My Williams Family


During my family history research, I was easily able to use census records to trace my Williams branch to my great-great grandfather, Silas Williams. He attained some degree of prominence--he served as a Justice of the Peace when Cleveland Co NC was formed; he served several terms as Constable; and he was Cleveland County's third Clerk of County Court, serving from 1850 until 1868. (His brother-in-law Christy Carpenter also served as Register of Deeds for much of this period.) He married well twice, first marrying Deborah Ensley, the youngest daughter of a wealthy family, on 11 Jul 1835 in Lincoln Co NC. She died 25 Nov 1838, apparently just after giving birth to their second son, who died seven months later. The first son died in 1845, and all three are buried in Mt. Zion Baptist Church Cemetery on Highway 274 north of Cherryville. In 1847, Silas married Martha Alice [Mattie] Carpenter, the daughter of David Carpenter and Rosannah Childers.

Silas obviously received a good education.1 His handwriting was excellent, as witnessed by the County Court minutes that he wrote while serving as Clerk of Court. While Silas farmed near Waco, he also taught school in a log schoolhouse at St. Paul's.2 So he probably was raised by a family that was able to send him to school or to bring a teacher into the home.


I began my search for Silas armed with a copy of a newspaper article from 1939. His son, Silas J. Williams, had been interviewed by the Lincolnton newspaper on the occasion of his 90th birthday. He said in the article that his parents were both raised in Mecklenburg County. I tended to doubt that information and instead focused on Lincoln County, since the portion of Cleveland County where Silas lived--Waco--was formed from Lincoln in 1841. I checked census records, deeds, wills, and estates.

I had read in Carpenters A Plenty3 that David Carpenter, Silas' father-in-law and Silas J.'s grandfather, obtained land on Holly Branch in 1819 and on Buffalo Creek in [later] Cleveland County in 1822 and lived the rest of his life there, raising a family. From this I decided that Silas J. was wrong--that his parents were both born and raised in Lincoln, later Cleveland, County.

Therefore, I began by examining Cleveland and Lincoln County records, since the portion of Cleveland County where Silas lived was formed from Lincoln. I located several deeds, one of which mentioned that Silas was conveying a tract known as the "Mary Williams" land. I sensed that this name might give some clue to the identity of his parents.

One Thanksgiving I made a trip to the New Prospect Baptist Church Cemetery, Cleveland Co NC, where Silas is buried. According to his tombstone he was born 22 Jan 1807 and died 16 May 1888. These dates might help me analyze census and other information that I would gather.

Yet try as I might to discover who his parents were, I could not. No attempt to piece together the information from censuses, deeds and estates could satisfactorily place Silas in Lincoln County.


I later learned that some family members heard that Silas was an illegitimate child from a wealthy family, but no one seems to have had any proof for this account. Nor does the account indicate whether the father's family or the mother's family was wealthy. My impression was that it was the father's family.

At the time of Silas' birth, the law required any pregnant single woman to reveal the name of the father, so the father could be made to provide support for the child. If she refused, she was to be fined $5.00 and had to post a bond sufficient to prevent the child from becoming a charge on the county. No legal action could be taken against the alleged father unless the action began no later than three years after the birth of the child.4 According to some recent discussion on the West of the Catawba e-mail discussion group, the father was liable only for three years' support. If the child needed further support, the court bound out the child as an apprentice--to age 18 for females and to age 21 for males.

Neither the Lincoln Co NC nor the Mecklenburg Co NC bastardy bonds that survive gave any help. In Mecklenburg, Hannah Mitchell claimed on 15 Aug 1807 that John Riley, blacksmith, was the father of her child. No name was given for the child. There are two records in Lincoln County. In the January 1807 term of court reference was made to an Isaac Gooden. At the October 1807 term, Catherine Collins claimed that John Barry fathered her child. None of these cases clearly point to Silas (although such records normally did not list the child's name). Another record shows that Joseph Reid was fined for bastardy at the July 1807 term of court and that execution issued in the case. Court minutes show that during the April 1807 term, Joseph was tried and ordered to pay Nancy Bigham quarterly from 11 Feb 1807 for the maintenance of her child for which he was the reputed father. The Reid and Bigham families were in the area where Silas probably grew up.5 Joseph could have fathered two children in the neighborhood who were born close to the same date.

I first found no useful information in the court minute books, beginning with the January 1807 term of court since Silas is thought to have been born that month. There was one instance of the mother having to post a bond for the support of her child, and there were numerous instances of cases involving paternity, but none that involved a Williams. Then I decided to review the minutes for the October 1806 term in Mecklenburg County, in the event that the matter had been brought to court before Silas' birth but after his mother was obviously pregnant. Indeed, the minutes noted that George Cathey and others filed a bond payable to the Wardens of the Poor "for the maintenance of Mary Williams' child, a single woman," dated 27 Oct 1806, and returned by Jas. Tagert, Esqr. Apparently the bond has not survived, and the NC Archives has no record for the Wardens of the Poor. The "others" would be sureties on the bond; George Cathey would be the principal--the purported father.

This entry is consistent with the practice of filing a bond when the single woman was found to be pregnant. If this were Silas' mother, Mary would have been about six months pregnant and could not have hidden her pregnancy from the community. As shown by census and tax records, James Tagert was a justice of the peace who lived in the general area where I believe Silas was raised. Several members of the Cathey family, including one named George, were also in the area. Although there has been considerable research on the Cathey family, I have found nothing to identify for certain which of the Georges in the family might be this person. There are several possibilities.

George Cathey and his wife Jean were born in Ulster, Northern Ireland, and immigrated to Pennsylvania before locating in Rowan Co NC.6 After George died Jean and her children moved to Mecklenburg County, where she died in 1777. Their first son, Andrew [1721-1785], married and had a son George, who was born in 1743. He later moved to Tennessee. He was probably too old to be the father of Mary Williams' child-he would have been 63 years old when Silas was conceived.7

The immigrant couple named their second son George [1724-1801], and he married Frances Henry [1724-1798]. Their son Josiah [1759-1778] married Rachel Clark and they had two sons, the first of whom was named George. He was born about 1770 and there is no further solid information about him. He could have been the father of Mary Williams' child. George and Frances also had a son named George [1755-1825]; he married Agnes Allen and he died in Gaston Co NC. He was probably too old to be the father of Mary's child-he would have been age 51 at Silas' conception.8 George and Agnes also named a son George, who married Elizabeth Shuford in 1830 in Lincoln Co NC. He was probably born during the 1780s and he died in 1843 in Tennessee. This is another George who could have been the father of Mary Williams' child.

