Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, he attended local and private schools. He completed an apprenticeship as a printer, and then went into the newspaper business.
Prentiss became foreman of the New York Evening Post before moving to Cooperstown, New York in October, 1808. He became the printer of The Impartial Observer, which had been founded by Judge William Cooper. When Cooper died Prentiss became the paper"s owner and editors
In 1818, the name was changed to The Freeman"s Journal dropping the Federalist label as Prentiss"s shifted his political support to the Democratic-Republican Party.
He operated the newspaper until his retirement in 1849. In addition to operating the newspaper, Prentiss served in the New York Militia, appointed by Governor DeWitt Clinton as inspector of the 16th Division with the rank of colonel.
He was postmaster of Cooperstown from April 24, 1833 to February 17, 1837 and was vice president of the 1837 New York State Democratic convention in Albany. Prentiss was elected as the Twenty-fifth and Twenty-sixth Congresses as a Democrat, serving from March 4, 1837 to March 3, 1841.
He was not a candidate for renomination in 1840 and returned to his newspaper, in addition serving as president of the Bank of Cooperstown.
Prentiss retired in 1849 and continued to reside in Cooperstown. He died there on June 26, 1861, and was buried at Cooperstown"s Lakewood Cemetery. In 1815 Prentiss married Catherine Cox Morris (1795-1818), the daughter of General Jacob Morris and granddaughter of Lewis Morris.
John Holmes Prentiss" brother, Samuel Prentiss, was a United States. Senator and United States District Court judge from Vermont.
In 1809, the paper"s name was changed to The Cooperstown Federalist to reflect its political affiliation.
Member United States House