Samuel Williams Owned Several Islands, Including One Named For His Family; Had Large Farming, Cattle Operation (14th In A Series)

Friday, March 15, 2019 - by John Wilson
Williams Island
Williams Island
- photo by Will Stokes

Samuel Williams liked islands. At one time he owned four different ones in the Tennessee River in the vicinity of Chattanooga..

There was Oats Island that was near the present Haletown in Marion County. It is in Nickajack Lake. Oats Island has 64 acres.

Another Marion County island he owned was Lowry's Island near the mouth of Battle Creek. It includes 172 acres. 

He also had the 21 acres in Ross's Landing Island very near where he and his brother, George, operated a store. It was later called Chattanooga Island, then Maclellan Island.

The island most associated with him was the 342 acres of Brown's Island just across from the Williams home place near the foot of Walden's Ridge. It was first called Brown's Island for John Brown, a very early settler at Lookout Valley, who also had a tavern and a ferry. Later this large island became known as Williams Island. It is now owned by the state of Tennessee.

Samuel Williams had cattle operations on all of these islands at one time. There was also farming on Williams Island and some of his slaves lived there.

He also had cattle and farm operations along South Chickamauga Creek near the river and at the home place.

One notation in the Williams lawsuit that was discovered last March mentions "cribs of corn from Brown's Island, from the south side of the Tennessee River, and from the mouth of Chickamauga Creek."  

Samuel Williams noted in one of the papers, "Hargrove, Fort & Co. had an interest in Brown's Island, Lowry's Island and Oats Island. Brown's Island is now owned by Fort, Boyce, Whiteside and myself. I cultivated the island myself. In 1842, there were about 20 cleared acres on Brown's Island. In 1843, there were five or six acres cleared. Since then I have had cleared enough to make up 40 acres or more. I kept my cattle on the island during the winter."

John Godsey said in a deposition, "I lived with Williams in 1841 and until March 1842. I lived with Samuel Williams from February 1844 until December 1847. I helped cultivate Brown's Island every year I lived there. There were about 40 acres cleared at the time of the death of G.W. Williams. Samuel Williams cleared between 8-9 acres in the spring of 1846. George Evans cleared some upon a lease. 

"The land was worth 12 bushels per acre. Corn was 10-15 cents per bushel. There was between 45-50 acres cleared at the home place at the death of G.W. Williams. About 30 acres is good bottom land worth about 12 bushels per acre. The rest would be worth about eight bushels per acre. The house is old and out of repair. The corn was all used on the farm and fed to the stock on the farm. 

"Cattle were kept at Browns, Oats and Lowry's islands. Col. Anderson had some cattle at Lowry's Island in the winter of 1844. They were taken out in the spring of 1845. One yoke of oxen was bought of Samuel Sutton and another of Allen White. One yoke of oxen of Allen White died and the other was drowned in the high freshest of the spring of 1847. Samuel Williams built two large cribs and made a string of fence separating the cleared land from the woodland or cane on Brown's Island. The cribs were worth $10 each. Making the fence was worth $40.50.

"In the spring of 1845, Samuel Williams reset the fence around the home place. He made and put in some new rails.The resetting of the fence was worth at least $20. He had the portico to the house repaired to the amount of $10. In 1847, a cross fence was built containing 1,000 rails worth $7.50. Another was built containing 600 rails worth 70 cents per hundred. A fence was built on the fraction. I suppose it would take 3,500 rails to make the rail across the 15-acre field of the fraction. 

"A fence was put on Brown's Island in 1848. There was no fence there before that except for a small hog lot. The cleared land is all on one side of the fence except for one small field. The stock are on occasion driven by dogs. The fence around the 15 acres was taken away by the freshet of the spring of 1847. 

"A reasonable rent for Ross's Island opposite Chattanooga would be $20. Taking cattle on and off of the islands is a good deal of trouble. The expense of doing so would be $10 or $12 a year. I have seen several cattle kept on the islands drown. In the spring of 1847, 17 were drowned on Brown's Island and 16 were drowned on Lowry's Island."

