THE WILLIAMS FAMILY
The stories that came down to the local historians of the late 19th century were not flattering to Abraham/Abram Williams. Dr. George W. Hill, who wrote more about Greentown and its residents than anyone else, had this to say in his 1880 Ashland County history:
“Among the wigwams of Greentown when the pioneers of 1809-10 entered the township, was that of Abram Williams, an irritable, morose old Indian, who had formerly married a white captive on the Sandusky river, from whom he separated in consequence of the violence of his temper and long continued jealousy and cruelty.”
His wife, possibly his second, was Mary Castleman, who is reported to have been 13 and her sister, Margaret, 9, when they were abducted by Indians in 1785 in Beaver County, Pa., and brought to Ohio. Abraham and Mary met and married in Sandusky and had two children, Sally, born about 1797, and George Isaac, born about 1799.
According to Hill, Abraham was “jealous, tyrannical and cruel” and Mary grabbed an opportunity set up by her father to escape, leaving her children behind. After some details of the escape, Hill concludes the story:
“Some time after this desertion Williams came to Greentown, built a wigwam, and was residing there with his children, George and Sally, when the first pioneers came into the neighborhood (1809-10). Sally was then a young woman, and had many admires among the dusky warriors. Mrs. James Cunningham, Mrs. James Irwin, Mrs. Sarah Vale, and others, called at the wigwam of Williams to see what kind of a housekeeper Sally appeared to be. These ladies were all young then. They found the wigwam of Williams neat and clean, and Sally a pleasant young lady.”
What Hill did not get into was her father’s background. From further on-line historical and genealogical research, we suspect strongly he was the son of a white trader at Sandusky, Isaac Williams, and a Wyandot woman, Elizabeth Coon, who reportedly had “bought” Mary Castleman for $30 in goods. Elizabeth’s father may have been Abraham Kuhn/Coon, described as a Wyandot chief in a 1790 Moravian journal.
If this connection is correct, his brother was Isaac Jr. or Sarahass (1765-1857) according to the latter’s tombstone in Huron Cemetery - Wyandotte National Burial Ground in Kansas City, Kansas, where the Wyandots were removed in 1843. There are many members of the Williams and Coon families buried there, but not Abraham, who according to one account was born in 1759 and died in 1812, place unknown. No proof is offered, however.
Isaac Williams Jr. appears occasionally in official records and correspondence preceding the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. He signed that treaty as a Wyandot delegate, and an Abraham Williams served as an interpreter there. An Abraham Williams also signed the treaty as a Sandusky Delaware. This quote was found from an unsourced and undated letter: “There he found awaiting him a delegation of half-breeds from the Wyandots of Sandusky — Enos Coon, Peter Zane and Abraham Williams. They carried letters from Isaac Williams Jr., a Wyandot chief and brother of Abraham. “
While Isaac stayed among the Wyandots, for some reason Abraham moved with his two youngest children to Greentown, perhaps in 1802 or so, when it was estimated that Mary Castleman ran awat. Again Moravian records reveal on July 19,1803, an Indian by the name of Abraham Williams intended to “put his child in school at Gnadenhutten. If their birth dates are correct, both would have been fairly young for that.
There is some evidence that his status at Greentown went beyond being a mean old man. In June 1811, he signed a letter to President Madison, along with Chief Armstrong, Capt. Pipe (probably Jr.), and Wolf – asking for an audience in Washington.
More evidence that Abraham Williams survived beyond 1812 lies in the 1817 Treaty of Miami Rapids in which members of various Ohio tribes settled claims against the federal government in exchange for reservation land and monetary compensation. The Delaware of Greentown were granted a plot of land three miles square below the Wyandot reservation, which was 12 miles square centered at Upper Sandusky, now in Wyandot County. Individuals of each tribe were named to divide this land among themselves.
Williams was not included among the Delawares of Greentown, but an “Abrm. Williams, sen.” is listed among the Wyandots, along with George Williams and Isaac Williams. The “senior” addition to his name may indicate he had an older son by a first wife, but no Abraham Williams Jr. is listed.
The strongest evidence that he lived at least until 1818 is a letter written May 1 of that year from Mansfield, Ohio, to President James Monroe and signed by Abraham Williams. A copy has been published in “The Papers of John C. Calhoun,” Vol. II, 1817-1818. Calhoun was then secretary of war, and his department would have handled such correspondence.
In the letter, Abraham Williams describes himself as a Wyandot and “part owner of 13 sections of land in the county of Richland and State of Ohio,” the land the Greentown and Jerometown Indians received in 1806 (see Montgomery Montour section). In the 1817 treaty above, this land was traded away, but Williams asks, “before this treaty begins,” for three of these sections – one for himself, one for his son-in-law, Johnny Cake (also known as Solomon Journeycake) and one for “Isaac Hill, my friend and the son of my friend.” It is believed that this Isaac was either the husband of Margaret, daughter of Chief Armstrong, or her son.
Part of his argument was “I want to be a Christian, to make my wigwam in one fixed place, to work as the white men do and leave off hunting the bests of the great woods,” which echoes other petitions from Ohio tribes trying to convince the federal government that they should retain lands granted in previous treaties.
This letter to the President was accompanied by a document “signed by seven inhabitants of the area testifying to the good character of Abraham Williams.” We have not yet found their names.
Williams’ petition was not successful, and he probably died on the Wyandot reservation at Upper Sandusky sometime before the Delawares went west to Kansas in 1831. His daughter Sally’s story will be included in the section on her husband, Solomon Journeycake. His son, George, by the late 1820s was playing an important role among the dwindling number of Delawares living on the three-mile-square reservation and in 1829 signed the Treaty of Little Sandusky as a Delaware, giving up this group’s last claim on lands in Ohio. Even though there was no evidence that by blood George Williams was anything but 3/4 white and 1/4 Wyandot, he threw his lot in with the Delawares. He might have married a Delaware woman, although we have no record of a wife, or have been formally adopted into the tribe, even though his father, Abraham, seems to have continued identifying as a Wyandot. As a Delaware, George moved west 12 years before his Wyandot relatives did in 1843. Indian agents’ letters even indicated a small number of Delawares chose to delay that move by claiming Wyandot relatives.
Indian Agent John McElvain wrote the federal office of Indian affairs on Nov. 15, 1831, from Columbus: “I am at length enabled to inform you the Senecas and a majority of the Delaware tribe of Indians have left Ohio for the west; the Senecas numbered about 340, including a few individuals of other tribes who emigrated with them; 232 of whom removed by water, and the balance by land. The number of Delawares, who are also on their way to test, is 58; the balance, about 20, are blood relations of the Wyandots, could not be persuaded to leave their friends; they will therefore remain with them and remove when they do.
It was not a good time of year to head west, particularly since it appears that most if not all of the Delawares chose to travel by land. The party got stuck in Indiana because of the weather and did not arrive in Kansas until the spring. That George Williams was among them is confirmed in a claim filed with the government in February 1833 that he lost on the way “one mouse-colored mare, worth $30, and a big coat, worth $10.” Past this date, we have no record of him or his descendants.
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