By Scott K. Williams
Page 1 of 4
Raising chickens was the main source of subsistence and income after James Oliver "Ollie" Williams quit his job (about 1925) at Laclede Light and Power due to health reasons. The family had lived at 4511 San Francisco Street in north St. Louis (city) and briefly at a location in Overland before moved to the place on Hudson Road. Above are houses built for the family's stock of Leghorn chickens.
Old Williams homeplace on Hudson road as it appears in Oct. 2001. The oldest portions of the house were built before the Civil War. When James O. Williams occupied the house, following World War I, he expanded the house with additional rooms, the second floor and the front porch. Subsequent owners in the 1980's added a back room visible at far right of second image. The home interior has been beautifully restored by current owners, Gary and Ann Fink.
I grew up in Ferguson (a city in north St. Louis County) on the very ground where my paternal granddad, James Oliver "Ollie" Williams, operated a chicken farm in the 1920's thru the 1940's. "Ollie" was born in 1888 at Clever, Christian Co., Mo, the son of David "Vance" Williams (see Williams family origins)* and Martha Jane Luce (d/o Royal Luce and Margaret O'Neal--the O'Neal's were my earliest Missouri ancestors coming here before Missouri was a State. And the O'Neal's--true to their Irish ancestry did not trust banks and buried their wealth in the Ozark hills--there is many a pot of gold believed never found). Below is a post 1895 photo of Vance Williams, with his four children: Back: Ollie, Vance, and Zora. Front: Emma and Alice. (note the mother, Martha Jane, is absent having died of fever in Oklahoma)
As a boy my granddad (James O. Williams) traveled with his parents to Oklahoma in a covered wagon in the hope of acquiring free land there when the State was opened up for settlers. Having failed to acquire land, the family lived in tents Oklahoma as tenant farmers. In 1895 Ollie's mother (Martha Jane Luce) died suddenly due to fever. This left granddad (Ollie age 7) and three younger sister's motherless (See photo at left). After returning to Missouri where Aunt Harriet Williams Wise took over the care of granddad's sisters: Zora, Emma, and Lula Alice. Granddad traveled to St. Louis with his father in search of employment. While the exact date Vance and Ollie moved to St. Louis is unknown, it was sometime in the second half of the 1890's. Great grandpa Vance got a job working in an automobile manufacturing plant, while granddad got an education and studied for the electrician trade.
In this 1908 postcard photograph mailed from St. Louis, Ollie (center), says his greetings to his sister Miss Alice Williams, living in Billings, Mo. The young ladies in the picture are unidentified.
Ollie as he appeared, probably taken shortly before WWI .
Right before enlisting into the Army, in 1917 granddad married Lily A Morris, the daughter of Frank Wesley. Morris (b. 1868 Washington DC) (son of Robert A. Morris and Emma Orrell) and Martha Amy Carter (b. 1878 Irondale, Washington Co., MO, d/o James Knox Polk Carter and Marie Gregory) who resided in the Baden neighborhood of St. Louis. Frank Morris was also an electrician (helping install electrical lighting at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair and in St. Louis' Union Station.). [The Orrell family genealogy has been thoroughly researched by a cousin, Reverdy Lewin Orrell, III]
When World War I broke out in 1918, granddad enlisted in the 37th Army Engineers and went to serve in the trenches of France. Immediately proceeding the war and sometime after, my grandparents (Ollie and Lily) lived on Lucky Street in north St. Louis. Later they moved to 4511 San Francisco Street (also in the north part of the City of St. Louis). Granddad (Ollie) was hired on at the Laclede Light and Power, north St. Louis plant as an Operating Engineer/Electrician. The coal dust and 120 degree work environment began affecting Ollie's health so his doctor directed them to "move out to the fresh air in the country". About 1925 the family moved briefly to a place in Overland (St. Louis County) before finding a permanent place "out in the country". They settled down in north St. Louis County on a farm on Hudson road (an area now incorporated into the City of Ferguson. Granddad had quit his job so the family relied solely on raising chickens and subsistence farming. Eventually granddad was able to return to work at the St. Louis power plant (same plant but Laclede Light and Power were bought out by Union Electric) after the work environment was cleaned up somewhat.
To read about some of my father's experiences growing up on the farm (with more old photos), see "From Chicken Farm to Aerospace Engineer, Some life Experience of James H. Williams". It also includes some images of testing the F-4 Phantom and building spacecraft at nearby McDonnell Douglas--where many other locals also worked.
