28. The Williams Family

Benton Southworth Donaldson Williams and his wife, Burchett Powell Williams owned Oak View from 1829 to 1886. They were a prosperous, middle-class farming family who had six children: four sons named Clinton, Cicero, John Quincy, and Napoleon, and two daughters – Virginia and Sarah. Before the Civil War, the Williams family owned as many as twelve slaves who lived and worked here at Oak View, in the fields and the house. Although they owned slaves, the Williamses were Unionists. In 1864 Clinton, Napoleon, and John Quincy were put on trial for opposing the Confederacy and sent to Wilmington. They stayed in Wilmington under house arrest and were enlisted in the Navy, but never saw active duty. Unlike his brothers, Cicero enlisted in the Confederate Army in Halifax County in 1862 but deserted after serving several months, spending the remainder of the war in Point Lookout, Maryland. During Reconstruction, the period following the Civil War, Benton Williams served as one of the four delegates from Wake County for the 1868 North Carolina Constitutional Convention. The members of the State Convention were charged with framing a new state constitution and adopting the Fourteenth Amendment, assuring African Americans equal protection under the law. Oak View is the only home of Wake County’s four delegates to remain standing. After Benton’s death in 1870, the farm was divided amongst his heirs. With the assistance of a farm manager named Ad Bunch, Benton’s wife, Burchett, continued running her piece of the farm until her death in 1886.