Around here, street names are either Native American, or they fall into one of three categories: Nature (Oak, Elm, Water), Places (Church, School, Noank), or People (Washington, Spicer, Holmes). People who get streets named after them are usually politicians, artists, rich people or heroes. It helps if you are two of these things….and it also helps if you’re dead.
Jeremiah Holmes, credit: findagrave.com
Which brings us to Holmes Street, a short but beautiful stretch of road running up the river between the Bascule bridge and the Mystic Seaport Museum. It’s named after Jeremiah Holmes of nearby North Stonington. Nobody likes a bully and Jeremiah became noted because he got his revenge on a major bully, the British Navy. They forced him to fight for them for 3 years. Yes, they kidnapped him and 10,000 other Americans in the years leading up to the War of 1812.
Quick historical note: The US declared war on Great Britain in 1812. One of the reasons was the British Navy’s annoying practice of “impressment”, in which they forced foreign sailors to fight on British ships. The British were at war with France, and desperately needed sailors.
Jeremiah was impressed into the British Navy where he became a highly competent gunnery expert working cannon on their warships. When he finally escaped and returned to Mystic, he carried a grudge against the Brits, and used his gunnery expertise to harass and repulse them in several local battles, most notably the Battle of Stonington in 1814. His name is on several statues and the cannon he fired are displayed on the point in Stonington.
Jeremiah Holmes lived to age 90 and was even present as a dignitary during Mystic’s Civil War celebration in 1865. Think of old Jeremiah the next time you stroll down his street. He earned it.
Bill Pryor is the founder of Mystic Revealed, a blog and tour site. He runs a variety of guided-tours specializing in the history, food and local culture around Mystic.
www.mysticrevealed.com / firstname.lastname@example.org