Albert B Osborne.

Makers of America; biographies of leading men of thought and action, the men who constitute the bone and sinew of American prosperity and life (Volume 3) online

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Club, and Vice-President of the local Country Club; which

[189]



190 JOHN ALEXANDER WILLIAMS

honors have come to him unsolicited. Doctor Williams dislikes
publicity. He is devoted to his professional duties, does much to
alleviate the sufferings of his fellow men and at least twenty-
five to forty per cent, of his surgical work is performed without
remuneration. He believes that organization, supplemented by
earnest study and hard work, is necessary to the fullest success
in any line of endeavor. As a surgeon, with the aid of two as-
sistants and a nurse in his private practice, he is meeting the
demands upon his skill with great success, happy in the realiza-
tion that he is "doing something for humanity. 7 '

In politics he has always been a Democrat, having cast his
first vote for Cleveland in 1892. He is a member of the Wake
Forest Baptist Church.

Dr. Williams was married, December 3, 1908 to Miss Susan
Keece, the daughter of Joseph M. and Alice M. Keece. Their chil-
dren are Frances Keece Williams, aged seven years, and Kath-
erine Williams, aged two and a half years.

Doctor Williams' progenitors were of Eevolutionary stock,
long-lived and extensively patriotic. In the famous conflict
"which tried men's souls" Virginia and the Carolinas furnished
sixteen soldier-patriots of the same name, William Williams. Of
the descendants of the traditional "three brothers" named Wil-
liams who emigrated to the American Colonies prior to the Revo-
lutionary period, settling in Virginia and North Carolina, those
in Person County are no less distinguished for patriotism and
eminent citizenship.

Among those in North Carolina who were well known in
medicine and surgery during the early days was Doctor Robert
Williams, who lived and died in Pitt County. In the Revolution-
ary War he was distinguished as a skilful surgeon, serving in that
capacity on the side of the Colonists throughout the struggle. He
died November 12, 1842, at the age of eighty-three years. An-
other was Doctor Alexander Williams, who married Catherine
Dixon, only daughter of Colonel William Dixon. Colonel Dixon
was the first postmaster of Greenville and was appointed in 1782.
The opening year of the nineteenth century found Anderson,
Marmaduke, Nathan, Henry, Crafton, Isaac, James M., John and
William living in Caswell County, North Carolina, from which
County Person was formed in 1791. At the same period (1800)
the family was represented in the Hillsboro district of Person
County by Abner, Bennett, John, Ralph, Thomas, Tobias and
Gary. Of these, Colonel Gary Williams, commanding the local
muster organization, was the father of the William Williams who
married Nancy Pulliam, and was the grandfather of Dr. Wil-
liams. Nancy was a daughter of Bird and Susan Pulliam of
Hillsboro district and was born about 1799. Bird was locally
identified with the Revolutionary patriot, Richard Pulliam of



JOHN ALEXANDER WILLIAMS 191

Mowb ray's grenadiers, who was a native of Lunenburg County,
Virginia ; but their degree of consanguinity has not been traced.
The Pulliams were represented in Person County early in the
century by Jaines and John W., and later by Richard the patriot,
who removed there from Mecklenburg County, Virginia.

William was recorded as "Will" Williams, to distinguish
him from others of the same name in Person County. This whim-
sical manner of recording given names in their abbreviated form
is still apparent in the family records. "Will" was born in Vir-
ginia about 1786. His parents, Gary and Viney (Lavinia?) Wil-
liams, however, settled in the Hillsboro district of Person County
at an early day. They bad at least five sons.

Of the marital union of William and Nancy was born Doctor
Williams' father, James Pulliam Williams, in Person County, in
1832. He was a tobacco farmer and manufacturer, a Methodist
and an earnest Christian gentleman. He is recorded as having
enlisted March 1, 1862, in Company I, Forty-fifth regiment,
North Carolina troops. He lost two brothers on the field of Get-
tysburg. He had married Catherine Scott Woods, who was born
near Prospect Hill in 1837. Her father was Andy M. Woods, a
prosperous tobacco planter of Caswell County and, before the
ruinous struggle between the States, the proprietor of many acres
and numerous slaves. In 1860 his wealth was officially rated at
seventy thousand dollars, of which fifty thousand was in personal,
property a considerable fortune in the days when wealth was
the rule rather than the exception among Southerners. Andy M.
and Judith Minerva Woods were the parents of Sarah F., Cath-
arine S., Ann, James Monroe, and Ella. This only brother of
Catharine was a Confederate soldier. Although but fourteen
years of age, he marched with the Leasburg Grays, which formed
part of the Thirteenth North Carolina regiment, and was killed
at Chancellor sville, at sunrise of the same day that General Jack-
son received his mortal wound Sunday, May 3, 1863. He was
then but seventeen years of age. The mother of Catharine Scott
Woods was Judith Minerva Richmond, but was known to her fam-
ily as "Minerva" Richmond. Catharine's maternal grandmother
was Judith Clay, first cousin of Henry Clav. She was always
called "Judy."

