A collection of biographies about Person County residents who were either born there or who lived there during their lifetime. Some of them have collections of records in various institutions around North Carolina which can be viewed by clicking onto the name if it is underlined.


The Reverend John Alexander BEAM (1853-1928) Wife Mollie Lucas Beam (1867-1951)
Two worthy servants of God. Leading educators, benefactors, and distinguished citizens of Person County of more than half century. Mr. Beam, born in Cleveland County, graduated at Wake Forest College. Founder Bethel Hill Institute 1888. Person County Superintendent of Schools, 1914-1923. Mr. Beam, born in Bleinheim, South Carolina, graduated at Oxford College. First woman to be elected County Superintendent of Public Instruction in North Carolina.
Home site 1/4 mile west. School 1/4 mile east.
Erected under auspices of Person County Historical Society, 1966


Robert Lester BLACKWELL (1895-1918)

Of the 82,000 North Carolinians who went into the army and navy, some died gloriously on the field of battle; some died from horrible wounds; some died of disease. Others went through the same dangers without a scratch. Others never went to France at all, but served here at home.
Why was this so? The answer is--the fortunes of war. When a man joins the army of his country he lays aside for the time his own will and interests. It is not what he wants, but what his superiors think best that he does. This is true from the humblest private to the commanding general of all the armies.
The watchword of the army is service. Service means to obey orders. That is what every soldier is trained to do. He is trained to fear neither death nor suffering. He is trained to fear only failure to do his duty.
All soldiers were serving; all had to bear the fortunes of war. One might die a glorious death; another might suffer a broken body; another might not receive a scratch. Some soldiers might go to great adventures in strange countries; others might drill and labor in training camps in their home country, but whatever fortune of war the good soldier met with, he met it in the name of service to his country. An example of the greatest service is Robert Lester Blackwell.
Robert Lester Blackwell was a farmer boy. He was born in Hurdle Mills in Person County, North Carolina. When the war broke out he joined the 119th infantry and went abroad to fight. He served with honor in Belgium and on the Hindenburg line at Bellicourt. On October 11, 1918, in a great battle before St. Souplet in France, he and a few of his comrades were cut off from their regiment by the German artillery fire. They knew that unless some one carried a message back to the regiment all of them would be captured or killed. They knew also that any man who tried to get through the German fire would probably be killed. The commanding officer asked for volunteers to carry the message. Without hesitation Blackwell stepped forward. He took the message and plunged into the hail of shells that churned up every foot of the ground. A shell struck him and the brave soldier fell dead.
In memory of this brave deed Congress gave to Blackwell's father a beautiful medal of honor, the highest honor our country can bestow on a soldier. Throughout all the country was read the order citing his bravery for an act that was "above and beyond the call of duty."
Robert Lester Blackwell was not trying to win a name for himself. He was trying to save the lives of his comrades. It was an act of service such as has been described by the Master of men when He said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

The only North Carolinian to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for service in World War I was Robert Lester Blackwell. Blackwell was a Personian and he was actually the first North Carolinian to be honored with this medal. Robert Blackwell was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously. His citation reads: "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Saint Couplet, France, October 11, 1918. When his platoon was almost surrounded by the enemy, and his platoon commander asked for volunteers for his mission, well knowing the extreme dangers connected with it. In attempting to get through the heavy shell and gun fire, the gallant soldier was killed."

This memorial, which stands on Court House Square, is a reminder to passersby that this was a man whose sense of duty was tremendous, and offers a shining example of what patriotism really means. He was truly an American patriot.

