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Family of John Williams



By Geraldyne Ryman Havard


l to r: Billy Williams, Martha Franz Williams, Nancy Jane Williams Ryman, Mettie Williams Gillett, J. F. Williams


John Aaron Williams immigrated from Denmark, and changed his name from Erasmusson to Williams because he had refused compulsory service, which he considered, slavery, in the Danish Navy. He did not want to be traced to the United States. The date of his entrance is unknown, but he was in Matagorda, Texas, by 1846; that being the year that he married Catherine Franz (1828-l914), daughter of Johan Conrad and Elizabeth Franz, who arrived in Galveston from Nassau, Germany via the ship Deluis in 1845. They lived in the German settlement on the Matagorda Peninsula.

In A Texas Cowboy Charles Siringo described the "Dutch" settlement on the peninsula as having a dozen houses. The John A. Williams family were kind neighbors to the widow Siringo and her two children; Charles being best friend to their son, Billy, until Billy married Charles' sweetheart, Martha Franz.


The 1850 census shows John Williams as a ships carpenter; he was also a stockman, raising cattle and sheep. During the Civil War he acted as a scout for the Confederate camp stationed at the mouth of Caney Creek, upon occasion stealing horses for the rebels from the Yankee contingent stationed at Decrow's Point on the peninsula. He was captured twice, sentenced to hang the second time, but released with a stringent warning, after the rope was placed around his neck. He was a Confederate sympathizer, but not with the slavery issue, and he helped several slaves escape. John Williams was killed shortly after the Civil War in an accident involving a cannon shell. He died in the Colorado House in Matagorda, and was buried on the peninsula. His grave site was lost.


Catherine Franz Williams was left to rear a large family alone. She bought property at Big Hill for fifty cents per acre and moved her family from the peninsula after the terrible storm of 1875. She was a good business woman and stockman, and was known in the

community for good works and Christian charity. She lived in her old age with her daughter, Jennie, and son-in-law, B. A. Ryman, in Matagorda. She died in the B. A. Ryman home at the age of eighty-six.


John and Catherine Williams had eleven children, all born on the Matagorda Peninsula: Ann Elizabeth (1847-1949)
James F. (1849-1938)
John A
. (1851-1920)

Wilhelmina (1853-)

William (1855-)

Lucy (1856-)

Mary Ann "Mollie"( 1858-1911)

Laura Mettie (1859-)

Sarah "Sallie" (1861-)

Nancy Jane "Jennie" (1862-1947)

Henry P. (1864-1905)

William was buried in Palacios, Laura Mettie and Henry P. were buried in Bay City, and the other children were buried in the Matagorda Cemetery.


Anne E. married William Baxter in 1868.


James F. married Caroline Yeamans (1852-1919), and their children were: Charles P. (1873-1950), a pharmacist, who married Daisy Phillips (1880-1941) and had Preston, James F. "Jimbo," and C. P.; William Elisa "Willie" (1875-1950), who married Margaret

"Baby" Baxter (1880-1927) and had Dinsmore (1899-1977) and Louise; J. H. “Jimmy" (1877-1900), who was drowned in a shipwreck in Matagorda Bay in the hurricane of 1900; Laura, who married twice, her second husband, a Mr. Emill, adopted her daughter, Dorothy; Sadie, who married J. P. Pariss, and had J. P., Pat, and Irma; Annie (1886-1949) who married Gus Byers and had Margarite, and married second Mr. Maynard and had Ted;' John May (1891-1918), who died overseas in the influenza epidemic during World War I; and Darwin (1893-1945) who married Virginia Foster and had one daughter, Shirley, and married second Jo Reed. The deceased were buried in the Matagorda Cemetery. John A. "Johnny" was a cowboy who rode the Chisholm

Trail. He married Rebecca Richmond and had Bryan and Henry.


Wilhelmina married first a Dr. Allen and had one son, Willie, married second a Kilbride and had Harry, and married third Henry Eidelbach, and had Eugene and Henry.


William "Billy" married Martha Franz. Their children were: George, Alvin, "Pete," Mabel, Lyda Gay, Lula, and Myrtle. They lived in Palacios.


Family tradition claims that Lucy and her sister Sally were murdered by their brother-in-law, Dr. Allen, who was in love with Lucy while married to her sister Wilhelmina. When Lucy became engaged to Henry Eidelbach, Dr. Allen poisoned her out of jealousy, and then poisoned Sally to divert suspicion. He fled the town with the Williams boys in hot pursuit, but he escaped. Later the family got a letter from him from Africa in which he told that the Williams boys had been all around him, but he had buried himself in the sand.


