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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The first of the name to whom this branch of the Williamson
family has been positively traced was Nathan Williamson (some-
times called Nathaniel) who was born, tradition says, in Vir-
ginia, probably about the year 1750, and who died in Caswell
County, North Carolina, in the year 1839.

The earliest recorded mention of Nathan Williamson thus
far discovered, is February 9, 1780, on which date Henry Hays,
of Guilford County, conveyed to the said Nathan Williamson,
who is described as "of Caswell County," two hundred thirty-
seven acres in Caswell County on both sides of County Line Creek.
The price paid for the land was one hundred twenty-five pounds
sterling, "specie of Virginia." (Caswell County Records, Deed
Book, "A," p. 563.) In October, 1782, Nathan Williamson ob-
tained by grant, from Alexander Martin, Governor of North
Carolina, "200 acres in Caswell County, on the waters of County
Line Creek, and adjoining John Windsor, Jeremiah Williamson,



and the said Nathan Williamson" (Ibid, Deed Book "B," p. 140).
From all appearances, one is justified in the conclusion that
Nathan Williamson followed the quiet life of a farmer, while from
his will and the inventory of his estate one learns that he was


quite a successful man for his time, judging from the real and
personal estate of which he was possessed; among the latter a
number of slaves.

Nathan Williamson married Sarah Swift. Mrs. Williamson
was the daughter of William Swift, of Caswell County, a suc-
cessful farmer and sheriff of the County in 1792 and 1793, and
who had gone to Caswell County from Goochland County, Vir-
ginia. William Swift (who died in 1808) was the son of the
Keverend William Swift, a minister of the Church of England,
who resided in Hanover County, Virginia, where he died in 1734.

Nathan and Sarah (Swift) Williamson had issue: George
Williamson; Martha Williamson, who married in 1819, Caswell
Tait; Elizabeth Williamson, who married in 1812, Samuel Smith;
Frances Williamson, who married in 1799, Leonard Prather;
Margaret Williamson, who married in 1808, Roger Simpson;
John Williamson ; Swift Williamson, who married in 1819, Mary
Lea; Mary P. Williamson, who married in 1818, Robert S. Har-
ris; Anthony Williamson, who married, in 1818, Eliza K. Lea;
Thomas Williamson, who married Frances Pannill Banks Farish;
Nathan Williamson, who died unmarried; Sarah C. Williamson,
who married Mr. Moss.

Thomas Williamson (son of Nathan and Sarah (Swift) Wil-
liamson) was born about the year 1782 and died in 1848. He
was an extensive planter and a large merchant. Mr. Williamson,
though frequently urged to enter political life, declined to do so,
owing to a lofty ambition to excel in his business undertakings
and feeling that success could not be obtained by any division of
interests. He achieved marked success in the business world,
amassing a comfortable fortune for the times in which he lived ;
furthermore, winning and holding the respect and friendship of
all with whom he came in contact.

Thomas Williamson (1782-1848) married Frances Pannill
Banks Farish, of Chatham County, North Carolina, daughter of
Thomas and Fannie (Banks) Farish, both of whom were natives
of Virginia and whose ancestors for generations had been promi-
nent in the life of that colony. Mrs. Williamson was descended
from Adam Banks, who appears as a purchaser of land in Staf-
ford County, in 1674; Thomas Pannill of old Rappahannock
County, who died in 1677 ; Samuel Bayly, who resided at an early
day in old Rappahannock County, dying in 1710, in Richmond
County; and, from the Farishes, who settled at an early day in
the Rappahannock Valley. Representatives of all these families
moved from Tidewater to the Piedmont section of Virginia; the


Counties of Orange, Culpeper and Madison becoming their homes,
from whence, later, their descendants removed to Southern Vir-
ginia and to North Carolina.

Thomas and Frances Pannill Banks (Farish) Williamson
had issue : Anthony Swift Williamson ; Emily A. Williamson ;
Mary Elizabeth Williamson; Thomas Farish Williamson, Lynn
Banks Williamson; Virginia Frances Williamson; and James
Nathaniel Williamson.

James Nathaniel Williamson (the last above mentioned
child) was born March 6, 1842 and was therefore but six years
of age at the time of his father's death. His mother, Mrs. Frances
Pannill Banks (Farish) Williamson, was a woman of markedly
strong characteristics, and it was with great earnestness and
enthusiasm that she turned, at the death of her husband, to the
careful training of her young family. Thomas Williamson had
desired that his son, James Nathaniel, should be educated along
the most liberal lines, and to the execution of this plan Mrs. Wil-
liamson devoted great energy.