George and Jean's third son John Cathey [1725-1788] married Mary Henry [?-1802] about 1747 in Mecklenburg Co NC, and they in turn had a son named John [1750-1781].9 This son married Esther Barber and they named a son George, born in 1778. This George Cathey married twice, first to Patsy Wilson (7 Apr 1807) and second to Malinda Ticer [1802-?] on 10 Mar 1842. George died after 1860 in Mecklenburg Co NC. He was the right age to have been the father.

From this information, there are three good candidates to have been the father of Mary Williams' child:


1. George, son of Josiah Cathey and Rachel Clark, born about 1770; nothing more known of him. Identified as RN 199 in Cathey Family History and Genealogy, he seems to have moved to Abbeville District SC by the 1790 census. He probably did not return to Mecklenburg Co NC and he is probably not the father.

2. George, son of John Cathey Jr. and Esther Barber, born 1778; married first to Patsy Wilson and second to Malinda Ticer; died after 1860 in Mecklenburg Co NC.10 Identified as RN 102 in Cathey Family History and Genealogy, he appears to be the most likely candidate to be the father. His age was right; he was unmarried at the time of Silas' conception (about March or April of 1806); and he was clearly in the general area at the time of Silas' conception. He was close to Jonathan Williams' age and this may have made him especially attractive to Jonathan's younger sister.

3. George, son of George Cathey and Agnes Allen, born about 1785; married 1830 Lincoln Co NC to Elizabeth Shuford; died 1843 in Tennessee.11 Identified as RN 604 in Cathey Family History and Genealogy. The author says he was born in 1799 and was therefore too young to have been the father.

My conclusion based upon an analysis of the available data is that if Silas Williams was an illegitimate child, George Cathey, son of John Cathey Jr. and Esther Barber, was his father.

There do not appear to be any further court records that relate to the support of this child, so it is likely that the father provided voluntarily for his child. However, Mecklenburg Co NC court minutes show that Polly Williams and her three children became public charges by August 1828. There are no court records to show that any of Mary Williams' children were bound out as apprentices. Silas would have been too old--age 21--and Martha Elizabeth at age 17 would not likely have been apprenticed to anyone.


Around January 1987 a birthday party was held for my mother and her younger brother, D.C. Williams, Jr., who were both born on January 6. While there I obtained a copy of statements made by Silas J.'s daughter, my great-aunt Nell Williams, who said that her great-great grandparents Williams, whose first names she did not know, came from Mecklenburg County--she thought the Paw Creek area. Her great-grandmother moved to Cleveland County with her grandfather (Silas) and his sister (Elizabeth).12 She did not know how old the children were at the time. This is probably an elaboration of what she had learned from her father, but which he did not mention in his newspaper interview.13

If this is true, then Silas Williams' father and grandfather were in Mecklenburg County, just as Silas J. Williams had said. Silas was born in 1807. Martha Elizabeth Williams, who married Christopher (Christy) Carpenter in 1833 in Lincoln County, was born in 1811. I have wondered if she was Silas' sister, and I am convinced that she was. She and Silas are buried in the New Prospect Baptist Church Cemetery near Shelby. Both she and Silas married members of the Carpenter family.

To see if I could verify Aunt Nell's account, I first checked the male Williams heads of households from the 1820 Mecklenburg census abstract. I found only one person who listed a male born between 1804 and 1810--Jonathan Williams. He also listed one female born between 1810 and 1820, the period during which Martha Elizabeth was born. Jonathan was born between 1775 and 1794. Two other females were listed, one born between 1775 and 1794 and the other born before 1775. He is the only Williams who could be Silas' and Martha Elizabeth's father, if they were born and raised in Mecklenburg County and if their father was listed as a head of household in the census. Yet it is possible that Mary, Silas and Martha Elizabeth could have been living in the home of some other family who were not Williams.

Jonathan Williams was also in the 1810 Mecklenburg census, aged 26-45. Taken together with the 1820 census, he appears to have been born between 1775 and 1784. He listed one male under age 10, one female aged 16-26, and one female aged 45 or older. My guess is that these are Silas, age 3, Jonathan, his wife or sister, aged 16-26, and the mother of either Jonathan or his wife/sister, age about 50 (or more). His wife/sister would have been born between 1784 and 1794.14

When I did not find Jonathan Williams in the 1830 census index for North Carolina, I guessed that he had died by then. In fact, I found his estate file in the NC Archives; John D. Smith qualified as administrator and signed his bond on 25 May 1829. Smith sold property of the deceased on 19 Jun 1829. One of the purchasers was Silas Williams--the only Williams who bought at the sale. This is the first reference by name to Silas that I have found. It is important in that it places him in the area with Jonathan and, of course, in Mecklenburg County, just as his son Silas J. said. He would have been 22 years old at the time.

Smith sold more property on 31 Oct 1829, including to Upton Rodden, "Rest [or possibly 'rent'] of the land."15 There is a marriage bond in Mecklenburg County dated 6 Nov 1805 for William Rodden and Polly Williams. Godphrey Williams signed as bondsman. Polly was most likely his daughter or sister. In November 1815, Upton Rodden had been appointed administrator of Matthew Pittman's estate, and Jonathan Williams was a surety on his bond. William and Upton were brothers. It is likely that the Williams, Roddens, and Pittmans lived in the same area and that there may have been some family relationship among them.

Mecklenburg Book of Accounts 2, at page 6, contains a few entries for "Estate of Jonathan Williams Decd. by J. D. Smith Admr." The first entry was dated Nov. 1829. No heirs or widow are indicated by any of these records. There was not enough property in the estate to satisfy all claims, and Smith appears to have paid the balance himself.