James Pulliam Williams died in Hightower township De-
cember 27, 1882, at the age of forty-eight years, leaving a widow
and young children : William Kinchen, born 1866, John Alexan-
der, born 1871, and James Monroe, born 1874. Mrs. Williams at
the time 01 her bereavement was the only surviving child of her
aged father. Prompted by a strong filial devotion, the following
year she removed to her father's old home near Prospect Hill,
taking with her her three young sons, where she ministered to
him as only one of her gentle Christian virtues could minister.



192 JOHN ALEXANDER WILLIAMS

The years of Andrew M. Woods, nearly approached the century
mark. He lived to the ripe age of ninety-seven, having been born
about the year 1802.

Mrs. Williams died April 30, 1913, at the age of seventy-six
years. She was a member of the Baptist Church. "A better wife,
a better mother, a sweeter Christian, never lived" -is the tribute
paid her memory by her second son, from whose home in Greens-
boro she passed to her eternal reward. Her children survive her.
W. K. Williams and J. M. Williams are living in Caswell County,
while Doctor Williams, as has been stated before, resides in
( Ireensboro.

Judy Clay, the maternal great-grandmother of Dr. Williams,
was the" daughter of Edward Clay, Senior, of Person County,
where Judy was born about 1780. He was the only paternal uncle
of the illustrious Kentuckian, and a neighbor of Colonel Gary
Williams. Judy's declining years were spent in Leasbnrg with
her son, Doctor Stephen F. Richmond. She lived beyond the age
of ninety.

Edward Clay was the brother of Reverend John Clay, father
of Henry Clay the orator. Although by paternal bequest, in 1762
Edward became owner of certain slaves and two hundred acres
of land on Dumplin Creek, in Chesterfield County, Virginia, his
father, who in his last will describes himself as "John Clay of
Dale parish," having died that year, he is recorded among the
heads of families and slave owners in Person County, North Caro-
lina, in 1810. The family later moved to Alabama, but some of
Edward's descendants now live in Charlotte County, Virginia.
Born in the Old Dominion, he married Magdalene Trabue, a mem-
ber of the old French-Protestant colony there. Their ten children
were: John, Samuel, Martha, James, Francis, Mary. Phrebe, Ed-
ward, Jr., Sarah, and Judith who married John Richmond.
Though the records differ, it is probable that Judy was the sixth
child.

Magdalene Trabue was the daughter of John James and Olym-
pia (Dupuy) Trabue. Her father was a son of Antoine or Anthony
Trabue, a Huguenot refugee who with a companion fled from
France to England in 1687. An interesting sketch of Anthony
Trabue's escape, as written by his grandson, Daniel Trabue, ap-
peared in the Richmond Standard of May 10-17, 1870. Mr. A. E.
Trabue of Hannibal, Missouri, was in possession, in 1886, of the
original certificate of vellum, given his ancestor by the ministers
and civil officers of Lausanne July 15, 1687. Anthony Trabue
died in the Huguenot settlement of Manakin-Town (now Man-
quin), King William County, Virginia, in January, 1724, aged
fifty-six or fifty-seven years. He left three sons, Anthony, Jr.,
Jacob, and John James who married Olympia, granddaughter of
John James and Susanna (Lavillon) Dupuy. The latter were the



JOHN ALEXANDER WILLIAMS 193

maternal great-grandparents of Judy Clay, and the maternal great-
grandparents of Doctor Williams in the eighth generation. The
name of Trabue has occasionally been written Trabut, but it
does not so appear on the early parish records of Manakin-Town.
The descendants of Antoine in several generations have been
skilful land surveyors. There is a tradition in the family that the
French Trabues were of the landed gentry perhaps of a noble
line and that, by fleeing the country, their ancestors renounced
a goodly estate.

