Samuel H. Williams Biography
submitted by Bobby Williams
The number of families in Gibson County withthe Williams name is
staggering. Determining which of these many families are our ancestors presents
many difficulties for those who undertake the research. Very few documents or
family stories came down from other family members About the only
reliable information we had was our grandfather Williams’ name was Ransom. From this meager bit of information, the research produced amazing results.
Where did our Williams family originate? From the available information it appears to
be somewhere in England, but as yet, no real indication of the exact location.
Evidence points to Wake County, North Carolina about the time of the American
Revolution in the 1770s. The census for 1800 in Wake County list three males with the
Williams family name on the same page. In all likelihood they were brothers. Their
names were Benjamin, Austin, and Robert B. Present evidence points to Benjamin
Williams as the great grandfather of Ransom Williams, our grandfather.
The various North Carolina census tracts indicate that Robert B. Williams never
married. In 1800, 1810, 1820, and 1830 he is listed as living alone. Austin Williams
migrated to Tennessee with other family members just before 1850. The given names of
his children eliminated him as the patriarch of our family. That only leaves
Benjamin, but no positive proof that he was the grandfather of Samuel H. Williams.
Before the census of 1850 the ages of heads of families were only given in certain
ranges. Only the number of males and females in age categories were listed. This made
it impossible before 1850 to determine the birth year of family members. The best
guess is that Benjamin, Austin, and Robert B. Williams were all born between 1760 and
1785. Austin Williams migrated from North Carolina to Madison County, Tennessee just
before 1850. Robert B. Williams disappeared from the Wake County census after 1830.
Benjamin Williams no longer appeared in the census tracts after 1820.
The documents indicate that Benjamin Williams and wife had a large family. After 1800
the three brothers moved a short distance to the west to Rowan County. Benjamin
Williams’ family in 1810 contained five males and five females, including the mother
and father. For whatever reasons the family was reduced to four males and four
females in 1820.
Levi Williams was born about 1806 in either Wake County or Rowan County, North
Carolina. In the Rowan County census of 1810, Benjamin Williams is the only one of
the three brothers with a son that matches the age range of Levi Williams. There is
no record that Robert B. Williams ever produced any children. Austin Williams did not
marry until 1824, therefore, was not likely a candidate to be the father of Levi
On February 18, 1830 Levi Williams obtained a marriage bond in Wake County to marry
Mary (Polley) Holding. The witness to the bond was B. S. King and the bondsman was
Wiley Butler. The union began to produce children at a moderate pace unless some did
not survive long enough to be counted in the various census canvases. Alexander
Williams was born about 1833 in Wake County. About five years later Martha Williams
was born, also in Wake County. Ransom T. Williams, the second of three sons was born
about 1841. Two years later, a daughter, Eliza J. Williams was born. Finally, Samuel
H. Williams was born in 1847.
The exact birth year of Samuel H. Williams is not absolutely clear. In a Civil War
pension application in 1909, Samuel H. Williams said he was born on April 2, 1843 in
Wake County, North Carolina. Yet, on another page of the pension application Samuel
said he was 64 years old. That would make his birth year 1846. On Samuel’s gravestone
in Rose Hill Cemetery in Humboldt, the birth year is 1844. The census of 1850 for
Madison County, Tennessee list his age as three. In summary, it appears that Samuel
may have added a few years to his age when he made his pension application in 1909 or
his memory was a little faulty.
Samuel Williams’ father, Levi Williams, probably did not survive the 1850s. To date
no evidence of his actual death has been found, but he is not living with wife Mary
Williams and her children in the 1860 census. Sometime during the 1850s the family
migrated the short distance from Madison County to Gibson County and settled in
District 16. District 16 roughly covered the area in Gibson County from the Madison
County line north to the current Hwy 152. At the present time, most of the district
is located in Crockett County.
Two of Levi and Mary Williams’ children went out on their own by 1860. Alexander
Williams married and established a separate home according to the census of 1860 for
Gibson County. Ransom Williams hired on as a farm laborer for the family of H. H.
Nipper near Humboldt. Mary Williams, with Martha, Eliza, and Samuel, lived next door
J. B. Williams and his wife Jane and their six children. All available evidence
suggests that J. B. Williams was a brother of Levi Williams. No further information
has yet been found on Ransom Williams. He probably did not survive the 1860s or moved
further west as many Americans did at the time.
