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Moment of Indiana History

A Founding Justice And His Scenic Overlook

Overlooking the Ohio River at Aurora, Veraestau was built as the home of a member of the state's first Supreme Court and a founder of Franklin College.


The historic home Veraestau overlooks the Ohio River at Aurora. Its name a combination of the Latin words for spring, summer, and fall, the home preserves the memory of one of the justices on Indiana’s first Supreme Court.

Jesse Lynch Holman was born in Kentucky in 1784, one of fourteen children. As a young man, he gained enough education to become a teacher for a brief period; a life-long devout Baptist, he also preached, but by 1800 seemed to settle on law as his future profession. In 1810 Holman married and also branched out into writing, publishing a novel set during the American Revolution in Virginia. A later biographer of Holman described the book as filled with “over-florid dramatic writing,” and although Holman never wrote another novel, he did occasionally compose poetry, including two lengthy narrative poems based on Indian legends.

In 1811, Holman and his wife Elizabeth moved across the Ohio River and began building a home on a high hill overlooking the river and the town of Aurora. Holman continued to practice law and also served as a circuit judge. In 1814, he was a delegate to the territorial legislature, and in 1816 he was appointed to serve on the new state’s first Supreme Court. Holman served on the state high court for fourteen years, before returning to Aurora and his home.

Holman continued to practice law, but his list of accomplishments did not stop growing. In 1834, he was ordained as a Baptist minister and served the Baptist church he had helped to establish fourteen years earlier. Holman also took an interest in the growing Sunday School movement; served as a guiding influence behind a library and a seminary in Aurora; and was one of the founders of Franklin College. Holman’s interest in education also extended to the Historical Society of Indiana, for which he helped draft a constitution and of which he served as one of the founding vice presidents.

Jesse and Elizabeth Holman and their descendants are primarily remembered today for their beautiful home, which they named Veraestau. The house began as a two-story log home with a brick addition, was rebuilt after an 1837 fire as a single-story Greek Revival house, and finally transformed in 1913 into the large and imposing current structure. Veraestau still sits overlooking the Ohio River, now restored as a state historic site by Indiana Landmarks.

Source: George Blake, “Jesse Lynch Holman: Pioneer Hoosier,” Indiana Magazine of History 39 (March 1943); “Jesse Lynch Holman,” in Indiana Authors and Their Books, 1816-1916, comp. R.E. Banta (1949)

A Moment of Indiana History is a production of WFIU Public Radio in partnership with the Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations. Research support comes from Indiana Magazine of History published by the Indiana University Department of History.

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