Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Politics of Genealogy (59th COG)

The 59th Carnival of Genealogy has an election theme, and we were given the task of discovering and discussing our family members’ involvement with the political process.

John Robert Williamson (1786-1861) is my gggg (4 greats) grandfather. He played a large role in the Arkansas State Legislature for many years and even had a brief stint as acting governor. These accomplishments have earned him a spot as the subject of my entry in the 59th Carnival of Genealogy.

Williamson and family were part of a group that came from Tennessee to Arkansas. Nobody disputes the trek, but claimed dates of their arrival range from 1828-1831. The family settled in an area that is now Russellville, Arkansas. The original location of Williamson’s farm now houses the campus of Arkansas Tech University.

According to a 1945 Arkansas Historical Quarterly article by Gladys Powell, John Williamson first took part in Arkansas politics in 1833 [1]. He soon represented Johnson and Pope counties in the State Senate. In the Fifth General Assembly, Williamson attained the honor of president of the Senate.

During this time, Williamson was honored for his service by his colleagues and given a silver-headed cane. Williamson’s great-granddaughter, May Russell, mentioned this cane as still being a “prized family possession,” in her 1955 paper about the Williamson family [2]. This same cane is mentioned in Powell’s piece as well. Unfortunately, the current location and condition of the cane are unknown.

After Senate adjournment in 1845, Williamson returned to his Pope County farm. In April of 1846, he was called back to the capital city to act as Governor of Arkansas during the nearly month-long absence of Thomas Stevenson Drew.

Williamson continued to be active in the Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian Church he helped to found. He passed away in 1861 leaving numerous descendants and an impressive record in Arkansas politics.

On April 1, 1987, descendants of John R. Williamson gathered at his gravesite to unveil a new headstone that commemorates his position as acting governor. The new stone sits in front of the old stone, next to the grave of his wife, Sarah/Sallie Tate. The former governor, and my great-great-great-great grandfather, is buried in Shiloh-Williamson Cemetery, in Russellville, Arkansas. [4]

APR. 14, 1876 TENN.
JUN 25, 1861 ARK.

[1] The Political Career of John L. Williamson by Gladys Powell was featured in the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, 1945, number 3. This document refers to the subject as John L. Williamson. All other documents in my collection refer to the subject as John R(obert) Williamson.

[2] The Williamson Family was written by May Russell. The paper was featured in the December 1955 issue of Arkansas Valley Historical Papers.

[3] The article titled Service to dedicate former governor’s new grave marker was published in the Courier-Democrat newspaper (Russellville, Arkansas) on March 29, 1987.

[4] John R. Williamson gravestone photo ©2008 by Amy Coffin.

[Update October 10, 2012. I had to disable comments on this blog post because it was being hit by several spam commenters a day. Please contact me through my email address (shown at the top right corner of my blog in the "About Me" section) with questions or comments on this subject. Sorry for the inconvenience. Comments are still enabled on the vast majority of this blog's posts. --A]

1 comment:

  1. My name is John M. Williamson and I am the great great grandson of John R. Williamson and I find this information very informative to my life. I thank you Amy for finding all this information on our family.

    John M. Williamson