William H. Stringer, for whom Stringer's Ridge was named, remembered, "I am acquainted with Brown's Island. I owned a preference in the island once. I leased a part of it to a Mr. Redman who was to clear 10 or 15 acres. He was also to build some cabins on it. I would suppose there were 20 or 30 acres cleared by 1838, including the Redman field. The rest has been cleared since that time. A portion was cleared by George Evans. Some 40 acres have been cleared since the death of G.W. Williams. Corn is considered to be worth 20 cents per bushel. I suppose to bring corn out of the island by boat and wagon it would be $2 per 100 bushels. In contests on corn justices normally settled at $1 per barrel."

Alexander Kelly, who lived in Marion County, said, "Oats Island is not in cultivation. It has about 64 acres - all in cane. It will winter about 50 head of cattle. Some charge a dollar a head and some $2 a head for wintering cattle. Samuel Williams uses it some. Col. Anderson kept stock on it one winter. He said he got permission from Col. Whiteside. Lowry's Island has 172 acres. The most of it is in cane. I suppose it would winter 130 or 140 head of cattle. It is difficult to get to Oats Island and attended with risk. You have to go through other people's land. There is a clear passage to Lowry's Island. There is a road and ferry to it. There is some risk to keeping cattle on it. There is a bridge across the Sequatchie River and a toll is charged in time of high water." 

James C. Connor said, "I rented land from Samuel Williams 1839-1843 lying on the river above the mouth of South Chickamauga Creek. I rented about nine acres and paid about 30 bushels rent. Corn was selling about two cents per bushel from the heap. Thomas Connor rented the land in 1844 and since that time Mr. Cook. I cleared about 12 acres and it was of the first quality. I think he rented in the 5th District to Esquire Milliken and Henry Cornett and James Lea and in the 7th District to Samuel Green. I generally paid the rent on the heap. I do not believe there have been freshets in crop time since i quit leasing from Mr. Williams except this year (1850). There were unusually high freshets in March and December 1847. I always paid for first bottom, with the exception of one or two years, 15 bushels per acre. I never paid for second bottom, but I suppose they would be worth $10 to $12 per acre and upland from eight to 10 bushels per acre, and rented a part of the crop. A third of the corn was the usual rate."

Peter Sivley, a Williams neighbor, said, "Samuel Williams rents lands from the mouth of South Chickamauga Creek to the Wayland lands, and some lay above the Wayland lands. There was some lands below the mouth of the creek, and the Schod section, and the place where Shelly lives and the place called the Bruce farm. One tract was sold to Lewis Hall. Another piece was a 26-acre fraction lying above the mouth of the creek between Cook's and Latta's. In 1847 and 1848, he got about 600 bushels of corn. In 1849, he got near 800 bushels. Colonel Whiteside and myself collected the rents below the creek. There were several leases with terms of four years for clearing - Daniel McDaniel, William Cook, H. Cornett, E. Adcock, W. Cobb, Lewis Tyner, Samuel Green and J.C. Connor. I was agent for Park, Wofford and McAfee. They owned lands on the west side of Chickamauga Creek. Concerning the Duncan field, Hiram Tyner had it in corn in 1846 and Lewis Tyner in 1847. In 1849 it was in oats by John Black. This year it is rented to William Lattee at 10 bushels of corn per acre." 

Squire Cornelius Milliken, who also lived nearby, said, "I rented and tended Williams lands on the west side of Chickamauga Creek from 1842 to 1848. I paid the rents to Col. Whiteside at 225 bushels per acre per year except one I paid part oats. James Lee paid 300 bushels per year. Henry Cornett paid 250 bushels per year. Samuel Williams himself received rents from Lewis Hall, John Lattee, William Cook, John Tyner and Lewis Tyner. Hall had 21 acres of river bottom worth 15 bushels of corn per acre. Hall has since purchased the land. Lattee cultivated 12 acres and paid 12 and 1/2 bushels per acre. Cook had 29 acres including 13 of bottom worth 12 and 1/2 bushels per acre. The other 16 were worth 10 bushels per acre. That was the fifth crop on the land. John Tyner had a few poles over seven acres at 10 bushels per acre. This was his fourth crop. Lewis Tyner had what was known as the Duncan field. It was a few poles over 13 acres and was valued at 10 bushels per acre. All the bottom lands have overflowed and the fencing removed from it several times." 

