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January 16, 2014

Traces of Laurel: J.T. Williams

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — I have researched the Williams families (my maiden name was Williams) and as far as I can determine there were two family groups by that name in early Laurel County.  My branch came from North Carolina and settled in the Raccoon section, migrating into what became the East Bernstadt/Pittsburg area.  The other Williams clan lived in the Laurel River section of the county and some of them migrated into London.  I can’t say for certain that these two families  were unconnected to each other but I’ve never found evidence of this.  J.T. Williams, the subject of this week’s sketch, was from the Laurel River branch and became one of London’s foremost merchants. 

Writing of him, Charles W. Kellogg said:  “Mr. J.T. Williams, who is so well and favorably known as a prosperous businessman, was born of worthy parentage.  His father, Harvey Williams, was one of Laurel County’s most respected citizens.  He (meaning J.T.) has held several county offices, all of which were filled with ability and such fairness as to guarantee to him the utmost confidence of his constituents. He served two terms as sheriff soon after the late war, when the country was in a very unsettled condition resulting from the strife.  Politics were at fever heat, and shooting scrapes of frequent occurrence.  His promptness in arresting and bringing criminals to justice no doubt had much to do with putting Laurel County to the front and giving her the peaceable and law-abiding reputation that she now enjoys.  On account of his promptness is settling the revenue, the State Auditor placed thousands of dollars in his hands for collection against defaulting officers in other parts of the Commonwealth.”

Kellogg goes on to tell of Williams’ terms as School Superintendent and Chairman of London’s Board of Trustees.  As a trustee, according to Kellogg, Williams arranged to have Main Street ‘macadamized’ which, says Kellogg, “is a great improvement over the impassible road we once had.”

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