William Steele was born around the year of 1804. He is buried along with his brother George in the Memory Hill cemetery in Milledgeville (Westside section D lot 63) with the inscription "Side by side repose the ashes of these brothers... They leave no relatives South to mourn their loss."
William is listed on the US census of 1850 as residing in Baldwin County occupation Clerk of the Court and being born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. According to several documents it appears that he traveled to Georgia with his family, which included his father, mother, sisters, and brother George Steele. When William’s brother George died in June 22, 1843 his obit (Southern Recorder, Jun. 27, 1843) states that he was a native of Hartford, Connecticut but traveled to Georgia with his parents. At the end of the obit it tells of mother, father, and sisters deceased and “the ligament that bound the deceased to his surviving brother”. We do know that there was another brother or half brother Ralph B. Steele that showed up in Milledgeville according to court documents on August 7, 1857 to declare William a lunatic. It should be noted that the term lunatic at the time is defined "A lunatic, or non compos mentis, is one who has had understanding, but by disease, grief, or other accident has lost the use of his reason. Also there is evidence that William and George were related to the newspaperman John Holmes Steele. John Steele is listed in William’s estate. George most likely a printer was working for John Steele when he passed away.
William Steele’s name first appears in the Southern Recorder Newspaper on February 16, 1841 as part of Washington’s Birthday celebration in which he read the address. He is continuously in both the Southern Recorder and the Federal Union newspapers until his death on November 26, 1859. During his time in Milledgeville William served as Clerk of the Superior and Inferior Court; he was the secretary of the Executive Department under Governors Herschel Johnson and Howell Cobb. He founded the Baldwin Blues with William A. Harris in 1848;which became incorporated in 1858. William served as the mayor of Milledgeville in 1851. He was an active member of the Odd Fellows and gave a speech to celebrate their anniversary in 1846. The Southern Recorder describes the speech “It was a chaste and beautiful speech, altogether creditable to the talent of the orator, and to the society which he represents.” (Southern Recorder July 28, 1846) William was involved in politics as a Democrat. He was a member of the Democratic party of Baldwin serving as its secretary in 1846 and1847. He also served as a delegate to the Convention of Young Men in 1841.
While William was living in Milledgeville his residency was The Lafayette House until his death. He was a Georgia property owner with several acres in Early, Baker and Ware County. According to court documents; throughout the duration of William’s illness, (1857 – 1859) he was attended by Doctor George D. Case and Doctor Charles H. Hall. William Steele passed away from his illness on November 26, 1859. His obit was printed in the Federal Union and described him “for his gentlemanly deportment and kind and benevolent heart.”
Although the inscription on his grave says he left no relatives South to mourn his loss, he did leave 5 children behind who he had by a free woman of color named Sarah “Sallie” (Brooks as listed on 1860 census) Keen. Those children were Charlie, Frank, Augustus, Addie, and William. Their grandmother was Jane Mitchell Gilbert who was the oldest person in Baldwin County when she passed away on October 11, 1887 her obit appeared in the Union Recorder October 18, 1887. The children and Sallie are mentioned in the doctor’s records submitted to the court when she came to visit William and receive treatment or money from the estate.
Recently I urged my brother Warren B. Steele to test his Y-DNA, which is inherited from father to father. We have had several Steele’s contact us as matches. It appears that the origins of the Steele’s before coming to America (Lancaster, PA, Hartford, CT and Milledgeville, GA) was Essex, England. I also had my DNA tested and have confirmed several connections to Georgia.
Website copyright Eileen Babb McAdams 2006