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Simon and Margaret Williams





Birth of Simon and Margaret

On November 3, 1823 a slave was born in St. Augustine Florida(1). His father had been born in Florida, his mother Africa.(2) No fuss, just a simple understanding that the value of the slave holdings of the Lopez family increased by one. This baby would be named Simon. Because the owners of the slave were the Lopez family he would be called by the white community Simon Lopez(3) during the waning days of slavery. The actual age of Simon would never be certain. On the Amilia Island 1864 census he is listed as 35 years old.(4) On his discharge papers for the military in 1864 he is listed as 40 years old which puts him much closer to the 1823 birth date.(5)

In the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1835 another slave baby was born. This baby was given the name Margaret and held the last name of Laws. Both of her parents were born in Virginia. By 1842 she had been moved to St. Augustine Florida and also became a slave of the Lopez family.(6) During slavery she would be known as Margaret Lopez. Margaret said later that she was a slave of Dominga Lopez and Simon was the slave of Antinia Lopez. They were unmarried sisters.(7)



Other Potential Family

Dominga Lopez would have other slaves that would carry the names of Williams and Lopez. In the Federal Census of the Deep South in 1864 in St. Johns County Mary Williams (age 26) with children Vibinia (12), William (7), and Charles (5) would list Dominga Lopez as their former owner. There was also an Ann Lopez (60) who listed Dominga Lopez as her former owner. In the Amilia Island section of the Deep South Census a Samuel Williams 5' 7 (age 44 years) inches would be listed as part of their family along with Flora Hills 5 ' 3 inches a nineteen year old from St. Augustine who was also a former slave of Dominga Lopez.(8)



Wedding Date

Margaret's difficulty in receiving a pension from the Federal Government for Simon's Civil War service was due to the lack of proof of marriage. The issue was especially difficult in regards to former slaves. How could you prove that you were married in slavery days? In St. Augustine the Catholic Church kept records of slave marriages that it performed. However, these weren't necessary for pension proof. One had to prove that they were married (or lived together from slavery days forward) and that there were no other wives. For some reason Margaret was never able to offer the proof needed to receive a pension. But the records are unclear as to why there is no pension, sometimes it appears to be based on the persistence of the person involved.



The wedding date of Margaret Laws and Simon Lopez (Williams) is unresolved. She claimed a slave marriage that took place in the Catholic church although no records of the marriage can be found. There is a great deal of difficulty in dealing with a collection of memories more than 40 years after the events especially since standard dating systems may not have been in use by this slave family. Margaret testified that they were married by Rev Father Aubriel of the St. Augustine parish. Most of the testimony gives the date of 10 September 1850 (Joshua Hagaman(9)) (Grace McGint(10)) (Margaret Williams(11)). In her first testimony Margaret used the date of 8 January 1849(12). In her second testimony Margaret uses the date of 8 December 1849.(13) There is no record of a marriage license being issued to this couple but since it is a slave marriage the probability of finding information there was small. A modern search of the Cathedral parish marriage records for slaves did not reveal this marriage either.



Children

In the decade of the 1850's they had five children: Alonzo (born Sept 8th 1851), Theodore (born Oct 28th 1854), Augustina (born Sept 19th 1856) and Cipriono and Cornelia (twins) born Sept 26, 1858. In the 1890's when the pension requests were filed only her daughters Augustina and Cipriono were living and her son Alonzo.(14)



Civil War

On June 13, 1863 Simon Williams enrolled by Col. M J Littlefield of the 4th Regiment of the South Carolina Volunteers (later to be called the USCT 21 Regiment) as a private of Captain M S Davis' A Company at Fernandina Florida. He was listed as 5' 9" high, dark complexion, black eyes, black hair and by occupation when enrolled a boatman.