William Richmond, Senior ("Captain Billy") was the father
of John Richmond who was born in Caswell County, about 1775,
and became the husband of Judy Clay. "Captain Billy" was, by
family tradition, a Revolutionary patriot, born about 1750, who
survived the war more than half a century, dying in the decade
between 1830 and 1840. His last days were spent with his
younger brother John. "Billy" married Agnes Saunders, a sister
of Lieutenant William Saunders, and was the father of three
girls and five boys. Polly, married a Kerry; Sallie married a
Rice; Ann, an invalid, died single; Adams married first Sallie
Jones, second Martha Allen ; Billie married Peggy Woods ; Tom,
a mute, died single (accidentally shot by a negro playing with a
gun) ; Daniel married a Corner; John married Judy Clay (eleven
children, ten of whom are mentioned here: Edward Clay, died
single ; Madison, married a Darneroii ; William Saunders, died
single; Agnes Saunders, died single; Lea, married a Davis; Min-
erva J., married Andy M. Woods; Henry A., married Elizabeth
Evans; Fannie, married Green Woods; Dr. Stephen F., married
Ann Gunu; Sallie L., married Doctor Sims.)

Captain Billy settled near Yanceyville, the county seat of
Caswell. He is described as having been "a strong man, a good
Christian and a faithful soldier." In his latter days he was wont
to express the desire that he might be spared to his motherless
and afflicted daughter Annie, that she might not be left behind
to the indifferent mercy of a selfish world. After her demise he
was avowedly "ready for the summons."

His wife, Agnes Saunders Richmond was a cousin of Honor-
able Romulus Mitchell Saunders, who was a minister plenipoten-
tiary to Spain from 1846 to 1849. Of him the historian Wheeler,
his colleague in the settlement of the French Spoliation Claims,



Wheeler's Hist'l Sketches of Xorth Carolina. Vol. 2, pp. 79-
80, (851 ed.).

"Hon. Romulus Mitchell Saunders was born in Caswell
County, in March, 1791; son of William Saunders, an officer of
the Revolution. He was educated at Hvco and Caswell Academv,

t/ t^ /

and was two vears at the Universitv. Studied law with Hon.

t> /

Hughes Lawson White, of Tennessee, and was licensed to prac-



194 JOHN ALEXANDER WILLIAMS

tice in that State in 1812. He returned to North Carolina, was
elected to the House of Commons, 1815 to 1820, and was Speaker
of the House in 1819 and 1820.

"In 1821 he was elected member of Congress, and served
until 1827.

"The demands of a young and rising family requiring his at-
tention to his profession, he was not a candidate for re-election,
but turned his whole time and attention to his profession. In
1828, he was elected Attorney-General of the State. In 1833, he
was appointed by the President one of the Board of Commission-
ers to decide and allot the amounts due citizens of the United
States for injuries by France, as settled by Treaty of 4th of July,
1831. Such were the patient and laborious habits of General
Saunders, the acumen of his intellect and the clearness of his
decisions, that he won for himself the respect and esteem of all
in this arduous duty.

"In 1835, he was elected by the Legislature Judge of the Su-
perior Courts, which office he resigned in 1840, on being nomi-
nated as Democratic candidate for Governor. In this fight he
was defeated by John M. Morehead. In 1841 he was again elected
to Congress, and served until 1845.

"In 1846, he was appointed Envoy Extraordinary and Min-
ister Plenipotentiary from the United States to Spain, where he
remained until 1849, when he was recalled at his own request.

"He returned home in October, 1849. As an evidence of the
confidence of his country while abroad, and the respect of the
President, he was intrusted with a special commission to nego-
tiate on the subject of Cuba, then the object of much interest to
the country.

"In 1850, he was elected a member of the House of Commons
from Wake County.

"He took a decided and active part in the Railroad improve-
ments of the State, and by his ardor and ability contributed much
to their success. His character is worthy of the State, and his
services have contributed to her elevation and honor."

He again became Judge of the Superior Courts, which office
he held up to the time of his death, April 21, 1867. He was twice
married. By his second marriage, with a daughter of Judge Wil-
liam Johnson of the Supreme Court of the United States, he left
a son and two daughters.

The Wake County family of Saunders was established in
Lancaster County, Virginia, two hundred and fifty years ago.
The father of Romulus was William Saunders, who married a
Miss Adams. William was an officer of the American Revolution,
born between 1750 and '60.

Agnes Saunders, sister of Lieutenant Saunders, married
"Captain Billy" Richmond, already referred to.



JOHN ALEXANDER WILLIAMS 195

Among Revolutionary War pensioners was one William Rich-
mond, Senior, born in Pennsylvania in 1752, who removed to
Botetourt County, Virginia, the first year of the war for inde-
pendence, and served in Captain Matthew Arbuckle's company in
the Virginia line; he afterward settled in Greenbrier County
where he was living in 1835. His discharge is said to have been
destroyed by a stepson, so that it would appear that this William
Richmond married a widow.

