By Nancy Arnold Thompson

John Williams, Jr. and his wife, Mahala Barton Williams, immigrated to Miller County from Kentucky by wagon, bringing their eight children and two slave girls, Esther/Hester and Chancey/Chaney. The family homesteaded property west of Iberia, felled trees and built their cabin. There was a small log cabin built for the slaves and attached to the main house by a breezeway.

Mahala was pregnant at the time of the journey and died in childbirth in August 1859, shortly after arriving here; the baby, also named Mahala, died a few weeks later. Both were buried on a hill a short distance from their home in what later became known as the Williams Cemetery.

Wade, John's eldest son, was married in 1860 to Elizabeth Barnett, daughter of Bennett and Martha Patsy Williams Barnett. They had one child, Benjamin, born 27 Feb 1861. In January 1862, John and his two sons Wade and B. B. rode to Springfield, Missouri where they enlisted in the 3rd Battalion Missouri Cavalry, CSA. When spring came their unit was ordered east of the Mississippi River to join the main Confederate forces in the region. The 3rd Battalion Missouri Cavalry (dismounted) was part of the highly respected "Missouri Brigade" which fought with great distinction in the western theater of the Civil War. In May 16, 1863 B.B. was killed during the Battle of Champion Hill outside Vicksburg, Mississippi.

 Wade Williams
Wade Williams

By late 1864 the next oldest son, John Riley, was old enough to fight. So he and his best friend, Lewis Pemberton, enlisted in the Union army! In Missouri and the other border states families were often divided in their loyalties. On March 5, 1865 John Riley died of camp disease while bivouacked outside St. Louis.

Wade was killed in the Battle of Franklin in Tennessee in 1864 and was buried at Klinkenbeard Cemetery. His wife, Elizabeth, died in March of 1863. There is information indicating that Elizabeth was buried in the field on George Steen's farm near Brumley, MO. George Steen was married to Elizabeth's sister.

The orphaned Ben, was raised first by his mother's family, the Barnetts. According to family oral history, they moved to Oklahoma. When Ben was 9 years old his paternal grandfather, John Williams, came and got him and brought him back to Missouri where he was raised by James, his uncle with help from Wade's younger sisters, Francis Jane ("Fanny") and Susannah ("Sookie").

After the Civil War, Esther Williams received her freedom but remained with the Williams family for many years. In May of 1886, she had a daughter, Violet, fathered by Ben Williams. Due to the circumstances of the birth, Esther left the Williams household and went to live in Iberia. In 1900 she married Jacob (Jake) Landers. Ester was 47 years old and Violet was 13; Jake and Ester had no children.

 Jake and Esther/Hester Landers with Violet Williams circa 1900
Jake and Esther/Hester Landers with Violet Williams circa 1900

John Williams had a very large farm and owned enough land to leave each of his Children 160 acres when he died in 1895. Ben received an inheritance equal to a son's share.

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Circa 1911-1912
L-R: Ora, Emma, Betty, Evelyn (baby), Cynthia, Ethel, Edith, Ben, Otto.

On 20 November 1887, in Miller County, Ben Williams married Cynthia Ann Dial, daughter of William Lewis and Mary Elizabeth Cochran Dial. They lived on their farm between Iberia and Brumley and raised a family of twelve children-5 boys and 7 girls.

  • Adron Arthur m. Mary Ellen Wall
  • Wade Hampton m. Ethel Mary Reed
  • Elta Elizabeth m. Adolph O. Knoll
  • Edna Mary m. Ray Watkins Irwin
  • Ora never married
  • Otto never married
  • Ethel Cynthia m. Robert Mowatt Muirhead
  • Effie Frances m. ? Erickson then James Morgan
  • Emma Gail m. Gerald Elmer Gardner
  • Edith Faye m. Milburn George Meyer
  • Evelyn Velma m. Raymond V. Johnston, Sr.
  • Robert Dale m. Jean Walters then Irene Eischens

  •  Williams Family
    L-R: Ethel, Wade, Edith, Adron, Effie, Ben, Cythia, Elta, Edna, Emma, & Dale.

    Cynthia died in April 1943 and Ben in December 1944.
    They are both buried at the Williams Cemetery on the old homestead.

     slave cabin
    slave cabin

    When the original Williams homestead sold in the 1950's, Ray and Edna Williams Irwin moved the cabin to their home. In 1993, their heirs gave the original slave cabin to the Miller County Historical Society and it was moved to Tuscumbia where it is now permanently on display.

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