Hypothesis: Is Roger Williams, born no later than 1690, the progenitor of the Williams family in Cumberland County, Virginia when it was formed in 1749?
I devoted about twenty years, off and on, to piecing together the various branches of the collateral Williams family that lived in Cumberland County, Virginia for several decades in the 1700s before migrating westward to many places.
Cumberland County was founded in 1749, being set off from part of Goochland County.
Although I “completed” my Williams project by 2001, I am drawn back to it off and on, always looking for new pieces of the puzzle to fit together. There are multiple records in neighboring counties to be found for Roger, Thomas and Matthias Williams, who were contemporaries, all born roughly around 1720.
With more and more records appearing online, I think some of the mystery about the family progenitor is being dissipated. I am also coming to the conclusion that one Roger Williams was the father of Thomas (born c1712), Roger (born c1720) and Matthias (born c1727) Williams.
Little is known about Roger Williams, except that he gave a tract of land to Roger Jr. in 1773, stating “me hereunto moving.”1 The relationship of the other two, Thomas and Matthias Williams, is certain because of a land transaction from Thomas to his brother, Matthias, in 1763.2
There are many families who have a folklore-type of tradition of three brothers coming to America. That same story has also been handed down among the Williams family members. However, in this case, there are pieces of information that indicate that these three men might have been sons of a Roger Williams, born in the late 1600’s.
Here are the tantalizing clues:
- Harriet Williams Pryor was the subject of a biographical sketch in the late 1800’s in one of Goodspeed’s books.3 Her sketch said she was descended from Roger Williams, although it identified Roger as Roger Williams of Rhode Island. While there is no indication that she fit into any New England group, she may, indeed, have been descended from a Roger Williams. She is a great grandchild of Matthias Williams.
- There are a number of names common to early Hanover County, Virginia that later appear in Goochland County, from which Cumberland County was formed. Virginia land patent records show a Roger Williams receiving 200 acres of land adjoining John Johnson and Robert Allin on the north side of Chickahominy Swamp in New Kent County, VA as early as 1719.4 By September 1723, John Johnson received 250 acres on Chickahominy Swamp, now in Hanover County, on the lines of John Hogg and Roger Williams.5
- There is a land deed dated February 1728/29 with Bouth Napier of Goochland selling land to Phillip Webber of King William County.6 The land was part of Thomas Mims’ patent on Tuckahoe Creek. This sale was witnessed by Elizabeth Napier, William Williams and Mary Williams. A William Williams died intestate in Cumberland County in 1761.7 It is not known whether this is the same man, but it appears to be. Thomas Williams also owned land on Tuckahoe Creek.
- The Vestry Book of St. Paul’s Parish in Hanover County mentions in 1730 that the tithes of Capt. Thomas Anderson are to assist Roger Williams in clearing the road of which he is surveyor.8 The will of one Thomas Anderson was written 25 October 1757 and recorded 9 March 1758 in Albemarle County, Virginia.9 He named daughter Susannah Williams, among others, with witnesses being John Gannaway Jr., John Gannaway Sr. and Roger Williams Sr. It is believed that this Susannah Anderson was the wife of Thomas Williams of Cumberland County. Thomas Anderson and Roger Williams in Hanover County may be the same men as those later in Albemarle. Roger Williams, who was appointed to clear the roads in 1730 has to be an earlier Roger Williams than Roger, born c1720. I think this Roger is the father of Thomas, Roger and Matthias and, if Thomas was his oldest child, Roger was born no later than 1690.
- In Aug 1731, Michael Holland received 6,350 acres in Hanover Co. The land was adjacent to many men, including Roger Williams, John Johnson, Robert Allen and Thomas Lacy Jr.10
- On 6 Nov 1734, one Thomas Williams was a witness noted in the Hanover Co. court minutes.11 “My” Thomas was born in 1712 according to a family Bible record.12 If the same man, Thomas would have been 22 and of legal age in 1734.
