Sisters: Cynthia Sumner Williams and Margaret Sumner Williams

Cynthia and Margaret Sumner were sisters. They were two of seven children belonging to Samuel Sumner. Samuel Sumner was born around 1794. He was the son of Richard Sumner (1766-1852), the ancestor of the entire Sumner family found in Buncombe and Henderson counties. Richard Sumner lived at the head of Wood’s (now Garren) Creek. He owned most of Little Pisgah and was buried in the Sumner Cemetery located on the mountain. The cemetery was destroyed in the 1920s after the Sumner family sold Little Pisgah.

Samuel Sumner died in 1824. He was around thirty years old and his oldest child was around 10 years old. Samuel Sumner’s wife died a few months after he did.

Cynthia Sumner was the second oldest child of Samuel Sumner. She was born in Fairview around 1815 and married David Williams around 1832. David Williams was born in Fairview on May 11, 1807, the son of John Williams (1775-1848) and Mary “Polly” Ashworth (1773-1865). David and Cynthia Sumner Williams moved to Bat Cave in Henderson County. David Williams died on Oct. 4, 1876.

Margaret Sumner, the third child of Samuel Sumner, was born in Fairview in 1818. She married Josiah Williams, also the son of John Williams and Mary “Polly” Ashworth. Josiah Williams was born in Fairview on December 10, 1817. They married around 1837 and moved to Indiana for a couple of years, then moved back to Fairview by 1840. In 1859 they moved to Overton County, Tennessee. Josiah Williams died in Overton County on March 18, 1860. Margaret Williams then moved to Marrowbone in Cumberland County, Kentucky.

The letter was written by Cynthia Sumner Williams to her sister Margaret Williams.

Bat Cave, Henderson County, N.C.
November 24, 1885
Mrs. Margaret Williams

My dear and only sister,

Your kind and more than welcome letter came to hand in due time and found all as well as usual. As for myself, I am never well. I do not know what it is to feel well one day. I am troubled with heart disease all the time and seldom clear of headaches. I can neither knit nor sew. It gives me such a headache. I have not cooked a meal of victuals in over five years. I seldom go out of the house unless it is very pleasant weather. I have my meals carried to me in cold weather and you are able to do your own work. What a difference. If I was stout, I would visit you right away. As it is, I can’t visit my children. I have not seen Martha in over a year. She lives in Rutherford [County]. The rest all live near enough to visit them occasionally. I have not walked a mile in over five years. The children are all tolerably stout but Martha. She is weak but hardly able to do her work and has six children. The oldest one is down now with his leg broken. Lou has but one child and she is grown. Mark is living with me. He has five children the rudest ever was. Two of the first wife and three of the last. We are getting along tolerably well considering everything. His wife lost her hand four years ago, but she can do almost anything but sew by hand. Can sew on the machine. Mark is gone to Asheville with a load of tobacco. This is the first tobacco farming that has been done in this vicinity. There will be more raised another year. There has been considerable improvement since you left here. The country is becoming very thickly settled. There is a small town at the bridge, two stores and a post office, a merchant mill and a carding factory. Bill A. Conner is badly deranged. He wants to preach all the time and says people won’t hear him. Brother Jesse [Sumner] and Uncle Dempsey [Sumner] have been dead some time. Perhaps you heard it. Mat Ledbetter’s oldest daughter Sarah Ann also Katy Lyda’s daughter Rachel Ann, they were taken to be confined [have a baby] and died. They both left little children. Katy lives with her son-in-law and takes care of the children. Mat comes over occasionally to see us. He is quite a different man to what he used to be. He is a very moral fellow. Joshua Whitaker [1809-1886, son of James Sr.] is in very poor health. He has almost come to poverty. 

John Casey (pronounced Kee ze) is dead and Peggy is married again. Jesse Williams married David Walker’s widow of Rutherford [County], a very respectable old lady. I seldom see Lizzie. I suppose she is getting along very well. She is married and has three children. 

A similar circumstance recently occurred in this country. A girl by the name of Bradley was taken to be confined and went to the woods and laid her baby between two logs and broke a few weeds and laid over it and left it there to die. Next day it was found dead. She is now in the Asheville jail. She is a grand-daughter of Michael Sumner.  

We get letters from Mary Ann sometimes. Why is it she always writes so sad? Hoping you is all well. I will close for the present. Write soon and let me hear from you all.  

Your affectionate sister until death, 

Cynthia Williams 

P. S. Please excuse my left hand writing. 

Cynthia Sumner Williams died about two years after she wrote this letter in around 1888. She and her husband David are buried in the Wilson-Williams cemetery in Bat Cave. Margaret Sumner Williams died on February 3, 1889 in Marrowbone, Cumberland County, Kentucky. She is buried in the Franklin Cemetery.

Local historian Bruce Whitaker documents genealogy in the Fairview area. Contact him by phone at 628-1089 or by sending an email to [email protected]