Sunday, March 22, 2015

Will and Eva Overton Williams of Haywood County, Tennessee

Photo/Mary S. Williams

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Will and Eva Williams

I never knew my paternal great-grandfather, William Lafayette "Will" Williams (Feb. 13, 1888 - April 1, 1962) because he died the year before I was born.

Although I've seen several photos of him, one of my first cousins, Donna Williams Taylor, recently posted several photos to Facebook that belonged to one of his daughter-in-laws, Mary Shealy Williams.

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Will Williams and his son, Bo Williams, around the same age
and looking remarkably similar.

Will Williams was born in Haywood County, Tennessee on Feb. 13, 1888 to George D. Williams and his wife, Martha Jane Watridge.

Martha Jane died when her young son was only around 10 months old so Will never got to know his mother.

In the 1900 census, 12-year-old Will was living with his maternal aunt and uncle, George W. Castellaw and Mary E. Watridge Castellaw (Martha Jane Watridge Williams and Mary E. Watridge Castellaw were sisters). However, his father wasn't far away.

He was living right next door with his third wife, Virginia Estelle "Essie" Cobb Williams and their 15-year-old daughter, Elberta. Essie was a daughter of John Charles Warren Cobb and Penelope Trottman White.

Living next door to George and Estelle Williams were George's brother and his wife, John Nowell Williams and Mollie Cobb Williams

The Williams, Castellaw, Watridge, Cobb and White families were all early Haywood County settlers from Bertie County, North Carolina.

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Janie Williamson (upper left) and family

Will married Janie Elizabeth Williamson and on Nov. 27, 1910 they had their first child, Lloyd "Bo" Williams (my grandfather). 

Sadly, Janie died in 1914, along with their second child, a little girl named Janie Ruth. I remember looking at the photo above when I was a young boy and feeling sorry for Janie because she was the only one of my eight great-grandparents who died an early death.

According to family stories, Will had initially been so distraught over the death of his young wife that he was having a hard time getting over it. It was only when Janie's family threatened to take my grandfather away that he managed to pull it together. 

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Will and Eva Williams with their children
l to r: Bo, Ladonia and Blue Eyes

On Feb. 28, 1915, Will married 18-year-old Eva Iris Overton (Oct. 29, 1896 - Sept 5, 1970). By marrying Eva, he provided not only a stable home and a mother for Bo, but eventually, eight stepbrothers and sisters: Ladonia, Mary "Blue Eyes," W.L., Douglas, Dempsey, Betty and twins, Billy and Bobby.

Photo/Mary S. Williams

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Will Williams (upper left) with Billy Chandler
Douglas, Dempsey, Jesse, Bob (my father),
Billy and Bobby Williams

Although my grandfather was close to his stepmother, he never forgot his mother. There's a theory that you don't truly depart from the earth until the last person who has you in their memory dies. For Janie, that person would have been my grandfather. 

Photo/Mary S. Williams

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Will and Eva Williams

One of the last times we were at his house, my wife began asking him questions to find out what he remembered about his mother. He said, "I told my father I would never forget my mother so I would call his new wife, Mrs. Eva. All these years later, I never forgot my mother and still think about her from time to time."

Sharing these photos also provided a good opportunity to look at Eva's family tree.

Photo/Mary S. Williams

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Will and Eva Williams

She was the daughter of Robert Hardy Overton (July 22, 1872 - July 3, 1931) and Ladonia Jones (Oct. 1, 1874 - Jan. 31, 1899). 

Eva's paternal grandparents were John M. Overton (Jan. 27, 1842 - March 8, 1905) and Parthenia Ann Chambers (Apr. 18, 1842 - Aug. 1, 1907).

Her maternal grandparents were Joseph D. Jones (born 1850) and Zenobia Caroline Stanfield (Oct. 8, 1853 - July 10, 1891). 

It appears both parents and all four of her grandparents were born, lived and died in either Haywood or Madison Counties.

Photo/Mary S. Overton

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Will Williams in his den. I was quickly drawn to the photo
of my father and uncle in the upper right.

Eva's Overton line can be traced back to William De Overton who was born in 1270 in Cheshire, England and died in the same town in 1355.

Eva's eighth great-grandfather was Major-General Robert Overton (1609 - Dec. 22, 1679), a soldier of the Parliamentary Wars. Overton was married to Anne Gardiner.
Overton was a prominent English soldier and scholar, who supported the Parliamentary cause during the English Civil War (1642 - 1651) and was imprisoned a number of times for his views. More
In the second Civil War (1648 - 1649), Overton's regiment supported Cromwell in Wales and in 1650, accompanied Cromwell to Scotland where he commanded troops in the battle of Dunbar and was subsequently made governor of Edinburgh. On May 14, 1652, Parliament voted him 400 pounds a year and Scottish lands in return for his services. More
Her seventh great-grandfather was Robert Overton's son, William Overton. William migrated to Virginia from the family estate at Easington in England in 1669 and received a land grant of 4,600 acres on the south side of the Pamunkey River in Hanover County, Virginia for bringing 92 people to America. 

Soon after arriving in England, William Overton sent for Mary Elizabeth Waters and they were married on board her ship on November 24, 1670.