Interestingly, the estate record does not indicate any petition for year's allowance or for dower on behalf of the widow. These things were normally done to provide for the widow until the estate could be settled. Their absence indicates that Jonathan was either unmarried or that his wife had already died, especially since the court would have acted to protect the widow from becoming a public charge.

The County Court Minutes also provide some clues. Terms were held during February, May, August, and November. During the August 1828 term, the County Trustee was ordered to pay $25.00 to Robert Hood for use in supporting Polly Williams and her three children,16 "who is represented to be in a State of want and Sufference." In the May 1829 term, John D. Smith qualified as administrator of Jonathan's estate. Later in the term, the County Trustee was again ordered to pay Robert Hood $25.00 for taking care of Polly Williams, who became a public charge. (The entry noted that this was the second order issued, the first having been lost or mislaid.) There was also an order to pay Dr. William O. Edwards $6.50 for medical aid and attendance on Polly Williams and his children. Because of the dates for terms of court, Jonathan must have died between February and late May 1829. Since his estate could not satisfy all claims against it, his wife/sister could possibly have become a public charge even before his death, depending on his living habits.17

Next I decided to check the abstracts of land grants for the Paw Creek area to find other surnames, and possibly a Williams. With these surnames, I could examine the tax lists and know if I had the right community. I found the following surnames: Beatey, Berry, Bigham, Carruth, Carruthers, Cathey, Davies, Dobbins, Hambright, Hay, Joy, McElmurray, McLain, McKee, Patterson, Selvin, Sloan, and Young. There were references to Sugar Creek, Long Creek, Gum Branch, and the east side of the Catawba.

After some searching I found a volume that contained tax lists or partial lists for the years 1797-1799, 1806-1811, and 1823-1824. Pertaining to Jonathan,18 I found:


104   1806  Capt. Jos. Haynes  no land  1 white poll
154   1807  "                  336      "
167   1808  "                  "
213   1810  Tho. Sprott        336      "
287   1811  "                  "        "
303   1823  Capt. Blackwood    340      none
351   1824  "                  340      none

Capt. Sprott's Company in the 1810 census, in which Jonathan Williams was the first entry, included surnames such as Beatty, Bigham, Catha (Cathey), Patterson, and Sloan. From this, I felt that Jonathan indeed lived in the general area of Paw Creek. Land and court records then helped further to locate Jonathan.

In 1799, James Walker deeded a 336-acre tract to Isaac and Eleanor Williams for their lifetimes.19 James Walker died in 1803 or 1804 and Hugh Walker was appointed to administer his estate. He was also named guardian of James' orphaned children--James, Patsy, Isaac Williams, and James Thompson Walker.20 In 1804 Isaac brought suit against the estate for a debt and was awarded 126 damages. James Walker's estate file includes several receipts for partial payments on the debt, and the Mecklenburg County Court Execution Docket for 1798-1811 contains entries in April and October 1805, January 1806, and January, April and July 1807. The July 1807 entry noted that land was executed on and sold to J. Wms. (Jonathan Williams) for $600. No deed was made to the land until 1821, when Jonathan received a Sheriff's Deed. This explains why Jonathan began listing the land for taxes in 1807, although he did not receive a deed for another 14 years. The land was located on Rocky Sugar or Little Sugar Creek.


An examination of Mecklenburg Co NC wills revealed that David Williams made his will on 3 Dec 1777 and that it was offered for probate in July 1778.21 He named his wife, Phebe, and children Daniel, Elizabeth, George, John, Johnathen, Shusanah, and David. He signed his name to his will, and each of his sons signed their names on receipts for their shares of the estate.22 David's daughters made their marks on their receipts. The receipts are dated:


George       5 Sep 1787
Elisebeth   10 Nov 1788
John         7 Jan 1789
Susanna      1 Jan 1795
Jonathan     1 Jan 1795
"            9 Dec 1796
Daniel      16 Nov 1799
David       16 Nov 1799

David's executors were his brothers-in-law, George and Samuel Calhoun. Estate records show that they were appointed (or reappointed) guardians of David's children in 1786 and were to hold property for them until they became of full age. The dates of the receipts may indicate that the children became age 21 on or shortly before they signed their receipts.23 If so, they were born approximately as follows:


George      5 Sep 1766
Elisebeth  10 Nov 1767 (or 1770)
John        7 Jan 1768 [impossible!]
Susanna     1 Jan 1774 (or 1777)
Jonathan    1 Jan 1774 or 9 Dec 1775
Daniel     16 Nov 1778
David      16 Nov 1778

The last two are clearly wrong, since they were alive on 3 Dec 1777 when David made his will. But this at least establishes an approximate date of birth for these children. Daniel and David may well have been twins. It is possible that Jonathan and Susanna were as well. Or if the girls received their shares after reaching age 18, the order of births may have been:


George            5 Sep 1766
John              7 Jan 1768 
Elisebeth        10 Nov 1770
Jonathan          1 Jan 1774 or 9 Dec 1775
Susanna           1 Jan 1777
Daniel and David 16 Nov 1778 (1777?)

This pattern looks much more likely than the former one. David probably had one or two children born between 1770 and 1775 who died in infancy, as well.

Why did Jonathan sign two receipts? It could be that he first signed before he was of legal age, so that he had to sign again when he reached age 21. If this is the same Jonathan as the one related to Mary Williams, then he was born by 1777 but no earlier than 1775, according to the 1820 census.

The tax information offers some assistance in determining when Jonathan was born. During the period of 1817 through 1871, males aged 21-45 were charged a poll tax. So the 1823 tax list, in which he listed no polls, indicates that he must have been at least age 45; thus he was born no later than 1778. He listed himself for poll tax in 1806, when the ages for listing were 21-50, so he was born by 1785. If he were born as early as 1775, he would have turned age 21 in 1796--when the second Jonathan Williams receipt was signed. This appears to be David's Jonathan, who is included in the 1810 and 1820 Mecklenburg censuses. He was born about 1775 and died in 1829 about age 54.