Laura Mettie married Jim Gillett and had Fred, Stanley, Walter, Catherine, Eloise, and Ann, who married W. T. Cox.


Sarah "Sally" and Lucy were buried on the Matagorda Peninsula. Their graves are lost.


Nancy Jane "Jennie" married Boltes Albert Ryman.


Henry P. married Lyda Franz and had one child, Winnie, who married Stanley Rugeley.


The other descendants of John Aaron and Anna Katrina Elizabeth "Catherine" Franz Williams are too numerous to name. Those descendants living in Matagorda in 1984 were: Bess Moberley Brown, Vadyse Bedford Hood, James F . "Jimbo" Williams, Bessie Mae Baxter Owen, Oscar Rucks Moberley, Geraldyne Ryman Havard, Wilma Ruth Nini Miller, Addie Lee Nini Johnson, Violet Baxter Smith, Clancy Baxter and children, Clancy and Julie, Catherine Lawhon Anderson, Jaqueline Baxter Newton, Marianne Serrill Mathis, Richard R. Serrill and children, Richard R. III and Heather, Kenneth Baxter, Robert Baxter, and Barbara Baxter Stallings.


Historic Matagorda County, Volume II, pages 563 - 565


The Williams of Matagorda

John Williams, the head of this large family, came from Denmark in 1845, landing on Matagorda peninsula opposite the town of Matagorda. He was just verging on manhood, and inspired by youth and the spirit of the new west, pre-empted his land and opened up a farm. Next year came the Franz family and settled near by. Katherine Franz won the heart of the young Dane, and the next year, Katherine and John Williams were married.

The Williams lived at their home on the peninsula until the storm of ’75, after which terrible experience they moved to the mainland, and opened up a new farm on the Colorado, thence back to the gulf beach, and later to Big Hill where they lived for over 20 years before moving into the town of Matagorda.

Mr. Jas. A. Williams, eldest son of John Williams, 65 years of age, recalls vividly the storm of ’54 which was the most terrific of all the storms which struck that coast during his recollection. The wind blew off the roof of their home and damaged nearly every habitation on the peninsula, and every house in Matagorda was wrecked by 5 or 6, the tide coming high enough to carry a boat away up in town.

In the storm of ’75 the water was higher than in ’54, and Mr. Williams lost 250 head of cattle and a flock of sheep. In ’86 there was another hurricane, in which the wind lighter but the water as deep, and again all their stock was washed away. Then it was they moved away for good to Big Hill.

During the civil war, Mr. J. A. Williams says, the Federals on the gunboats and those stationed at Ducros lived on mutton and beef from the peninsula farms, taking from our herds two to four at a time whenever they wanted them. Mr. Williams then recalled an accident from the finding of an unexploded shell which caused his father’s death. The Federal gun-boats on the gulf side had been (in 1865) trying to throw shells across the peninsula and bay into the town of Matagorda; and most of them fell harmless on the peninsula, for the gun-boats of that day were poorly armed. One of those shells was found near the Williams home, and Mr. W. opened the end of the shell which was about 4x9, and emptied (as he thought) all the powder out of it; and then, desiring to further explore the mysterious recesses of the shell, called “Jamie, bring me a coal of fire,” last being the match-for-a-light in those days; and when the light was brought and dropped into the aperture, it lighted the fuse connecting the undisturbed second section of the shell and there was an explosion which wrought havoc all around. Mr. Williams’ left foot was blown off, as well as one corner of the dwelling, but James escaped without a scratch. Mr. Williams was moved to Matagorda for medical attention, and the mangled foot amputated, but gangrene caused his death. The wife of John Williams died in 1914, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. B. A. Ryman, aged at the time of death 86 years.  Mrs. Zipprian, of Big Hill, an older sister of Mrs. Williams is still living at the age of 92 years. They were sisters of Conrad Franz, for many years a builder and contractor of this county, and of Mrs. George Berg, mother of the Bergs also of Matagorda.

On the children of John and Katherine Williams, there are yet living Mrs. Wm. A. Baxter, James A. Williams, John Williams, all of Matagorda, W. C. Williams of Palacios, and Mrs. J. S. Gillette of Bay City. Harry P. died in Bay City ten years ago and Mrs. Henry H. Serrill was another daughter.

The direct descendents of John and Katherine Williams living are the above named four children and 35 grand-children and 43 great-grand-children, among them men and women of our best citizenship.

The Matagorda County News and Midcoast Farmer, Tuesday, September 19, 1916


Copyright 2008 - Present by the Williams Family

All rights reserved

Jan. 31, 2008
Jan. 22, 2015