William Overton died in Jamestown in 1697. More about William Overton

On Eva's maternal family tree, her second great-grandfather, Ephraim Alpheus Stanfield, was the first of that family to migrate to Madison County, Tennessee.

The obituary from another settler, Alfred B. Joyner, from July 20, 1899 includes a mention of Stanfield.
"Another family from Bedford County, Middle Tennessee preceded the Joyners, coming in the winter of 1824-25. This was the Stanfield family. Ephraim A. Stanfield, Esq. and his wife Sarah, who brought a large family of children, all of whom, except for Dr. C.A. Stanfield of Toledo, Ark. have with the Joyners, passed over the river to rest under the shadow of the trees. This family settled north of Wellwood and were noted in many respects. Ten sons and three daughters; the boys grew to manhood, remarkable for their unusual physical and mental development, above medium size, erect, strong, active, healthy and intelligent, all except one lived to raise families, many of whose descendants are filling positions of trust and honor in Arkansas, Texas, Kentucky, etc. these two families were among the first settlers of this section."
I love how the obituary writer referred to their deaths as "passed over the river to rest under the shadow of the trees." I assume both the writer and those who read the obit had spent much time in the cotton fields of the Delta so resting in the shadow of the trees had strong meaning for them.

Stanfield and his wife, Sarah Priscilla Powell, had thirteen children and many of the members of this family are buried at Providence Methodist Church Cemetery.

Photo/Mary S. Overton

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Will and Eva Williams

As I mentioned earlier, Will died before I was born. Eva lived until Sept. 5, 1970. I was seven years old and at my grandparent's house when my grandmother, Elizabeth Castellaw Williams, received the call letting her know Eva had passed away. Her reaction made a strong impression on me at the time and is something I never forgot.

I've since heard from many people what a generous and kind-hearted woman Eva Overton was and I do think that comes through in the photos.
Eva Overton Williams Obituary 
The States-Graphic, Brownsville, Tennessee 9/11/1970
Funeral services were held at 5 p. m. Tuesday for Mrs. W. L. Williams.
Mrs. Williams, the former Eva Overton, was 74 and died suddenly Saturday at her home after suffering a heart attack.
Services were held at Brownsville Funeral Home with the Rev. H. K. Sorrell officiating. Burial was in Haywood County Memorial Gardens.
She leaves five sons, Lloyd Williams, Douglass Williams and Dempsey Williams, all of Brownsville, Billy Williams of Miami, Fla., and Bobby Williams, of Orlando, Fla.; three daughters, Mrs. Sidney Hudgings and Mrs. Ray Robinson, both of Memphis, and Mrs. Billy Chandler of Brownsville; a brother, Marshall Overton of Florida, and sister, Mrs. Eunice Campbell, of Bells; 20 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren.
For more blog entries, visit my Blog Home Page or to check out the genealogy research about my specific family lines, go to my Haywood County Line Genealogy Website.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Brantley Family: Preachers, Planters and Pioneers of the South

I was grateful last week to open the mailbox and find my copy of "The Brantley Family: Preachers, Planters and Pioneers of the South" by Ken Brantley.

As big as a phonebook and weighing in at what feels like about 25 pounds, it's the largest, most comprehensive ancestry book dedicated to one surname I've ever seen.

According to his introduction, Brantley began his research back in 1963 the old-fashioned way; he used copy machines, letters to strangers and conversations with distant relatives with whom he connected through his research.

In 1987, he established The Brantley Association of which I am proud member #647. 

It's a meaningful branch of my family tree to me because I was close to my maternal grandmother, Virginia Brantley Lovelace (Oct. 10, 1917 - Dec. 8, 2007) and we used "Brantley" as my oldest daughter's middle name.

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Henry Preston Brantley and Mary Etta Cobb
and family

As a member, I provided some details about my own Brantley line and even got my picture in the book along with Henry Day Brantley (April 1845 - Nov. 5, 1918), my third great-grandfather, and Henry Preston Brantley (Oct. 11, 1872 - May 15, 1956), my second great-grandfather.

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Henry Day Brantley and Margaret Rebecca Steele,
my third great-grandparents

Most of the Brantley families in the United States today come from the sons of Edward Brantley who, according to the book, died in 1736 in Southampton County, Virginia. 

The first of my Brantley line to live in Haywood County was Augustus Brantley (1811 - Sept. 14, 1876) who was born in Bertie County, North Carolina and migrated along with many of my other ancestors to Haywood County, Tennessee in the early 1830s.

A little side note: Augustus' son, Solomon Normon Brantley (1848 - Feb. 12, 1927), filled out one of the Tennessee Civil War Veteran's Questionnaires. While his answers reveal only a little about life on his father's Haywood County farm and the culture of the area around the time of the Civil War, it's more than I have on many of my other ancestors so I'm glad to have it.

I've already spent hours looking through this new Brantley book. In addition to more than 25,000 names and genealogical details, the book also includes maps, migration patterns, charts and lots of photos. If you're researching the Brantley family line, I highly recommend you get a copy of your own to add to your library.

For more blog entries, visit my Blog Home Page or to check out the genealogy research about my specific family lines, go to my Haywood County Line Genealogy Website.