I located a deed dated 6 Jan 1830 recorded in Mecklenburg Deed Book 21 at page 632, from Mary Williams to John D. Smith, who was Jonathan's administrator. Both were residents of Mecklenburg County, and the deed conveyed 59 1/4 acres on the "Rocky Shugar Creek," being a portion of the tract "where my brother Jonathan Williams formerly lived.24 She executed the deed by making her mark. The deed description refers to a division line between her land and Jonathan's, but I have located no division of this land. There are some bills of sale in 1827 involving John R. Williams and his wife, Mary, but they both signed their names, so she was a different Mary Williams.25 Mary did not convey any other portion of the Jonathan Williams land as far as the records show, but she did leave Mecklenburg County after having bought land in Lincoln, later Cleveland, County in October 1829.

Was the correct term of relationship used in this deed? Jonathan, son of David, had two sisters known as Elizabeth and Susanna. However, Mary could have been born shortly after David's death. Normally a man would mention in his will a child in esse,26 but due to the timing between execution of the will and his death, he may not have known his wife was pregnant. The final settlement of his estate occurred in 1799, just over 21 years after his death. This would tend to indicate that he had an infant child at or shortly after his death. But there is no mention in the estate records of a Mary or Polly, so she must not have been a sibling of David's Jonathan. One of the girls could have been known as Mary or Polly, but this is unlikely. Therefore, there was either another Jonathan in Mecklenburg County, the term in the deed should be understood to mean brother-in-law, or Mary was an "after-born" child for whom no provision was made through David's estate.


If Jonathan had a living son who was born between 1804 and 1810, why would his sister be conveying his land after his death?27 One possibility is that this Jonathan did have a sister Mary. She may have been the Polly who married William Rodden in 1805. She may have been promiscuous and William may have divorced her. In that event, she could have been living with her brother at the time of the 1810 and 1820 censuses. If Jonathan were unmarried and she were his only sibling and their parents were dead, then she could legally convey his real property. However, Paul G. Rodden wrote in Carry Me Back, a history of the Rodden family, that William Rodden married Polly Williamson (although the marriage record indicates that she was a Williams); they had 11 children from 1806 to 1835; and they moved to Tennessee by 1830.28 This appears to be a different person than Silas' mother Mary Williams. It is very unlikely that Mary was David Williams' daughter.


I have found no marriage record for any of Jonathan's brothers in Mecklenburg County. I did find that Susanna Williams married William Montieth on 13 Nov 1804. William Beaty was bondsman and Isaac Alexander was the witness. Within three years there is another marriage bond for William Montieth. This could indicate that Susanna Williams had died, or there may be two William Montieths. So it is possible, but very unlikely, that all of Jonathan's siblings and their spouses, except for one named Mary, were deceased.


An examination of Mecklenburg County census records does not establish that there were two Jonathans who lived there. However, one may have moved away at an age before he would have been listed as head of a household. Early North Carolina census records show the following Jonathan Williams:


1790  Dobbs County29  (1)
      Gates County (1)
      Randolph County (1)
1800  Gates County (1)
      Rutherford County (2)
1810  Gates County (1)
      Mecklenburg County (1)
      Rutherford County (2)


In August 1828 and again on 30 May 1829 an order was entered in Mecklenburg County Court showing that Polly Williams and her children had become public charges. Also on 30 May 1829, the County Trustee was ordered to pay her doctor bill. Yet on 18 Jun 1829 Silas purchased property at the Jonathan Williams estate sale and four months later, on 21 Oct 1829, Mary purchased 120 acres in Lincoln [Cleveland] County.

To analyze whether Polly and Mary were the same person, one needs to understand the functions of the Wardens of the Poor.


Care of the poor, infirm, aged, mentally or physically handicapped, and other unfortunates was the responsibility of county Wardens of the Poor from 1777 until 1917. The Wardens inherited their functions and name from the church wardens and vestries of colonial times. They were occasionally called Overseers of the Poor. They received and disbursed monies for poor relief, determined what persons were entitled to public assistance, and supervised the operation of institutions for the poor.

. . .

Persons receiving assistance were often called paupers and sometimes pensioners. Some of them were housed in county homes, poor houses, or poor farms. Those who remained in their own homes were called the "outside" or "out-of-doors" poor. Inmates of poor houses were expected to make themselves useful if possible, although persons eligible to reside in such institutions were probably in a very bad way, and their labor could be let out to the lowest bidder or commanded by the keeper of the house. Paupers might often have been ill-fed, ill-housed, and ill-used, but they were expected to remain in their own counties, not to travel about seeking a more comfortable poor house or a less severe master in counties they had not supported by taxes. However, Wardens could arrange to send them to the care of relatives in other counties or states. Much assistance was rendered by private citizens, some of whom received subsidies or reimbursement from the public treasury.30

This information tends to suggest that those who qualified for public assistance were unlikely to be purchasers of land or the property of a decedent, especially so soon after having been found to qualify for assistance. But it is possible that Mary and children were sent westward to be near family so that they could provide for her. I doubt that is the case--would family or the county provide a tract of land for her? More likely she would move in with relatives and help them with their farm or business. It is also possible that Silas had begun putting his education to work in some manner to accumulate the funds necessary for the move. But would he have tolerated his mother and siblings receiving public support? Again, that is doubtful. These thoughts lead me to believe and conclude that Polly Williams of Mecklenburg County who received public assistance was a different person from Mary Williams who moved to Lincoln [Cleveland] County. However, Mary did obtain land in Lincoln [Cleveland] County by a deed in which her name was given as Polly--the only time I know that she was referred to by that name.


The Roddens may figure into the puzzle. Upton, who either bought or rented some of Jonathan's land, married Rachel Pittman and died by 1850, when she was listed with a child in the census.31 Little is known of that family. Perhaps they named a son Andrew--he is noted as unaccounted for in the Rodden book; the author could not determine who his parents were. Andrew's second wife, whom he married 6 Oct 1841, was Cynthia Beaty. On 15 Mar 1847 Cynthia Rodden sold a 50-acre portion of the "Jonathan Williams old place" that adjoined J. D. Smith land, to (Dr.) T. T. Sandifer.32 The land was on the waters of little Sugar Creek. I have found no deeds by which the property passed from Jonathan or his estate to anyone, much less a Rodden. Nor have I found any deed passing the property from anyone else to a Rodden. The closest transaction was the notation in Jonathan's estate file that may indicate that his administrator sold his land to Upton Rodden.