- In addition, there are numerous records in Goochland County naming other Williams men along with surnames connected to the Williams family by marriage. Some of those early Williams men were Edward, John, William, Samuel and Robert. All are given names appearing in the Cumberland County group a generation later.
- Surnames associated with Williamses in land deeds, wills and court records include Womack, Holman, Witt, Crouch, Woodson, and Wright. Those same names are also closely associated with the families of Roger, Thomas and Matthias Williams in Cumberland County.
- Several records have been found in the adult lifetimes of Roger, Thomas and Matthias Williams which indicate a relationship among Roger and Thomas’s family and Roger and Matthias’s family. Thomas Williams sold land in 1765 that was adjacent to Richard Randolph’s property.13 Roger Williams’ land also bordered Richard Randolph’s.
- Additionally, Cumberland County, Virginia court orders for 28 August 1787 record Roger and Samuel Williams as administrators of the estate of Thomas Fitch, deceased.14 They had sued David Meade Randolph and Richard Randolph, as executors of the estate of Richard Randolph, deceased. On this particular day, the judgement against the Randolph defendants was set aside. Later, on 27 Mar 1788, Roger and Samuel Williams, administrators for Thomas Fitch, won another judgement against the Randolphs and Thomas Williams was paid 75 lbs. of tobacco for three days as a witness.
- A Bible record viewed on line (accession number 34530) at the Library of Virginia includes information on one Thomas Fitch. His wife, Darces (Dorcas?) Williams was born 15 Jan 1739. They married on 26 May 1757. Children included Susannah, Francis, Sarah, Samuel, Charles, Polly, Elizabeth, Samuel and Jane. All of those names are found in the Williams family of Cumberland Co., VA, with the exception of Francis. It appears that Darces may have been a daughter of Thomas and Susannah Anderson Williams.
- Here is a biggie – Court records of Halifax and Pittsylvania counties in Virginia show that one Thomas Williams, son of Roger, entered land in Pittsylvania Co. in 1752.15 Court pleas note in 1755 that Thomas Williams was the executor of Roger Williams, deceased.16 These records, if related to the Cumberland group, may actually refer to the earliest Roger, found in New Kent County in 1719, the same man that would have been born no later than 1690, and Thomas (born 1712), later of Cumberland County.
- Thomas Williams was a witness on behalf of Roger Williams in a 1755 lawsuit against William Hudgens in Cumberland County.17 This Roger is most likely the man born c1720.
- In Cumberland County Court in 1763, Thomas Williams was sued for debt.18 His bondsmen were John Gannaway and Charles Williams (probably the Charles who lived in Halifax Co., VA, later Pittsylvania Co., VA). A son of this Charles, also named Charles, married Susannah Williams, daughter of Roger Williams and Cassie Ann Blair in 1797. This third Roger, who married Cassie Ann Blair, was the son of Roger born in the 1720’s.
- Thomas Williams, son of Matthias Williams, married Esther Morrow on 6 August 1780 in Prince Edward County. Roger Williams was the surety.
- Several citizens’ petitions that were generated and signed in Cumberland County survive, giving further evidence as to the time period that the Williams family lived there.22 On 10 May 1777, one petition was begun urging that Cumberland County be divided in two. Roger Jr. (born 1749), Thomas, Samuel (son of Thomas) and Roger Williams Sr. (born c1720) all signed. On 10 November 1780, a petition was circulated regarding rights of clergy who did not sign allegiance to the state. Samuel, Roger Jr. and Matthias Williams’ signatures are found. This Matthias must be the Revolutionary War pensioner (born 1755) because his father (born c1727) Matthias’s will was probated earlier in the year. A similar petition with the same date showed Thomas and Roger Williams Sr.’s signatures. On 14 May 1784, rights of pecuniary legatees and residual legatees were questioned. John, Roger, Samuel and Nathaniel Williams signed. Lastly, opposition to the act incorporating the Protestant Episcopal Church on 9 Nov 1786 included Thomas, Samuel, Nathaniel, Roger and Matthias Williams. (Note: I haven’t figured out how or if Nathaniel fits in the family, as he pretty much disappears from the records.)
