Thanks for your quick and interesting response.In case you don't have it, the information I sent to you earlier is still on this forum, dated 12/17/09.I'll send this to you directly if you have trouble retrieving it.I would love to have a picture of William's grave and a scan sent by email would be just fine.Speaking of this, I'm hoping the tombstone has his dates on it.The 1900 census says he was born (I think) in March 1815 and is 85 years old, but the writing is faint and the "5"s could be "3"s.
I've been doing a good bit of research on William Withers' ancestors and I've found some things of interest.The breakthrough came with a summary of an 1862 letter on this forum in 2004 under the heading "William & Resolve WITHERS..." and posted by Willis Bray.The letter names Margaret (Walker) Withers as the mother of William and says she had just moved to Charleston to be near her son and his wife Harriet and Margaret's daughter Resolve.Moreover, Margaret's mother was Margaret (Commander) Walker.I then found Margaret (Walker) Withers' death certificate in Charleston.She died in 1882 at the age of 88, making her birth date about 1794.More important, it says she was born in Georgetown, so there is a very good chance she married a Georgetown Withers.Both Walkers and Commanders are also present in Georgetown.Margaret's middle initial, by the way, was "C" which could stand for Commander or Comanda (which was a name given to one of William's children).In the early 1880's, Charleston directories show her living at 110 Calhoun St. not far from the Ann St. residence of Harriet and some of her children.With her is Margaret R. Withers, who is possibly the Resolve Withers mentioned in the 1862 letter.
Margaret Walker Withers' earlier life can be documented in some detail.She first appears in the 1820 census as a head of household and between 16-26 in age.This almost certainly means she as already a widow.She would have been just 26 in 1820 if born in 1794.She makes her first appearance in a Charleston directory in 1825, when she was living in the close-in suburb of Hampstead which, not incidentally, was the section of Charleston where Georgetown planters preferred to have their summer homes (I get this information from George C. Rogers' wonderful book History of Georgetown County... which pays a lot of attention to families there).She is also listed as the owner of a dry goods store on nearby King St.She's in the next directory (1829) on Reid St. Hampstead and is specifically described as a widow.William makes his first directory appearance in 1835-36 as a bricklayer, living on Reid St.The Margaret in the 1840 census is also in the right age range for ours and there is a younger male in the household who is the right age for William.Where she went next, I don't know but she shows up in the 1860 census living in an overseer's house in Darlington.This was puzzling until I realized that the previous entry was the (presumably adjacent) plantation of her first cousin Elizabeth Pettigrew, who wrote the 1862 letter referred to earlier.
Now who might Margaret (Walker) Withers' husband be?Directories around 1878-81 list her as the "widow of John."Maddeningly, the next few directories claim she was the "widow of James."One might assume the later ones represent a correction, but most of them appeared after her death and if _they_ are in error might not have been corrected.Anyway, it is interesting that the 1820 Georgetown census shows a John Withers estate with about 60 slaves.John is not in the 1810 census.I can't prove it, but this could very well be Margaret's husband.Indeed, if he were the same age as she, he would have been too young to be a head of household in 1810.There are three other Georgetown Withers household heads in 1820 and none are likely to be William's father.Francis Withers died in 1847 without issue, despite having had three wives.Robert Francis lost his entire family in a hurricane in 1822.Robert had no children in his household in 1810 or 1820.
Going back further we run into what I think of as the Withers family nightmare.As George C. Rogers puts it, the family's practice of naming children after their uncles makes it "almost impossible to disentangle the family lines."There are scarcely any marriage records, christenings, or wills in the late 18th and early 19th centuries that would help sort this out.Fortunately, all is not lost.It seems almost certain the the Georgetown Withers were all descended from the "founder" in the area, Charleston bricklayer James Withers, who died in 1756.Whatever the generation or two before William may have been, all lines lead back to James.He seems like a very interesting character.While proudly describing himself as a bricklayer in his will, he had gone far beyond bricklaying to amass several plantations with slaves, one or two in Georgetown, two in the Goose Creek area, and one or two others.Plus he owned houses and lots in Charleston.The will implies that the family intended to focus on their Mount Pleasant plantation in Georgetown, because he orders the sale of his Charleston properties and suggests that his wife might want to live at Mount Pleasant.After his death, his wife and four sons (John, Richard, William, and Francis)got additional land grants bringing the family's Georgetown holdings to around 6,000 acres.Most of this was along the Sampit River, which flows by the town of Georgetown.As Rogers says, this area "was almost entirely the domain of the Withers family."They became among the biggest planters in the area.The four listed in the 1820 census between them owned 875 slaves.Francis (the younger one, 1769-1847) had nearly 500 slaves at his death in 1847.With the Withers who stayed in Georgetown not producing children, the family essentially died out there after Francis.Francis, incidentally, was the most notable of the family and had about seven different plantations in the area.His main house, Friendfield, was acclaimed in its day (it has since burned).He also inherited James' Mount Pleasant.On top of this, he kept a townhouse in Georgetown (still surviving) and a mansion at Meeting and John streets in Charleston, since demolished.
I recently also got some information about the Commander family, which I will relay later to you later.
I wasn't surprised to hear about William's "lady friend."I get the impression that the relationship between William and Harriet did not end amicably.I almost forgot--yesterday I finally tracked down Harriet's maiden name--Taylor!I found this almost accidentally while looking up death certificates for William and Harriet's children on Ancestry.com.It was on Sarah C. Withers' certificate.She died in 1921 and, by then, they were asking for mother's maiden names. I guess this doesn't quite support the Jewish theory (but then I'm not entirely sure about Jewish names).Margaret and Margaret R. Withers, by the way, were buried in Charleston's Lutheran cemetery--a bit of a surprise.I'm sure they weren't German but suppose the Lutheran Church had become anglicized by then.
I hope you get to talk some more with your cousin Zella Trotter Wilson.I'd love to hear more family lore.I wonder which brother Rosalee grew up with, William or Edmund?Also, I wonder if you have ever seem any Habersham Co. real estate records relating to William.They might indicate when he came to Georgia.
Best wishes and hope to hear from you soon (though I'll be out of town for a few days).