Matthias Williams of Cumberland County, Virginia

Matthias Williams of Cumberland County, Virginia is my husband’s 5X great grandfather and, while he left a paper trail, there are many facts about his life which remain unknown.

Matthias was likely born about 1727, maybe in Goochland County, Virginia, from which Cumberland County was formed in 1749, but no evidence has been found. (In 1777, part of Cumberland County was set off to form Powhatan County.)

He died shortly before 23 October 1780, when his will was probated in Cumberland County.

His wife was sometimes called Jean and sometimes Jane and she survived Matthias. No hints as to her maiden name or parentage have yet been uncovered and their marriage record has not been found, either, although it is quite probable that they married in a neighboring county to Cumberland where records that early have not survived.

Besides wife Jean/Jane, Matthias named their eight children, apparently in birth order. All the children were likely born in Cumberland County since Matthias and Jane resided there throughout their married lives.


  1. Sarah, probably born c1751; based on naming order in Matthias’s will; died after August 1806; apparently unmarried.
  2. Elizabeth, probably born c1753; died after 1788. Nothing further is known about her.
  3. Matthias, born 14 Nov 1755, Cumberland County, Virginia; died after the 1840 census, probably in Morgan County, Tennessee, where he lived. He was a Revolutionary War pensioner and married Sarah Butler, daughter of Aaron Butler, c1776. On 22 September 1776, Matthias (probably Sr.) sold a tract of land with Aaron Butler in Cumberland Co. Aaron’s will was dated 13 October 1776 and probated 24 March 1777, with Matthias Williams as a witness and daughter, Sarah Williams, named as an heir. Butler descendants have speculated that Aaron Butler’s wife, Susannah, was a Williams.  Thus, she may have been a sister of Matthias Sr.
  4. Thomas, born c1759; died c1783; married Esther Morrow, 6 August 1780, Prince Edward County, Virginia with Roger Williams, surety. Thomas’ will was probated in Cumberland County, Virginia with brother John as executor.  Wife Esther was named, but no children.
  5. Keziah, born c1760; died probably before 1810; married Henry DeShazer, 25 December 1788, Cumberland County, Virginia. Henry was a Revolutionary War pensioner.
  6. John, born 30 June 1761, Cumberland County, Virginia; died after 1855, probably in Anderson County, Tennessee, where he lived. He was a Revolutionary War pensioner; married Unknown, c1782, probably in Virginia.
  7. Susannah, probably born c1763 (born 1760-1770 per the 1830 census); died before 22 January 1838, Cumberland County, Virginia. This Susannah appears to be the same as in the 1820 and 1830 census records of Cumberland County. Ewing Morrow was curator of her estate. He appears in the land deed index as an attorney and may well have been a brother or other relative to her brother Thomas’s widow, Esther.  Ewing Morrow was also overseer of the poor at the time Susannah died.  Susannah’s estate was credited with $57 for the care of Betty Sammons, who is most likely the second elderly female enumerated in Susannah’s household.  Her estate was worth $149; debts totaled $139 with $10 to the curator, leaving no balance to be disbursed.  No heirs were named in the court papers.
  8. William, born c1765; died between 1830-40, probably Marion County, Tennessee; married Judith Saunders before 12 November 1788, Cumberland County, Virginia. She was born c1765, Virginia; died 1850-60, probably Marion County, Tennessee.

The political leanings of this Williams family were very clear. Thomas’s cause of death about 1783 could have been tied to the Revolutionary War. Both John and Matthias were war pensioners and their sister, Keziah, married Henry DeShazer, another war pensioner. I would imagine that young William would also have served had he been a couple of years older.

On 28 March 1788, the Cumberland County clerk recorded a deed and covenant from Jane, Matthias, John, Sarah, Elizabeth, Kezia and Susannah Williams to William Williams. It was proved by John Holman and Samuel Williams, two of the witnesses.

About 1805, John, Matthias and youngest brother, William Williams, along with several of their Williams cousins, left Virginia and migrated to Roane County, Tennessee.

John and Matthias lived in the section of Roane that became Morgan County and John, in his later years, moved next door to Anderson County. William left Roane County for Marion County, down near the Alabama border.

Henry DeShazer also left Virginia about 1817, for Lincoln and then Mercer County, Kentucky, but wife Keziah apparently died about 1806 in Buckingham County, Virginia.

 Jean/Jane Williams died after Aug 1806, based on a letter written by Susannah Williams to her niece, Henrietta Williams, daughter of William and Judith Saunders Williams in August 1806. In it, Susannah mentioned having spoken with cousin Reuben Williams, sent her love to Henrietta and mentioned that Sarah and Grandmother also send their love to her.  She also identified herself as Henrietta’s aunt. Reuben Williams was the son of Samuel Williams, also of Cumberland County, and grandson of Thomas Williams, also of Cumberland County, who was the brother of Matthias Williams Senior, based on a land deed registered in their names.

Jean/Jane may be the Jennie Williams listed in the 1810 census of Buckingham County, Virginia, in which the oldest female household member was over 45.  This Jennie Williams lived only a few doors from Henry and Keziah Williams DeShazer’s home.

Tomorrow’s post will begin to detail the families of Matthias Senior’s children, Matthias, Keziah, John and William, the only ones with known descendants.



One thought on “Matthias Williams of Cumberland County, Virginia”

  1. William Williams and Judith Saunders are my GRGRGRGR grandparents and I was born in Marion county TN 84 years ago.
    Old Family stories say that William was adopted by the Williams family and was previously thought to have been a member of a slave family brought to VA from a sugar plantation in the carabean and raised as if he were their own son. I once saw some paperwork that listed William as having been a free Black man, ‘,and his Mother as Jean Jaane. he also had a bank account so it was listed.

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