Thursday, August 14, 2008

Call Me Ahab

Several months ago while lurking in the Arkansas section of the Clayton Library, I came across a book titled, "History of the Pope County Singing Convention and Available Minutes, 1887-1980." It was a set of documents compiled by J. B. Lemley in 1980.

As with everything else Pope County, I looked in the index for Williamsons. There was my main man William Woodberry, who was very active in this group and happened to be its President for five years.

This annual convention brought together area congregations for a weekend of spirituality and song. Along with the minutes, in this book there were photocopied images of people and churches. Imagine my surprise to see a picture of ol' WWW and his two grown sons Jack and Sam. William Woodberry Williamson was seated, with his two eldest sons standing formally, one on each side. The copied photo was of poor quality, but there was no doubt: there were my great-great grandfather, Wood, my great-grandfather Sam and his brother Jack.

Thoughts were swirling in my mind. Who has this photo now and how can I get a copy of it? The book was privately printed in 1980 and I was pretty sure Mr. Lemley was long gone.

For months I plotted a strategy to locate this photo. It became my white whale just like the book Moby Dick. I planned to ask the Russellville library, but I had my doubts about that long shot. The county historical asssociation had no web site. I didn't even know if it existed anymore. I pondered the chances of getting a reply on a message board.

More weeks passed and I spent my time getting ready for this Arkansas road trip. I planned to bring the bad photocopy of the picture and ask around, but I had a lot of other tasks to accomplish as well.

The days flew during our stint in Arkansas. Suddenly it was the last day and time for our visit with our relative. If you read my entry titled, Arkansas Road Trip, Part 4, you know that while we were in Pope County, we phoned a complete stranger, explained how we were related, and received an invitation to his home. So off we drove to meet new family.

After some confusion, we located the right house and rang the bell. We were warmly greeted and invited in to the kitchen. On the table was a pile of photos and albums, clearly full of common ancestors.

Guess what was sitting on top of the pile? My white whale:

Standing to the left is Jack Lawrence Williamson (1884-1960). Standing to the right is Sam Hill Williamson (1878-1943). Seated is their father, William Woodberry Williamson (1853-1942).

I believe this picture was taken during WWW's stint as president of the Pope County Singing Convention. It was definitely taken before Sam left for medical school. Date range: 1894-1904.

This is why I do it. Leave no stone unturned...



    Aren't those folks from Arkansas jewels? Glad you found your Woodberry Williamson --- and delighted it was a connection through a singing convention publication that got you to him.

    Enjoyable post!

    Terry Thornton
    Fulton, Mississippi

  2. Isn't it great how your search to find something on WWW led to finding him in the convention publication. (Shows you need to look at everything possible.) Even greater fortune was to find the original photograph.

    Great work! Interesting article!

  3. Wow, I am so glad you reposted this, because it was great. Thanks for sharing it again.

  4. What a positively encouraging story! I have a 3rd- or 4th- generation copy of a photograph of my grandfather's strawberry farm at picking time which was published in a booklet for the town's centennial celebration. Now I will hope again to find the original! Thanks.

  5. Wow! Quite the find and you definitely show more perseverance than I can claim!