts have been rewarded by a measure of success to surpass his most sanguine expectations. The business has explained with the passage of years, and profits resulting therefrom have been sufficient to assure him a measure of financial independence for the declining years of his life.
In 1868 Mr. Holdoway married Miss Rhoda Hooper in London. Of the children born to them but two survive. They are William J. and Harry J., now in control of the Holdoway bakery and confectionery establishment, having relieved their father of the cares of active management. Harry J. is married, his wife having been Miss Mary Anderson, a daughter of Thomas Anderson, of Salina, Kansas. They are the parents of four children: Annie, Harold, Helen and Grace. The father is president of the Sparta board of education, is a stockholder in one of the Sparta banks, and in political matters shares the convictions of his parent, those of a Republican.