See Burial Place of R. L. Blackwell


Aubrey Lee BROOKS (1871-1958)

Brooks Hall, the location of UNC Press, was completed in 1980 and named to honor Aubrey Lee Brooks and his sons, Thornton H. Brooks and Dr. James Taylor Brooks. Born in 1871, Aubrey Brooks received his law degree from Carolina in 1893. He became one of the most successful attorneys in North Carolina and was active and influential in the state’s political and philanthropic life. Brooks became a historian and published four books, including the biography Walter Clark, Fighting Judge (1944) and his autobiography A Southern Lawyer. Brooks provided a trust fund for the University of North Carolina Press and established a million-dollar foundation to provide scholarships. Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, LLP was founded in 1897 when Aubrey Lee Brooks, of Person County, North Carolina, moved to Greensboro and joined Colonel James Boyd's established practice. In 1900, Col. Boyd left to become a Federal Judge for the Western District of North Carolina. In 1927, another firm member, Johnson Hayes, became the first U.S. District Court Judge of the newly formed Middle District of North Carolina.
Over the years, Mr. Brooks associated himself with a number of prominent lawyers throughout the state and nation. Among them were Willie Holderness, Judge Kenneth Brim, and Major McLendon. With the addition of Mr. Brooks' son, Thornton Brooks, in 1934, T firm became one of the largest in the state.


Albert Parham CLAYTON (1868-1934)

Person County Times. 21 June 1934.

Final Rites Held Last Sunday for Mr. A. P. Clayton
Postmaster Of Roxboro A Number Of Years, Popular Over Entire County
Large Crowd Present At Funeral

Final rites-were held for A. P. Clayton of Roxboro last Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Mr. Clayton had been in failing health for some time although his illness was not considered as serious until about one day before his death. He passed away at 3:15 o’clock Saturday morning.
For the past ten years the deceased has served as postmaster in this city and was holding this position at the time of his death. Before he accepted the position as postmaster he had served as register of deeds of Person County and also as chief of police.
Mr. Clayton numbered his friends by the hundreds. He was known over the entire state of North Carolina and a line of cars around two miles long at his funeral paid tribute to his memory. He was a member of the Roxboro Primitive Baptist Church and he was always faithful to Its cause. For a number of years he was clerk of the Lower Country Line Association and Union, he was assistant clerk to the association.
Funeral services were held Sunday at three p. m. and interment followed in Burchwood cemetery.

Mr. Clayton was born in Roxboro on January 27, 1868. His widow was Miss Anna Foushee before her marriage. In addition to this widow, Mr.Clayton is survived by: one son, T. A. Clayton, of Roxboro; six daughters, Mrs. Preston Satterfield, of Roxboro; Mrs. J. F. Lewis, of Farmville; Mrs. Melvin Long, of Fayetteville; Mrs. I. L. James, Mrs. O. T. Kirby and Mrs. H. S. Gates, all of Roxboro; three brothers, F.O., O.Y. and N.R. Clayton, all of Roxboro, and two sisters, Mrs. C. E. Harris and Miss Victoria Clayton, both of Roxboro.
Active pallbearers were: Dr. B. E. Love, F. D. Long, Claude Harris, S.B. Davis, Dr. B. A. Thaxton, J. W. Montague, D. S. Brooks and F. J. Heater.
Those serving as honorary pall bearers were J. E. Kirby, Sam Perkins, Joe Carver, Jasper Harris, W. H. Harris. A. M. Burns, D. W. Ledbetter, Dr. G. W. Gentry. A. E. Jackson, Jack Parham, D. W. Long, M.W. Satterfield, C. Pass, Dr. E. J. Tucker, J. H. Moore, S.G. Winstead, Otis Tillman, Gilbert Tillman, T. D. Winstead, W. R. Hambrick, Lester Clayton, E. E. Thomas, Charles Holeman, L. L. Lunsford and B. G. Clayton.
Acting as floral bearers were Arch Moore, C. E. Garrett, N. A. Edwards. Victor E. Clayton, Hassell Fox, N. H. Street, D. E. Fentherston, Dewey Jones, John Whitt, Guy Clayton, Carl Clayton,. Zeb Harris. Alvin Clayton. M. R. Clayton, Earl Clayton, Harold Clayton, O.Y. Clayton, Jr., and Maxi Fox.