James Nathaniel Williamson pursued his early studies in
the well known preparatory school of Doctor Alexander Wilson,
at Melville, Alamance County, who said of young Williamson
that he was one of the "best in his classes. 7 ' In 1860 Mr. William-
son entered Davidson College, and at the age of nineteen years he
responded to his native State's call to arms in the war between
the States. He enlisted as member of the First Company raised
in Caswell County Company "A," 13th North Carolina Regi-
ment. Following the fortunes of the Confederacy to the bitter
end, he served in many of the greatest battles of the war and was
twice wounded, receiving his parole at Appomattox as Captain of
Company "F," 38th North Carolina Regiment. Returning at the
close of the war to his home farm, in Caswell County, amidst the
chaos that then reigned, Captain Williamson, with grim determi-
nation, undertook the reconstruction of a shattered fortune.
With a few faithful negroes, who were formerly numbered
among his negro property, he went to work, and it was not long
before order began to emerge from chaos.

Shortly after his return from the war, Captain Williamson
married, on September 5, 1865, Mary Elizabeth Holt, daughter
of Edwin Michael Holt, of Alamance County.

The branch of the Holt family of North Carolina, which re-
sides in Alamance County, is descended from Michael Holt, who
came into the colony at an early day (supposedly from Virginia)
and settled in what was afterwards Orange County, now Ala-
mance. Michael Holt secured a large grant of land from the Earl
of Granville. This land, to which many additions have been
made, from time to time, is now covered by the towns of Graham
and Burlington.


Michael Holt died about 1785. His son, the second Michael
Holt, had been one of the leaders for law and order, opposing the
violent outrages of the Kegulators prior to the Revolution, and
he suffered much in consequence. He was slow in siding against
the King, and, in the early days of the war period, was arrested
and carried to Philadelphia, but was released upon the presenta-
tion of the facts in the case. Though he did not enter the war,
he did a noble part by the Array in providing for its sustenance.
He was the father of five sons and five daughters. A son, Joseph,
by his first wife, Margaret O'Neill, moved to Kentucky. By his
second wife, Jean Lockart, he had four sons and three daughters.
Michael, the sixth of these seven children, was the father of
Edwin Michael Holt. To the genius, industry and indomitable
perseverance of this latter is due the founding of the Holt cotton
mill business in North Carolina.

Edwin M. Holt married Emily Farish and was the father of
ten children, among them Mary Elizabeth Holt, who married
James Nathaniel Williamson.

Mr. Holt's idea (which he shared with preceding genera-
tions) was, that families whose interests were in common,
should remain together, and thus the husbands of his daugh-
ters became identified with the Holt family in its large manufac-
turing interests. In this spirit, Mr. Holt invited Captain Wil-
liamson to unite with him and his four sons in the manufacture
of cotton goods, and Captain Williamson accepted the invitation.

For several years after his marriage Captain Williamson
made his home at Locust Grove in Alamance, but after the erec-
tion, near Graham, in the same County, of the Carolina Mills, in
which he was a partner, he moved to that place, where he still

William Holt Williamson, the subject of this sketch, is the
son of James Nathaniel and Mary Elizabeth (Holt) Williamson,
and was born at Locust Grove, Alamance County, North Caro-
lina, February 4, 1867. He was enrolled, in his seventh year, as
a pupil in the school of the Reverend Archibald Currie, a school
in which many prominent North Carolinians received their early
education. Afterwards, he attended Lynch's Preparatory School,
at High Point, and in 1882, entered Davidson College. He re-
mained in college two years after finishing the sophomore course.
Though quite young to leave college, the inclination to be at
work, and filial affection, developed into an irresistible desire
to be with, and to help, his father, in the cotton mills. After the
great success of the Carolina Cotton Mills, on Haw River, Cap-
tain Williamson had built the Ossipee Cotton Mills in Alamance
County, operating the latter in his own name.

In June, 1884, in the Ossipee establishment, William Holt
Williamson first began work on the very "lowest rung of the


ladder." For some time he worked for but a nominal salary,
which was gradually increased as his work became more effective
and his ability was proved. On January 1, 1888, he was admitted
to partnership in the business with a one-seventh interest. Mr.
Williamson was then of age, and the firm name was changed to
"J. X. Williamson and Son." In 1891, James N. Williamson,
Junior (a brother of William Holt Williamson) was admitted
to membership in the firm, and the former designation of "Son"
became "Sons." Between 1888 and 1892, the firm's business was
highly successful; the colored cotton cloths becoming known
throughout the United States by a constantly increasing trade.

