Founder's gravesite may be relocated

If a suitable site can be found, Williamston’s founding father may have a final resting place in the town.

Williamston Mayor Phillip E. Clardy has officially filed with the Department of Health and Environmental Control a request for disinterment on behalf of the Town of Williamston and descendant relatives of West Allen Williams, the founder of Williamston.

Clardy expressed concerns about the current conditions of the family cemetery in which West Allen Williams is buried, which has remained a shambles for decades, hidden under brush and fallen tree limbs on a hilltop in Southern Greenville County.

“I have a great desire to protect and repair the desecrated graves of our founder and his family’s cemetery, however in its current location, with the projected developments in the immediate area, I believe our most successful effort of restoration would be to disinter the graves and relocate them in a location where they can be provided a deserving perpetual care,” Clardy said.

In addition to the grave of Williams, who died Oct. 7, 1857, the family cemetery contains the graves of his mother and younger brother.

Mary Williams, West Allen’s mother died in 1811 and brother Samuel Williams, Jr., died in 1830 at the age of 27, as the result of drowning in the river near the home place.

Clardy said he has researched the project with the South Carolina Archives and History Center and the State Historic Preservation Office.

Filing the application is the final step in getting approval for the relocation.

He has also met with a family member, Connie Barnwell, who is the great, great, great, great niece of West Allen Williams.

Both parties have agreed that the suitable location of re-interment of the family graves would be within the corporate limits of Williamston, Clardy said. The definite site is yet to be decided.

Both agreed that the site should be close to the Mineral Spring Park and that all of the graves should be moved and re-interred together.

“It was the wishes of this family many years ago to rest together. We will honor that wish today,” Clardy said.

The mayor and the Williams family agree that moving the family gravesite is a very tedious and possibly controversial decision.

“It is not the intention of my office to disturb hallowed ground, but to acknowledge that hallowedness of any ground that holds, in resting, our beloved founder and family. Such a place of interment deserves reverence and memorial. Providing that care is my fullest intention,” Clardy said.

Clardy said the timing of the announcement of the graves being relocated to Williamston is also exciting. “It is a very fitting event for one hundred fifty years since our founding,” he said. “Paying tribute to our founding father during our Sesquicentennial Celebration is a very moving thought.”

The next step in the process is designating a place for the re-interment, according to Clardy.

The process will require approval of family members and Town Council, Clardy said.

“I don’t forsee any complications from either party. This should be a desired goal for our entire community.”

Clardy said that since the markers are still legible, he hopes to restore and replace them upon the graves. He said there will also be additional acknowledgement and memorial of the Williams family and their contribution to the township placed at the gravesite.

Other plans include having a horse-drawn caisson to bring Williams’ remains into the township.

“This will be very appropriate for a ceremony that will be planned for the re-interment,” Clardy said.

West Allen Williams. The name is recognized throughout the area as the founder of the town first known as Mineral Springs and later renamed Williamston.

According to an article published in the Williamston Centennial souvenir program in 1952, Williams father, Samuel Williams, came from the upper part of Union County around 1790, and married his cousin, Mary Williams.

The article states that Samuel Williams, 1770-1852 and Mary Williams 1770-1841, are buried in the garden at the site of the  home they built in southern Greenville County, near the present location of the Lee Steam Station of the Duke Power Company.

Also buried alongside their parents are Samuel Jr. and West Allen Williams.

The Centennial article states - “Soon after the War Between the States the U. S. Garrison on being told by some of the former slaves that gold was in the graves tore into the handsome box like tombs and left it a shambles.”

Samuel Williams, Jr.  drowned in the Saluda River according to the centennial article.

West Allen Williams’ wife is buried in Big Creek Cemetery as is Richard, the oldest brother of West Allen Williams, according to the Williamston Centennial article.

The article was written by Elizabeth Webb of Williamston, a great, great granddaughter of Richard Williams, brother of West Allen Williams.

The Williamston Sesquicentennial Committee plans to offer re-prints of the Centennial program and a new program recognizing the 150th celebration of the founding of the Town later this year.

 

 

 

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