Judge Wesley Maston Holland was born in Benton, Kentucky, on Jan. 22, 1862. His father, William Cundiff Holland (1828-1904) and mother Pernecial Ellen Dees Holland (1829-1908) raised their family during a difficult time in our country’s history. Wesley Holland was born nine months after the start of the Civil War and was the sixth of nine children.
When he was 18, Wesley went to live with his older brother, who was an attorney. He chose to follow his example and studied law. In 1889, at age 27, he moved to Houston. Finding success in the courtroom and becoming a rather well-known attorney in Houston, Wesley Holland shifted his ambitions to politics and was elected to represent Harris County in the 25th Texas Legislature.
Wesley met the love of his life, Mussetta Sweeny, who grew up in the Sweeny area. Mussetta’s mother, Mary Parks Sweeny, was 41 years old when she was expecting Mussetta, her fifth child. Mary had such a strong feeling she was going to die in childbirth that she had papers drawn up and signed, giving Mussetta to her uncle, John Sweeny, and his second wife, Katherine Fulcord Sweeny. Mary died the day Mussetta was born, and Mussetta was raised by John and Katherine on the couple’s plantation.
As a young child, Mussetta visited her aunt, who lived at Bell’s Landing, known today as East Columbia. Mussetta never felt comfortable at her aunt’s house, the Thomas Jefferson Sweeny home. If her aunt wasn’t home, she would play in the yard.
One day when Mussetta was playing in the yard, she heard a noise in the house and went inside to see if her aunt was back. As she got to the bottom of the stairs, she heard a rustling noise. She looked up to see a lady in a gray taffeta dress with her arms outstretched, beckoning to Mussetta.
Mussetta turned, ran out of the house and didn’t stop until she was safely back home. More stories of encounters with the lady in the gray taffeta dress can be found in “Ghosts Along the Brazos” by Catherine Munson Foster.
Mussetta and Wesley were married on Feb. 2, 1897, in the Shearn Methodist Church on Texas Avenue in Houston. The wedding date also was the birthday of one of the flower girls in the wedding party. She was certain the flowers, gifts, cake and carriages were all for her birthday, and Mussetta made sure no one told her otherwise. The couple celebrated in grand style and took the train out of Houston to Austin, where they honeymooned at the Driskill Hotel.
In 1901, Wesley and Mussetta left Houston with their two children — Catherine, born in 1898, and William, born in 1900 — and moved to the newly incorporated city of Bay City. Wesley had been appointed the first mayor. In 1903, the couple had a third child, Mussetta, and Wesley decided to run for another two-year term as mayor. He won but had to resign because he was also acting as an attorney and consultant for the railroad, and this was considered a conflict of interest.
For the next 16 years, he served as a state senator and district attorney for Matagorda, Brazoria, Wharton, Fort Bend and Waller counties. He resigned this position to accept an appointment as assistant district attorney for Harris County. The family moved back to Houston.
Mussetta died on Oct. 28, 1925, and was buried in West Columbia. Wesley ended up living with his oldest daughter, Catherine, and her family. He died on July 2, 1930, from a ruptured, gangrenous appendix at Hermann Hospital in Houston. He was buried in the Old Columbia Cemetery on July 4, 1930.