Robert Williams - Merchant and Trader

Milton F. Williams wrote,

"Robert Williams, in North Carolina, had two mercantile establishments, one at Newberne and the other at Beaufort. The one showing the two prairie schooners with oxen hitched to same, and a load of hay in the foreground, we will say represents his store in Beaufort, then no doubt a country side. This store he operated about the year 1776 and earlier, according to all authentic accounts, and this picture of a mercantile establishment is more to show that he was a man of thrift in those days than for any other purpose, what we would term in the year 1919 “a live wire” and a “leading citizen.” This description compiled by Milton F. Williams, the author and publisher of the book.

"The counterpart picture represents another mercantile establishment with only one prairie schooner drawn by oxen.

"I take it for granted that one establishment was larger than the other and more pretentious and I commend the same to my followers and they can judge of Great Grandfather’s business in these early days. A man who sailed from London in his own ship, and had two mercantile establishments in the 1776 days was a man who undoubtedly was upon the firing line at all times and a leading citizen. If he did in later days lose his property as forfeit on a bond it showed him to be honest and upright man and no doubt he sold his property in order to pay his just debts, which is a trait of character of all Williams in our lineage.

“Among the customers of Great Grandfather Robert Williams at his store of general merchandise in connection with the grist mill that he first operated near Beaufort was a man named Jonas Linch. Apparently Jonas had a saw mill, possibly located on the same place as the present saw mill now [1921] occupying the opposite end of the dam from the old grist mill of Great Grandfather Williams. The relations between Jonas and Great Grandfather Williams are indicated by a court record in the latter part of 1786, relating to a running account of over two years standing in which there was a difference of opinion as to the balance owing from Jonas.

“In spite of the proverbial reluctance of Quakers to go to law, Robert Williams sued out a writ against Jonas Linch in the early part of December by which he was commanded to appear before in the latter of the month to show cause why he should not pay his debt….

“When we look over the copy of the account filed as one of the court records we find several items of interest. He is one of £3 10s. (about $17.50) paid by Robert on account of Jonas for a cow that he bought of Hope Stanton. There are numerous entries for rum and ‘melasses’ as it was spelled; also for tobacco. One item was for a bushel of ‘Aisters at Beaufort,’ charged at one shilling, which were probably oysters in the shell. There are several charges for potato plants, powder and shot, and one for two turkeys costing 4s. and 8d., or about $1.16 for the two.

“He has also an item of money paid for Sally Cooper’s shoes; another of £3 for sugar for Grany Bell, and another of 2s. for ‘nails for his wife’s coffin and gimlet lost.’ There is a charge also of 4 shillings for ‘one bottle of claret sent to Benners for the time Linch went to take ye sacrament.’ Thrifty Robert also has charges against Jonas ‘for the use of my horse, himself and John Bell going to Newberne Superior court;’ also for money paid Robert Read on his account in several cases, which indicate that Jonas was being sued by other creditors.

“During 1784 and 85 the amount of indebtedness amounted to a hundred pounds, and this was reduced in the early part of 1786 by credit of some £70 on account of boards and lumber, and work of Jonas and his men at night, sawing up several hundred feet of lumber; also by ‘7 days mowing and part of the hay,’ showing that the account was largely that of exchange of labor and materials between Jonas and Robert…”

[Some of the NAMES MENTIONED in Jonas Lynch account
Nathan Fuller…James Potter…Hope Stanton…Benj. Cheney…(tobacco of) Leffers…Gibble…Sanders…(bushels of salt) of Leffers…(bacon of) Jacob Henry…William Dennis…David Cooper.]


"Relic of bygone times in the following account of Robert Williams, duly signed by him, and made out in his own handwriting, and probably used as an exhibit to secure a set-off in the case of Robert Rose or perhaps of another complainant." [This writ mentions “Sundry Plank and Account of the same, delivered to himself 1784 amounting to £44.]

"You are hereby commanded to take the body of Robert Williams, late of your county joyner [joiner], if to be found in your Bailiwick; and him safely keep, so that you have him before the Justices of the county court of Carteret at the court-house in Beaufort…there to answer to James Paqueret….1787."