Martha Elizabeth Williams Carpenter, who was born in 1811, named a son after Silas Williams. This son died in the 1860s. She also had two daughters, Mary P. and Martha E. Carpenter. In 1875 Silas Williams executed a quitclaim deed for a 115-acre "Mary Williams tract" to C. Carpenter, agent and guardian for Mary P. Carpenter, P. Z. Carpenter, and Martha Carpenter, heirs of Mary Williams dec'd. Martha Elizabeth Carpenter married Peter Zachariah Carpenter. Why would Silas execute this deed if he were not related to Mary Williams and the Martha Elizabeth Williams Carpenter daughters? It seems clear that Silas was related--that Mary was his mother and Martha Elizabeth was his sister. According to Carpenters A Plenty, family tradition indicates that Christy Carpenter lived on a tract of land he obtained from his second wife's family. Martha Elizabeth Williams Carpenter was his second wife. So the land referred to in the tradition is the Mary Williams land. Where did Mary get the land?

By deed recorded in Cleveland Deed Book C at page 634 and dated 21 Oct 1829, Jonathan M. Carroll33 of Lincoln County sold to Mary Williams of Mecklenburg County 120 acres on Buffalo Creek.34 Silas Williams and Joseph M. Carroll35 were witnesses to the deed. In Lincoln Deed Book 35 at page 248 is a deed dated 1 Nov 1833 from William and Mary Milligan36 to Polly Williams of Lincoln County for 13 acres on the Suck Fork of Buffalo Creek--it joins a 115-acre tract that Silas Williams conveyed in the 1875 quitclaim deed. Carroll's deed description includes the 13 acres deeded from the Milligans to Polly and it appears to be roughly the same as the 115 acres described in Silas' 1875 deed. This shows that Mary Williams and her children may have come to Lincoln, later Cleveland, County around the late fall of 1829 or spring of 1830.37

Jonathan Carroll obtained the 120 acres from Frederick Carpenter of Lincoln County by deed dated 26 Feb 1829 and recorded in Lincoln Deed Book 33 at page 231. The tract was described as joining the lands of Jacob Dellinger and Parker. Frederick Carpenter made a mark for his signature. This is interesting, because according to Carpenters A Plenty, both Frederick Carpenter Sr. and Jr. signed their names--the book even contains an example of the signature of each man. Frederick Carpenter Sr. died 17 Sep 1829 about age 57, so it is possible that he made the deed and that due to ill health or other infirmity he could not sign his name as he had normally done. Frederick Jr. was born in 1801 and could have been the grantor, but I have found no deed by which he acquired the land. The Lincoln County Court in July 1830 ordered commissioners to divide the real estate of Frederick Carpenter Sr., deceased, among his heirs. The division was reported on 16 Oct 1830 and is recorded in Lincoln Deed Book 34 as follows:

p. 92  Lot 1 to Margaret Carpenter, 83 acres [described by metes and bounds]
p. 93  Lot 2 to Anna Carpenter, 69 acres  [described by metes and bounds]
p. 94  Lot 3 to Henry Carpenter, 64 acres [described by metes and bounds]
    "  Lot 4 to Sally Froneberger, 55 acres [described by metes and bounds]
p. 95  Lot 5 to Christian Carpenter, 63 acres [described by metes and bounds]
    "  Lot 6 to Elizabeth Whisenhunt, 45 acres [described by metes and bounds]
p. 96  Lot 7 to John Carpenter, 75 acres [described by metes and bounds]
    "  Lot 8 to Catharine Kiser, 48 acres [described by metes and bounds]
p. 97  Lot 9 to John Zimmerman, 75 acres [described by metes and bounds]
    "  Lot 10 to Joseph Carpenter, 125 acres described only as being located on 
       Suck Fork of Buffalo (Creek) and joining the lands of Jacob Dellinger,
       Carpenter, Milligan, and others.

This division accounts for each child except Frederick Jr., and the land allotted to John Zimmerman may have been intended for Frederick. The last tract, for Joseph Carpenter, appears to be the same tract that Frederick Sr. had conveyed to Jonathan M. Carroll less than seven months before he died. The land that Mary Williams bought from Jonathan M. Carroll did join land of Jacob Dellinger and William Milligan, as shown by the division of Dellinger's land in 1838. That land is located on Suck Fork of Buffalo Creek, which is in Cleveland County. Carpenters A Plenty indicates that there was no disposition of this land by Joseph Carpenter. The little that can be found concerning him includes a bastardy bond dated 25 Apr 1823 that identifies him as the reputed father of a "Base born child begotten on the body of Catherine Kizer." Joseph had a sister Catherine who married a Kiser. Was this his sister? The reason he did not convey the land may well have been that he never owned it--it had already been conveyed to Jonathan M. Carroll by his father. And the reason that little is known of him may be that he had relations with his sister, or possibly sister-in-law, and had to leave for his own safety.

Incidentally, a deed in Lincoln Deed Book 21 at page 104 dated 17 Nov 1802 shows that Samuel Love conveyed 200 acres on both sides of the long branch of Indian Creek to Jonathan Williams of Lincoln County. By deed dated 17 Jul 1807, Jonathan Williams now of Mecklenburg County sold two tracts of land on Indian Creek to Robert Brown. Jacob Dellinger also owned a tract referred to as Indian Creek land. Indian Creek originates in Catawba County and flows southeast across western Lincoln County, dips briefly into northwestern Gaston County, then flows northeast back into Lincoln County where it enters South Fork Catawba River.

From the Lincoln County tax lists I found that in 1832, Capt. Caroll's District included Mary Williams, who listed 120 acres for taxes, and Silas Williams, who listed one white poll--himself. In 1837 Silas listed 280 acres. I do not know if Mary had remarried or died, but she was not listed. After Cleveland County was formed in 1841, I found that Silas listed 145 acres during the period 1849 through 1852. The tax district was under the authority of Moss two years and Jonathan Mooney two years.

