The David Williams house.

David Williams is best known for his work in the state legislature with General Joshua Barnes create Wilson County from parts of Edgecombe, Nash, Johnston, and Wayne Counties. Williams’ house was in Edgecombe County during his lifetime, but a boundary adjustment in 1883 shifted it into Wilson. His enormous plantation sprawled into both counties, however.

The David Williams house, 1980. It has since been demolished.

Per the National Register of Historic Places Inventory — Nomination Form for Upper Town Creek Rural Historic District, prepared by Kate Ohno in 1982, the house was built between 1845 and 1860. “This square two-story double-pile Greek Revival house is typical of the kind of plantation house popular with the prosperous planters of this area during the fifteen years before the Civil War.

Detail of ceiling medallion, 1980. “The most outstanding feature of the interior is, however, the elaborate plaster ceiling medallions and cornices. The hall boasts the most elaborate round medallion, while the parlor has a simpler round one and an elaborate plaster cornice.”

Despite the dozens and dozens of number of people David Williams enslaved, I have only been able to identify a handful by name. The 1830 will of Drewry Williams, which entered probate in 1831, included bequests to son David of a “Negro girl by the name of Rose one Negro boy by the name of Amos and one Negro man by the name of George.” David Williams was also bequeathed a one-third interest in three enslaved people — Pink, Nan, and Peter — after the death of his mother.

In the 1850 federal slave schedule of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, David Williams is listed with 17 enslaved people.

In the 1860 federal slave schedule of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, Williams reported an astonishing 128 enslaved people, making him one of the largest slaveholders in the area. The quarters on his plantation included 20 houses, none of which was standing at the time the house was nominated for the historic register.

On 13 August 1866, Preston Williams and Betty Petteway registered their 15-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace. W.D. Petway was a close neighbor of David Williams, and the couple may have been enslaved on their adjoining plantations.

In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: farmer Preston Williams, 46; wife Bettie, 34; and children Samuel, 17, Warren, 14, Rose, 11, William, 6, and Virginia, 2. On 18 August 1870, Dicey Petway, daughter of Bettie Williams, married Red[mond] Braswell, son of Preston Wilson, at Joyners township. [Braswell was the surname of another slaveholder who lived near Williams and Petway.]

A Google Maps aerial showing the former site of the David Williams house at A. (William D. Petway’s house was located at B. The Edgecombe County line runs parallel to and a couple of hundred feet east of Orchard Road.

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