From History of Texas Published in 1896
JOHN MANOAH WILLIAMS is a representative of the pioneers of central Texas and now one of the largest landowners and the wealthiest man in Hood county. He was born in west Tennessee, January 23, 1832, a son of David and Nancy Ann (Brock) Williams, the former a native of North Carolina, the latter of Alabama. His paternal grandfather was Isaac Williams, a soldier of the war of 1812. The mother of our subject died during his early childhood, leaving two sons, the older brother being William V. Williams. The father of this family was again married and seven children were born of the second union. His death occurred in Brazos county in 1895, at the age of 89 years.
John M. Williams received but limited school privileges and since 17 years of age has been dependent upon his own resources. Within the first years of its statehood he came to Texas, locating in Cherokee county, where he engaged in farming. He was one of the first settlers of that locality and had to endure all the hardships incident to pioneer life. In his business dealings he was successful and continued to make his home in that locality until 1860, when he came to Hood county, which then formed a part of Erath county. He owned a farm of 160 acres in Cherokee county, which he traded for cattle, bringing the same to Hood county to graze on its broad prairies. He engaged in the stock business and at one time was largely interested in cattle, having about 800 head. He also had 30 horses. When he arrived in this locality there were but few settlers on Squaw creek, and the country abounded in game and wild animals. Like other early settlers Mr. Williams suffered losses through Indian depredations and for about four years most of his time was passed in assisting to drive away the savages. He participated in several different battles, in one of which his party lost 21 men. On different occasions he lost his entire stock of horses – at one time five head, one of which he had refused $200 for. At another time the Indians drove his horses away in broad daylight and Mr. Williams could only look on powerless to prevent them, for had he attempted resistance he would undoubtedly have been killed. He had to content himself with going about on foot until he had secured money enough to purchase others. In 1864 the Indians killed Mr. Bryant and a negro, and Mr. Green and Dr. McBride died from injuries sustained in the battle. Mr. Williams took part in the killing of the seven Indians, six men and one squaw, at Star Hollow. During these troublous times his wife remained at home and not only had to care for her children but also had to look after the cattle and was in constant fear that the Indians would come and murder the entire family.
At length the days of trial, danger and hardship passed, and Mr. Williams, assisted by his good wife, has met with marked success. From time to time he has added to his property until now his landed possesions aggregate 2,000 acres, most of which is either under cultivation or is capable of being cultivated. His large estate has been acquired through his own industry, perseverance and capable management, and he has earned the right to the proud American title, a “self-made man.”
In Cherokee county, Texas, September 5, 1855, Mr. Williams married Miss Sarah Ann Prestidge, who was born in Mississippi, but came to the Lone Star state in early childhood with her parents, Obadiah and Mary Prestidge, who located in Cherokee county, whence they came to Hood county in 1870, and here spent their remaining days. Both have now passed away. Mr. and Mrs. Williams have had nine children, two of whom died in infancy, while John M. died at the age of 18 years. Those living are:
Mary, wife of Thomas Cruce
Sarah A., wife of Gordon Trammel
David, who is married and follows farming in Hood county
James, a farmer, also married
Nancy A., wife of Bradford Mitchell and
Larkin, who is unmarried.
Those who have left the parental roof are living on Squaw creek, near the old homestead.
In his political views Mr. Williams is a Democrat, but has no aspirations for office. He has always taken an active interest in those things which pertain to the public good, and as far as lay in his power has aided enterprises for the promotion of the public welfare. He has witnessed the entire growth and development of this region and borne his share in the pioneer labors. It requires a courageous, energetic spirit to meet the hardships of frontier life, especially when they are accompanied by the danger of losing one’s life at the hands of hostile savages; but those troublous times at length passed, wild land was transformed into good farms, towns sprang up, the comforts and conveniences of civilization were added, and the pioneers may well feel a just pride as they think of their labor which has changed this from a wild western region to a prosperous, productive locality, peopled by happy, contented men and women.
History of Texas, 1896, Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Co.