An examination of Cleveland County census records for Mary Williams shows:


YEAR  COUNTY       NAME                          AGE
1810  Mecklenburg  Jonathan Williams             16-26 [b. 1784-94] or
                                                 45+ [b. pre-1765]
1820  Mecklenburg  Jonathan Williams             26-45 [b. 1775-1794]
                                                 45+ [b. pre-1775]
1830  not found38 
1840  Lincoln      Silas Williams                50-60 [b. 1780-1790]
1850  Cleveland    Mary Williams                 63 [born ca.1787]
                   Martha Carpenter              10
1860  Cleveland    Christopher Carpenter         62
                   Caroline Carpenter [3rd wife] 33
                   Mary Williams                 70 [born ca.1790]
                   Mary P. Carpenter             22
                   Martha E. Carpenter           19
1870  Cleveland    Mary Williams                 79 [born ca. 1791]

These later ages--from 1850 and 1860--fit the time period established in the 1810 and 1820 Mecklenburg censuses for the age of Jonathan Williams' wife/sister. They show that Mary would have been about 17-20 when Silas was born. In 1850 Mary's granddaughter was living with her; in 1860 Mary was living with her son-in-law. The older woman in the 1810 and 1820 censuses may well have been the mother of Jonathan and Mary.


There are four reasons I can think of:

1. She may have been returning to the area where she formerly lived.

In the Old Testament Book of Ruth, Naomi went back home after her husband and sons had died. She had in mind that at least she had family there, and perhaps they would look after her. Was Mary going back home?

The Jonathan Williams deeds for land on Indian Creek in Lincoln [Gaston] County show that this Jonathan was a resident of Lincoln County in 1803 but of Mecklenburg County in 1807. Perhaps Mary and Jonathan did begin in Lincoln and move to Mecklenburg. Then after Jonathan died, Mary returned home.

2. The Wardens of the Poor may have sent her to be with relatives who could support her.

Unless the Wardens of the Poor bought land for paupers to be with relatives in another county, this is doubtful. Polly would not have had the funds to buy land with. She would have been sent to move in with family, not to buy land.

3. Her family or neighbors may have moved and she wanted to be near them.

This is certainly possible. There seems to have been a migration from the Paw Creek/Sugar Creek area to regions further west.

4. She may have felt the need for a new start.

If Mary had two illegitimate children, she may have decided that they and she needed a new location for a better future. Seeing Silas' potential, she may have realized that he needed a chance to develop further than he could among the wagging tongues of Rocky Sugar Creek neighbors.


Mary Williams was listed in the 1860 Cleveland County census. This is the last listing I have found for her. Silas Williams executed his quitclaim deed to her land in 1875, referring to her as "deceased." So she died sometime between 1860 and 1875. I have not found any estate record for her in Cleveland County.

I have examined her possible burial place in some depth. Silas' first wife is buried in Mt. Zion Baptist Church Cemetery in Gaston County, north of Cherryville. Silas and his second wife are buried in the New Prospect Baptist Church Cemetery in Cleveland County. Christopher Carpenter, who married Silas' sister, is buried in the St. Paul's M.E. Church Cemetery in Cleveland County.

I looked for church minutes for these churches in the State Archives but found none. Then I looked for deeds to the churches to establish their approximate time of organization. The earliest deed I have found to New Prospect was 1855. The deed for St. Paul's was illegible, but appeared to be years later.

Then I visited each church, starting with New Prospect. New Prospect Church Road, or S.R. 1908, runs northwardly from N.C. Highway 180 north of its intersection with N.C. Highway 150. New Prospect Baptist Church is located 1.8 miles from the beginning of New Prospect Church Road on the right side of the road. St. Paul's is located 3.2 miles further, on the right side of the same road. Three-tenths of a mile later, the road intersects with S.R. 1001, which runs south about three miles into Waco, where it is known as Main Street. But continuing with New Prospect Church Road across the intersection for another mile, one reaches the Cleveland-Gaston County line. The road continues to its intersection with N.C. Highway 274; but a few tenths of a mile before that intersection, Mt. Zion Church Road turns off to the left and curves around into Highway 274. The church is located 2.9 miles from the county line. So these three churches are located within 7.4 miles of each other.

Only Mt. Zion has a cornerstone to supply dates. The church was organized in 1857 and the first building has built in 1867. I walked around both St. Paul's and New Prospect, but there is no cornerstone, sign or other clue as to the age of these churches. Nor was I able to locate a Mary Williams tombstone. I noted the relative location of several tombstones there:


9th row                           William Childers
                                  d. 18 Oct 1832
8th row                                          Jacob Dillinger
                                                 d. 25 May 1837
7th row                                                               John P. Craft
                                                                      d. 13 Jan 1894
6th row Wilson J.       James            Samuel P.       John E.          Deborah
        Carroll         Carroll Jr.      Williams        Williams         Williams
        d. 6 Oct 1847   d. 19 Nov 1844   d. 4 Jan 1845   d. 7 Jun 1839    d. 26 Nov 1848

I found these locations interesting because relatives seem to be located near one another. Clearly there has been some tie between Silas Williams and the Carroll family. Mary Williams purchased her land from Jonathan M. Carroll. Dillinger and Craft owned land that adjoined this tract.

Then I went to Waco Baptist Church on Main Street to see if it had a cemetery. It did not, and I asked the pastor where a Baptist may have been buried other than Mt. Zion or New Prospect. He told me Capernaum, which was south of Waco. In fact, Capernaum Baptist was organized in 1842 and the church was moved to Waco in 1887, when it became known as Waco Baptist. But the small cemetery did not have a tombstone for Mary Williams.

As I drove back toward New Prospect I mused that perhaps Mary was buried on her own land (bought in 1829), but I decided that to be unlikely since Silas' first wife and children, who died in the late 1830s and the 1840, were buried at Mt. Zion, and his sister was buried at New Prospect in 1846. In other words, since these family members were buried in church cemeteries, Mary probably was as well. I doubted that she would have been buried at the Methodist church, so I concluded that she was probably buried at New Prospect.