John Wilson CUNNINGHAM Papers, 1854-1869

John Wilson Cunningham (1820-1887) was an agriculturalist and state Democratic Party leader, from Person County, N.C. Wilson served in the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1844 and 1864-1865, and later in the state Senate. The collection includes chiefly letters to Cunningham from Calvin Henderson Wiley (1819-1887), a classmate at the University of North Carolina and apparently the real author of Cunningham's political speeches, and copies of political writings. Also included are Cunningham's records as executor of the estate of Dr. Matthew M. Harrison of Brunswick County, Va.; other legal papers; receipts; and miscellaneous other documents.


Bessie Heath DANIEL (1886-1976)

Bessie Heath Daniel, farmer, teacher, and amateur historian, of Person County, N.C., was born to Lewis Heath Daniel, a tobacco farmer and distillery warehouse employee, and Sallie Barnett Daniel at the family home in Flat River, N.C. She had one sister, Bertha Daniel Cloyd, who married Edward Lamar Cloyd, dean of students at North Carolina State University for nearly 40 years, with whom she had two children, Edward Lamar Cloyd Jr., and Ann Daniel Cloyd. Bessie Heath Daniel attended the State Normal and Industrial College (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) in Greensboro, N.C., and worked there in the office of the president. She also held positions as the treasurer of the Kanuga Club near Hendersonville, N.C., and as an administrative assistant in the Agricultural Extension Service of Roxboro, N.C., and Person County. Daniel held numerous clerical positions, taught at Roxboro High School and the Hillcrest School in Flat River, and from 1923 to her retirement managed the family tobacco farm. From 1957 to 1975, she hosted a weekly radio program on WRXO in Roxboro, N.C., devoted to Person County history. The collection includes correspondence, financial and legal materials, and other items relating to Bessie Heath Daniel and others. Personal and business correspondence is mostly among Bessie Heath Daniel, Sallie Barnett Daniel, Lewis Heath Daniel, Bertha Daniel Cloyd, and their friends and family. Topics include tobacco farm management, rural household affairs, and the daily life of young female college students in the early 1900s. Financial materials including financial and legal documents from the 19th and 20th centuries; documents relating to Lewis Heath Daniel's employment at the distillery warehouse in Roxboro, N.C.; bank books; account books (one of which includes a muster roll for Company A, 35th Battalion of Home Guards and a list of names and birth dates of slaves born 1813-1864); documents relating to the Daniel homestead and tobacco farm in Flat River, N.C.; and receipts. There are also materials relating to Bessie Heath Daniel's weekly radio program; school materials including a cipher book, possibly of J. A. Lunsford; an "Album of Remembrance" of Carrie Scott while attending the Warrenton Female Collegiate Institute; materials relating to Bessie Heath Daniel and Bertha Daniel Cloyd's education, such as notebooks, essays, tests, and grade reports; historical and genealogical materials including pages of a family record including birth, death, and marriage dates for the Ward, Bacon, Lamkin, Gregory, Edwards, and Scott family members, 1753-1886; printed materials; photographs, including a daguerreotype of Ann Lunsford Daniel; and other items.



Alexander Rountree FOUSHEE

Foushee, Alexander R. Reminiscences, A Sketch and Letters, Descriptive of Life in Person County in Former Days. 1921. Reprinted 1960. 81 pages. Not a traditional history book but a treasured collection (especially if one of your ancestors is included) of letters to the editor of the local newspaper that were written by Civil War veteran and businessman A. R. Foushee between 1914 and 1920. These letters provide delightful insights into the individuals and events of Roxboro and Person County as far back as the 1850s.  (This book is online to read for free, click onto name above)


William Walton KITCHIN (1866-1924)

