Dr. Francis Williamson (November 14, 1812 ~ July 15, 1878) was a physician and surgeon, a learned, liberal minded and kindhearted man whose sudden death on July 15th, 1878 surprised his family and saddened the community. He was the husband of Dr. Miriam Peirce Williamson (May 18, 1822 ~ October 15, 1888), ten years his junior, who was also a physician with a distinguished career of her own.
Francis Williamson was a highly respected physician, an influential educator and a veteran of the Civil War. He had been a surgeon on the staff of Major-General Rosecrans. In early 1850 the Doctors Williamsons were practicing and living in Harveysburg, Ohio. By 1856, the Williamsons were living in Waynesville. They had six children together: Virginia, Richard, Agnes E., Francis (Frank) Fallis, Charles G. and Mary E. Williamson Cadwallader. See detailed references below.
A lengthy obituary (partially edited here) was printed in the Miami-Gazette on July 17th, 1878:
DEATH OF DR. FRANCIS WILLIAMSON. ~ Dr. Williamson died of paralysis at his home in Waynesville on Monday forenoon, July 15, 1878 after a very short illness. This announcement will be a shock to many friends at a distance who have long been familiar with the apparently robust form of the Doctor, and who had supposed he almost had the power to regulate the time of his own decease. But no one can at all times successfully resist the in roads of the destroyer, and the strongest man is often the one who falls pierced by the arrow of death. Dr. Williamson had been enjoying his usual health until Thursday evening last, when he was attacked by cholera morbus, after having been exercising in the hot son. He recovered, apparently, from this, only to be clasped more relentlessly in the terrible embrace of paralysis. Saturday evening his condition was so alarming that his wife was telegraphed for at Bellefontaine, and she came Sunday morning at 10, to find her husband fast relapsing into a comatose condition, which it seemed he had made a powerful effort to keep at bay until her arrival. After expressing his pleasure at seeing her, and making a few other remarks, he gradually relapsed into a stupor which became more and more heavy from that time until his death. At times he would appear conscious of what was passing around him, and would try to answer questions addressed to him, but he never thoroughly roused from the stupor into which the paralysis had thrown him, and so he passed away from earth to the realities of an unknown world. In his last moments he was surrounded by his sorrowing wife and daughters and other friends, but his two sons could not be summoned from their home in the far west in time to bid their kind and affectionate parent farewell.
Dr. Williamson was born on the 14th of November 1812 at Manney’s Neck, North Carolina, directly on the Virginia line. Indeed, we believe part of his father’s estate crossed the Virginia boundary. Dr. Williamson was justly proud of his place of nativity, and he was enthusiastic in his appreciation of the glories of the Old Dominion ~~ her distinguished sons, their chivalric deeds, and her classic ground, fit soil for the scholar, the philosopher and the gentleman. He was proud to have been born if not directly upon the sacred soil, at least within range of its classic atmosphere. Dr. Williamson’s father, Francis Williamson, was an extensive slaveholder at one time, and for twenty years a clergyman of the Christian denomination, a liberal thinker, and a progressionist in advance of his immediate contemporaries, for he liberated his slaves, sending some to Liberia while others remained in this country. At an early age the son was sent to school, and received the major part of his education under competent masters in Murfreesboro, North Carolina. He early cultivated a taste for literature. In 1836 he taught a classical school in Hanover County, Virginia, after which he read medicine with Dr. Trezvant at Jerusalem, Va. He afterwards attended lectures at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and took the degree of M.D. in 1845. In 1837-8 he traveled over the western states, lecturing on one of his favorite themes, Phrenology. He also visited jails, lunatic asylums, and penitentiaries, traveling over twenty states of the Union, and occasionally delivering lectures before literary institutes.
His union with Miss Miriam Peirce, of Wilmington, Ohio, resulted in the birth of six children, three sons and three daughters. One of the sons and one of the daughters preceded their father to the Silent land, while the faithful, devoted wife, upon whom he relied to a great extent for his impulse of strength in his later years, and his surviving daughters and sons, feel keenly enough the irreparable loss of a husband and father whose genial nature, kind heart and strong individuality went far to make up the magnetic atmosphere of home. For the last quarter of a century or more, Dr. Williamson has been a successful practitioner of medicine and surgery in Warren County, most of that time in and around Waynesville. He was passionately devoted to his profession, and to the very last was a close student, keeping pace with the onward march of science and the unrestrainable progress of events . . .
Dr. Williamson was not a member of any church, although his predilections and tastes naturally caused him to gravitate towards the Protestant Episcopal, for whose history and liturgy he entertained the highest regard. He was thoroughly conversant with theology, and his veneration for the Christian religion was a natural outgrowth of his organization as well as sequence of his researches and experiences. In 1862 he entered into the exiting arena of the war, in the capacity of surgeon, and was at once promoted by Major-General Rosecrans to a surgeon on his own staff. Since the war, he has practiced his profession in his chosen home; leading a scholastic and domestic life suited to his nature~ fond of home, family, friends and books; and in their enjoyment he passed the early evening of his life . . . Dr. Williamson’s funeral will take place tomorrow forenoon at 10, from the family residence.
A biography of Dr. Francis Williamson can also be found in the 1882 History of Warren County, Ohio, pp. 887-888.
A brother of Dr. F. Williamson was a minister, Rev. James Williamson. According to the Miami-Gazette, December 2nd, 1874, “The Rev. James Williamson, brother of Dr. F. Williamson, preached in the Christian Church last Sunday evening.” He was here in Waynesville visiting from Iowa (Miami-Gazette, November 4th, 1874).
