William Riley Williams
Eliza Ross Bowlin Williams

by Beth Davidson Syler
October 22, 1999

William Riley (W. R.) Williams
born May 23, 1824
died Mar. 12, 1886
bu. Clear Creek Cemetery, west of Lancing, Morgan County, TN
Morgan County Register of Deeds
First Clerk of Clear Creek Baptist Church, west of Lancing, TN
in Mexican War (lost an eye in this War)
Wm. Riley Williams was the son of
John Williams
born 1803
died Apr. 27, 1865
bu. Clear Creek Cemetery
John Williams was the son of
Mathias Williams
(possibly of Welsh descent)
born Nov. 14, 1755 (Cumberland Co., VA)
in Revolutionary War at York Town (see Pension Application)
Lived in Campbell Co., Va, Anderson Co. TN, and Morgan Co., TN
Eliza Ross/Bolin/Bowlen (Mrs. W. R.) Williams
(half blood Cherokee)
born Oct. 17, 1825, Kingston, Roane County, TN
died Dec. 22, 1905, Lancing, Morgan County, TN
bu. Clear Creek Cemetery, west of Lancing, Morgan County, TN
said to be the daughter of
John Ross
(1/8 Cherokee Indian)
former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation
and _?_ Bowlen/Bolin/Bolen
(full blood Cherokee woman from NC Reservation)
John Ross was the son of
Daniel Ross
(a Scotch trader)
and Mollie McDonald
(1/4 Cherokee Indian)
Mollie McDonald was the daughter of
John McDonald
(b. apx. 1746 or 47)
(of the Clan McDonald of Inverness, Scotland)
and Anne Shorey
(1/2 Cherokee)
Descendant of Prominent Cherokees


William Riley Williams married Eliza Ross Bowlin  January 1, 1850. (See PHOTOS) W. R. and Eliza raised a family of seven children at what was later known as "the Old Williams Place."   Here they lived in a two-story farm house near Island Ford, west of Lancing, Tennessee. About three months before his marriage, William Riley (W.R.) had been converted into the Christian faith. When Clear Creek Baptist Church was founded on August 30, 1852, he served as the first clerk (there is no record that Eliza ever joined this church).

Eliza’s Ancestors
Eliza was a half blood Cherokee, who was born October 17, 1825 in Kingston, Roane County, Tennessee. It has passed down through the family that her mother was a full blood Cherokee by the last name of Bolin, Bowlen or Bolen, who once lived on the Indian Reservation in North Carolina; and that her father was John Ross, the one-eighth blood Cherokee Chief who lead his people west on the Trail of Tears. Although Chief Ross did attend school south of Kingston (the town listed as Eliza’s birthplace), and even though he and his brother were clerks at a store in Kingston near the time of Eliza’s birth, no mention of Eliza or her mother have been found to date in the records of John Ross. Ross H. Williams, Sr. (deceased), said that he was named "Ross" after John Ross, whom he believed and was taught by his family to believe was the father of his Grandmother Eliza.

W. R.’s Ancestors
William Riley Williams’ father was John Williams (1803--4/27/1865), whose father was Mathias Williams (born 11/14/1755 in Cumberland County, VA; died __?__ probably in Morgan County, TN). Mathias was in the siege at Yorktown until Cornwallis surrendered, according to his pension application.

Mexican War
Ross Williams, Sr., in a conversation with Morgan T. Davidson, said of his Grandfather William Riley Williams that W. R. took his cattle on a boat from Kingston to Chattanooga, Tennessee to sell. This was when he met Eliza (in Kingston) when she was 16 or 17 years old.  He is said to have met her when someone dared him to do so.  W.R. lost an eye in the Mexican War, according to Ross, who said that Eliza drew a pension of eight dollars per month.

Effie Arena Williams (Mrs. Arthur) Davidson, who was W. R.’s granddaughter, daughter of Newt (and mother of the writer of this article), gave directions to W. R. and Eliza’s place from Hwy. 62 about 5 miles west of Lancing, TN, "turn left off [what is now Island Ford Road] across from Ray Melton’s old place, toward a quarry, back toward the bluff (a pretty big house)...about 7 miles from Lancing." The house was across a field from and in sight of the home of William Riley and Eliza’s daughter, Minerva (Aunt Nerv) and her husband Anton Geier (pronounced Gar).