In 1892, William Holt Williamson established The Pilot
Cotton Mills, and began the erection of a plant in Raleigh, which
was finished and placed in operation in 1893. Associated with
him in this undertaking were his father, James N. Williamson,
and his mother, Mrs. Mary E. Williamson, and later, his brother,
James N. Williamson, Junior. In 1907, this business was incor-
porated under the name of the Pilot Cotton Mills Company, with
William H. Williamson as President and Treasurer, James
Nathaniel Williamson, Junior, as Vice-President, and A. V. D.
Smith, as Secretary. The Pilot Cotton Mills Company's plant
contains four hundred and twenty-five looms, about eleven thou-
sand spindles, manufacturing about seven and a half million
yards of cloth annually. The product of the Pilot Mills is known
throughout the United States, while for exportation to the Philip-
pines, South America and the West Indies, other fabrics are man-
ufactured. This mill has maintained a splendid record for
"working time," having operated about six thousand days in the
twenty years up to January 1, 1915, an average of practically
three hundred working days to the year. The enterprises of the
Williamsons and Holts have given an impetus to the commercial
life of the State, the fabrics of which they are manufacturers
being known and used throughout the world.

Mr. Williamson's interests are many and varied. He is
President and Treasurer of The Pilot Cotton Mills, at Raleigh ;
Vice-President of the James N. Williamson and Sons Company,
operating the Ossipee and Hopedale Mills at Burlington ; di-
rector of the Harriet Cotton Mills, at Henderson, and Vice-Presi-
dent and a director of the Merchants National Bank at Raleigh.
His interest in educational matters has led to his accepting mem-
bership on the board of directors of the North Carolina College
of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts of Raleigh. Mr. Williamson
belongs to the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity, and was, at one
time, a member of the Capital Club of Raleigh, and was on its
board of governors. He was also a member of the late Southern
Society of New York. The Raleigh Country Club, of which he
was the President, when the Club was first opened, was built


under Mr. Williamson's supervision, and he is now identified
with it.

Mr. Williamson is a Democrat in politics, though not in sym-
pathy with all of its policies. As the platform of that party,
however, comes nearer than any other towards meeting his poli-
tical views, he has maintained affiliation therewith.

He is an Episcopalian in religion, a vestryman of Christ
Church, Raleigh, and Vice-President of the Church Club of that

In accordance with a request of his employees in the Pilot
Cotton Mills, and that he might fraternize with them, Mr. Wil-
liamson became a member of the Junior Order of the United
American Mechanics.

Mr. Williamson has a winter home in De Land, Florida,
where he goes for much needed rest from business duties. He
greatly enjoys outdoor life, and is a devotee of golf. Hunting and
fishing are also among his pastimes.

William Holt Williamson married, December 1, 1897, Miss
Sadie Saunders Tucker, daughter of Rufus S. and Florence Per-
kins Tucker, of Raleigh, who was born November 28, 1872. Their
children are Sadie Tucker, who died in infancy ; William Holt,
Junior, born December 5, 1903 and Sarah Tucker, born September
13, 1912.

Mr. Williamson has the rare gift of clear and concise ex-
pression, and in no way could the actuating principles of his life
be better described than by using his own words extracted from
a recent statement concerning himself and his business. He
says : "Since I was old enough to think on such subjects, I made
up my mind to adopt a business career, following the work of my
father, a cotton manufacturer. Upon entering upon the labors
and duties connected with that business I endeavored to make
the object of my life and work first, to transact my business by
honest dealings and then to conduct it with a view to the better-
ment of my fellow men, and for the upbuilding of the community
in which I was located.

"I have always endeavored to help my employees by better-
ing their condition, mentally, morally, physically and financially.
In our mill stores we sold only the very best and absolutely pure
groceries, even before the pure food laws were enacted. I have
always believed in paying the best wages possible, also in provid-
ing comfortable homes for the employees, and have aided them
in the beautifying of their yards, encouraged them in their gar-
dening, and have looked to clean surroundings for them and to
the providing of pure drinking water. I felt that after I had
provided honest work, a good, comfortable home and good sur-
roundings in a healthy locality, had given them the best wages
and their children an opportunity to receive an education, I had


practically done my part by them. I might also add that I pro-
vided churches to aid the development of the moral and spiritual
side of their nature.

