Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Heroine in the Struggle for Liberty and Life

Eleanora Harriet Dougan was my third great grandmother. She and her husband Beverly Williamson were among the earliest settlers in the area of Providence Methodist Church on the Haywood and Madison County border.

“Ellen,” which she was listed as in the 1860 census, came from a family with a really interesting history of American patriots.

One in particular was Ellen’s grandmother, my fifth great grandmother, Mary Kerr Dougan.

While I have not yet found much about her, she is referenced in a history book about the area.

"Mary Dougan, Elizabeth Balfour, Jane Millikan, Ruth Farlow, Nancy Clark, Mattie Bell and others should be held in lasting veneration as the heroines of Randolph County in the struggle for liberty and life. It was these noble women and their compeers who molded opinion and shaped the thought and sentiment that directed the march of progress.

Where the voice of authority failed to direct, where the hand of power could not control, and where armed resistance dared not venture, woman's reason and affection persuaded and prevailed.

She mitigated the passions and tumults of political strife, taught the law of mercy and kindness and her prayers and sacrifices and sufferings and patience contributed largely to the establishment of that liberty and prosperity which we enjoy today."

They foresaw through the shadowy dawn the grand possibility of our future prosperity, and for them is reserved the laurels of peaceful triumph and the tribute of a tear that embalms the memory of the good and great "Who plan and shape the progress of the age are oft denied a place on history's page."
Reminiscences of Randolph County" by J. A. Blair, 1890
Mary was born in 1726 in Lancaster, PA and married Thomas Hill Dougan in 1745. In July 1763, the family moved to Randolph County, NC where they settled the area.

In 1782, Mary and Thomas’ nephew, Colonel John Collier who was the son of Thomas Dougan’s sister, Susannah Dougan Collier, wrote a letter to his parents which included a brief reference to Mary’s house and barn being burned by the Tories.

"The Tories embodied, the 9th and 10th of March last about thirty in number: marched forty or fifty miles through our country: came to my house about dark. I had sentries posted about forty yards from my house. The sentry hailed them. They answered, "Friends to the United States of America" and fired on the sentry: and the sentry fired on them. I immediately found by the Tories's fire that we were too weak to stand our ground.

We made our escape to the woods and with great difficulty, I saved myself from their merciless hands. They kept constant firing on my house for two or three minutes, filling my doors with bullet holes. My wife (Margaret) called out to cease their firing and she would open the door and let them in, for there was no person there but women and children.

They rushed into the house, set fire to it, and burned it to ashes with article that was in it but some few articles that my oldest daughter (Martha) threw out at the door.

This was the fourth time that the Tories had robbed and plundered me and my small family: but we have great reason to be thankful and bless God that our lives are preserved from a cruel and most merciless enemy.

They left my house and killed one of my captains (John Bryan) one mile from my house, they went to Aunt Mary Doughan's: burned the house and barn.

They killed the Lieut. Col. (Andrew Balfour) of our county the same day they burned my house, But I am not able to tell. Every day they are murdering, burning and plundering the good citizens of the state. I believe that nine-tenths of our county are enemies to the United States of America."

Another two nephews, James and Robert who were sons of Thomas’ brother Robert, were killed by the Tories in 1781.

Three of Mary and Thomas’ own sons, Thomas, James and John all fought in the Revolution. Thomas became a Colonel and eventually a State Senator. James became a major and interestingly, his son James Jr. married Clorinda Crockett, the widow of Davy Crockett’s son, William Crockett.

Mary and Thomas’ son John was part of many battles during the war including chasing the Tories who burned down his mother’s house.

“The next active service that I now recollect that we engaged in I think occurred in March 1782 (the spring after Lord Cornwallis surrendered). Colonel Fanning and his company consisting of 40 or 50 Tories came into our County and ravaged the Country and killed Lieutenant Colonel Belfour and Captain John Bryan in their own houses and burned my mother's house and barn (she being a widow) (this is a reference to Mary Kerr Dougan), Colonel Collier and Esq. Milligan's houses. We pursued them and overtook them and put them to flight but the day being wet our guns misfired so that we only wounded two men.” 
Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statement from John Dougan 
It appears Mary Kerr Dougan lived until the age of 98 and died in Randolph County, NC.

Janie Williamson, Will Williams and Bo Williams

Mary and Thomas’ son, Reverend Robert Linn Dougan, was the father of Ellen Dougan Williamson and they were the parents of Janie E. Williamson who married Will Williams. They were the parents of my paternal grandfather, Bo Williams.

Hopefully, I can spend some time researching and find out more about this very interesting ancestor who was obviously a strong woman and a leader in her community.

