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.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Fergie Jenkins & Juan Marichal

We had a great time at the "Smokey" Joe Williams Banquet. We were fortunate to have two Hall of Fame pitchers, and two great storytellers in Fergie Jenkins and Juan Marichal. Both arrived early and we were able to spend most of the week with them. They were very giving of their time -- spending an afternoon talking to kids at our alternative high school, and autographing for youngsters one evening at our local little league games.

The photo is from the Banquet. It is a live auction of jerseys autographed by our two ballplayers. As you can see, they had as much fun as we did. The jerseys were donated by the Fergie Jenkins Foundation, which also committed to a yearly donation to the "Smokey" Joe Williams Scholarship. Thanks to the Foundation, and to all of those who support the Scholarship!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Breaking News!

The ninth "Smokey" Joe Williams Scholarship Banquet is the evening of April 3, and features two Hall of Fame pitchers: Juan Marichal and Fergie Jenkins. The "Smokey" Joe Williams Scholarship was established in 2000, and so far 15 student-athletes from Williams' hometown have been the beneficiaries. The Banquet is a great place to meet living legends and hear their baseball stories. (And of course get some autographs.) In the past we've had Buck O'Neil, Monte Irvin, John "Mule" Miles, "Mudcat" Grant, Red Moore and others as speakers. Come and join us for a great evening! You can email me for tickets, or call 830-401-2302. I hope to see you there!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fort McKavett, Texas

In 1869 the 38th Infantry was eliminated and Calvin Williams was transferred to the 24th Infantry, headquartered at Ft. McKavett, Texas, which was under the command of Col. Ranald Mackenzie. Today Fort McKavett is a beautifully restored frontier fort situated on a hilltop about 150 miles west of San Antonio. Calvin and his company arrived there on foot in the fall of 1869, and he was stationed there until his honorable discharge on April 10, 1870.

The soldiers at Ft. McKavett protected settlers, stage lines, supply trains and survey crews from attacks by Indians and outlaws. One of Calvin's army buddies, W.B. Ball, was injured in such an attack. The first African-American to earn the Medal of Honor after the Civil War was Sgt. Emanuel Stance, stationed at Ft. McKavett with Calvin.

If you are in the area, I highly recommend a drive to Ft. McKavett. It is beautiful country, and the Fort gives a real sense of what life was like for Calvin and other soldiers of the Old West.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

In June 1867, Calvin Williams marched from Ft. Harker, Kansas to Ft. Selden, New Mexico. Five months later he was detached to Ft. Craig, New Mexico, where he was stationed for the next two years.

The photo is of Ft. Craig, taken in 1867, around the time of Calvin's service there. Note the cannon in the lower right hand corner. Much of the soldiers' time was spent making repairs to the Fort, including planting the trees seen in the foreground.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Preparing for Guard Duty

This is a rare photo, and the only photo of the 38th Infantry that I have seen. It shows the troops preparing for guard duty in the background. They are in Nebraska protecting railroad workers. Two of these workers can be seen kneeling in front of the tent. Joe William's grandfather Calvin Williams was in the 38th Infantry, but I don't know if he is one of the soldiers in the photo.

I think there is an interesting similarity between this photo of Calvin's Army unit and some of Joe's team photos, like this one from the 1930 Homestead Grays.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Buffalo Soldier

After the Civil War, Calvin Williams worked as a hired hand on a farm in Tennessee for about a year, then re-enlisted in the Army. This is his enlistment paper into the 38th Infantry. Note the brief physical description at the bottom of the paper. (Click on image to enlarge.)

From Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, Calvin and his Company marched west through Nebraska and eventually southwest to Ft. Craig, New Mexico. W.B. Ball, an army buddy of Calvin's, wrote years later that during the long march 2-3 men died each day from dysentery. Not much is known about the 38th Infantry -- apparently many of their records were lost or destroyed -- but we do know that Calvin was stationed for two years at Ft. Craig before being transferred to Texas in 1870.

I enjoy reading and handling old documents like this one, and am amazed (and grateful) that many former slaves who joined the U.S. Army, like Calvin, have such a rich documentary record of their lives in our National Archives.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Rest, soldier, rest

A few years ago we found Calvin's grave at Riverside Cemetery in Seguin. In death African-Americans were segregated away from the more spacious "whites only" section of the Cemetery. I guess old cemeteries like Riverside are a still visible reminder of our Jim Crow era.

We had trouble reading the inscription at first but finally made it out: "Rest, soldier, rest, thy warefare's o're." On the right hand side there is a faint carving of a rose. I wondered how long it had been since someone had visited Calvin's grave.

I did some research and found that this inscription was popular for veterans' headstones during this era. Shortly afterwards, I was browsing and found Calvin listed in an index of Union Civil War veterans. I sent off for his Civil War pension papers from the National Archives. From this treasure trove of information I learned that after Calvin gained his freedom in Richnond, VA he joined the Union Army in April 1865. He served in Company G of the 40th Regiment of the U.S. Colored Troops. This regiment of about 400 men provided guard duty for rail lines in Eastern Tennessee. He was mustered out of the Army in Chattanooga one year later, with a bonus of $100, less $8.08 for the cost of his uniform.