The 4th Regiment of the South Carolina Volunteers was organized at Fernandina, Fla., July, 1863. Attach to Post of Fernandina, Fla., Department of the South, to January, 1864. Barton's Brigade, District of Hilton Head, S.C., to February, 1864. 3rd Brigade, Vodges' Division, District of Florida, to march, 1864. They served duty to Fernandina, Fla., until January, 1864. At Hilton Head, S.C., until February, 1864. Moved to Jacksonville, Fla., February 6-8, and duty there until March. Regiment consolidated with the 3rd South Carolina Colored Infantry to form the 21st Infantry Regiment, United States Colored Troops, on March 14, 1864.(15)

The 21 Regiment USCT was organized from the 3rd, 4th and 5th Regiments, South Carolina Colored Infantry, March 14, 1864. Attached to the 3rd Brigade, Vogdes' Division, District of Florida, Department of the South, to April, 1864. Morris Island, S.C., Northern District, Department of the South, to October, 1864. 1st Separate Brigade, Department of the South, to February, 1865. Garrison of Charleston, S.C., Department of the South, to August 1865. Department of the South, to October, 1865. SERVICE - Duty at Jacksonville, Florida, until April, 1864. Moved to Hilton Head, S.C., then to Folly Island, S.C., April 18. Duty on Folly Island, Morris Island and Coles Island, operating against Charleston, S.C., June 30 - July 10. Action on James Island, July 2. Occupation of Charleston and Mt. Pleasant, S.C., until August, 1865., and at various points in South Carolina and Georgia until October, 1866. Mustered out, [April 25, 1866].(16)



This was his typical day in the regiment from Regimental Orders No 1 May 1 1863

The following will be the regular daily detail until further orders



Reveilee and Roll call at 6 o'clock

Breakfast call 7 o'clock

Company Drill 7 1/2 to 8 1/2

Guard Mounting 9

Company Drill 10 to 11

Dinner Call 12

Sergeant's Drill 1:30 to 2:30

Company Drill 3 to 4:30

Dress Parade 5

Retreat Sunset

Tattoo and Roll Call 9 0'clock

Taps 9:30

Sgt Edwin Slack by order of A G Bennett Lt Col Comdg 3rd SC Vols



Regimental Order No. 2Head Quarters 3rd Regt SC vols Camp Hunter Hilton Head SC May 2nd 1863 - Hereafter no enlisted man will be permitted to leave camp without a pass from his Commanding Officer and approved at these Head Quarters



He was discharged on May 29, 1865 at Morris Island, South Carolina by reason of disability. He had a fall at Hilton Head, SC in January 1865 while drilling and was unfit for active duty for 60 days. At the time of discharge he was listed as having been born in St. Augustine Florida and was 40 years old.(17)



Period between Civil War and death

In 1879 Simon made an application for a burial of an infant son of Velbina Pappy listing her also as deceased. It is not known why he made the application except that this may be the daughter of Mary Williams who testified for his wife later on. The relationship of Mary Williams to Simon is unknown at this time. (See next page for more information on Mary Williams).



On the 1880 US Census Simon is found living in Lincolnville (in St. Augustine). He is listed as a black male age 55 and a laborer. Margaret is listed as a black female, 48, the wife of Simon and a cook. (In later years she would support herself by washing and ironing.)(18) His daughter Cornelia, black, female, age 22 was living with them and worked as a laundress. Margaret Hart, a mulatto, female age 10 was listed as their grand daughter living with them. Matthew Johnson, black, male age 10 was an adopted son. Next door, their son Theodore Williams (black, male, age 25, Hotel Waiter) lived with his wife Ellmore (mulatto, female 23). They had three children: Lilla (age 2), Edith (age 1), and Camilla (age 1/12).(19)



Theodore died on October 28, 1881. Dewitt Webb was his doctor. Tetanus was listed as the cause of death on the death certificate.



Cornelia Willliams was listed as dying from consumption on August 17, 1882. Dr. Alexander was her attending physician.