Eliza’s Death
Uncle Anton and Aunt Nerv reportedly talked about how W. R. just sat and watched as Eliza drove her hay wagon back from the field, got off the wagon to open the gate, climbed back on to drive it through the gate, and repeated all this to close the gate (it was not mentioned whether this may have been upon her insistence because of the way she was raised). Uncle Anton and Aunt Nerv kept an eye on Eliza after W.R. died (she would have been 60 years old when he died). They would watch as she went from her home to the barn every morning and night to milk the cows. One night whenhad not returned after a longer than usual time, they went to check on her and found her dead; she had fallen over and was lying in a manger. She was 80 years old.

Their Children’s School and Recreation
Effie (mentioned above) listed the children of W.R. & Eliza Williams as: Mark, Newton Alvin (Newt), Lilburn, Louise, Molena, Flora, and Minerva.  Effie said that all of these children attended Mt. Harr (Harrow?) School (also called Mt. Horror by some of the students). Newt would later teach at this school. Mount Harr was located about 1 1/2 - 2 miles from the Williams home, on a road that ran from Old Montgomery (the first county seat) to Deer Lodge. Effie said this area (around Old Montgomery and Mt. Harr) was called the Upper Settlement, and that at Old Montgomery which was near Mt. Harr School, "there was an old inn, jail house, [and] courthouse." (the Lower Settlement was around Cliff Springs, two miles or so west of Lancing, where Newt’s children went to church and school, down to where they lived near the forks of Obed River and Clear Creek, and also extended across to the opposite side of Ridge Road from Cliff Springs, possibly including Clear Creek Church, and down to the Lilly Bridge region). Effie’s husband, Arthur Davidson, who lived less than 1/2 mile from this school, said that the Pony Express once ran on this road. About a quarter of a mile beyond the School, toward Deer Lodge, and probably on the same road, was Osage Church, which was later located closer to Deer Lodge.  Effie said her father Newt talked about how he and his brothers "hunted and fished as there was plenty of game at that time--deer, bear, turkey--used an old hog rifle, which was still in his [Newt’s] possession shortly before his death. He used it in later years to kill sheep, hogs and turkeys that had once been tame and had gone wild. I, Effie, remember running bullets for him. From what ...he [Newt] told us, he and his brother, Mark, had quite a time swimming, etc.. At the age of 18 [Newt] started teaching school. He taught about 20 years."

Mark Williams
One of W. R. and Eliza Williams’s children, Agee Demarcus (Mark) Williams, Ross Williams, Sr.’s father, was killed on the railroad tracks in Lancing, TN, when (according to Arthur Davidson) a train scared Mark’s horse, and it ran onto the tracks and was hit by the train. When this happened, the wagon overturned on top of Mark and killed him.

Newt Williams
One of William Riley and Eliza Williams’s sons was Newton Alvin (Newt/N.A.) Williams (3/18/1859--6/17/1932). Newt (called "Poppy" by his children) was Morgan County Surveyor, postmaster (at his home near Lancing--then Kismet), county register of deeds, nurseryman (fruit trees, etc.), real estate agent for a bank in Kentucky, and school teacher at Mt. Harr School, Lancing School and perhaps others. There was a school in Morgan County by the name "Newt Williams School." He also "taught a singing school." Newt did not attend church that much but would sing (bass) with his children and as he got older, loved to have Effie read to him from the Book of Mark (or Luke?). Newt was also a farmer and widowed father of six children (there were also twin girls who died a few hours after birth). His His wife, Cordelia Howard, daughter of Solomon Howard, who was born March 13, 1897, died January 16, 1913, when he daughter, Effie, was only seven years old. The children helped out by dividing the duties at home. Gertie was in charge of cooking and would come home early from school to cook supper for the family (this information from Gertie’s daughter Kathleen Melton Byrd); Flora helped Gertie with the cooking and cleaning. Effie worked in the field with her father and her brothers Arthur, Otto, and Clyde, and her half-brother Walter. Effie also typed her father’s correspondence and deeds. Effie said he would dictate as he paced the floor while she typed on the old Underwood. Newt died on the kitchen table during surgery performed by Dr. Sam H. Jones of Sunbright and his son who was "learning to be a doctor." This was at Newt’s home near Lancing, above the forks of Obed River and Clear Creek. His death certificate lists nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys) as the cause of death, and arterio sclerosis (hardening of the arteries) as a contributing factor. He was 73 when he died. He was buried in Clear Creek Cemetery. Newt’s children were: Walter Norman, Arthur Demarcus, Otto Ren, Gertrude (Gertie) Mae, (md. Dewey Melton), Effie Arena (Md. Arthur Davidson), Flora Ann (Md. Ethel White), and Clyde Lilburn.

Written and submitted by Beth Davidson Syler


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