(Moved to Roxboro in 1888 to practice law. On December 22, 1892, Kitchin married Musette Satterfield of Roxboro, the daughter of Williams Clement Satterfield. He served as Governor of North Carolina 1909–1913). Landowner, lawyer, United States representative, 1897-1909, and governor of North Carolina, 1909-1913, born in Scotland Neck, Halifax County in 1866. Personal, political, and professional correspondence concerning Kitchin's legal and political careers and his interests in the Kitchin family farms and property in Halifax County, N.C. Chief among the personal correspondence are letters from Kitchin's father, William Hodge Buck Kitchin, and his brothers, Sam, Claude, Arrington, and Paul, that provide detailed accounts of the Kitchin family farming enterprises and the financial arrangements among the brothers. There is correspondence between Kitchin and Musette Satterfield at Greensboro Female College, 1890- 1891, and after their marriage, 1892, and scattered letters from their children. The political correspondence concerns Kitchin's various campaigns for Congress. The correspondence for 1907-1908 is extensive and documents the effort Kitchin put into his 1908 campaign for governor of North Carolina. There is very little correspondence about the senatorial campaign of 1912 in which Kitchin was defeated by Senator Furnifold M. Simmons. Material concerning Kitchin's law practice includes an account book, 1889-1901, and four lettercopy books, 1893-1900. Also included are speeches, miscellaneous genealogical and biographical materials, and photographs. Volumes include account books and lettercopy books, three small diaries containing brief daily entries, February-November 1886, while Kitchin was in Chatfield, Tex.; notebooks containing clippings and notes for speeches; and an indexed volume of excerpts from the Congressional Record.


James Anderson LONG  (1841-1915)

Long, James Anderson (b. 1841) — also known as J. A. Long — of Roxboro, Person County, N.C. Born in Person County, N.C., May 23, 1841. Democrat. Served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War; farmer; bank president; member of North Carolina state house of representatives from Person County, 1885; member of North Carolina state senate, 1889, 1901, 1905, 1909, 1913 (20th District 1889, 17th District 1901, 18th District 1905, 1909, 17th District 1913). Methodist. Member, United Confederate Veterans. The Political Graveyard Index to Politicians Long   -Burial: Burchwood Cemetery
See also: James A. Long/Caswell County Tree



Jesse A. Lunsford, corporal, Company G, 120th Infantry. For extraordinary heroism in action near Bellicourt, France, September 29, 1918. He attacked, single-handed, a machine-gun post from which a destructive fire was being directed against his company. While he was approaching the nest the machine gun shot off the butt of his rifle and cut a hole in his breeches, but he succeeded in getting close enough to the nest to throw four hand grenades into it and then killed the gunner with his bayonet.
Residence at enlistment: R. F. D. No. 1, Timber Lake, N. C. (G. O. 126, W. D., November 11, 1919, p. 540.)

Distinguished Service Cross
Awarded for actions during the World War I

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Corporal Jesse Lunsford (ASN: 1320936), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with Company G, 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Division, A.E.F., near Bellicourt, France, 29 September 1918. Corporal Lunsford attacked, single handed, a machine-gun post from which a destructive fire was being directed against his company. While he was approaching the nest the machine-gun shot the butt off his rifle and cut a hole in his breeches, but he succeeded in getting close enough to the nest to throw four hand grenades into it and then killed the gunner with his bayonet.
General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 32 (1919)
Action Date: 29-Sep-18
Service: Army
Rank: Corporal
Company: Company G
Regiment: 120th Infantry Regiment
Division: 30th Division, American Expeditionary Forces


Montford McGEHEE (1822-1895)

Montford McGehee Papers covers 1827-1890; he was a Person County, N.C., planter, legislator, and North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, 1880-1887. The collection includes albums and recipe books of some of his female relatives; poems and Greek translations by Lucius Polk McGehee (1868-1923), University of North Carolina professor; and a few scattered deeds and legal papers of Montford McGehee. There is also a series of family letters written to Mary McGehee, Montford McGehee's widowed sister-in-law.