Miriam Peirce Williamson was a member of Center Monthly Meeting of The Society of Friends in Clinton County, Ohio. She was disowned by the Quakers for her marriage contrary to discipline, out of unity. Francis was not a Quaker. On 7th mo. 18th day of 1850 she transferred her membership to Miami Monthly Meeting of The Society of Friends in Waynesville, Ohio. There she was disowned again on 9th mo 26th day 1855 (See, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, Volume V, Ohio, pp. 142-143 and 543).
A "Miriam Wilkerson" is listed as a physician in Harveysburg on the 1856 Wall Map of Warren County. This is most likely Miriam Williamson.
The following comments about Miriam Williamson are taken from the biography of Dr. Francis Williamson in the 1882 Beer's History of Warren County, Ohio:
In December 1839 was celebrated his union with Miss Miriam Pierce, who was born in Wilmington, Ohio in 1822, she was a daughter of Richard and Mary (Fallis) Pierce, he a native of Wilmington, Del. and she of Virginia; the great-great-grandmother, Miriam Pierce, was a physican and nurse in the Revolutionary war, for which services she receive $700.00 per year. . .
His widow, Mrs. Williamson, is very pleasantly situated, having a beautiful home and residence, with the society of a loving daughter and son; she was a faithful and devoted wife, and upon whom the Doctor relied too a great extent for his impulses of strength in his later years; she is also a physican of thirty years' practice or more, and has a noted reputation over a large extent of country for her magnetic powers and skill in the treatment of disease, her field of practice reaching to the large cities of Dayton, Cincinnati, Richmond, Chicago and others."
Dr. Miriam Williamson is mentioned a number of times in the Miami-Gazette as traveling a great deal as a physican. For example:
It was reported in the Miami-Gazette, July 29th, 1874 that “Mrs. Dr. Williamson returned home last Wednesday from an extended professional tour.”
It was reported on December 9th, 1874 that, "Mrs. Dr. M. Williamson is visiting in Cleveland and Toledo."
In 1879 Miriam would be called to testify at the Willie Anderson triple murder inquest. She and her husband had dealt with a horrible tragedy of their own just six years earlier when their oldest son, Richard P. Williamson, 28 years of age, committed suicide on their farm by immolating himself. See, . People of Waynesville and Wayne Township considered this to be the most “sickening tragedy” ever to have happened in the area and the author of the obituary hoped that there would never be another horror “the like of which we hope it may never devolve upon us again to record.”
The Williamsons are listed in the following Federal Censuses:
1850 Federal Census, Harveysburg, Ohio, Warren County, M432_737, page 718, image 43.
1860 Federal Census, Waynesville, Ohio, Warren County, M653_1047, page 82.
On the 1870 Federal Census, both Francis and Miriam are listed as physicans (1870 Federal Census; Wayne, Warren, Ohio, Roll: M593_1277, page: 510.
Widowed 57 year old Miriam Williamson is listed as "Doctress" living with two children: Agnes (30) and Charles (23). Her brother, James Peirce, her brother (50), is also living with her (1880 Federal Census, Waynesville, Warren, Ohio, Roll: T9_1075; page 482.4000; Enumeration District: 79.
Their daughter, Agnes Williamson, married John S. Wright (b. July 15th, 1850 ~ d. July 31, 1903) on December 26th, 1887 (The Descendants of Irish John Wright: An Irish Quaker Who Came to America Cir 1740 by George F. Wright, M. D. (Published by Author, 2000), p. 118. According to the 1880 Federal Census, John S. Wright was living with his father Oscar J. Wright, a retired miller, and his profession is listed as “miller” (Wayne Township, Warren Co., Ohio, Family History Library Film #1255075, N.A. film #T9-1075, page 465A). John S. Wright bought the Waynesville Mill in 1888 (see, Waynesville’s First 200 Years [The Waynesville Historical Society, 1997], pp. 234 and 236).
The Miami-Gazette reported on June 23rd, 1875 “Dr. Williamson left here Monday for a visit to this son Frank in Ellinwood, Kansas.” On July 14th, 1875, the newspaper published a long and erudite letter from Dr. Francis Williams while he was out visiting his son Frank in Ellinwood. He described his son’s business as follows: "The firm of Landis & Williamson is doing more business as merchants than any store in Waynesville. They have an area of country in this rich valley, 20 miles in diameter, and have monopolized the business, having the only large store here. They commenced business here 3 years since, in a room 10 feet square; now they have rooms as large as A. D. Cadwallader’s~~They are doing a safe business, and receive from one to 400 dollars daily in their sales.”
According to Clarkson Butterworth in his Catalogue of the Members of Miami Monthly Meeting, 7th Month 1897: After the Friends of the late Cincinnati Monthly Meeting were attached to it, Mary E. Williamson (b. 1840.10.1) married Clarkson Cadwallader (b. 1833.1.1) and they had two daughters: Miriam Cadwallader (b. 1873.7.16) and Hallie A. Cadwallader (b. 1876.12.18). “Clarkson is brother of the afore mentioned Andrew W. Cadwallader, and his wife, Mary E. was the daughter of the late doctors, Francis and Miriam (Peirce) Williamson of Waynesville, Ohio . . . Clarkson and Mary live at his father’s (Jonah Cadwallader’s) old home on Todd’s Fork, two miles above Morrow.”