July 22, 2014 - 17:31
Williams and Walker Family -
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and an Old Beat Up Tintype
By Marian Bailey Presswood, Polk County Historian

We were recently given another box of pictures that was headed to the trash, but fortunately was salvaged by a kindhearted gentleman and left at our place. In one of the jumbled up boxes I discovered a beat up old tintype that you could barely tell were people. But my helpful hubby, James, worked a bit on it and I can see a pretty mother, Elizabeth Williams, her husband, Thomas J. Williams, with their first four children, Samuel, James, Nettie and baby Willie, whose names were written on the back.

Of course I couldn’t stand it until I found at least one of them on Findagrave or Ancestry to post the picture hoping some family member might see and share with others. Not only did I find the mother Elizabeth, who was the daughter of Simon ‘Sim’ Sharp and Jane Pierce, as per her death certificate, but so far have found five of their children. Elizabeth said in the 1900 census that she was mother of 11 children with 8 living at that time. The 1880 census only had the first four, Samuel, James and Nettie. But since Willie was also in the picture, he must have been born shortly after that, which means the picture was probably made around 1882 or so.  

Williams children in the 1900 census were Samuel, born 1875; Charles, 1883; Thomas, 1885; Tavy Bell, August 1889; Sim, 1892; Rachel, 1894; Robert D., 1900; and Nola, 1902. They were living down in old James County which was formed in 1871 from the eastern third of Hamilton and a bit of Bradley, and Ooltewah was the county seat. It was a fairly short lived county, only 48 years, with the territory all being returned to Hamilton County when James County went bankrupt in 1919. It is usually referred to as “The Lost County.” Mother Elizabeth Williams and most of the Williams children are buried either in Birchwood Baptist Church Cemetery or McInturf Cemetery just over in Meigs County, and I’ve made Findagrave memorials and posted the family picture for as many as I can find.

Elizabeth’s father, ‘Sim’ Sharp was in the 5th TN Infantry during the War Between the States and died 29 October 1865 over in Nashville. His service papers said he had been in the hospital for a while before he died, so he didn’t die on the battlefield.

Also in the box was a family Bible that traced the Williams family back to a well known and much researched Polk County family, that of Buckner Walker and wife, Saleta Freeland, daughter of Isaac Freeland. Isaac was said to have been at Valley Forge with General George Washington in that cold December of 1776. A descendant, Gary Walker, did an article about their son, John Harvey Walker for our February 2007 issue of the PCHGS Quarterly called the “Blue and Gray Soldier.” An interesting, but not unusual, thing about James Harvey Walker (pictured) was that he served in both the Confederate and Union Armies, and in fact, received a pension for his service in the Union Army. He enlisted in the 43rd TN Cavalry, CSA, where he was a Sergeant, and held that same rank in the 10th TN Cavalry Volunteers, Union Army.   

The connecting line from the Williams to the Walkers family was through daughter Nola Williams born 1903 who married Thomas Harvey Walker, born 1899 here in Polk County to Thomas and Millie Marrow Walker. They were living in the household with Thomas’ parents, the “Blue and Gray Soldier”, James Harvey and 2nd wife Lethy Brown Walker and 23 year old daughter, Callie who was still single.

Folks who live over near Grassy Creek Cemetery in Polk County can stop by and look up James Harvey’s grave marker and see the inscription that reads, “He was a Soldier in the Civil War and continued in the faith of Christ until death. His last words he claimed he wanted to get in a rolling condition and land across Jordan where he would ever be at rest. Our Father.”  

The writer of the article for our Quarterly says James Harvey Walker is buried beside his beloved first wife Rebecca Eaton, who died in Nashville where she had gone to be with her husband during his service in the war there. We don’t have any record of her being buried there, and I can’t imagine how he arranged for her body to be sent back to Grassy Creek during the turbulence of those war years.  But family insists that she rests beside him and daughter Callie, who cared for him in his later years - he died 1922 at age 93.  

I hope the story of the beat up old tintype convinces News readers how important it is to preserve those old pictures and family stories. Even if you don’t recognize them, someone else might, and may know some fascinating family lore to pass on to you and your descendants.  My Mama used to tell us she would come back and ‘haint’ us if we did something she told us not to do - and I have no doubt whatsoever that she will!  And I will wish the same on anyone who destroys their precious old family pictures. Preserve YOUR Heritage!   

The picture in gallery is a copy from the ‘old beat up tintype’ mentioned above.  Written on the back is Thomas J. and Elizabeth Williams, Sam, Jim, Nettie in her father’s lap, and Willie in his mother’s lap. The rest of the children born after the picture was taken around 1882 or so included Charles, Ulysses, Thomas, Tavy Bell, Sim, Rachel, Robert D., and Nola.  Nola married Thomas Harvey Walker, son of Thomas Isaiah and Millie Marrow Walker, from a prominent Polk County family who lived around the Grassy Creek area. Anyone with information to share on this Williams family please call Marian at 338-4506 or-mail presswood@comcast.net.

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