The Father Of Samuel Williams Spied Out One Of The Most Beautiful Vistas In The South (2nd In A Series)

Friday, February 15, 2019 - by John Wilson
George W. Williams picked beautiful spot for his homeplace on the river surrounded by mountains. The home was just opposite the south tip of the large island that later was known as Williams Island.
George W. Williams picked beautiful spot for his homeplace on the river surrounded by mountains. The home was just opposite the south tip of the large island that later was known as Williams Island.

It was the father of Samuel Williams who spied out one of the most beautiful vistas in the South on the Tennessee River near the future Chattanooga.

As spelled out in the old Williams lawsuit that was found last March, George Washington Williams had come first to Hamilton County from the pleasant narrow valley at Paint Rock, Ala. He had left some of his grown children, including Samuel, behind. Paint Rock is near Scottsboro in Jackson County. 

Temperance "Tempie" Kyle Williams, who was the wife of G.W. and the mother of Samuel, had died in 1824.

G.W. Williams was born in North Carolina on Feb. 1, 1787. He was the son of another Samuel, who lived from 1738 to 1788 and served in the Revolution. His wife was Hannah Isbell. That Samuel was the son of George, who lived from 1710 to 1758, and Priscilla Thomas. He was the son of Samuel, who lived from 1680 to 1748, and was the son of Roger Williams, who was born in 1619 in England, and married Mary of Surry County, Va.

George W. Williams had moved to Bedford County, Tn., and met and married Tempie there. Most of the children were born at Paint Rock. Hannah was born in 1805, Samuel in 1807, G.W. Jr. in 1809, and Polly in 1813. The youngest sons were Silas and Jesse. Since most of his family was still in Paint Rock, G.W. Williams Sr. was back and forth between there and his new home. It was a trip of around 85 miles by horseback. 

It was said that George W. Williams Sr. "was nearly illiterate, not even knowing his English alphabet." But he had an excellent eye for good land. In Hamilton County, he was able to acquire a site where the Tennessee River takes one of its many turns - this one going into the then-fearsome Grand Canyon of the Tennessee River. 

It overlooked what was then called Brown's Island for John Brown, a storied character who had occupied his substantial two-story log cabin in Lookout Valley since 1803 and who operated a ferry across the river just downstream from his island. Lookout Mountain was straight ahead also, and there were other mountains all around. His home, the log Brown's Tavern, still stands in Lookout Valley, but it has an uncertain future after the property was sold to a developer. 

This property, that grew to include 531 and 3/4 acres, was always referred to as the home place. G.W. Williams built a two-story frame home there that faced the island and Lookout Mountain.

It was just a few miles from Ross's Landing, but that was still Indian territory.

The home place was acquired from the family of Richard Waterhouse, an early speculator who had floated down the river from Knoxville when he heard of the impending land opportunities. His acquisitions included a grant along the river that was one acre wide and 220 acres long.The price was $2.20 or a penny an acre.

The Williams papers include the original grant that went to Richard G. Waterhouse and his heirs in 1823. William Carroll, governor of the state of Tennessee, had his seal affixed at Murfreesborough. March 12, 1823. Daniel Graham was secretary. It was recorded in the register's office of West Tennessee. April 4, 1823. Brice F. Martin deputy register. It was recorded in the Hamilton County. Register's Office on May 13, 1825.   

The papers include the July 30, 1830, deed from Richard Waterhouse, Blackston Waterhouse was the executor of R.G. Waterhouse dec. Witnesses were James Smith and William Stringer. Asahel Rawlings was the clerk.

A document said George W. Williams "has title to the within tract of land. William Carroll governor. Sam A. Smith secretary, D.P. Armstrong register of E.L. Nov. 9, 1832. This was the grant recorded in my office. The Grant. State of Tennessee No. 17.518. In consideration of an entry made in the Entry Takers Office of Hamilton County of No.40. Dated the 24th day of January 1831 by George W. Williams."

There was also Grant 17.520. Entry made at the Entry Takers Office of Hamilton County of No. 35. Dated the 30th day of -- 1831. 250 acres on the banks of the Tennessee beginning on a sycamore tree at or near the Tumbling Shoals, then up the Tennessee River as meandered south. . . to two walnuts. Kelly's Turnpike Road and cross to Richard G. Waterhouse Tumbling Shoals tract (now belonging to George W. Williams), crossing the road to a white oak on the Waterhouse line, to a white oak to a black oak crossing the road. Containing 50 acres more or less, which tract was entered in the entry taker's office in Hamilton County under the names of William H. Stringer and Joshua Johnson Jan. 4, 1825. Conveyed by deed from Stringer to James Cunningham Sept. 8, 1829, and by Cunningham to Josiah Lusk Jan. 7, 1833. Sold to George W. Williams March 5, 1834. Witnesses Daniel Sivley and Cornelius Milliken. 

