Almost a Centenarian. Death of Father Williams.

The Cartersville Express Newspaper
Cartersville, Georgia
January 9, 1880 Page 3
Transcribed and submitted by: 

Almost a Centenarian. Death of Father Williams.

On Sunday, January 4th, 1880, at 9:21 o’clock, p. m., Joseph Williams died at the residence of his son-in-law Judge Thomas Stokely, aged 99 years, 7 months and 13 days. The deceased was so well known in this community that any sketch of his life would not be news to us; but so remarkable a man deserved at his death more than passing comment.

A mere statement that he was born on May 22, 1780, and died January 4, 1880, would by itself be a wonderful biography. “The days of our years,” we are told in one of the grandest of inspired passages, “are three score years and ten;” and yet here is a man who survived three generations. In olden days, this would have been a life of but ordinary length; but statisticians now tell us that the average of human life is thirty-three years. How replete with honors is that life which triples its average, and silvers the revered locks of its possessor with a century of winter’s snows!

The subject of this sketch was born in Surrey county, North Carolina, on the date above mentioned, May 22, 1880.

When he was eight years old, his father moved to Tennessee, then a territory, and settled in Hawkins county. Young Williams here learned the trade of stone mason, in addition to which he engaged in farming. In 1806, he then being twenty-six years of age, he married Margaret Smith, of Henry county, Virginia, soon after which he moved from Hawkins to Rhea county, Tennessee, where he lived a farmer’s life until April, 1828. AT that time, he left Rhea county and the state of Tennessee and moved to Newnan, in Coweta county, Ga., where he lived, earning his livelihood by the toil of his trade until 1867. In 1814 he was converted, at the age of 34 years, and joined the Methodist church, of which he has been a faithful and useful member ever since. On the 29th of March 1847, his first wife and the mother of all his children, died. He afterwards married a Miss Duncan, of Coweta, who has preceded him to “that undiscovered country.” On February 5, 1867, he moved to Cartersville, where he resided until his death.

Father Williams was an old-time whig and warmly devoted to his party. He, however, was no politician and had no aspirations of that sort. He never belonged to any society, or, indeed, organization of any kind, except the church.

Until recently, his health was remarkably good for one of his years. Up to a few weeks ago, he walked about the streets, conversed with his friends upon the current topics of the day, and appeared to enjoy life with a relish that is characteristic of animal vigor. For the last two weeks of his life, he was confined to his room, and it soon became evident that the old wheels of life, which had run so long almost without a jar, were nearly worn out. During his last illness, and , indeed, for several years past, he had expressed himself ready to go whenever it should please the Great Judge to send the summons. Many called to see him just to hear his strong, full expressions of faith and trust in the Lord, and never left him without feeling elevated by the contact of Christian thought into a nobler walk and conversation. Sometime, with the tears rolling down his aged cheeks, he would tell of that Hope which, in the flower and pride of his young manhood, dawned upon him, filing his heart with peace, and joy, and love; how it had lit up many dark and gloomy places in his life, a lamp to his feet and a light to his pathway. And that Hope, coming as it did from him who said “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,” did not fail him when the time-worn feet had reached the river; and, full of a faith, strong as the weight of trusting years could make it, he lay down at last, like a weary child that cries for rest, to “sleep in Jesus.”

At the house of Judge Stokely, a large number of friends and acquaintances met to pay the last sad honors to the deceased. After prayer by Rev. R. B. Headden, Rev. P. M. Ryburn read the burial service, and, after singing an appropriate hymn, Rev. Messrs. Ryburn and T. E. Smith made fitting remarks to an assemblage deeply impressed with the solemnity of the occasion. The body, followed by a long procession of people who felt honored in honoring the dead, was carried to the city cemetery and laid away, till the centuries are all numbered.

A wonderful life, this, wonderful for its length; wonderful for all it had seen; wonderful, because it lasted so long in the most wonderful part of yet-made history. Think of it! He was a prattling babe while Washington’s sword, unsheathed, was dripping in blood of foes hostile to colonial independence. When this wonderful 19th century was a baby, he was a grown man. At the time when this country was thrown into a fever heat of excitement by the duel between Burr and Hamilton, he was just old enough to feel the enthusiasm of that dueling spirit so prevalent in that day. In the war of 1812, he was just verging into manhood’s prime. When he was half a century old, he was living in this section of country, surrounded by native Indians. He was over fifty years old before an engine’s whistle ever startled a rural populace. Fifty-five years of his life had rolled away before the world thought enough of its women to begin to educate them. Almost three quarters of a century had stamped his brow with wrinkles before men chained the lighting and made it obey their behests. He was an old, old man when Sumter fell. He has seen great men rise, flourish, die and be forgotten. He engaged in youthful sport with men whose grandsons are in their graves. Where will we find a more eventful life?