Samuel Hamill said, "John L. Divine farm has at least 70 acres of cleared land. It possesses near an equal quantity of first bottom and second bottom with the upland. It is on average worth 12 bushels per acre. The fences on the first bottom and second bottom have been removed, but there is little problem with fences on the upland. It takes much labor to keep the farm in repair. The land would be worth $2 per acre after paying repairs."

Henry Daughtry stated, "I rented from Samuel Williams one year and from Joseph G. Smith. I paid 330 bushels of corn the first year and 400 bushels the second year. Smith hauled off a portion of the rent the second year. This land was in the 7th District on the southeast side of the Tennessee River opposite Dallas Island. It went by the name of the Smith and Williams Farm."

Asahel Rawlings, whose family once was a store competitor of the Williams brothers, said, "I rented some land from Col. Whiteside for two years that was said to belong to G.W. Williams and Samuel Williams. I agreed to pay a standing rent. The fencing was all out of fix and they paid me for the repairs and cleaning up the land. I do not recollect how much I paid him in corn after taking out the repairs. I would think about $30 a year after taking out the repairs. The land lies below Chattanooga on the river and adjoining Chattanooga. I understood it belonged to a company that included Ker Boyce, Carter, Whiteside, Williams and others."  

William Varnell said, "I am acquainted with the land known as the Bruce farm. I don't think if I was going to rent this farm I could give more than $40 a year for it. I rented the Bruce farm in 1843 from Samuel Williams and held it for three years. I paid a third of what was made for the rent. I don't think corn sold for any of those years more than 20 cents if that high. The first year there was about 15 acres sowed in oats. The other two years it was about 20 acres. The first two years it was about $30 for repairs. The last year was about $10. The oats averaged about 20 bushels to the acre and were worth about 20 cents a bushel."

Other notations relating to the farm and cattle operation included:

Received from Samuel Williams $1.15 for boarding hands for G&S Williams. Henry Cornett. January 11, 1843. Promise to pay Henry Long $50 for value received of him. July 23, 1839. G&S Williams. Samuel Williams account with James Eaton. March 1840. Wagons and hands stacking oats. $2. April Two days wagon and hands. $7. April 6. Half day wagon and hands. $1.37. July. Two days wagon and hands. $3. Three and a half hands finding themselves and shucking corn. $2.37 and 1/2. 180 bushels of corn shucked. $4.50. March 1842. Larkin Johnson. James Eaton.

Accounts of G&S Williams with John S. Godsey for one year labor. April 11, 1841 to April 11, 1842. $134. 1841. S. Williams to Absalom Sivley for hauling corn for three and a half days at $3 per day. 1841 for hauling boat gunnels. For one bushel of corn by John Godsey. For one new meal bag and two and 1/2 bushels of corn.

Dogwood, Ga., July 2, 1842. Bought of R.A. Ramsey this day 30 head of hogs for which S.W. is to pay $75. 

Account with Henry Long. Feb. 6, 1842. 250 bushels of corn at 25 cents per bushel. Total $62.50. Received full payment of Samuel Williams. June 1844.  Aug. 23, 1840 promise to pay Martin Reece 400 bushels of good sound corn.

George W. Williams to John Boydston for wintering cattle, calf and one young steer.  Sept. 17, 1842. Sworn before Elisha Parker, justice of the peace.   Cornelius Milliken, justice of the peace 1843. To Catherine Vann for six head of beef cattle at $8 each, $48. 1 head of beef cattle at $9.50. Dec. 18, 1842. J.G. Blackwell witness. 1841 and 1842. George W. Williams to John Boydston for wintering cattle, calf and one young steer.  Sept. 17, 1842. Sworn before Elisha Parker, justice of the peace.  

To A. Beason for keeping horse. Promise to pay Thomas McCallie $31 to be paid in Georgia state script April 16, 1842. Paid in settlement of rent corn except for half the rent on a piece of land attended by Peter Sivley in 1840.

* * *

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

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Chattanooga Island
Chattanooga Island
- photo by Will Stokes

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