St. Augustine was to remain Simon Williams residence after his discharge until the time of his death (May 3, 1891). His occupation was a farm hand and a gardener.(20) At the time of his death his wife reported his age as 68. On May 4, 1891 he was interred in the cemetery at St. Augustine.(21) The "cemetery" is actually the Mission of Nombre de Dios.



Pension Request of Margaret Williams

On April 28, 1893 Abram Lancaster testified that he knew Simon Williams as a private in Company A 21 USCT. Abram Lancaster was also a St. Augustine resident who became a soldier in the USCT (Company F, 33 USCT) during the war. In most St. Augustine pension records it is common to see support from fellow soldiers offered to veterans and widows trying for a government pension. He also testified that Margaret's house was worth $400 to $500 dollars, she was still a widow, and had no means of support.(22) A later record by the Tax Assessor of St. Johns County would value the property at $400.00. However it is worthwhile noting that the property of Margaret Williams was assessed to C. J. Williams.(23)



On the October 18th, 1894 affidavit in support of her pension claim a Maria Williams signs as a witness. This person has not been identified. This also states that Margaret owned a house and lot on the corner of St. Benedict and Church Streets.(24) Later a Mary Williams aged 60 (8th July, 1893) says that she knew both Simon Williams and Margaret from when they were young. Possible sister or sister-in-law of Simon.(25) She is listed in the 1864 census of the south as living in St. Augustine as a former slave of Dominga Lopez.



In the 1899 City directory Margaret Williams is listed as living at 79 Central Avenue (today's Martin Luther King Avenue).



On May 19, 1902 Margaret Williams dies.(26)









Endnotes



1. 25 May 1893 General Affidavit - Margaret Williams, Pension Records of Simon Williams, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

2. 1880 U.S. Census, St. Johns County, FL; page 44, SD 18, ED 142.

3. 25 May 1893 General Affidavit - Margaret Williams, Pension Records of Simon Williams, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

4. Department of the South 1865 Census Fernandina Island.

5. Army of the United States Certificate of Disability for Discharge, Simon Williams, 29 May 1864, Pension Records of Simon Williams, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D. C..

6. 25 May 1893, General Affidavit - Margaret Williams, Pension Records of Simon Williams, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

7. 25 May 1893, General Affidavit - Margaret Williams, Pension Records of Simon Williams, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

8. 1864 Census of the Deep South, copied from National Archives Records, copy found in the St. Johns Public Library, pages not numbered.

9. 24 April 1893, General Affidavit - Joshua Hagerman, Pension Records of Simon Williams, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

10. 5 May 1893, Affidavit- Grace McGirt, Pension Records of Simon Williams, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

11. 6 May 1893 and 25 May 1893, General Affidavit - Margaret Williams, Pension Records of Simon Williams, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

12. -

13. -

14. Undated. Affidavit - Margaret Williams, Pension Records of Simon Williams, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

15. Dyer, Frederick. Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, Des Moines, Iowa,1909, p. 1636

16. Dyer, Frederick. Compendium, page 1727.

17. 29 May 1864- Simon Williams Certificate of Disability for Discharge, Pension Records of Simon Williams, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

18. 6 May 1893 Affidavit - Margaret Williams, Pension Records of Simon Williams, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

19. 1880 U.S. Census, St. Johns County, FL; page 44, SD 18, ED 142.

20. Undated. Affidavit - Margaret Williams, Pension Records of Simon Williams, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

21. 1 April 1893. Affidavit George T. Bunting, Pension Records of Simon Williams, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

22. 28 April 1893, Affidavit - Abram Lancaster, Pension Records of Simon Williams, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

23. 19 October 1894, Notorized statement of R. F. Ximanies, Tax Assessor of St. Johns County, Florida, Pension Records of Simon Williams, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D. C.

24. 18 October 1894 Affidavit - Margaret Williams, Pension Records of Simon Williams, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

25. 8 July 1893 Affidavit - Mary Williams, Pension Records of Simon Williams, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

26. Death Records from the County Health Department, St. Augustine Florida.