Sunday, April 1, 2012

On why I LOVE family history and the heritage of family.

 All of my life it seems I have been interested in filling in my family tree, as well as that of the insurance man's family. For many years I have been particularly interested in his great-great grandfather, Elias Pitzer Williams and Elias's father, Thomas Williams. They both led fascinating lives, which included taming and farming the Black Swamp area of Ohio, journeying to Oregon on the Oregon Trail, becoming part of the Lost Wagon Train of 1853, and being some of the first settlers of Lane County. Thanks to a family of historians, we knew Thomas was of Welsh descent, but really nothing more. Family stories had it that he had three brothers, but in many years of research I was unable to uncover any more history.
Then, two weeks ago I had an astonishing break-through. Another Williams descendant, and fellow family history buff, discovered an article about Thomas' father and family, and posted it at This article was posted on the Cambria County, Pennsylvania website, and detailed the life of Rev. William Williams (1777-1848), a Welsh immigrant. Reverend Williams, and his wife Joned Rowland Williams, came to the United States in 1801 to pastor a Welsh Baptist Church in Beulah, Cambria County, PA. Rev. Williams was described in the article as being 5'7", about 170 lbs, with sandy hair and a heavy mustache. He and his wife had a total of eight children (the same number Julie will have a little later this year), and Thomas did indeed have three younger brothers. When the town of Beulah dwindled, Rev. Williams and his boys built a new log church building in the neighboring town of Bethel, where Rev. Williams continued to preach until his death in July of 1848. The church was called 'The Regular Baptist Church of Bethel', and both Rev. Williams and his wife are buried in the churchyard there. In one fell swoop, I had the entire history of Thomas' growing up years and family heritage.

OCTOBER 10 1803-OCTOBER 18 1894

This same Williams family descendant (that I received my information from) had his grandfather die earlier this year. In going through his grandfather's things, he found and posted a new-to-me photo of Thomas D. Williams, a real treasure. You are looking at a truly remarkable man, who lived through amazing dangers and still lived to be 91 years old. His first born was Elias P. Williams, who later continued the family tradition, by helping to found the Dexter Baptist Church, just outside of Eugene, Oregon. Below is a photo of the church and congregation in 1909, and Elias is the one on the left, on his knees with a hat and long white beard.

The Williams family has continued on as Baptists, through Elias's son Joe Williams, his daughter Martha Louise Williams Brown, her daughter Bethel Brown Asmussen, and finally to her son (my insurance man) John Asmussen. What a heritage! Surely only the hand of God, and His mighty promises could have brought that to pass.

One more note of blessing. We are leaving tomorrow, for a visit with Julie, Peter, and all our wonderful grandchildren. In looking at a map, we discovered that the Bethel Baptist Church (still in use today) is only about an hour from where Julie lives. We have planned a day trip and a history lesson for the boys, to visit and take photos. In two weeks, I found another whole generation and history of the Williams family, and will get to visit the place of Thomas's birth and raising. What a wonder. The church is named Bethel, and is on Bethel Road. My mother-in-law is named Bethel....and has been a Baptist all her life. A coincidence? I don't think so.


Anonymous said...

I'd love to get a copy of the article that was posted about Rev. Williams. My wife is a descendant of his son Benjamin.

Trever Williams said...

I would love to see and hear about your journey to Bethel baptist church, I am a descendant of Thomas Williams as well.