Down a Rabbit Hole with Richard Williams, in Cumberland Co., KY by 1810

First, I have to admit this this family sketch is due to a BSO (bright shiny object) appearing in my path. That BSO was finding the statement that James Dulworth of Cumberland County, Kentucky married Ibby Williams, daughter of Richard Williams and Elizabeth Spear, also of Cumberland County.

James Dulworth is my husband’s 3X great grandfather. Ibby Williams was James’s second wife and had no children with him. That didn’t stop me from wanting to know more about Ibby, her parents and siblings.

I was also challenged by the fact that there is scant information online about the life of Richard Williams, even though he lived well into his 80s and stayed in once place for over half a century.

Therefore, I’ve begun a family sketch of Richard Williams, albeit one with some gaping holes. At least it is a start and perhaps other descendants will find this and be able to add to his life story.

Richard Williams was born c1780, probably in Virginia. In 1850, then census taker recorded “Unknown” for his birthplace, but in 1860, “Virginia” was the answer to the question.

Richard married at least twice, and possibly three times, during his long life. He settled early in Cumberland County, Kentucky, as he appears there in the 1810 census. However, he is not on the 1805 or 1806 county tax rolls.

Whether he married in Virginia or Kentucky is not known. If Maryanne Spear was his first wife, then it is more likely that he married in Cumberland County, c1808.

Both Richard Williams and the Spear clan arrived in Cumberland County, Kentucky after the 1805 tax list and before the 1810 census. In 1810, if you count, in one direction, 20 houses away from Richard and Joseph Williams, the neighbors include 5 Spear families. However, it isn’t likely that they arrived together as the Spears came from Maryland via Surry County, North Carolina.

With Richard and Joseph Williams living next door to each other, it is likely that they were brothers. However, Joseph didn’t live to make it into the 1850 census. His age range in 1810 places his birth year between 1766-1784. I believe he was a younger brother of Richard, probably born c1782, as the eldest female at home was born between 1784-1794 and there was one female under the age of 10. I’d say Joseph married within about a year of Richard’s marriage.

Richard Williams appears in every census in Cumberland County from 1810 through 1860, when he was 80 years old. From those records, it is possible to construct an outline of his likely and identified children.

Possible Children of Richard Williams:

  1. Miles, born c1807; died between 17 February 1861, when he wrote his will, and 11 October 1861, when it was proved, Cumberland County, Kentucky; married Barbara (probably) Watson, c1817. Mary Watson, 77, lived with the family in 1870, likely Barbara’s mother. Miles named five children in his will: James W., Richard N., Polly Smith (wife of Gentry Smith, in Overton County, Tennessee in 1860), Rachel Davis (wife of James Davis, in Overton County, Tennessee in 1860) and Eunice Willis (wife of Charles Willis, in Overton County, Tennessee in 1860.)
  2. Male, born c1809
  3. Nathaniel, born c1811; died after 1880; married Mary (MNU).
  4. Female, born c1813
  5. Male, born c1815
  6. Female, born 1821-1825
  7. Female, born 1826-1830
  8. Male, born 1826-1830
  9. Male, born 1826-1830
  10. John, born c1829; died after 1850; unmarried and at home at that time.
  11. Male, born c1834
  12. Male, born c1836
  13. Isabella (Ibby), born c1838; died 1880-1900; married James Dulworth, c1879, probably Cumberland County, Kentucky; no children.
  14. Jane, born c1839; died after 1870 when she was Jane Johnston (probably Johnson), back at home with her mother and 10 year old daughter, Elizabeth; married Mr. Johnson.
  15. Alexander, born c1840; died 18 March 1863, Civil War.
  16. Mathew, born c1842; lived with his uncle Miles’ family in 1850; died 10 February 1864, Civil War.
  17. Sarah (Sally), born 1843; died after 1880, when she was at home with her widowed mother; unmarried.
  18. Henry, born c1845; died 1913, Cumberland County, Kentucky; married Nancy Camenton Sharp, c1868; no children
  19. Malinda, born c1847; died 1880-1889; married Burly Rutledge, c1868.
  20. Spicy, born c1849; died after 1870
  21. Barbara N., born May 1854; died 1923, Collin County, Texas; married John Milton Rutledge, 14 September 1873, Clay County, Tennessee.
  22. Highly, born c1855/57; died 27 November 1946, Lamar County, Texas; married Thomas S. Roach, 31 August 1873, Clay County, Tennessee.