We must rely on our imagination to understand a child growing up in the 1850s in
western Tennessee. All of west Tennessee was part of the frontier. Treaties with the
various Indian groups allowing settlements in the area west of the Tennessee River
were a part of recent memory. At best, especially for families with little or no real
property, life as a struggle to survive from year to year on the frontier. Without a
doubt, Samuel Williams received some education, either formal or informal. He was
able to complete and sign his Civil War pension application in 1909.
The paramount issue facing many Americans in the 1850s was the growing conflict
between the North and South. Our family history is not the place to assign
responsibility for the break down of the friendly relations between the North and
South. It is enough to say that when the struggle became violent, there was no
shortage of southern youth willing to join the rebellion. Although no evidence exist
that anyone in the Williams clan owned slaves, they still took up arms against the
After the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 a parade of southern states from
Mississippi to South Carolina joined in an effort to establish a separate and
independent government. At first Tennessee refused to join the parade because of the
reluctance of many to break up a union that had produced many benefits. Tennessee
quickly reversed that vote after United States troops tried to resupply Fort Sumpter
in South Carolina.
All across the south young, and some old, joined the effort to establish a separate
and independent government in fifteen southern states. At least two ancestors of our
mother (Kilzers) and Samuel H. Williams volunteered for service in the Confederate
On November 30, 1861 Samuel H. Williams, probably no more than fifteen or sixteen
years of age, enlisted in an infantry unit being organized in the Gibson County area.
He was assigned to Company F of the 47th Infantry. The 47th Infantry was organized in
Trenton in late 1861 from ten companies enlisted in November and December. The 47th
saw little action until it arrived at the Battle of Shiloh along the Tennessee River
on the last day of the battle. However, Samuel H. Williams was not one of the troops
from Humboldt on that day in probably the bloodiest battle fought in Tennessee during
the Civil War.
The muster rolls for Samuel H. Williams and his service in the 47th Infantry, Company
F, do not give a clear picture of his brief service in the 47th. After being
organized, the 47th went into camp at Trenton. The first muster roll card is dated
May and June, 1862. It states that Samuel had been paid up to the previous February
28. According to the company muster roll for May and June, 1862, Samuel was absent
and said to be at home in Gibson County. There is no indication as to why he was
absent. In light of later evidence, it appears that Samuel had joined or had been
transferred to another unit.
A second muster roll for July and August, 1862 says that Samuel was absent without
leave. A third card dated September and October, 1862 also says absent without leave.
A fourth for November and December, 1862 indicates the same information. A fifth card
for January and February, 1863 also says absent without leave. A final muster roll
for March and April, 1863 states that Samuel is “absent without leave and ordered
dropped from the roll.” Thus, ended Samuel’s service in the 47th Infantry, Company F.
In his pension application in 1909 Samuel Williams ignored his brief service in the
47th Infantry. He included sworn statements to demonstrate his service in the
calvary. There is a letter from G. W. Bennett who organized a calvary unit he called
“Bennett’s Battalion.” Bennett wrote that he mustered Samuel H. Williams into his
command in April, 1863. He also stated that Samuel made a good soldier until he
became ill in November, 1864.
Samuel took part in battles at Brice’s Crossroads and Harrisburgh. Both were part of
a campaign in and around Tupelo, Mississippi. Harrisburgh was just across the
railroad tracks from Tupelo and is now part of the city.
Samuel also took part in Nathan B. Forrest’s raid on Memphis, Tennessee in an effort
to capture the federal commander in the city that was his hometown. The raid on
Memphis enhanced the reputation of Forrest, but had no lasting significance on the
outcome of the war. Eventually, “Bennett’s Battalion” was made a part of the 12th
Calvary that was paroled at Gainsville, Alabama in May, 1865.
We cannot be sure that Samuel Williams was with the 12th Calvary when it surrendered
in May, 1865. In the pension application Samuel said he had never been wounded in any
of the action that he saw. For much of the time during his service in “Bennett’s
Battalion” and the 12th Calvary, Samuel was ill with some kind of sickness. While his
unit was in Jackson, Mississippi in November, 1864, Samuel developed some kind of
fever that was most likely typhoid fever and at times was unable to walk. He was
given a unlimited furlough and never returned to full-time service during the
remainder of the war.