See also:  Polk, Badger, and McGehee Family Papers, 1790-1898


Dempsey MOORE

"Dempsey Moore, son of Stephen Moore, had donated six acres of land located in almost the exact center of the county, a spot called Moccasin Gap, as a site for the new courthouse."
The Heritage of Person County, 1981(Volume I) / Madeline Hall Eaker, editor. / Published: Winston-Salem, N.C. / Person County Historical Society, c1981. Page vii.


Stephen MOORE (1734-1799)

Stephen Moore Papers, 1767-1867: born in New York City, was a merchant in Quebec, Canada, in the 1760s, owned property at West Point, N.Y., bought an estate, Mt. Tirzah, on the Flat River in Person County, N.C., in 1777, and was a U.S. congressman from North Carolina in 1793. His son Phillips Moore was a surveyor and farmer in Person County. Phillips Moore's son Stephen Moore (b. 1801) was a general merchant and shoe shop operator in Hillsborough, N.C. Chiefly scattered letters, 1805-1851, most of which are addressed to Phillips Moore and concern family finances and related matters; miscellaneous bills, receipts, and tax records, 1769-1869, including some concerning slaves, chiefly of Phillips Moore and Stephen Moore (b. 1801); Moore family farm and household account books, 1782-1816; and account books, 1831-1867, of Stephen Moore's general store and a shoe shop in Hillsborough, N.C. Other items include a shipping and general merchandise ledger, 1767-1770, Quebec (City), Canada, probably from an enterprise of Stephen Moore (1734-1799), some items relating to Moore's property at West Point, N.Y., records of Moore's estate, shipping accounts, 1807-1809, from Chestertown, Md., and early 19th-century instructions for constructing grist mills. Served with the first group of commissioners for the newly formed Person County along with John Paine and John Womack.

This Collection also includes many records for Phillips MOORE (1771-1840) who was married 1st Rebecca Moore, 2nd Elizabeth Dudley.

See also: A.W. Graham Papers, 1805-1936

Moore, Stephen Papers, 1761-1894 (Collection #3752). Duke University Special Collections Library | Sec. A, L:2999-3000, Ovsz. Box 7. Description: 73 items. Summary: Papers of Moore, a New York resident who had migrated to Canada with British troops during the French and Indian War and later settled in Orange County, now Person County, N.C.; and papers of his family. Included are deeds and other material relating to lands in Orange, now Person, County from 1770s and later; business letters, legal papers, and financial records of Stephen, his son Phillips Moore, and his grandson Stephen Moore, estate papers, and three items concerning the medical treatment of one of the first Stephen Moore's daughters by Benjamin Rush. There is an account book concerning the elder Moore's business as an outfitter for ships in Quebec, 1757-1770, and the administration of his estate of North Carolina, 1799-1813. A daybook, 1845-1852, relates to the family mercantile business at Mt. Tirzah plantation, Person Co. There is also a genealogical table and a biographical sketch of the family.

See also: Stephen Moore Family Tree


Edwin Godwin READE (1812 - 1894)

READE, Edwin Godwin, a Representative from North Carolina; born on a farm in Person County, N.C., November 13, 1812; completed preparatory studies; engaged in agricultural pursuits; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1835 and commenced practice in Roxboro, Person County, N.C.; elected as the candidate of the American Party to the Thirty-fourth Congress (March 4, 1855-March 3, 1857); declined to be a candidate for renomination in 1856; served in the Confederate Senate in 1863 by appointment of Governor Vance; president of the reconstruction convention which met in Raleigh in 1865; associate justice of the supreme court of North Carolina 1868-1879; engaged in banking in Raleigh, N.C., and died there October 18, 1894; interment in Oakwood Cemetery.