Notice there is a gap in births between child #5 and #6 and also between #10 John and #11.

Because of those gaps, I am unsure whether Maryanne Spear was Richard’s first wife and they lost a couple of children between 1815 and 1821, which is certainly possible, or if Richard had a first wife who died in that time span and he married Maryanne as his second wife.

Given the time span of children’s births, there must have been at least two and possibly even three wives, each younger than the last, unless the younger set of children were grandchildren.

Richard bought and sold a number of tracts of land in his lifetime. Unfortunately, the earliest Cumberland County deeds don’t include a wife releasing dower rights. However, on 28 August 1834, Richard Williams sold land to William Anderson (Deed Book H:273) and Maryanne Williams was examined separately from her husband and agreed to the sale.

Maryanne is said to be Maryanne Spear. Who are her parents? No idea. However, she was alive as of 28 August 1834, so Richard married Elizabeth Spear between that day and c1838, when Isabelle (Ibby) was born, as her mother is named as Elizabeth Spear Williams.

There is one other interesting detail in the census records. In 1830, there was a female 70-79, so born 1751-1760, and a female 60-69, so born 1761-1770, living in the Richard Williams home. I wonder if they were widowed mothers of Richard and his wife?

Richard Williams died after 7 February 1866, when he and Elizabeth sold land (Deed Book R:133). Elizabeth (Spear) Williams died between 1880 and 1900, as she hasn’t been found in any records after the 1880 census of Cumberland County, Kentucky.

If you have any extraneous Williams people from Cumberland County in this time period who are not part of the Sherrod and Hardin Williams group that also settled there, they might be part of Richard’s unknown children. I’d love to hear from you.



6 thoughts on “Down a Rabbit Hole with Richard Williams, in Cumberland Co., KY by 1810”

  1. Interesting post…I assume the unnamed children of Richard are those in earlier censuses with no specific details?

    I’ve noticed so many land deeds in posts by American genealogists, certainly more than in ones from England. It seems this was more common? Or maybe the records just aren’t available publicly. Certainly do seem to be a wonderful resource.

    Had never heard of Ibby for Isabella before. My husband’s grandmother was Isabelle, but she shortened it further, to Is.

  2. I’m Norman Williams of Lexington, KY, a great-great-great grandson of this Richard Williams of Cumberland County, KY, who died in 1866. I have a copy of a page authored by Melissa Borders, address unknown, providing essentially the same information as you discovered. I will be happy to provide it to you if you give me an email or mailing address.

    This history lists Mary Ann Speer as Richard’s first wife and she died in 1834. Richard then married the much younger Elizabeth Speer/Spear and they had a large family.

    I am most interested in locating details of my great-great grandfather Richard Williams, Jr (son of the above Richard Williams) who was born in 1820. Family oral legend has it he mysteriously died about 1860 at Paoli/Peolia, KY, then part of Cumberland County, but later a part of Clinton County. I have been unable to confirm his death, gravesite or other information. He was married to Martha “Hattie” Willis, born 1824 and daughter of Burrelll/Burrell and Jane B. Smith Willis, Cumberland County.

    1. Hi Norm, I’ve been searching for information on your great-great grandfather Williams, Jr, too, because I am interested in the story of your great-great grandmother, Martha. I’ve also come up short on Richard Williams, Jr but I do know that Martha was living with her parents (unmarried) in 1850 (Overton Co, TN, District 8) but is listed as the owner of a farm in 1860 (with just her two children), also in Overton, Co TN. Since her oldest was 8 years old in 1860 I assumed she married your grandfather around 1850-1852 but I can find no record of it. I’m not a relative, but I am doing research on women farmers in that county/district in 1850 – I’m a professor at TN Tech University. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but I’m hoping to find living relatives who might have any information about Martha that was passed down. If I find anything pertaining to your grandfather I will certainly pass it along.

  3. Joseph Williams, brother of Richard, (1780) moved to Overton County, Tennessee. He died in War of 1812. Some of his family moved to Texas. John was the son of Nathaniel and Elizabeth (Willis) Williams – not Richard and Mary Ann Williams. He died in Civil War buried Chattanooga National Cemetery – married Hannah Davidson had two daughters, Martha and Nancy.

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