It was several weeks after the war ended before Samuel returned to the Humboldt area.
The journey home was probably very agonizing. Ruth Fuell of Humboldt, now in her
early nineties, told me that her grandmother, Ada M. Williams Barker, a daughter of
Samuel’s, told her that Samuel often talked about the terrible conditions of the
southern soldier, including himself. According to Samuel, they were often hungry and
without shoes. Anyone that has studied the Civil War knows that Federal and
Confederate troops suffered. Nevertheless, southerners had the additional humiliation
of defeat at the end of the war.
When Samuel returned to the Humboldt area after the war, he was somewhere between the
age of twenty and twenty-five. The census of 1850 indicated he was about eighteen or
nineteen in 1865. His pension application states that he was born in 1843 which would
make him twentytwo. My own personal belief is that he was about age eighteen or
nineteen. Whatever his age at the end of the Civil War, he managed to find a wife
soon after the war.
How Samuel H. Williams met and courted Margaret Duren will probably always remain a
mystery. It is not hard to imagine that he met her during the widespread travels of
his army unit. In 1860 Margaret Duren was either living or briefly visiting a
brother, Manon J. Duren in Hardin County near the city of Savannah, Tennessee. The
Duren family had a long history associated with Hardin and Wayne counties near the
Tennessee River in the southern part of the state on the Mississippi border.
The patriarch of the Duren family was George W. Duren. George Duren was born about
1794 in Georgia. About 1830 he married Sarah Phillips and they spent the remainder of
their lives in either Hardin or Wayne counties. They eventually became parents of at
least thirteen children: Delila Duren; Manon J. Duren; Mahala Duren; Margaret Duren;
George W. Duren; Marion Duren; Calvin Duren; Elizabeth Duren; Luraney Duren; Jonathan
Duren; Thomas Duren; James Duren; and Ellison Duren.
A major researcher of the Duren family, Jerry Duren, told me in an e-mail that there
was little doubt that this was the Margaret Duren that married Samuel Williams. The
big question was her age, but except for accuracy, it really does not matter. Jerry
Duren stated that he had no absolute evidence of Margaret’s correct age, but it had
long been the accepted story that Margaret had married a Mr. Williams and had moved
away. My own personal belief is that Margaret removed a few years from her age and
Samuel added a few years to his own. Nothing earth shattering in either case.
Before leaving the subject of age, one of the few documents that placed Samuel
Williams in Gibson County was his military record. The census of 1860 does show that
Samuel, his mother and two sisters, lived in District 16. Whoever transcribed the
census made the mistake of thinking an ink mark to be part of the name John. On close
examination it is clear that the real name is Saml. Samuel was age 14 in the 1860
census. One other document has some bearing on the question of Samuel’s age. The tax
books of 1867 for Gibson County lists Samuel Williams as a tax payer for the first
time. Every male desiring to vote was required to pay a two dollar poll tax. Of
course, the voting age requirement was twenty-one years of age. It has to be assumed
that Samuel would not have paid the tax if he did not intend to vote in the
presidential election of 1868. Therefore, it is probably accurate to say that Samuel
was about to turn 21. The tax books show that Samuel paid the poll tax almost every
year until he became exempt at age 50 in Tennessee.
On April 15, 1867 Samuel H. Williams and Margaret Duren obtained a marriage license
in Gibson County. The clerk that filled out the license undoubtedly gave her name the
French spelling. On the license her name is spelled Margaret Deauran. However, every
other document listing her name, such as a death certificate, the name is spelled
Duren. The marriage ceremony took place on April 17, 1867 and the newlyweds set up
housekeeping near present-day Gadsden, Tennessee that was a part of Gibson County at
The precise location is difficult to determine. So far, no record of property deeds
have been found for Samuel H. Williams. There are numerous records of trust deeds
entered into by Samuel Williams. The earliest one to date was in 1875 in the newly
created Crockett County. Businessman William Tinder advanced Samuel $150.00 to
purchase supplies and put in a crop of cotton. William Tinder was one of the first
businessmen to establish himself in the new community of Gadsden after the Louisville
and Nashville Railroad was constructed through what later became the town.
Samuel pledged seven acres of cotton he planned to cultivate on land he rented from
Monroe Todd. Any funds remaining after the payment of the $150.00 were paid to
Samuel. Monroe Todd and William Tinder had property to the south of the railroad that
passed through Gadsden.
