“In 1914, D. C. Williams, Jr., then 24 years of age, borrowed a hundred and fifty dollars from his mother. Together with a little money he had saved, he purchased a pair of mules and a small portable sawmill which he loaded in one boxcar along with a few bales of hay and two Negro men who had been with the family for a number of years. His intention was to go further south, but when the train arrived in Elm City the mules had eaten about all their hay and the two Negro men were getting restless. He had been watching the timber in the Roanoke River Valley as he rode along. It was a nice balmy day when the train arrived in Elm City and stopped for water. There was not much there, only the station and a little store, but he decided to stop and investigate the timber possibilities. He had the conductor set off his car from which he unloaded the mules and tied them to a tree, he then proceeded to set up a temporary camp. There was a man nearby unloading cross ties. He asked him where his mill was and was told it was out of town just about a half a mile. He asked to ride out to the mill with the man and arriving there he purchased a few slabs and some cull lumber, which they loaded onto the wagon with another load of ties. Back in town he made arrangements with a family living nearby, that owned a little land, to build a temporary shelter for his Negroes. Williams arranged to stay overnight with the family.
“The next day with the help of a cross tie and lumber buyer interested in additional supplies, for fifty dollars he bought a small tract of timber near town for which he paid the cash. While he didn’t really have the financial backing to back up his boast, he told everybody that whatever he bought he would pay cash for it. From that time on, he was known as “Cash” Williams. He set his mill up on the side track, where for fifty dollars he bought an old boiler from a mill that had previously been there. There was some new agricultural activity in the vicinity of Elm City which made it possible to sell most of his lumber locally at a good price and for cash. Within a few months he sent for his mother and father to come and help him, which they did. Within three years war was eminent and the demand for lumber exceeded his ability to produce.
“In 1918 when he sent for his father’s brother, the mill had been enlarged considerably. By 1920 this aggressive outfit had a large steam circular mill in Wilson, North Carolina, and a similar mill in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. “Cash” Williams’ brother, W. G. Williams, who came down from Delaware, was manager of the Rocky Mount mill and his uncle was manager of the Wilson mill. D. C. Williams, Sr., continued operating the Elm City Mill.”