The Williams papers also include a deed from Sept. 16, 1831, detailing a sale to George W. Williams of 63 acres "on the side of Wallens Ridge." It was at "the corner of land that George W. Williams purchased of R.J. Waterhouse. To a 50-acre entry made by Stringer and Johnson. To an entry made by James Cunningham. To a bluff."  William Carroll was governor of the state of Tennessee at the time. Affixed to the deed was the great seal of the state. This was "on the 20th of August in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred And Thirty Two - and of American Independence the fifty seventh."

Another deed that is included in the papers told of property "lying in the Third District of Hamilton County. On the north side of the Tennessee River adjoining David Fields' reservation. Beginning at a white oak, to a box elder on the river bank, thence down the river. To a stake on the river, to two black walnuts on the riverbank, to Joseph Keeny's, to a large Spanish oak marked B at the foot of the mountain. To a black oak, to a post oak, to a stake at Fields' reservation."  

In a time when surveying was not so precise, another deed of the time referred to the place "where Hugh Cunningham drowned in the river."

The deeds also outline who were some of the Williams neighbors at this early date. In the papers is a "list of district returned by Cornelius Milliken Esq. for 1834." This would make it one of the earliest county tax lists yet found. Alas, it was one of the papers that wound up in the dumpster and a number of the names cannot be read.

Those that can be made out are David Bunch, Thomas Canning, John Fryar, John Ford, William Ford, Joseph Ford, Jeremiah Fryar, Robert Freeman, John Howith, William Holman, Jesse Hartman, Dickison Jennings, John B. Inlow, James Keeny, William H. Lusk, Josiah Lusk, Ivy Lawson, Lewis Montgomery, James Moss, William Perrell, Elisha Rogers, Alfred M. Rogers, John Rogers, James Rogers, Henry Rogers, Daniel Sivley, Absalom Sivley, John Starling..... George Williams, Samuel Williams, David Walling. 

Meanwhile, Samuel Williams had married and he began having children at Paint Rock. His wife was Rebecca Davis, daughter of William and Tiny Berry Davis of Paint Rock.

However, his brother, George W. Jr., moved up to live with his father across the line in Tennessee. It was said, "The father was very infirm in health. He had no slaves and little personal property. He had two older children and two younger sons and a married daughter. George W. Jr. had been taught to write and instructed a little in the elementary branch of learning. He manifested some capacity to trading to advantage. Having confidence in the fidelity of his son George W. and in his business capacity, after paying for the lands he had the title to the Waterhouse property made out to George W. on July 30, 1830 - although he had never paid one cent for it."

Peter Sivley, an early settler, said, "I was acquainted with the Old Man. I heard him say that the home place was G.W.'s. That he had bought a place in Alabama and given it to Samuel. And he bought another place on the Tennessee River for Silas. It was bought from John Gwinn. Another place was to be bought for Jesse."

Alfred M. Rogers recalled, "Part of the children lived in Alabama, part here. The Old Man had some hogs, a horse or horses, and some farming utensils."

John Baker, son-in-law of George W. Williams Sr. related, "I lived 12 miles from George Sr. in Alabama. The boys was all left there together and my wife also. Samuel Williams lived with his mother in Alabama and was raised, I suppose, by the assistance of the property left in Alabama. After Samuel Williams married, he never got any benefit of the land that his father had in Alabama."

Baker also said, "George W. Williams the ancestor bought the home place from Waterhouse and paid for it. When he became in bad health, he told his son to go see Waterhouse and get the deed to the land he had purchased made to him (George Jr.), which was done. He instructed George to convey to his brothers and sisters equal portions of the land.

"George Williams paid me $150 in 1832, I think in May. It was for my wife's interest in the home place. George paid me $140 in 1832 and Samuel paid me $10 more after they went into partnership. He borrowed it from a man named Lusk. I gave George a receipt and both me and my wife, Polly, subscribed to it."

George D. Foster, who was a protege of Col. Whiteside and later lived at the top of his Whiteside Turnpike on Lookout Mountain, said of the land around the Williams home, "Of the 50-acre tract, I reckon about 30 acres is bottom and about 20 acres is upland. It is common bottom and common upland. George W. came from Alabama to live with his father.