Another sister of Lieutenant Saunders, Keziah, born about
1755, married Major Thomas Donoho. In Keziah's Bible, in the
handwriting of her brother-in-law, William Donoho, is the follow-
ing record of her children : "Betsy Donoho, born the 2d day of
September, 1775 (married John Wadlington, a lieutenant in the
Supernumerary Regiment of Virginia) ; Hiram, 7th February,
1777; Sally, 16th of September, 1779; Francis, 7th December,
1781; Sanders, 12th January, 1784; Susannah, 26th January,
17S7." Among her said children was Major Sanders Donoho of
the Regular Army, who was shot by a refractory soldier at or
near Pensacola, Florida.

Thomas Donoho's rapid rise from private in April 1776 to
Captain of the Sixth North Carolina regiment within the first
five months of his service, and his promotion to Major five years
later is indeed an extraordinary record. His death occurred
April 2, 1825. He was a resident of Halifax County when he
entered the service with Greene's Army, but later settled with his
brother William in Caswell County, where he met and married
Keziah Saunders on the third day of December, 1774. She out-
lived him many years, and drew a pension for his military service.
Her last days were spent in Caswell County where she lived to a
great age. She was familiarly called "Kizzie."

The names of Williams, Saunders and Donoho appear as
members of North Carolina's Senate and House of Commons dur-
ing the first forty years of her commonwealth. These families,
as well as those of Clay and Woods, have done much to mould the
policies of the State and conserve her wealth and independence.

Doctor Williams is, in his own way, adding lustre to the
noble deeds of those of his family who have gone before. May he,
like most of them, live to a good old age.



PRESTON WOODALL

IT is only when the real people and scenes of American life
are filmed before the mental vision, that the fact is brought
home that there are still great men and gracious women, lead-
ing upright lives, living industriously and honestly, full of
love for kind and zeal for country and for God, that the pes-
simism bred of the daily perusal of the public prints, gives place
to the optimism engendered by the realization that many strains
of the old blood that made Colonial America a Nation, yet flow
in the veins of the Makers of America of this generation.

Among those so favored is Preston Woodall of Benson, John-
ston County, North Carolina, who was born May 7, 1874, upon
the farm of his father, William Kansoni Woodall, in Johnston
County. His mother, Mary Frances Woodall, was the daughter
of John and Elizabeth (Canody) Creech. His mother's grand-
parents were Stephen and Mary Creech. His paternal grand-
parents were Herrit and Harriet (Allen) Woodall and great-
grandfather, Absalom Woodall.

There is no better start in life than that of the country-bred
boy. The free pure air, the little tasks devolving upon the
farmer's boy, all tend to the development of sturdy physical
growth, and with an environment of culture and refinement in
the home, the mind keeps pace with the body. When a tendency
towards study is inherited from the earliest years, the whole
outdoor life, the trees sending their branches towards the stars,
while their roots bore deep into the earth, the everlasting hills,
whose summits climbed, disclose vistas reaching to the horizon;
the running waters of the brook typical of life itself; the ever
recurring seasons, with their hopes and fears for crops whose
extent will not be known until the harvest is gathered, all act as
stimuli to the desire for knowledge and the determination to
achieve success.

In the early 'SO's of the last century, North Carolina recov-
ering from the consequences of the Civil War, and the worse
period of re-construction, had made great advances in providing
for the education of her people. In the public schools of Smith-
field and Benson, Preston acquired a good stock of learning,
supplemented and consolidated after he was nineteen, by a period
of teaching in these same schools.

When fully of age, in 1895, Mr. Woodall opened a store in
Benson. It would seem that as the poet is born, so is the nier-

[196]



PRESTON WOOD ALL 199

chant, for such was his aptitude for mercantile pursuits, that suc-
cess crowned his efforts at every venture. Within a decade of
vears he was the owner of two stores and of several tracts of

/

land in Johnston County; operating the farm laud, and also en-
gaging in the timber business, as dealer and manufacturer; ac-
complishing a life's work before reaching its meridian. Doubt-
less, he will be heard from later, for the name and character
already made, give promise of future work that will leave an in-
delible mark upon his country.

Mr. Woodall is President of the Citizens Bank and Trust
Company of Benson and a Director in the Farmer's Commercial
Bank of Benson. Naturally, he is a Democrat, though not an
office seeker. He is a devout Christian gentleman; a member of
and an Elder in the Presbyterian Church and Superintendent of
its Sunday School.

Mr. Woodall married in 1899, Miss Emma Carolina, daughter
of Ishani and Rebecca Woodall of Johnston County. Their chil-
dren are : Clara Augusta, born January 24, 1900 ; William Brant-
ley, born July 14, 1901, and Isham Burton, born December
19, 1902.