Returning there, I noted that Silas' grave is to the left of his second wife, and to the right of her grave is open space where there may be unmarked graves. But Silas died before his second wife, and if his mother were buried in an adjoining plot, I would expect it to have been to his left, rather than having skipped a site to the right to be used later for Mattie. Down the hill to the left of these graves are several other Williams graves. Some are Silas' children and some grandchildren. In the row in front of Silas' grave and about 15 graves to his left is a rectangular stone, shorter than other tombstones but taller than foot stones, marked simply "M W". To its right is a tombstone for Ruth Williams, born 11 Aug 1903 and died 16 Oct 1905, as best I can tell. (Both these are in a row of tombstones, not foot stones.) About 15 feet in front of the "MW" stone is a tombstone for Mark T. Williams, so the "MW" stone could not be his foot stone. Behind the stone is a tombstone for Moses Callier Williams--perhaps so named because Silas J. Williams' wife worked as a servant in the household of the father of Dr. Collier Cobb. Moses Callier was a son of George Dallas Williams, who was a son of Silas J. Williams. Another stone is for Mary E. Williams, infant daughter of Silas and Martha Williams, who died 12 Aug 1854, aged 8 years, months unreadable, and 4 days.

I think that the "MW" stone may mark Mary's grave. Perhaps it was originally a foot stone that was used to replace the tombstone, in the event that it was damaged or destroyed. Perhaps Mary requested a simple marker of that type.

Leaving the cemeteries, I went to the Cleveland County Memorial Library's local history room. Housed there is a typed book of WPA project cemetery listings for Cleveland County. The books includes the cemeteries at Capernaum, New Prospect, and St. Paul's. None of these contains the name of Mary Williams.

Another interesting item is an 1886 map of Cleveland County that shows numerous land owners and churches. The map shows the Suck Fork of Buffalo Creek, on which the Mary Williams land was located. There appears to be a Mrs. S. Williams near New Prospect Baptist Church and also near Buffalo Paper Mill. The road along which it is located appears to correspond with present S.R. 1908, and the road leading to Waco appears to be the same as S.R. 1001. Suck Fork turns to run along and across the Waco road, and nearby is the name S. Williams, perhaps a half mile south from the intersection. A marker at the intersection today indicates that Waco is 3 miles south and that Fallston is 4 miles north.


I have long thought that the Mary Williams who listed 120 acres for taxes and whose land Silas quitclaimed in 1875 was his mother. The land seems to have been in the Waco area, just as Aunt Nell said. I also think that his uncle was Jonathan Williams who died in Mecklenburg County in 1829 about six months before Mary bought her land in what would become Cleveland County. Mary and Jonathan were probably children of Isaac and Eleanor (Cathey) Williams and may have been reared in Lincoln County, at least for a time. I suspect that Silas J. Williams' middle name was Jonathan, after his uncle. I doubt that this Jonathan was a son of David Williams. Finally, I believe that George Cathey was Silas' father.



1. Free public education was begun to help poor and orphaned children, but the state school system did not begin until 1839. So Silas must have been privately educated. One wealthy neighbor who wanted to educate a young man for the ministry (but whose father refused) was Hugh Parks, as reported in The History of Steele Creek Church, Mecklenburg County, NC. (The young man was John Allison, and his father did not want John to be elevated above his six brothers and three sisters.)

2. As reported by his son, Silas J. Williams, in 1939. See Appendix 2. St. Paul's Methodist Church is just over three miles north of New Prospect Baptist Church, where Silas is buried.

3. This is an excellent genealogy of the Carpenter family in the Lincoln/Gaston/Cleveland County area, written by Robert C. Carpenter.

4. "And be it further enacted, That any two justices of the peace, upon their own knowledge, or information made to them, that any single woman is big with child, or delivered of a child or children, may cause such woman to be brought before them, and examine her, upon oath, concerning the father; and if she shall refuse to declare the father, she shall pay the fines in this act before mentioned, and give sufficient security, to keep such child or children from being dischargeable to the parish, or shall be committed to prison, until she shall declare the same, or pay the fine aforesaid, and give security as aforesaid; but in case such woman shall, upon oath, before the said justices, accuse any man of being the father of a bastard child or children, begotten of her body, such person so accused shall be adjudged the reputed father of such child or children, and stand charged with the maintenance of the same, as the county court shall order, and give security, to the justices of the said court, to perform the said order, and to indemnify the parish where such child or children shall be born, free from charges for his, or her, or their maintenance, and may be committed to prison until he find securities for the same, if such security is not by the woman before given." Laws of 1741, c. 30, s. 10, published in Potter, Laws of North Carolina, v. 1 (1819). This law was entitled "An Act for the better observation and keeping of the Lord's day, commonly called Sunday; and for the more effectual suppression of vice and immorality."

5. As indicated by the account of Nell Williams, infra at note 12.

6. This information is taken from Cathey Family History and Genealogy, v. 1 (1700-1900), by Boyt Henderson Cathey, published in 1993.

7. I believe this is the George Cathey who was in the Stewart Co TN 1820 census, age 45+. He had one male aged 16-26, one male aged 10-16, and one female under age 10 with him. Andrew Cathey, also aged 45+, was listed two pages later in the census.

8. He was not told old physically, but I doubt that Mary, as a young woman, would have been interested in him.

9. John Cathey died in Charleston, SC during the Revolutionary War.

10. Cemetery records for Marshall Co TN reveals a Cathey Cemetery in Farmington Quadrangle. Buried there are Peggie Cathey, wife of George (no dates given), and George Cathey, born 16 Oct 1784 and died 3 Dec 1866. This looks like the son of John Cathey and Esther Barber, although the year of birth is different and he was not in Mecklenburg Co NC. But this might be even another George Cathey of whom I have been unaware.

11. He died in Lincoln Co TN. His will named his wife Elizabeth and children Frances and Robert.

12. Mary Williams did move with Silas around 1829 from Mecklenburg to Lincoln, later Cleveland, County, as shown by land records.