"George W. Sr. was living there when I came to the country. George W. Jr. may have been there then. He farmed there with the old man until a year or two before the old man died. George Sr. had an old Negro woman and two small boys that he let Richard Waterhouse have after the death of Richard G. Waterhouse. It was an over payment that was to go to Waterhouse to go toward paying for the land that Bud Taylor or some other of the connection had bought from Waterhouse.

"The Old Man built the house. The labor that was done there seemed to be under his direction. There has been some land cleared and some stables built since the Old Man died. I don't think the house and yard and well are in as good a repair as when the Old Man was living. The stables are such as common country farmers have to keep their horses in. The first time I ever saw George W. he was living in Alabama and had come up to see his father. The next acquaintance I had with him he had come up and was living with his father on the farm. I think farming was his chief occupation."

John Starling reminisced, "I think it has been about 21 years last winter since I first became acquainted with George W. Williams. I worked at the home place. I thought it belonged to the Old Man and George Williams. I don't know of any buildings being done after I went there. There was some land cleared after I went there which the old man paid for. There was a house weatherboarded after I went there, which was also paid for by the Old Man. George and the Old Man lived together about three years after I went to it and before the Old Man died.

"The first year I went there young George and I worked together in the crops. I then went off and, while I was gone, there was goods bought and George traded in them and continued trading in them until the Old Man died and, after his death. I came back a while before Christmas and the Old Man's death.

"George Sr. did not have a great deal of property beside the home place. He had some cattle and hogs, and young George carried off one small drove of hogs for the Old Man before he died. The Old Man showed me a parcel of silver, for how much I don't know, which he said George had brought back for the hogs. The merchandise goods were bought after George took the hogs off. George bought his goods in the fall and winter and the Old Man died the following February. He worked on the farm until he got the goods and then he attended to them. Silas lived with the Old Man part of the time.

"They bought a tract from Lusk that was known as the Freeman place. One tract the Old Man bought I heard say that he bought it for his son, Silas Williams." 

Archibald Brown said he became acquainted with George Sr. in the spring of 1830. "I worked a good deal on the farm, minding stock."

If his birth day of 1787 is correct, George Sr., who was often referred to as "the Old Man," was not yet 42 when he died at the home place by the Tennessee River on Feb. 18, 1832. He was buried at the property. 

* * * * * * * * * *

A remodeling project on Walnut Street unexpectedly turned up documents from Chattanooga's earliest days in March 2018.

Rob Bentley, a young man who has developed a love for Chattanooga's history, said he got a call from his friend Robert Parks about the discovery. His company, T. U. Parks, was doing the demolition and build-out of the former Elks Building at Walnut and Seventh and the small adjacent former Title Guaranty and Trust building.

Mr. Bentley, who works at the venerable Chattanooga firm of T.T. Wilson and Company, said, "When they were demoing the old vault the workers found the old documents. Robert went to look at them and a check made out to T.T. Wilson was on top of the pile so he called me to let me know what he had found. I asked him if they would stop the demo of the vaults so i could come take a  look at the papers.

"By the time I got to the job site some of the documents had already been thrown into the dumpster and destroyed. I loaded up all the documents I could save out of the dumpster and the ones not yet thrown away into my truck. I went home and organized them the best I could."

The cache included many other checks to pioneer Chattanooga businesses.

The retrieved items included some 800 pages of old documents related to a lawsuit against Chattanooga pioneer Samuel Williams. Some of the documents date to well before the Indian Removal and to the earliest days of Hamilton County.

Mr. Bentley later met with Sam Hall, who has been saving thousands of old Chattanooga photos and documents through his Deepzoom Chattanooga website (now

Mr. Hall was excited about the find and began scanning the Williams legal documents. He scanned a large group that was saved before some were thrown in the dumpster. Those retrieved from the dumpster, he photographed. Portions of those documents had water damage so that about a fourth of each page cannot be read.

Some of the documents bear the signature of H.C. Beck, one of the founders of Title Guaranty and Trust. The title company later built a much-larger headquarters next door. Both are directly across from the County Courthouse.

Through the years, the upstairs portion of the initial Title Guaranty building was rented to attorneys, including Lewis Coleman, a protoge of Coca Cola bottling magnate Jack Lupton. It is believed that the papers that were located were from one of the attorneys renting the upstairs office or from the Title Guaranty operation itself.

Later the small building was merged with the Elks Building next door. The county named the pair of buildings the Mayfield Annex. The county in recent years vacated the buildings and they are being renovated by Lamp Post Properties, which has been restoring several downtown historic buildings for new uses.

The Williams documents can be read on They are in two files - the undamaged scanned ones and the photographed pages with water damage. 

The links to the Williams papers on Sam Hall's website are here.





John Brown
John Brown

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