Ransom W. Williams, our grandfather, was Samuel’s and Margaret’s firstborn. Ransom
was born on June 5, 1868 and was probably named after Samuel’s older brother Ransom
T. Williams. Ransom Williams married Laura Lavenia Davis on November 24, 1887 in
Gibson County. Laura Davis was born on January 13, 1868 in Tennessee. Her mother was
Mary Margaret Smith Davis. The given name of her father has not been found as of this
writing. The best guess is that he died because Mary Margaret Smith Davis married
Frank Elkins about 1878. Laura Davis was living with her mother and stepfather
according to the census of 1880 for Dunklin County, Missouri. The children of Ransom
W. Williams and Laura L. Williams were: Virgie Williams born on May 4, 1889; Truman
Williams born on November 28, 1890; Della Williams born in 1896; Chester Williams
born April 29, 1899; Clarence H. (Rip) Williams(the author’s father) born in 1902;
Lucille Williams born on August 28, 1905; Robert Williams born on September 26, 1909;
and Mary Jane Williams born on September 11, 1913.
Most of Ransom’s and Laura’s marriage was spent trying to make a living from small-
time farming in the late 1880s. A trust deed from the late 1880s signed by Ransom and
his father Samuel, shows that they had put up as security a few acres of cotton and
corn for an advance to put in the crop. They were renting land from E. T. Trusou who
owned land and a nursery north of the present-day Hwy. 45 bypass.
Ransom abandon farming in the early 1900s. In the census of 1910 he was living on
17th Avenue in Humboldt. Ten years later he was still living on 17th and was working
at a sawmill located in Humboldt. According to Ruth Fuell, granddaughter of Ada
Williams Barker, a sister of Ransom, Ransom Williams died at their home. She said
that her grandmother told her that Ransom and his son Robert had been selling apples
door to door.
When they came to Ada Barker’s home, it was to late to return home and they decided
to spend the night. The next morning, November 10, 1925, they found Ransom dead in
his bed. Laura Williams lived on for many years spending time with her many children.
She died on November 26, 1951 at the home of her son Chester Williams in Humboldt.
Ransom Williams was buried in the Old Shiloh Burial Ground north of Humboldt, but the
exact location is forever lost. Laura Williams was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in
Ruth Fuell, granddaughter of Ada Williams Barker, told me that her grandmother often
referred to Samuel as “Big Daddy.” Not because of his size, but because of his
ability to sire numerous children. After Ransom, Mollie(Mary) Williams was born in
1870; Thomas Alexander Williams on February 25, 1873; Ada M. Williams on June 23,
1875; Anna M. Williams on March 14, 1878; Sammie Mai Williams (female) on April 14,
1881; and Manon J. Williams in 1885. All of the children of Samuel and Margaret
Williams deserve to be treated equally, but the focus of this history in descending
order is Benjamin Williams, Levi Williams, Samuel Williams, Ransom Williams and
finally, Clarence H. (Rip) Williams. Ransom and Clarence will be treated in separate
The second of Samuel and Margaret Williams’ children was born about 1870. No precise
date of birth has been found for Mollie(Mary) Williams. Very little information has
been found about Mollie. On February 27, 1888 Mollie married David Usery in Gibson
County. Three children came from the union. Cleveland Ursery born about 1889; Rosa
Usery was born about 1892; and William Usery was born about 1895. David Usery was
nearly twenty years older than Mollie. He likely died before 1900 because the census
for that year shows Mary and the three children living with Samuel and Margaret. She
is described as a widow in the census.
There is evidence to support the fact that Mollie(Mary) was married a second time to
William “Dock” Wilkerson of Crockett County in the early 1900s. One of the really odd
things about Dock Wilkerson was one of his daughters. His daughter from an earlier
marriage, Bettie Wilkerson, married Elijah C. Kilzer, a son of Jacob B. Kilzer, who
was our maternal great grandfather. More about this in the history of the Kilzer
The third child of Samuel and Margaret Williams was Thomas Alec Williams born on
February 25, 1874. Thomas Williams married Emma Fisher in Gibson County on August 10,
1898. Most of his life, Thomas worked for a monument company as a person that
polished gravestones to a high luster. Thomas Williams died on June 25, 1928 and Emma
Fisher Williams died on August 10, 1949. Both are buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in
Humboldt. Their children included: Charles T. Williams born on June 4, 1889; Ruby Mai
Williams born on January 22, 1901; Ora Dee Williams born on July 28, 1902; Ocie
Williams born on June 29, 1904; Marie Williams born on August 17, 1906; Viola
Williams born on December 7, 1911; and Vada Levenia Williams born on January 15,
Ada M. Williams was born on June 23, 1875 in Crockett County and was the fourth child