Henry McGilbert WAGSTAFF (1876-1945)

History Professor at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.
"Wagstaff Library Fund helps preserve NC historical & natural heritage,"
Henry McGilbert Wagstaff was an author, editor, and professor of history at the University of North Carolina, 1907-1945. The collection includes family and personal papers of Wagstaff, consisting principally of correspondence, 1915-1945. Correspondence relates to Wagstaff's life and study in England, 1921-1923; his work for the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association, 1928-1940; University of North Carolina affairs; and the management of his Person County, N.C., tobacco farms, which were leased to tenants. Also included are manuscripts and typed drafts of published and unpublished writings by Wagstaff, and material related to his incomplete history of the University of North Carolina. Volumes include fragmentary accounts for general merchandise, 1804-1831, and three ledgers of tobacco farm accounts, 1932-1953.

See also: Dept. of History of the UNC-CH Records, 1921-2010


Alexander Smith WEBB

Webb Family Papers, 1795-1960
Persons represented include Alexander Smith Webb (fl. 1830s) of Person County, N.C., and his wife Cornelia Adeline (Stanford) Webb, daughter of U.S. Representative Richard Stanford (1767-1816) and Mary (Moore) Stanford; and five of their ten children, including: James Hazel Webb (1829-1902) of Person County; Richard Stanford Webb (1837-1901), Methodist minister and Confederate chaplain; Alexander S. Webb (1840-1928), Confederate soldier; William Robert Webb (1842-1926), Confederate soldier, teacher, founder of the Webb School at Bell Buckle, Tenn., and U.S. senator from Tennessee; and Susan Webb, teacher, of Randolph County, N.C. Family correspondence of Alexander Smith Webb and his wife, Cornelia Adeline (Stanford) Webb, of Person County, N.C., and of their children. Early papers include those of the Moore family of Bute (now Warren) County, N.C., especially of Sheriff William Moore, ca. 1760s. Antebellum papers include family correspondence to and from students at various schools and to other relatives. Civil War materials include letters from Alexander S. Webb, Jr., as a Confederate soldier in Virginia and a federal prisoner; from L. J. Webb as a federal prisoner; and from Richard S. Webb, a Confederate chaplain. Included in the latter are letters from Richard to his cousin, Jennie Clegg, during their courtship. Postwar materials concern family affairs and finances and include letters of Jennie Webb, daughter of Richard S. and Jennie (Clegg) Webb, while a student at Greensboro Female College; letters from son William Alexander Webb (1867-1919) while studying in Germany in the 1890s; extensive genealogical notes on the Davis, Moore, Russell, Smith, Stanford, Taylor, and Webb families; and notes on Abram's Plains, N.C., founded by the Webbs, Smiths, and Davises. Volumes include the diary, 1858-1865, of Susan Webb as a teacher in Randolph County, N.C.


William Robert WEBB (1842-1926)

William Robert Webb (grandson of Richard Stanford) in 1870 founded the Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. Widely respected in the Volunteer State, Webb was selected to fill out an unexpired term in the U.S. Senate in 1913. He remained the principal at Webb until his death in 1926. Webb, born near Mount Tirzah in Person County, North Carolina, was reared by his mother after the death of his father when he was six. The nickname "Sawney" originated at an early age, being a Scottish diminutive of Alexander, his father's name. His formal education was gained at the Bingham School and at the University of North Carolina. After Confederate service he completed studies at UNC, he took a teaching post at Horner Military School in Oxford but soon moved to Tennessee, married Emma Clary, and took over a moribund preparatory school in Culleoka. At the school he was joined by his brother John, also a UNC graduate. Early graduates of the Webb School, all young men in its early years, excelled at Vanderbilt University, opened in 1875. Webb's objection to the sale of liquor in Culleoka led him in 1886 to move the school thirty-five miles west to Bell Buckle. Of his classroom style it is said that he "made of teaching a drama in miniature" and cut a striking figure in his frock coat. By force of personality he engendered loyalty from Webb graduates. The Senate appointment came in 1913 when Tennessee Sen. Robert Taylor died. Webb then filled out the term, serving from January 24 until March 3. Upon his death in 1926 Webb was eulogized widely and praised as the "South’s greatest teacher of boys." During Webb's tenure, the school produced more Rhodes Scholars than any other secondary school in the nation. He is buried at Hazelwood Cemetery, Bedford Co., TN