13. My impression of Silas J. Williams is that he was a true gentleman of his times. That being so, he would not have shared with the reporter that his father was born out-of-wedlock, if he knew that to be so.

14. If Jonathan was not Silas' father, but his uncle, then Silas' father may have been married to another woman at the time of Silas' birth. Otherwise, the father and Mary may well have married later. The father's family would have had ample reason to provide for Mary's children under this circumstance so that Silas' paternity would not affect the family name. It would also have been accepted for her to live in her brother's home.

At this point in my analysis I am assuming that Silas was living with his parents. If Mary was not married, then the references to her as being Jonathan's wife should instead be sister.

15. If a Rodden had been the father, this might explain Upton's purchase at the sale-it could have been an effort to relieve the financial burden Mary would have had after her brother's death.

16. This may be an error-Mary had only two children that I am aware of, Silas and Martha Elizabeth. It is possible that she had another child who died before the family moved to Cleveland County. The child would have been the youngest, according to census information that relates to Jonathan. Or if the child were a female, she could have married and remained in Mecklenburg County. Or Polly may be another person than Mary.

17. But if Jonathan were living in August 1828, as he must have been, why were only Polly and the children referred to as public charges?

The items sold at Jonathan's estate sale indicate that he was a farmer. Mary was probably dependent on him to a large degree. He may have developed ill health during the summer of 1828 and have been unable to farm as usual, so that Mary and her children were in need. Her need for the doctor may be related to the cause of Jonathan's death, as well. Perhaps the third child died from the same cause. But again, Polly Williams may be a different person.

18. In 1806 there were several members of the Cathey family in Capt. Haynes district-John Jr. and Sr., Henry, George, Alexander, and John. Alexander was either the son of George and Frances Henry Cathey (1759-1839, died Mecklenburg Co NC), of George and Agnes Allen Cathey (born 1782), or of John and Esther Barber Cathey (1771-1844, died NC). George was either the son of George and Frances Henry Cathey (1756-1825, died Lincoln Co NC), or of of John and Esther Barber Cathey (1778-p. 1860, died Mecklenburg Co NC). He listed 152 acres for taxes along with one white and one black poll. Henry was the son of George and Frances Henry Cathey (1770-1823, died NC). The three Johns appear to be the son of George and Frances Henry Cathey (1766-1837), the son of John and Esther Barber Cathey (1779-1876), or the son of George and Agnes Allen Cathey (born 1779). John, son of the immigrant George Cathey, and his son John Jr. were both dead by 1788.

19. George and Jean Cathey had a daughter Eleanor, born 1726, who married first Matthew Toole and second a Williams, first name unknown. Might this be Isaac? Eleanor Williams is said to have had a daughter Elizabeth, who was the first white child born on the waters of the Catawba River. [Cathey, Cathey Family History and Genealogy, p. 59.] She was born Feb 1748 and married Richard Mason, a tavern-keeper in Charlotte. She was the only child listed by Boyt Cathey. She is buried at Hopewell Church.

20. Might this suggest that Isaac was James' father-in-law? James obviously died young, since his children were described as orphans. He may have named one of them after his wife's father. But as discussed at n.22, Eleanor Cathey Williams may have had only one child, who married Richard Mason.

21. Burial records for the Steele Creek Presbyterian Church in Mecklenburg County indicate that David Williams, age 41, died on 3 Dec 1777, the same day that he made his will. So he would have been born about 1736.

22. Might this fact relate to Silas' having been educated?

23. But females were treated as adults at age 18.

24. Sometimes the term "brother" included brother-in-law. So perhaps Mary had married one of Jonathan's brothers.

25. Marriage records show that she was Mary McComb.

26. In the womb, not yet born.

27. If Jonathan had surviving children, they would have owned a share of his land, and Jonathan's widow would have owned only a dower interest--a life estate in one-third of the land. She would not have been able to pass title to a purchaser. If this Jonathan is the same as David's son and a sister conveyed a portion of his land, then he must have died single and with no children. But she would have had only an undivided interest in the land, along with Jonathan's surviving siblings. I have found no record that any of David's other children executed a deed to any portion of this property, thus indicating that this was a different Jonathan. Unless, that is, his other siblings had all died without children surviving them. This is highly unlikely.

28. Mecklenburg records seem to use Williamson and Williams interchangeably on occasion, although there were families there by each surname.

29. No longer in existence. It later was divided into Wayne, Lenoir, and Greene Counties.

30. Leary and Stirewalt, North Carolina Research, ch. 23, "Records of County Officials," p. 268 (1980).

31. How, if at all, does this relate to Upton Rodden's November 1815 appointment as administrator of Matthew Pittman's estate, with Jonathan Williams as a surety on his bond?

32. Dr. Sandifer and others in the general area are buried at the Steel Creek Presbyterian Church in Charlotte. These include Hugh Parks, Robert Sloan, David McDonald, and a number of Roddens.

33. What association with the Williams family might the Carrolls have? Hugh Berry/Barry obtained a grant for 300 acres in the immediate vicinity of the land that Jonathan eventually obtained. Joseph and Thomas Carroll later obtained that tract by deed, so the Carroll family was in the neighborhood where Silas was probably raised.

34. Assuming that this Mary Williams is the same as the Polly Williams who became a public charge in Mecklenburg County the previous year, where did she get the money to buy this land? There is no record of a mortgage on it.

35. Silas signed the marriage bond for Joseph M. Carroll and Elizabeth Ensley in 1831. She was Silas' first wife's sister.

36. Mary (Carpenter) Milligan was Martha Alice Carpenter Williams' aunt.

37. On 21 Oct 1829 Mary was still a resident of Mecklenburg County. On 1 Nov 1833 she was a resident of Lincoln County. The 1832 Lincoln County tax list also places her in Lincoln County. So she likely moved there around 1830.

38. Perhaps Mary and her children were moving from Mecklenburg to Lincoln when the census was being taken and therefore they were missed in both counties.

Click Here to Write Me

Last Updated on Wednesday, November 10, 1999 07:43 PM