Since this month is designated as Women’s History Month, I thought it would be appropriate to relate the story of Sallie Williams to my readers. For a long time I had wanted to tell her story, but was trying to get more information about her. Obtaining this information would require a trip to the archives of a college in East Tennessee and another related location. Then I read an article by a genealogist I admire and respect. Her advice was not to wait for everything to fall into place, just write what you have. So, as incomplete as it may be, here goes.
Lenora Jane Wilson was born to Elihu C. Wilson and his wife Malinda Jane Duncan on February 18, 1848. I will point out that this date is verified by the 1850 United States Federal Census, as well as that of 1860. Elihu Wilson was my 3rd Great Uncle and Malinda Jane Duncan was my 3rd Great Aunt before they were married as I am related through both the Wilson and Duncan families. Therefore, Lenora Jane Wilson was my 1st Cousin (3 x removed). Lenora Jane’s birthplace was Petros, Morgan County, Tennessee. At some point in time, Lenora Jane came to be called Sallie, and by the age of twelve her family lived in a rural area near Huntsville in Scott County, Tennessee. It was her job to help her mother with the housework and help in the upbringing of the younger children. Except for attending school, Sallie performed these duties for her mother until her youngest brother was about eight years old.
Sallie was probably considered somewhat of a spinster because at the age of 30 she was still not married, but on February 7, 1879, she was married to R. H. Williams in Morgan County, Tennessee. Their first child, Samuel Wilson Williams was born on November 10, 1879. A daughter, Malinda Jane Williams was born in Petros on May 1, 1881, and a second son, William Frank Williams, was born on May 8, 1883 in Petros. Sometime in the years between 1883 and 1900, R. H. Williams deserted his wife and children leaving Sallie to be the sole support of her family. I am sure that she relied a great deal on her parents and other close family to help with the children, but what might have taken a lesser person down just made her stronger.
In 1930, Sallie, who had reassumed the Wilson name, was living with her son Frank and his wife Nannie on Beech Fork Road, and their next neighbor was my Great Uncle Houston, his wife Millie and their son, Samuel Houston Jr. And, Julia Ann Stonecipher Kelly and her children lived on the Kelly Farm just down from them. At some point, Sallie took up playing the fiddle and became quite good at it. She also took up something else, as she began to smoke a pipe. Her fiddle is referred to by immediate family as a Stradivarius, but I have no real proof that it indeed was.
About this time in her life, Sallie got her Fifteen Minutes of Fame, as she was interviewed by the noted columnist Bert Vincent for his article in the Knoxville News-Sentinel. For years, even after he tried to retire, Bert Vincent wrote his “Strollin” column. He featured stories about not- so- famous but interesting people in East Tennessee. His article about “Aunt Sallie Williams”, as she was referred to by the people in Morgan County who knew her, took up more than one page and included several pictures of her. Among those pictures were those of her smoking a pipe and playing her “Stradivarius Fiddle”.
Although she was my cousin, I chose to utilize the name “Aunt Sallie” because it denotes a type of affection not bestowed on many people. Aunt Sallie Williams lived a very long and successful life and was never a burden to anyone. She raised three children who were married and lived productive, law-abiding lives. On March 22, 1949, at the age of 101, Lenora Jane “Sallie” Wilson Williams died while living with her youngest son and his wife. She was buried on March 24, 1949 in Union Baptist Church Cemetery in the Joyner Community of Morgan County, Tennessee.
She died of old age and there was no illness noted on her Death Record. Her Death Record, signed by County Physician A. M. Huling, gives her birth year as 1854, however Census Records prove she was born in 1848. There is some longevity in this family as her son Sam lived to be 97 years old, her son Frank lived to be 94, and Malinda Jane lived to be 89.
I would have loved to have made the acquaintance of Sallie, but I was not even three when she died.
With that in mind, I’ll see you on down the road.
Uncle Thereisno Justice