To read more about her and her family, check out the Dougan page of my Web site.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Compensation for the Many Cares of Life

“Providence has given us hope and sleep as a compensation for the many cares of life”

    Providence Methodist Church and Cemetery in Madison County, TN
I just read on my blackberry that a couple of escaped convicts were being chased by the police through Madison County, Tenn. That was somewhat ironic because I had just been researching my grandfather's maternal line, the Williamsons, and they settled and helped to develop Madison County just at the edge of the Haywood County, Tenn line.

One interesting aspect of the Williamson family is their relationship to the cemetery at the Providence United Methodist Church.

My third great grandfather, Beverly M. Williamson moved from Franklin County, Tenn., likely with a land grant, at some point before 1850. His farm was in Madison County near the site where Providence Methodist Church sits today.

According to the book “A Journey Into Yesteryears” by Martha Jones:

"...a piece of the property owned by Williamson was referred to as a "burial ground" with some graves dating back to the 1700s. Each fall, a man named Mr. Adams would come visit Williamson and together they would trap animals for fur. One year he became sick and died. Williamson allowed him to be buried 'on the hill in the burial ground' and that is how that area became an official cemetery.”
The headstones of Beverly Williams and two of his wives, Ellen and Nancy
On April 19, 1869, Williamson officially deeded the land to his church, Providence United Methodist Church.

When Williamson died in 1877 he joined his two wives in the cemetery and the family would continue to utilize it as their final resting place for generations to come.

Eventually, Williamson's children; Bob, John, Mary, Tom, James, Clark, Bee and my second great grandfather Joe Williamson were all buried in the cemetery along with their spouses and children.
Backrow: Janie Williamson Williams, Jessie Williamson, Nannie Williamson
Front row: Jo Williamson Reed, Joe Williamson, Mai Williamson Shelton
Unfortunately, my second great grandfather, Joe Williamson, became all too familiar with the cemetery in his lifetime. His wife Mary Elizabeth Joyner died on January 16, 1898 at the age of 36, leaving Joe with five girls ages 15, 13, 10, seven and two.

In 1901, Joe issued a deed for an acre of land that his father had left him for a school to be built near the church and cemetery.

In 1905, his daughter Jessie died at age 20. That same year, Joe donated three more acres of land to the church. Part of the land was between the church and the cemetery while another was located on the south side of the cemetery.

Two years later in 1907, Joe's daughter Nannie died at age 24. In his lifetime, Joe experienced the early deaths of his mother, father, step-mother, wife and two daughters and all were buried in the Providence cemetery.

Joe himself died on Jan. 22, 1909 at age 51 and was laid to rest there as well.

Only five years later, his daughter Janie, who was my great grandmother, died at 27 leaving her 4-year-old son, my grandfather Bo Williams without a mother.

Janie, like those from her family who had gone before her was buried at Providence.
Click to read
In the 1980s, my grandmother, Elizabeth Williams, joined a group of ladies from the church who gathered each week to sew in order to raise money for Providence.

When my grandfather died at age 97 he was buried there next to my grandmother and close to the graves of one of his sons, Jess Williams, his mother, grandparents and great grandparents.

You can read more about the Providence Methodist Church Cemetery and the Williamson family here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Genie is Out of the Bottle

Click to Read
My Facebook friend, Debbie Taylor Sterbinsky, who writes the genealogy column for the "Brownsville States Graphic" was nice enough to include my Haywood County Line blog in her recent "Genealogy Genie" column.

Debbie, along with several other volunteers including Tina Gray, Harriet Coburn and Jim Ackerman do some amazing work at the Elma Ross Public Library there in Brownsville with the Reese J. Moses-Scallions Genealogy Room. If you visit the room there and check out the filing cabinets against the wall, you'll find some amazing information about many of the families who settled Haywood County, TN. Much of the information was collected by and then donated to the library by Reese Moses who died in 2005.

When Debbie asked for a photo to include in the article, I sent her a copy of one of my favorites which was shared with me by a distant cousin, Lynn Graves. I wrote about the photo back on November 27 in the blog entry titled, "Great Photo from the Texas Castellaws."

To me, it's a great example of connecting through social networking with relatives you never knew you had and who can provide little bits of detail that help flesh out the story of your ancestor's lives.

I am hoping more people from Haywood County may see the article, check out the blog and help me answer some more questions.  For example, I have been trying for weeks to figure out the parents of Beverly M. Williamson who donated the land for Providence Methodist Church in Madsion Co., TN. Somebody out there may have just the document I need tucked away in a box in their barn.

If you have any info, please let me know and I promise I will be your Facebook friend for life.