"The Pilot Mill Village is considered one of the neatest and
most attractive in the State of North Carolina ; the Mill school
one of the best equipped in the country, and there is hearty co-
operation among the teachers, scholars, parents and the manage-
ment of the mill. The school has the best of teachers and has cap-
tured the silver cup for punctuality three years in succession.

"While the prime object in running a business is to make
money, I have always felt that there is something more to be
gotten out of it than mere money and profit. While it must
necessarily make money to be successful, and the money-making
end cannot and must not be ignored, still, while this is being
done, I have felt it to be the duty of all employers to set a good
example to their employees, of thrift, honesty, industry, and
sobriety, and also to let these people know that you feel an in-
terest in them and have their welfare at heart."





THE history of the last fifteen centuries would be incom-
plete if the doings of the Teutonic peoples should be left
out of the record. From the historic day when Herman,
at the head of his German tribe, destroyed the Roman
legions of Barus, down to the present time, the work of men of
Teutonic blood has been one of the dominant features of the
middle ages and modern history, and this statement refers par-
ticularly to the Southern Germans. Saxons who ruled England
from the fourth to the eleventh century were blended with the


people who made incursion into the land from Western Germany.
Central Europe has been dominated by the Teutons for a thou-
sand years. In our own country they have played an important
part. In the early settlement, the Palatines of the Mohawk Val-
ley in New York; of New Bern, North Carolina; of Orangeberg,
South Carolina; of Saulsbury, Georgia; with the Moravians of
Pennsylvania and of North Carolina, and the Dunkards of the
Valley of Virginia, were among the sturdiest of our early pio-
neers. They bore an eminent part in our Revolutionary struggle.
The choleric but soldierly Baron Steuben was of great assistance
to Washington in the training of new recruits. Heroic old De
Kalb, dying at the head of his legion on the disastrous battlefield
of Camden, and equally heroic old Herkimer, at Oriskany, who,
though mortally wounded, calmly resting at the foot of a tree
smoking his pipe, so directed his men that a bloody disaster was
converted into a dearly bought victory, which is recounted in our
annals. Muhlenberg, the fighting preacher, one of Washington's
trusted Generals, and in our later history Carl Schurz, exiled
from his own country for liberty's sake, fought through the Civil
War, and later became a leader as an editor and a statesman.

From this strong stock comes B. L. Umberger, of Concord,
North Carolina, the subject of this sketch. Mr. Umberger was
born at Wytheville, Virginia, December 16, 1872, and is the son
of Colonel Abraham and Elizabeth Martin Umberger. His father
owned the beautiful estate of "Cold Springs" near Wytheville,
which is one of the most beautiful sections of Virginia. He was
a farmer and stock raiser.

The immigrant ancestor of Bascom Leonard Umberger and
of every branch of that family name in America, was Heinrich
(Henry) Umberger, who, with his wife and five children, sailed
from Rotterdam and Cowes, on the ship Hope, Daniel Reid,


44 r.Asro.M I.KONAKD r.Mi:i-:i:<;i-:i:

Master, arriving in Philadelphia, August L'S. 17.".:'. Julian, his
wife, died shortly after their arrival. Hans Leonhart I Leonard)
the oldest son. was horn 1 TIT, ; Miehael. in 1 71 S; .Inlian, daughter,
born 17iM : .lohn. in I'L'.'J, and Klizabeth, in 17-."). His second
wife was Anne .Maria Catherine family name not known. They
settled in Lebanon Township, then Lebanon County, Pennsyl-
vania. In 1717 a wan-ant for two hundred acres of land near
Lebanon was granted to Henry Umberger, and in 1711) another
tract in the same township was granted to him; it was known as
"Cranis Departure." The farm obtained in 1717 became known
as "Umberger Retreat" during the Indian incursions. This
sturdy pioneer was a devout Christian, and with his sons helped
to establish the old Hills Union Church, where several genera-
tions of the family are buried. Leonard, the oldest son, married
Barbara Borst. In his will, two sons, John and Henry, are
named, and four daughters, whose names are not given. He died

in 1766. Michael married Anna Maria - , of Tudehocken,

as shown by the records of Reverend Casper Stover. He evidently
prospered, acquiring estates in several counties, which he deeded
to his several sons : Leonard, Henry, Adam, John, Michael and

