Saturday, August 29, 2009

Calvin's Brand

Calvin Williams came to Seguin on a fine horse, which he traded in 1878 for a piece of property that became the Williams homestead in Seguin. Tax records state that for the rest of his life he was never assessed local taxes on any property, other than his homestead. This would indicate that he never again was able to acquire taxable property. Curious, because he registered a brand with the County, which meant that he must have owned some livestock, perhaps out of view of the tax man. Calvin's registered livestock brand and ear marks are near the bottom of the photo.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Slave Transactions of Guadalupe County, Texas

The book mentioned in the previous post, Slave Transactions of Guadalupe County, Texas was published last week, and I was excited to have a few copies come in the mail. My research didn't uncover any of Joe Williams' slave ancestors, but it did help me understand the difficult environment that shaped the lives of his grandmother, Fanny and his mother, Lettie. If you are interested in learning about the Guadalupe County slave trade and the 1,500 slaves that are mentioned in the book you can order it through Janaway Publishing (, or you can contact me directly.

In my ongoing search for Fanny Williams, I will travel soon to Panola County, Mississippi. That is the last place of residence for Fanny's slave master, W.R. Elam before he migrated to Texas with his slaves. I will search there for any slave transactions that include Fanny and her children. I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Guadalupe County Slave Trade

My search for Fanny Elam, Joe Williams's grandmother has resulted in a book that will be published next month called Slave Transactions of Guadalupe County, Texas. I was able to locate from County records over 400 slave transactions, including bills of sale, slave mortgages, slave registers and probate records. These records include the names of about 1,500 slaves from Guadalupe County, and about 600 slave owners. Unfortunately, Fanny Elam was not among those found, nevertheless I hope the information will be valuable to others. The photo is Guadalupe County's second courthouse, built in 1857 by Ezra Keyser with slave labor, and where slave auctions were held on the first Tuesday of the month. I was surprised at the extent of the slave trade in this part of Texas, and have gained a new appreciation for what the slaves contributed to the local community, and of course for what they endured in the process. Although I did not find Fanny Elam, it helps me understand Joe Williams's background a little better. (Photo courtesy of the Seguin Heritage Museum.)

The book's publisher is Janaway Publishing. If interested, they can be contacted at 1-888-219-7932. Some folks in Seguin are doing a group order to save on shipping. Please let me know if you want to be included. Thanks.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fanny Williams

Joe's grandmother Fanny was a slave who probably spent much of her life in Seguin. I have been searching through deed and probate records at the courthouse trying to locate her. Census records indicate that she was born in Tennessee around 1840. I found several Guadalupe County slave transactions involving women named Fanny, including three transactions of young girls named Fanny being purchased, three transactions in which slaves named Fanny are mortgaged by their owners, and five probated estates with slaves named Fanny. Unfortunately, none fit the age for Fanny Williams.

One of the nearest matches was a young woman named Fanny listed in the inventory of the estate of Joel Newton. Newton died in 1856. The inventory of his estate is reproduced in the photo above, and you can see a 12 year old Fanny second from the bottom. Fanny was hired out by the estate administrator at $5 per month while the estate was in probate. Joel Newton's widow, Mary Newton, was eventually given possession of Fanny and two other slaves from her husband's estate.

Since Fanny's marriage license with Calvin Williams lists her maiden name as Elam, I think it is more likely that she was a slave of W.R. Elam who owned a farm near Cibolo Creek in Guadalupe County, as well as 5-10 slaves from 1857 to 1865. I have not been able to locate any slave transactions related to the Elam family, and only one slave name. In 1855 a 14 year old slave of the Elam's named Lucy was killed in an Indian raid as she was carrying water from Lipan Creek to nearby field hands. This account is related by A.J. Sowell in his fascinating book Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Jacob & Pattie Ray

Jacob Ray served in the 38th & 24th Infantry with Calvin Williams and William Ball, and like them he also settled in Seguin after his discharge. He became a successful barber, and in the late 1880s was commissioned by the State of Texas as Captain of a local militia called the Ireland Rifles. The Ireland Rifles assisted the County sheriff, and on at least two occassions protected prisoners against mob violence. I estimate that this photo was taken around the time of his service in the Ireland Rifles.

Sometimes I wonder what influence Jacob Ray might have had on Joe Williams. Joe said once that at an early age someone gave him a baseball and he carried it with him wherever he went and even slept with it under his pillow. Maybe that someone was Calvin, or maybe it was Jacob Ray -- they were both at Ft. McKavett when baseball was played there around 1870.

I have known Johnnie Bean for years -- even attended "Smokey" Joe's induction in Cooperstown with him in 1999 -- but only recently did I learn that he was the great grandson of Jacob and Pattie Ray. He was kind enough to share this amazing photo with me. Thank you Mr. Bean!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

"Smokey" Joe Williams Scholarship Winners for 2008

Brandy Canion and Bradley Reiley are the latest recipients of the "Smokey" Joe Williams Scholarship. Both seniors are scholar-athletes at Seguin High School. Bradley played varsity football and pitched for the baseball team. Brandy played varsity softball, volleyball and was a cheerleader. Both were involved in FFA activities and both plan to attend Texas A&M University. Congratulations to these two hard-working students who embody the championship spirit of Joe Williams!

The first "Smokey" Joe Williams Scholarship awarded in 2000 was for $500. Thanks to the support of the Seguin community and the City of Seguin, the Scholarship award has grown to $4,000. To date, 17 "Smokey" Joe Williams Scholarships have been awarded.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Settling in Seguin

Calvin Williams completed his Army service in April 1870, and headed east from Ft. McKavett about 200 miles to live in Seguin, Texas. He remained there the rest of his life. Why he chose Seguin is still a mystery, but he was not alone. At least two of his fellow soldiers, W.B. Ball and Jacob Ray, also chose to settle in Seguin. W.B. Ball became a highly respected educator and religious leader, pastoring the Second Baptist Church for many years. No doubt Rev. Ball was responsible for Joe Williams' early education and his religious upbringing. Jacob Ray became a successful barber and businessman, and was commissioned by the Governor as Captain of a local militia group called the Ireland Rifles.

Within just a few weeks of his arrival in Seguin, Calvin met and married Fanny Elam. She already had two young daughters, Delia and Lettie (Joe's mother). The marriage license above is at the Guadalupe County Courthouse in Seguin. I enjoy doing research there -- the County Clerk's office has an amazing number of historical records that are well organized, and a very friendly, helpful staff.