John Gustavus Adolphus WILLIAMSON (1793-1840)


The Coastland Times - Friday, June 15, 1951; pg. 4

A diary covered with the dust of a hundred years and a young woman equipped with a healthy curiosity proved to be a combination good enough to deliver from obscurity a North Carolina man who had been forgotten by the history he helped to make.
The diary was written by John Gustavus Adolphus Williamson who was born in Roxboro, North Carolina in 1793 and became the first United States representative to Venezuela by appointment from President Andrew Jackson.
The young woman was Jane Lucas who discovered the diary in 1942, read it, and used it as the basis of her first book, "Envoy to Caracas", published in May by the Louisiana State University Press. Williamson's story is that of a man who served his country to the extent of dying at his post, only to be buried in a foreign country and then literally snubbed by historians who seldom, if ever, gave more than bare mentions of his service.
He left Roxboro (where, incidentally, his maternal grandfather was the first settler) in 1835; it was the last time he saw his native state. Though North Carolina - like the rest of the world - forgot him, Williamson did not forget it. His first Fourth of July in Venezuela brought homesickness, and one another occasion he had reason to compare Venezuelan food with fare he had enjoyed in North Carolina.
Williamson had already spent nine year in Venezuela as consul, but his new post of charge was a promotion - for himself and his country. In Williamson's time the United States was not a world power; it often had to play second fiddle to more powerful countries such as Great Britain. Now, in his new role, Williamson could - and did - negotiate a trade treaty with Venezuela that gave the U.S. terms on a level with England, who had been favored with a lower tariff.
Besides official business, Williamson's daily entries also told unwittingly the story of his personal tragedy. His wife, who had never been fully at home in Venezuela, left in May of 1840. Three months later, before he could join her, Williamson died.
His funeral was a state occasion and he was buried with pomp in the English cemetery in Caracas-buried figuratively as well until his diary was uncovered over a hundred years later.
Jane Lucas, now Mrs. Ernest de Grummond, came upon the diary in 1942 while sorting a collection of papers bought by the University Archives. She believes that she is the first person to have read the diary since Williamson closed it after his last entry, for his blotter lay undisturbed between the final pages.
The diary led to a trip to Venezuela for Mrs. De Grummond for research purposes. More important though, it has also led to a revival of interest in one of this country’s earliest - and undeservedly least known - diplomats.

Thanks to Kay Sheppard who spotted this article and took the time to send a note asking about adding this to the Person County NCGenWeb pages.

The book mentioned in the article above is: "Envoy to Caracas; the story of John G.A. Williamson, nineteenth-century diplomat". Jane Lucas De Grummond. Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press [1951]. Copies of the book are in the collections at Perkins Library, Duke University, D. H. Hill Library, NC State University, and Davis Library, UNC Chapel Hill.