From these facts, it is easily proven that Roger, Thomas and Matthias Williams, and their next generation, knew each other and had business and social interactions to the point where Susannah Williams married her cousin, Charles Williams.
It is also proven by the Cumberland County land deed that Thomas and Matthias were brothers, as it clearly states their relationship.
Further, the only Thomas old enough to fit the picture (born 1712) is named as the son of Roger Williams, deceased, in 1755, of Pittsylvania County. Charles Williams, father of Susannah who married her cousin, lived in Pittsylvania County, as did one of the daughters of Matthias Williams after she married.
As a point of reference, my research has tied the Williams family of Cumberland County to Amherst, Amelia, Bedford, Goochland, Campbell, Powhatan, Appomattox, Pittsylvania, Buckingham, Prince Edward, Halifax and Albemarle Counties through land, tax, probate and marriage records. This family got around, so the fact that these early records are in several different counties isn’t really a concern, except for not wanting to merge two men of the same name.
What do you think? Am I on the right track in believing that Roger Williams, born no later than 1690, is the father of Thomas, Roger and Matthias Williams? I sincerely doubt that primary documents will ever surface that prove their relationships without any doubt.
Or is this too much of a stretch?
1”Deed from Roger Williams to Roger Williams,” Deed Book 5:149, Cumberland County, Virginia.
2”Deed from Thomas Williams to Matthias Williams,” Deed Book 2:239, Cumberland County, Virginia.
3Memorial and Biographical Record, An Illustrated Compendium. . . .of the Cumberland Region of Tennessee, George A. Ogle and Co., Chicago, 1898, p. 856.
4Virginia Patent Book 11:11.
5Virginia Patent Book 11:219.
6”Deed from Bouth Napier to Phillip Webber,” Deed Book 2:12, Goochland County, Virginia.
7Cumberland County Court Orders 1749-1762 (February and March 1761), pp. 294, 309, FHL Film #30,759.
8C.G. Chamberlayne, The Vestry Book of St. Paul’s Parish, Hanover County, Virginia 1706-1786, (Richmond: The Library Board, 1940) p. 29.
9“Will of Thomas Anderson,” Will Book 2:38, Albemarle County, Virginia.
10Virginia Patent Book 14:241.
11Hanover County, Virginia Court Records 1733-1735; Deeds, Wills and Inventories, Rosalie E. Davis, Heritage Trails, Manchester, MO, 1979, p. 49.
12Family Bible record in possession of Roe Williams, Tennessee. Copy held by Linda Stufflebean.
13”Deed from Thomas Williams to Saymer Scott” Deed Book 4:34, Cumberland County, Virginia.
14Cumberland County, Virginia Court Orders 1786-1792 (28 August 1787), p. 204, FHL Film #30,763.
15Old Pittsylvania County, Virginia Survey Book, p. 36.
16Halifax County, Virginia Pleas Book 1, May Term 1752 and March Term 1755, pp. 376, 400.
17Cumberland County, Virginia Court Orders 1749-1762, (1755), pp. 304-305, FHL Film #30,759.
18Cumberland County, Virginia Court Orders 1762-1767 (July Term 1763) , p. 243, FHL Film #30,760.
19“Deed from Thomas Williams to Archibald Wright,” Deed Book 6:520, Cumberland County, Virginia.
20Cumberland County, Virginia Court Orders 1786-1792 (November Term 1790), p. 333, 365, FHL Film #30,763.
21Cumberland County, Virginia Court Orders 1792-1801 (March Term 1798), p. 73, FHL Film #30,764.
22“Magazine of Virginia Genealogy,” v. 30, no. 2, May 1992, pp. 82-100.