When Mr. Woodall was asked for suggestions as to how the
best interests of the States and Nation may be promoted, his reply
was : "By thoroughly training and educating all the children of
all the classes."

There was in the tenth century a Flemish knight of Cambrae,
Wahull or Wodall, by name. His descendant, Walter de Flan-
deriensis or de Cambrae, took part witli William the Norman in
the conquest of England in 1066. He held five manors in Bed-
ford, and others in Buckingham, and in several other shires in
England. Wooddale or Wahall was his principal seat. He was
the Ancestor of the Barons established by law in 1295. It was
not until the twelfth century that surnames became fixed. Men
were designated by their holdings or by some physical peculiar-
ity, "Son," after the father's personal name, "Fitz," "Ap" or "Of,"
before it. The record entries were made by clerks of rather "less
than more" ability, in bastard Latin, Saxon, French or Celtic. So
that it is not wonderful that variation of name arose. In the case
of Woodall, it was written "Wahall," "Wadhull," "Wodehall,"
"Wodehill," "Wodhill," "Wodel," "Odel," "(Mil" and in some
other styles, but the first mention found in the Yorkshire Inqui-
sitions of 1250, is WoodDale; Wood Dale Hall having been one
of the residences of the family. Two centuries later, the inven-
tion of printing, while rendering the instruction of the people
less difficult, served to anchor both patronymics and simple words
to consistency. Different branches of the same family, however,
adopted and adhered to the name which best suited them, and
this in time became their family name. In this wav manv fa mi-

/ . ,

lies of the same lineage drifted apart.



200 PRESTON WOODALL

John de Wahall or Wodhull did fealty to Henry Third in
1270. Walter de Wahall or Wodhull, had certified his barony in
1167, during the reign of Henry First.

The pedigree of Kichard Woodall of Warwick, begins with
Thomas and ends with John, Thomas and Richard in the Seven-
teenth Century, the same names running through the line.

"John" seems to have been the favorite personal name with
the Woodalls and it is Mr. John Woodall that is found first men-
tioned in connection with America, as a charter member of the
Virginia Company of London in 1609, and as the owner of shares
in the division of the Somers Isles or the Bermudas in the
"Tribe" (division) of Lord William Paget. To have owned shares
in the Company, reveals the fact of the possession of some wealth,
though very few of the Company ever visited Virginia in person.
They sent their younger sons and other relatives to colonize the
New Country ; to build homes and exploit its resources.

The Woodhulls of Long Island trace to Walter 01 Flanders.
The Manor of Holbeach, a parcel of the Manor of Essevdes, Hert-
fordshire, was held by Foulk Woodhull, who claimed descent from
Sir William Woodhull and Elizabeth Parr (1539), a near rela-
tive of Katherine, first wife of Henry Eighth, who was a descend-
ant of Gundareed, daughter of William The Conqueror. Eliza-
beth was also a descendant of Edward First and of William, the
Lion of Scotland. This family, how r ever, through change of name,
is now far remote from the Woodall branch.

In England, the Woodall name is still prominent. William
Woodall in 1896, was the Chairman of the Committee of Patriotic
Funds. He wrote several books on Military Law, the British
Army and others.

The American contingent of Woodall, is evidently descended
from the Hertford branch, and this opinion is strengthened by
their personal names. Thomas Woodall of Warwick, heads the
lineage given in the visitation of Hertford, frequently noting
Richard and John with the last name in the majority, and end-
ing with John, who is most probably the John Woodall, adven-
turer of 1609.

This John Wodall (evidently Woodall) may have come to
Virginia but so far no trace of his having done so is found. He
was no doubt the John Woodall, representing in the seventeenth
century, the branch of the family, tracing to Richard of Warwick,
second son of Thomas of Killingsworth. A Henry Woodall was
living at Indian Thecket in 1623. In 1736 is a record of a deed of
land to Thomas Woodall, and in colonial records there is a grant
of land to Jonathan Woodall, of one hundred seventy-two acres.

James Woodal, aged eighty-seven years, who was a Lieu-
tenant, was one of the Revolutionary pensioners of Virginia, still
living in 1835.



PRESTON WOODALL 203

In the army accounts for 1781, John Woodall (of Halleys
Company) is paid for eighteen months service. Jeremiah Wood-
all of the North Carolina line, is paid for provisions and supplies,
fifteen pounds sterling and Robert Woodall, forty-one pounds
sterling for supplies.

Upon the pension list still surviving in 1835 besides James,
were Samuel, John and Lieutenant Samuel Woodall. The first



Online LibraryAlbert B OsborneMakers of America; biographies of leading men of thought and action, the men who constitute the bone and sinew of American prosperity and life (Volume 3) → online text (page 15 of 48)