The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Preston S. Williams, My Grandpa

By Janice Kinsler Smith © 1990

Issue: February, 1990

Preston S. Williams standing in front of the old homeplace in Meadows of Dan, Virginia.Preston S. Williams standing in front of the old homeplace in Meadows of Dan, Virginia.Preston B. Williams was born 95 years ago on April 30, 1894 in the front room of the family home in Meadows of Dan, Virginia. He was the first child to be born in this house. The home is a two story frame house with a door leading out from each of the levels.

Until recently, the upstairs door led nowhere. The present owner, Gary Cockram, son of Arthur Cockram, added a balcony. The house lies just east of the Blue Ridge Parkway on Route 2. In the old days the road bent around past Cecil Cox's home. There is a stream running through the front yard that had to be forded in the old days. Next to the stream was a brandy still, a common enterprise in the past to generate money for such things as sugar, salt, and coffee.

According to Elizabeth Smith, daughter of Joel Williams, there was an outhouse that straddled the stream. It had to be moved when its location was banned. Elizabeth was also born in the family home as her parents lived there until she was five years old.

As most families in the area, the Williamses farmed to provide their food. Preston remembers his scratchy shorts his mom made from flax.

Preston was named for his grandfather, Preston Cock, the son of Squire John Cock and Jane Phillips. His mother, Lucy Cock married John W. (Bill) Williams, son of Jacob Williams and Lucinda Handy. There were six children: John, Joel, Lillie, Cora, Preston and Frank.

Preston married Macy Mae Goad, daughter of Octavia Webb and John Anderson Goad, on Christmas day, 1914. Octavia was the daughter of Eld Isaac Webb and Malesia Jane Martin. According to Macy's brother, Booker, they were given a bed tick and a cow by Macy's parents. There were heavy rains or snow causing much mud up to twenty inches deep. After the wedding, Macy and Preston headed for their new home in Meadows of Dan which was fifteen miles away. They went by buggy with the cow trailing behind. Booker walked behind to drive the cow. According to Octavia Webb's Bible, Preston and Macy were married by Elder C. C. Phibbs. Preston says his parents gave him a horse and saddle which in those days was equivalent to about a year's wages for a farm hand.

Preston and Macy met when she was about thirteen, at the Fellowship (Snake Creek) Primitive Baptist Church, Fancy Gap/Hillsville, Virginia. The original pulpit and log benches are still standing. According to Preston, when Macy saw him she told her cousin Claudie that she would marry that boy some day.

Preston says, "The old Baptist Church, they had what you would call a circuit. They'd hold service at the Concord Church the third Sunday of the month, and another church would be the second Sunday, and Snake Creek, I guess was the fourth Sunday of the month. So people would get a horse and buggy and ride. It taken about three or four hours to ride fifteen miles." Because of the long ride back home, visitors were fed and stayed at the home of local church members. According to Archie Goad, brother of Macy, it was common for up to forty people to spend the night following an association meeting. Straw was laid in the barn for the men, and the women stayed in the house.

That night after Preston and Macy met, Preston and his father spent the night at the Goad home. It was about fifteen miles from their home and took three to four hours by horse.

Because of her age, Macy needed permission to marry. Following the wedding, Preston and Macy lived with Preston's parents in Meadows of Dan. Preston helped his father with farm chores. Their first child, Lorna was born the following Christmas Eve in the same room Preston had been born in. On New Year's Eve, Preston left for Washington to work for Capitol Traction which later became Capital Transit. His family joined him the following April. He worked for Capital Transit as a bus driver until he reached 65, the age for mandatory retirement. Preston says, "I got every safety award they ever give ... Well, that is one record nobody can ever make or ever will. Forty-five years with no accidents and no complaints...."

His brother Joel had previously worked for the same company, but he returned to Meadows of Dan, married Bertie Gardner, and farmed the rest of his life. Booker Goad, Preston's brother-in-law, also worked for Capital Transit, later becoming a vice president. Preston's brother Frank worked there for a short time before becoming a fireman. It seemed to be a family tradition working for Capital Transit. I remember spending each Christmas with my grandparents and having to wait to open my presents until Grandpa returned from work - very hard for a young person.

Preston and Macy had five children: Lorna, Elma, John, Preston and Macy, with 10 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. Preston takes great pride in his family and all their accomplishments.

Macy died July 17, 1979 after a long illness.

Interestingly in tracing the family roots, Preston and Macy can trace back to the original Abraham Goad in the 1600's through five different lines. Abraham and his family can be traced to the North Faraham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia. John Alderman in his book, "The Settlements," has linked many of the families in this part of the country to the North Farnham Abraham Goad.

Grandpa remains active and an inspiring head of this family. My life is richer for having known this man as a special friend in addition to being my grandfather. He sees the best in all things and people. He is always ready to help when needed. At 95, maybe he should be taken care of and spoiled, but he always reverses the tables.

When he left the country, he left part of himself behind. He returns several times each year, still being a part of Meadows of Dan. Where ever he goes, people know him and enjoy just being with him.