But the “inevitable hour” has come at last. The heart that beat so long is still. The grain, full ripe and golden, has fallen at the reaper’s hand. It would be idle to offer consolation to the bereaved relatives. That must come from the loving hand of that God, who was the rock and fortress of the good old man.


The Free Press
January 8, 1880, Page 3

Father Williams.
The End of a Good Man, almost a Centenarian.

There are few, very few if any, more beloved and revered than Father Williams was.  The writer knew him forty-three years ago, at Newnan, Georgia.  The subject of this sketch was then about fifty-seven years of age.  The good old man was born May 22, 1880 (sic), in Surry county, North Carolina, and consequently he was 99 years, 7 months, and 13 days old at the time of his death, which occurred at the residence of his daughter, Mrs. Judge Stokely, of this town, on Sunday night at 9:21 o’clock.  But a few moments before he breathed his last, he asked Mr. R. W. Murphey, who was watching by his bed-side, to lift him to a chair.  Mr. Murphey did so promptly and tenderly; but he did not sit there a minute before he asked to be put back in bed.  Mr. Murphey had scarcely adjusted the covering, when he discovered that the lamp of life had flickered out and the soul of the old man had taken its flight to “that bourne from whence no traveler ever returns.”

As we have stated, Father Williams was born in North Carolina in 1780.  In 1788 his father moved to Tennessee, which was then a territory, and settled in what was afterwards known as Hawkins county, east Tennessee.  Joseph Williams, in March 1803 was married to Mrs. Margaret Smith, of Henry county, Virginia, after which he settled in Rhea county, Tenn., where he remained until April 14, 1828.  He moved thence to Georgia and settled in Newnan, Coweta county, being one of the first settlers of that place.  There he remained until February 6, 1867, when he came to Cartersville to reside with his daughter.

Some time ago Rev. Mr. Ryburn, the minister of the Methodist Church here, mentioned to “Uncle Joe” the death of Dr. Lovick Pierce, when he replied that he had heard the doctor preach frequently in Columbus, adding: “I will soon be gone, and I would not give my hope of Heaven for the North American continent.”  In his sickness he told Mr. Ryburn that his trust was in Christ, and that he was resigned to the will of God.  His last words were, “I have a home in heaven and I want to go to it.”  The old man did greatly desire to live until his nest birthday, May 22nd, which would have been his one hundredth.  When the press convention met here last May, out of respect to his venerable age, Uncle Joe was invited to take a seat upon the stage with the president of the association, and we can say to our brethren of the Georgia press that he greatly appreciated the compliment.

Of course, the death of so aged a man excited great respect, and the attendance upon his funeral was full.  The services took place at Judge Stokely’s, Rev. Mr. Ryburn conducting the same, assisted by Rev. Mr. Smith, of the Presbyterian church.  The opening hymn was that old and familiar one, “How firm a foundation, etc.” read by Mr. Ryburn, which was followed with prayer, by Mr. Headdon.  Mr. Ryburn then read the 90th psalm, after which Mr. Smith read the 15th chapter of Corinthians.  Next came another hymn: “Hear what the voice of Heaven proclaims,” etc.  Appropriate remarks were then indulged in by Mr. Ryburn and Mr. Smith, and the services at the house closed with prayer by Mr. Ryburn.

The remains of the venerable one were taken to the hearse and followed to the cemetery by a long train of carriages.  Arriving at the grave the closing ceremonies were concluded by reading the burial services of the Methodist Episcopal Church, by Mr. Ryburn, the hymn selected for the occasion being “I would not live always,” with the chorus of “Home sweet home.”

The rumbling clods then fell upon the last of the good old man and hid him from earthly view forever, there to remain until the resurrection morn.  May the flowers of early spring be strewn upon his grave, and the full blown roses of May, his natal month, be showered by loving hands upon his resting place!


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