Monday, July 14, 2014

Judge John Williams: A 19th Century Newspaper Article

© Kathy Duncan, 2014

I came across this late nineteen century newspaper article about Judge John Williams. Judge John Williams lived at Nutbush, Granville County, North Carolina, now Williamsboro, Vance County, North Carolina with his wife Agnes (Bullock) Keeling Williams.  The article is notewrothy for its description of the grounds around Judge William's estate, Montpelier, and for a little story about the Williamses that I have never come across anywhere else. These are the only parts of the article that I am repeating here since the other information it contains concerns biographical information about Judge Willaims that is readily available elsewhere. The story of the snake is humorous; however, I doubt that Judge John Williams, who had traveled to and from Bonesborough, Kentucky in its infancy, would have been that squemish over the prospect of eating a snake.

Early Times in Granville
by Mrs. Cicero w. Harris

(from the Oxford Torchlight.)

"...The house is built of the heart of Granville pine. The front lawn is connected with the Oxford and Williamsboro road by an avenue, half a mile in length and wide enough, over grown as it is at the present day, for two carriages to pass each other. The view down this avenue was once said to be very fine, and now it is not to be despised. The long, level drive is partly overgrown with grass and spring dasies [sic], but the mammoth sentinel oaks of the long ago only partially conceal the forest aisles that lose themselves in the shades of the woods that stretch out on both boundaries of the avenue. At this season of the year these woods are fragrant with aromatic herbs and flowers. Often when walking on the pavements of our sandy streets, I recall this beautiful Granville promenade, with its emerald carpet, its gnarled cedars and century oaks, its singing birds, its breezes, freighted with odors sweeter than Arabian incense, its treasured memories and historic traditions of other days. A few years ago I remember seeing in the grounds around Montpelier the remains of several immense cone shaped box trees. Mrs. Judge Williams hid her silver and jewels in these trees when Lord Cornwallis threatened to march through that portion of Granville. The foliage of the box tree was so dense that it entirely protected the casket concealed within its branches. An amusing incident connected with Montpelier occurs to my mind as I write. Judge Williams was very hospitable, and invited strangers, friends, rich, and poor, promiscuously, to be his guests. On one occasion he met a foreigner who had travelled a great deal and who was entitled to some distinction on account of various offices of trust he had repeatedly filled. Judge Williams invited this gentleman to visit Montpelier, and spend some time as his guest. The invitation was accepted. The host and hostess naturally exerted themselves to entertain their visitor. It seems, that on going through the fields one morning where the negroes were at word Judge Williams and his companion, saw a negro--perhaps he was a recent importation from the wilds of Africa--frying a savory bit of meat on a plantation fire. The gentleman asked what it was. The negro said it was 'snake's tail.' Judge Williams was disgusted. His guest, however, nodded his approbation, and informed the Judge that the body of a snake that had never been bitten, when properly dressed and cooked made a most savory dish, that he had eaten it himself, and he would be obliged if the Judge would direct the negro to catch a snake or two of the desired species and have it prepared for his own table. Judge Williams signified the gentleman's peculiar preference to his wife and that lady indignantly replied, 'He may eat snake flesh if he wishes to do so, but he cannot have it cooked in my kitchen, nor served on my table!'

...St. John's Church at Williamsboro was built on land given for that purpose by Judge Williams. He also contributed liberally towards building the edifice--which is one of the most attractive country churches in the State. There is a clause in Judge William's last will and testament, which bequeaths this church and the "glebe land" to the heirs of Chief Justice Henderson, in case St. John's should ever cease to be used as a church..."

[Source: Oberver; Raleigh, NM; 12 June 1878]

Keywords: Agnes Bullock, Agnes Keeling, Agnes Williams, F N W Burton