In 1776, the people of that section took up arms in defense
of the colonies, and under the command of General Armstrong,
marched to Washington's relief at Trenton. The same troops
later participated in the Battle of Germantown. The Umbergers
were well represented in this command, and after the death of
Michael in 1778, several of his sons entered the army and served
in Captain Holden's and Captain McCullough's Companies. At
the close of the war three of his sons, John, Henry and Philip,
sold out and moved to Virginia, traveling on horseback and in
wagons, locating in Wythe County. The records of that County
show a land grant in 1783, to Henry and his wife, Catherine,
which land, known as "Rose Hill Farm," is now owned bv Pro-

* * t,

fessor F. B. Kegley and Brothers, who are lineal descendants of
Henry. This is one of the best and most beautiful blue grass
farms in Wythe County. In 1794 Henry and his wife signed a
release as the heirs of Henry and John Umberger.

Leonard, the eldest son of Henry, born about 1785, was the
father of six sons and six daughters. The youngest of these sons
was Abraham, who, with his father purchased the "Cold Springs
Farm" about three miles from Wytheville. Abraham was the
father of seven sons : C. W. Umberger, now living in North Caro-
lina ; Professor Crit Umberger, of Grayson College, Texas ; E. H.
Umberger, deceased; Dr. Everett Umberger, deceased; Reverend
Robert Umberger, of West Virginia ; Bascorn Leonard Umberger,
the subject of this sketch, and Heber Umberger, a banker of Poca-
hontas, Virginia. Of Abraham's daughters, only two are now


living: Mrs. W. B. Peters of Emory, Virginia, and Mrs. Neta
Umberger Grews, wife of Walter Harlow Grews, D.D., Columbia,
South Carolina, President and Founder of The American Luth-
eran Survey, the most widely read magazine in America, pub-
lished by Lutherans.

Captain David Umberger, of Lisbun, Cumberland County,
Pennsylvania, was in the war of 1812. He married Dorothy
Maish, daughter of George Maish. Their oldest daughter, Mary,
married Edward Miller, who was the grandfather of John R.
Miller, Esquire, a leading lawyer of Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Captain David Umberger was the son of Captain John Umberger
of Paxtang Township, Dauphin County, who also was a soldier
of 1812. His father was Adam, the son of Michael, who was also
the father of John, Henry and Philip, who removed to Virginia
as above stated.

The line of descent for the Virginia Umbergers, therefore, is
Henry, the immigrant, his son Michael; Henry, son of Michael;
Leonard, son of Henry; Abraham, son of Leonard, and Bascom
Leonard, son of Abraham. Mr. Uinberger's mother was the
widow of Banks King, of Giles County, when his father married
her. The three King children were raised and educated with the
Umberger family. 'Doctor Everett W. LTmberger married Etta
King; T. B. King is a prosperous farmer on the Banks King
estate in Giles County, with land interests in other counties,
while the youngest son, Charles Banks King, D.D., married Annie
Watts, of Baltimore, and founded Elizabeth College for Women
in Charlotte, North Carolina, which he owns and conducts.

Bascom Leonard Umberger was the youngest child but one
of a large double family. While still quite small his parents died
and he was reared by a brother, Doctor Everett W. Umberger.
An invalid from childhood and a constant sufferer, he was yet of
such a sunny disposition as to acquire the pet name of "Whistles,"
which follows him down to this day. He had a natural love for
learning, and he entered the Virginia Polytechnic Institute in
1892, with a capital of $37.00. It was about this time, when he
was about sixteen years of age, that he w^as employed by B. F.
Johnson of Richmond, Virginia, as a solicitor. By dint of hard
work and rigid economy he was able to pay for three years'
schooling, notwithstanding the period of financial stress which
for four years followed 1892, although he was for a larger part
of the time on crutches.

Leaving the college he became a commercial traveler, travel-
ing four years over the United States and filling every kind of a
position in and out of the office, from a house-to-house salesman
to a sales manager of the entire field forces. Determined to get
forward, he retained the good habits that had always been his,
and practiced an economy which enabled him in these four years
to accumulate a little capital.

i .MI:I:U<;KU

In November, l^'.i'.i. lie married ;it ( 'oncord. Noriii < 'a rolina,
Jennie Ludwig, born May. ISHI, dan-liter <!' Wiley and Mary
Winecoil' Ludwig. Their children arc: Wiley Ludwig I'mberger,
born May 1'.". r.Mll ; Hasconi Leonard rniberger, Jr., born Feb-

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 3 of 48)