Watercolor painting of the east side of James O. Williams' home, located on Hudson Road, Ferguson, Missouri as it appeared circa 1970. Painting by Betty J. Williams, mother of the webpage author.
An Early photo of the Morris family. Left to Right: Martha Amy Carter, Lily A. Morris, and Frank Wesley Morris. Frank was from Washington DC who came to St. Louis in the 1890's. He was an electrician and helped install the wiring in Union Station and at the St. Louis World's Fair. Martha was a native of Irondale, Washington County, Mo. Her father was James Knox Polk Carter, a miner who was disabled in a lead mine accident. Her mother was Marie Gregory of Irish descent. Lily, born in 1895, grew up the Baden neighborhood of north St. Louis. She could remember attending the World's Fair, before her death in 1991. (After the stock market fell in the 1920's, Martha Amy and Frank Morris lost a lot of money and later moved to a small house on Hudson Road, in Ferguson, now three houses down from the old James O. Williams home at 1321.)
Children of James O. Williams and Lily A. Morris:
Martha Jane Williams
Wesley Vance Williams (WWII Fighter Pilot, pictures of him with some of the planes he flew)
James Hoover Williams (From Chicken Farm to Aerospace Engineer)
Wesley Vance and Martha Jane Williams with the family car in 1925. They are the eldest children of James O. "Ollie" and Lily A. Williams. Lily was the daughter of Frank Wesley Morris and Martha Amy Carter of St. Louis. Both Ollie and Frank were electricians, involved in construction or operation of power plants.
Lily in the 1950's with milk cow, "Betsy Ann".
Calves, "Red" and "Spot" in 1953 grazing near front of property along Hudson road. This location is now 1331 Hudson, where son James H. Williams built a home. The house on adjacent hill, across the road, became the home of the James Truesdale family. The Truesdales razed this house at a later date and replaced with a larger home.
*s/o Joseph Mack Williams (s/o John Williams, Jr. and Susannah Dixon) and Synthia D. Wise (d/o Henry Wise and Margaret ____) [Note: Susannah Dixon's father was Lt. Col. Henry Dixon ("Dickson"--originally spelled) of the Continental Army was killed in the American Revolution. Joseph Mack Williams, the grandson of Henry Dixon, served in the Pro-Union Enrolled Missouri Militia during the Civil War. Her mother was Martha Wynne--a merchant family originally of Welsh ancestry.
Through Y-Chromosome DNA research I have been able to confirm my Williams line originates from a John Williams, who emigrated from Wales in 1699 and settled in Hanover County, Virginia. I was able to make this link through the Williams Surname DNA Project that determined that a genetic match was made with a living relative of Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams (famous author/playwright) was a distant cousin, but a near relative genetically speaking, with the same immigrant Welsh ancestors. Out of happen stance, "Tennessee Williams" also lived in St. Louis and his grave is here.
See my Early Descendants of John Williams, "The Wealthy Welshman" of Hanover Co., Virginia. Born 1679 Wales. Family came from north Wales, from town on the Dee River, Llangollen (the double "LL" are pronounced in Welsh, an original Celtic language, with the "Sh" sound. ) A fairly comprehensive listing of the mainlines of early descendants. Apparently the early generations were fairly wealthy. I surmise they earned their money from the Whiskey** distillery business they started well before the American Revolution. As the family moved West, especially my branch lost everything in the Civil War--having settled 2 miles south of Wilson's Creek on the Wire Road in Christian County, Mo. Home was burned, animals killled, crops destroyed. Only had time to bury some food, before abandoning the area for Springfield--a Union stronghold.
**Whiskey is a traditional beverage that all countries surrounding the Irish Sea excelled in making. I understand that "whiskey" in Irish Gaelic (a Celtic language related to Welsh) is the same word as "water".
This new DNA technology has provided a way to connect my family where the paper trail ended. The name Williams can be a genealogical nightmare if given names are not unique. If your a male with the surname Williams, I highly recommend to get the 25 marker Y-Chromosome test and join the Williams surname project. Remember-- don't just order the 12 marker test--get the 25 or 37 marker, you'll save money and to get conclusive results by ordering them all at once. The 12 marker does not cut it for identifying recent origins. For other surnames there are other projects, see Family Tree DNA. And by the way-- Don't fret taking a blood sample, they don't use one, but a cotton swab from an inner cheek of the mouth. I am also a member of the National Geographic Genographic Project, the "atlas of human migration."
My Personal Webpage: www.stlouistimeportal.com
More St. Louis History: History's Time Portal to Old St. Louis
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Scott K. Williams, copyright 2002-2008, Florissant, Mo. USA