John G.A. Williamson was born near Paine's Tavern in Person County on December 2, 1793. His father, James, a native of Scotland, had settled in the county some ten years earlier. His mother, the daughter of Dempsey Moore (donor of the court house lot), died soon after his birth and his father then married Susan Paine, the daughter of Major Paine of Paine's Tavern.
In 1813 John entered the University of North Carolina but failed to graduate. His bent at this time, it seems, was more towards business. A career in mercantile activities in New York was short lived, for he returned to Person County around 1821 or 1822. (He had not gone to New York until after 1817). The next three years, 1823-1825, saw Williamson in Raleigh as a representative in the General Assembly. While there his politics became associated with those of  "Calhoun and Jackson", ultranationalistic. But service to his county was not this Personian's ambition. What he desired was "a situation . . . that should be a permanent and honorable one to which there might be attached a salary and perquisites, or salary alone sufficient for a genteel living." Through the efforts of his friends, Bartlett Yancy, H.G. Burton, and Romulus Saunders, he was appointed to such a post, "Consul of the United States at La Guayra, in the Republic of Colombia." (Williamson was the third United States diplomat to serve in this capacity).
When he arrived in Venezuela Williamson found that he could not present his credentials to any of Simon Bolivar's officials, as they were in Peru with the revolutionary leader directing the efforts of other South American countries at in-dependence. So, rather than chance potential difficulties, Williamson did not approach Paez, who himself had revolted against Bolivar's government. His cautiousness paid off, for Bolivar returned early in 1827, reestablishing himself in La Guayra. Williamson was 'summarily recognized.
The next several years were spent in acquiring knowledge of the "commercial possibilities of Venezuela" as well as an "understanding of her political uneasiness." When Venezuela separated from Great Colombia in 1829, Williamson lost no time in endearing himself to the newly elected president, Paez Bolivar's old adversary. In fact, Williamson's diary is cited as one of the most valuable sources of study in this period of Venezuelan history due to his close contact with various South American leaders.
Williamson returned home to the United States in 1832, and before proceeding to Person, detained himself in Philadelphia long enough to marry Frances Travis. The next year, 1833, he ran for the United States Congress as representative of Person, Orange, and Wake counties. Hoping to win the election as "an ardent and eloquent supporter of Jackson", he was defeated.
A hasty return to Venezuela was prompted by "a rather stern letter" from Secretary of State Louis McLane. Some months later, Williamson desired to return to the United States for his wife. Upon his return he discovered President Jackson's intentions of sending a charge to the newly recognized Republic of Venezuela. Primarily as a reward for his "electioneering efforts in 1833," the President chose Williamson, who now received a salary of $4500 and the additional sum of $4500 with which he might purchase his "outfit." (He also received $6,000 from his father’s estate that same year, certainly allowing him the sufficiency of "genteel living.")
John G.A. Williamson's diary presents a number of prominent persons, though as Lucas suggests, "Mention . . . does not imply . . . intimacy with all of them." The most readily identifiable of these persons were Daniel O'Leary, Lord Henry Peter Brougham, Simon Bolivar, Jose Antonia Paez, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (to whom Williamson referred as "rib of her ribs"), and Henry Clay.
Williamson's wife was most unhappy in Venezuela and determined to leave - with or without the Ambassador. Not long after her departure, on August 7, 1840 Williamson died. The British consul Sir Robert Ker Porter saw to the arrangements of his friend and colleague. Williamson was interred in the English cemetery in Caracas, where a chapel was erected at Sir Robert's "sole expense." Miss Lucas reports that after the consul returned to England in 1841 the cemetery was left unattended and "rank grass grew so tall it was impossible to see the graves. Soon the whole place was covered with ant-hills several feet high." Her epitaph for Person's son - "Unaware of the ant-hills or the chapel, John Gustavus Adolphus Williamson lies undisturbed and forgotten 'in a foreign situation."'


Guy Jennings WINSTEAD (1896-1918)

Guy Jennings Winstead, first lieutenant, Company C, 38th Infantry, 3d Division. For extraordinary heroism in action near Chateau-Thierry, France, during June and July, 1918. Lieutenant Winstead led four patrols across the Marne River while exposed to heavy enemy machine-gun fire. On the second of these patrols the boat was sunk and it was necessary to swim the river. While within the enemy lines he and five others raided a German outpost, killing five of the enemy, and in spite of heavy enemy fire, returned with a prisoner. On July 15, 1918, shortly after leading his platoon under gas and shell fire to a position on a hill, he was killed by enemy fire.
Next of kin, C. M. Winstead, father, Roxboro, N. C. (G. O. 27, W. D., May 10, 1920.)

Buried at Concord Methodist Church Cemetery 



©2013 by the NCGenWeb Project, Inc., and/or individual contributors.    Last updated 05/05/2013