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Milam County, Texas

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Amelia Worthington Williams, Ph.D.
1876 - 1958

Cameron Herald, Crossroads Supplement, 25 Mar 2004, p. 6

“Milam historian was world’s first expert on Battle of the Alamo”

Amelia W. Williams, educator and historian, daughter of Thomas Herbert and Emma (Massengale) Williams, was born in Maysfield, Texas on March 25, 1876.

Several generations of the family were planters in South Carolina until after the Civil War, when her father established a plantation on the Little River in the blacklands of Milam County.

Amelia, the oldest of seven children, was early recognized as a potentially outstanding scholar and was so given the best education available from local teachers. She attended Stuart Seminary in Austin and graduated from Ward (later Ward-Belmont) Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1895 with a liberal arts degree.

By the time she turned 22, both of her parents had died, leaving her the guardian of four younger sisters and manager of a 2,000-acre plantation.

After rearing her young sisters Amelia Williams was able at last to work toward her academic goals. She passed exams for temporary certification and taught history and English in rural schools in San Gabriel, Marlo, Branchville, Baileyville, Calvert and Cameron. Attending college during the summers, she earned a B.A. at Southwest Texas State Normal School in 1922, a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Texas in 1926 and a Ph.D. in 1931.

From 1925 until her retirement in 1951, Williams taught American and English history at the University of Texas. As a student of Eugene C. Barker, she investigated Texas history, doing primary research on the Alamo. Her M.A. thesis, “The Siege and Fall of the Alamo,” incorporating much of this material, was expanded into her Ph.D. dissertation. “A Critical Study of the Siege of the Alamo and of the Personnel of its Defenders,” which established her as the authority on this subject. Five chapters of the dissertation were published in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly in 1933 and 1934.

In 1935 she published “Following General Sam Houston, 1793-1836.” From 1938 to 1943 Williams and Barker collaborated on the eight-volume edition of “The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813-1863.” Her tact was credited for having convinced Houston’s descendents to grant access to portions of his correspondence, an act that Barker’s disdain for Houston had precluded for many years.

Williams was an honorary lifetime member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and also held membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Order of the Eastern Star. She was a Presbyterian and a Democrat. She died in Austin on August 14, 1958 and was buried near Maysfield. The Barker Texas History Center at the University of Texas at Austin contains her papers.

So now you know a little about the Milam County woman who spent many hours driving her Model-T Ford over the poor highways of Central and Coastal Texas during the 1920s. She gathered historical documents and information from Texans who had information stored in their family trunks at their homes.

Amelia Worthington Williams, Ph.D., the world’s first authority on the most celebrated Military Engagement in Texas History – The Siege and Fall of the Alamo.

NOTE: She was the daughter of William Stanton Williams and Harriett Worthington Williams. She was married to Alfred Leroy Massengale and they had a son, Alfred Lee Massengale. She is buried in the Little River Cemetery.

SOURCES: Milam County Heritage Preservation Society, Matchless Milam: History of Milam County (Dallas: Taylor, 1984). National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Vol. 44, Vertical Files, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin. Information from Marion Travis and from Jane Smoot, The Handbook of Texas On Line.

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Thanks to Richard Stone, Editor & Publisher of the Cameron Herald and Tia Rae Stone for their permission to re-print this article.

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Created on 1 Apr 2004 and last revised on ____________