of Samuel and Margaret Williams. She married Alexander H. Barker on December 18,
1890. Ada Williams Barker died on March 10, 1956. Alexander H. Barker died in 1948.
Their children included James Nelson Barker born in May, 1894; Lena M. Barker born in
April, 1897; Carrie L. Barker born in September, 1898; and George A. Barker born in
1902. The fifth child of Samuel and Margaret Williams was Anna M. Williams born on
March 14, 1878. Anna married Allen Sloan of Madison County, Tennessee on February 9,
1897 in Madison County. Allen Sloan was born in Pennsylvania on March 14, 1876 and
died September 17, 1966 in Jackson, Tennessee. Allen worked for one of the railroads
that passed through Jackson as a flagman and switchman. Anna Williams Sloan died on
October 27, 1918 and is buried next to her mother, father, and young daughter in Rose
Hill Cemetery in Humboldt. Their children included: Vance Sloan born in November,
1897; John J. Sloan born in December, 1899; Zula A. Sloan born about 1901; Charles
Sloan born about 1904; James Sloan born about 1908; and Elizabeth Sloan born on July
31, 1910, but died about six months later on January 11, 1911.
Sammie Mai Williams was born on April 14, 1881, and was Samuel and Margaret Williams’
sixth child. Sammie Mai married Abraham (Bud) Fisher on December 18, 1900. Sammie Mai
and Thomas Alec Williams were siblings; also married siblings. Thomas married Emma
Fisher and Sammie Mai married Abraham Fisher. The children of Sammie Mai and Bud
Fisher were: Lena May Fisher born in 1902; Edgar Fisher born in 1903; Annie F. Fisher
born in 1906; Iowa Fisher born in 1908; Earnest Fisher born in 1910; Elsie Fisher
born in 1916; and Lewis Fisher born in 1924.
The seventh and last child of Samuel and Margaret was Manon J. Williams born in
March, 1885 in Gibson County, Tennessee. In the 1910 census for Gibson County Manon
is still single and living with Samuel and Margaret. No further evidence has been
found related to Manon J. Williams as of this writing. District 16 of Gibson County
before 1872 encompassed most of the area between present-day Highway 152 west of
Humboldt to the Haywood County line west of Gadsden. Samuel and Margaret Williams
made the area their home until the mid-1880s. In 1872 the area was placed in the
newly created Crockett County, but it was only a short distance to Humboldt,
especially after the railroad came through the area in the 1860s.
With the help of their children, Samuel and Margaret scratched out a meager living
from the rich soil near present-day Highway 152. Time and again he made trust
agreements, many with A. J. Collinsworth, to put in a crop. Usually it was something
like ten to fifteen acres of cotton and about the same in corn. Life was about the
same after about 1885 when they returned to Gibson County and settled in an area near
the Old Shiloh Burial Ground. As in the past, he made trust agreements, mostly with
the law firm of J. J. R. Adams, in Humboldt. Much of the time he rented land about
where Mag Duffy Road is today.
On September 14, 1910 Margaret Duren Williams died in the Humboldt area. There is a
deed showing that Samuel purchased for $5.00 a plot in Rose Hill Cemetery where
Margaret was buried. Samuel lived on until 1917, living mostly with his daughter Ada
Williams Barker. At least he was living with her when he died in 1917.
Ruth Fuell, granddaughter of Ada Williams Barker, relayed to me the story of his
death as told by her grandmother. There was a family dispute among the Barkers over
land left to them by their parents. Ruth’s grandmother said they had sold their share
to other family members and moved to Pinson, Tennessee. Land there was not
satisfactory and they returned to Gibson County about a year later. Samuel Williams
died at their farm in Pinson in 1917, but no specific date has come to light at the
time of this writing. According to Ruth, the family as having a meal when Samuel had
some kind of food lodged in his throat and strangled to death. He was buried next to
his wife in Rose Hill Cemetery in Humboldt.