Lyman Copeland Draper was a nineteenth century historian who traveled extensively and interviewed many of the people involved in the settlement of the trans-Appalachian “west” of the late 1700’s. His work remains today in almost 500 volumes of interviews, transcripts, etc. at the Wisconsin Historical Society.
In “Series S” of those notes, volume 3, is found a very interesting interview with a Mr. Ellison E. Williams. Ellison Williams was born in Surry County, North Carolina on 19 April 1770 (more commonly his birth year is given as 1766, but in the interview with Lyman Draper, Williams states he was born in 1770). As a young boy, in October of 1779, he traveled to Kentucky with his father and mother – Peter and Margaret Williams. Ellison’s father, Peter Williams, died in August of 1783 (probably killed by Indians).
About a year later, Samuel VanHook (1733-abt 1809) returned from captivity by the British and married the widow, Margaret Williams. The young Ellison Williams then had a new step-father. Ellison Williams then went on to have quite a colorful military career – primarily as a spy. He became a friend and companion to Daniel Boone – and served as a pallbearer at Boone’s funeral. Williams died 11 August 1850 in Kenton County, Kentucky.
The Draper interview is very interesting and paints a detailed picture of life on the frontier in Kentucky in the 1780’s. Click here to read a transcription of that interview. I would like to thank Harry Enoch for uncovering this critically important document.