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Dee Burris Blakley ([personal profile] dee_burris) wrote2010-12-08 19:36

The guy who couldn't win for losing...

As I have researched the people in my family tree, my heart has gone out to quite a few of them. But probably none more so than David Andrew Williams.

I am not even related to him by blood. He was the second (and final) husband of my g-g-grandmother, Mary C Dunn.

I'm not going to pretend David was an angel. There's a fair amount of evidence that he wasn't.

But whether you call it fate, destiny, karma, or just plain bad luck, it seems to me that the deck was stacked against him. I have to wonder how much of it came from Momma, since my impression of her (*not* confirmed by anyone or any document) was that she was an iron willed woman who ran roughshod over anyone she could, and wrote her own version of family history to suit her own sense of self-righteous importance.

David was born in Hardin County, TN to Wright Williams and Lucinda H Clem on 28 Sep 1845. He was the middle kid of three, having an older brother, William H, and younger sister, Lucinda, who was born on 24 Apr 1847.

His dad died in 1847 - I don't know whether it was before or after Lucinda Jr was born. But Lucinda Sr did not remain a widow for long.

In 1848, she hitched her wagon to Lorenzo Hitchcock, a self-made man and a widower 23 years her senior. By 1860, they moved to Clark County, AR from Hardin County, TN., and Lorenzo continued his trade of metal work, employing his wife's oldest son in his shop. Several of Lucinda's family members, including her parents and younger brother, James Mason Clem, lived in nearby Hot Spring County.

By 1870, the clan moved to Arkadelphia, the largest town in and county seat of Clark County. Additionally, provision was made for Lucinda's sons to also have homes, conveniently located next door to Momma and step-dad, as both William and David were married.

It was not David Andrew Williams' first marriage.


On 24 Apr 1865, tragedy struck Lucinda Hitchcock's extended family, as it had so many other families of the era. Her brother, James Mason Clem, died of disease at the end of his Civil War service in Little Rock, Pulaski County, AR. He left a widow, Delilah (Gibbs) Clem, and at least four minor children. (James and Delilah had eight children together before his death.)

Obviously, Lucinda's widowed sister-in-law needed some help. Now who would be a suitable husband for her?

Enter David Andrew Williams.

In 1867, 22 year-old David Andrew Williams married his maternal aunt, 42 year-old Delilah (Gibbs) Clem, and became an instant father to his cousins, the oldest of whom was two years younger than he was.

I am not customarily a person who gets squicky about the family tree stuff. I blithely enter all those marriages of cousins, usually muttering under my breath the reminder that in those days, statistics showed people rarely married people farther than a five mile radius from home, and that was likely to be kin.

But this one just had ick written all over it for me.

And it may well have for David, too. He and Aunt Delilah were married long enough for her to bear him a son, William Wright Clem Williams, born 16 Dec 1867 in Hot Spring County, AR.

She sued him for divorce in Hot Spring County Court, which was granted 11 Mar 1869, on the grounds of "violence and drunkenness." Delilah had custody of their son.

I don't know about violence, but I think I mighta gotten drunk, too.

Why do I see Momma's hand in this, from the marriage all the way to the name of the grandchild?


Violence and drunkenness aside, it was a really fast courtship for David and wife #2, Martha L Dunn. She and David married on 27 Jun 1869 in Clark County, and by the June 1870 census, they had a one year-old daughter, Marietta Williams.

That was a weird census to puzzle through. Aside from David and his brother William living in the two houses next to their mother, the census showed David and William living together, and their wives, Martha and Sallie, living next to them with Marietta.

I finally got some help from one of David's direct descendants.

Martha Williams had consumption. She may have been quarantined in one of the houses, with Sallie Williams going back and forth.

Martha Dunn Williams died on 2 Nov 1876 of tuberculosis. Marietta either escaped the illness, or was treated successfully.

In any event, David Andrew Williams was now a widower with a six year-old daughter.


I don't know how David met my g-g-grandmother. All the records show that they lived in two different townships, and had two completely different lifestyles.

Mary Callaway was Baptist, David's family was Methodist. Mary was country - David was a city boy. (In the 1870 census, he did say he was a farmer, which was another oddity...I cannot figure out where in Arkadelphia *town* he was doing any farming.)

They did have one thing in common. Each of them had been widowed - David in 1876, and Mary in 1877 - and each had a young daughter.

They married on 13 Jul 1878 in Clark County. The 1880 census shows them living in Greenville Township in Clark County, and David is a famer. Both their daughters, Marietta Williams and Julia Ann Callaway, are listed in the household, as well as a 17 year-old farmhand named Cicero Smith.

They added two sons to their family - Ruben Ned Williams, born 14 Nov 1881, and William Andrew Williams, born 13 Nov 1882.

It looked like things were turning around for David Andrew Williams.


In 1884, David was slowly struck with some sort of creeping paralysis. According to his obituary, it began in his hands.

Reading the obit, it sounds to me like polio. But apparently, no one else got it. Maybe ALS?

Here is the obituary, published in the Southern Standard on 10 Feb 1888.

Williams, David Andrew, was born in Hardin Co. Tenn. Sept 28,1845. He was married to Mary C. Callaway July 13, 1878. His affliction was paralysis. In 1884 it began in his hands and gradually diffused itself through his whole system. His long affliction and the peculiarity of his case might have been much profit to the medical fraternity had it watched the stages of his disease. His affliction was four years and five months standing. His flesh all virtually perished away. The last two years of his illness he was entirely helpless. In the year 1855 he professed religion and joined the Methodist Church, and died in peace January 23, 1888 aged 43 years, 4 months and 15 days. He was the son of Mrs. Lucinda Hitchcock.

Okay, say I am perseverating, but I see Momma in this one, too.

Where is any mention of his kids? Or his step-daughter, who lived in the home until her marriage in 1891?

He had *four* kids, all living at the time of his death.

His wife gets a mention, but his mother wraps it up.

And...his mother carted his earthly remains over two townships to bury him in the Methodist cemetery, rather than lay him to rest 1/2 mile down the road from his home, where his widow and one of his sons, along with grandchildren, later would be buried.

In those days, traveling that distance for a burial wasn't easy.


My g-g-grandmother was 39 and a widow for the second time. She died 41 years later, still the widow of David Andrew Williams.

Maybe she didn't want to risk becoming a widow again.

Or maybe, she didn't want to risk another mother-in-law from hell...


Looking forward to meeting you on the other side, David.

[identity profile] nolichuckyroots.blogspot.com (from livejournal.com) 2010-12-10 21:15 (UTC)(link)
Funny how some things just don't read right. One might miss the missing children in the obituary were the antennae not already up.

You've reminded me about a cousin of mine who married a widow twice his age. Gotta revisit him. I thought of him as a bit of a gold digger (and of her as pretty lucky) but there could be another way to look at it.

[identity profile] chipmunk-planet.livejournal.com 2010-12-13 15:32 (UTC)(link)
That mother sounds like a terror!