Henry Williams (aka James Henry Ferguson)

Erin Hollaway Palmer

We were first alerted to the presence of United States Colored Troops veteran Henry Williams at East End by cemetery researcher Nadia K. Orton in 2015. Because East End (also known as Greenwood) and Evergreen were confused with some frequency on death certificates, it’s usually not until we find a headstone that we can say with certainty that someone is indeed buried at the cemetery. But on a trip to the National Archives in February 2018, we got to look inside Mr. Williams’s voluminous Union pension application — where we found this amazing portrait right on top — and in it was testimony provided by his caregiver in the years before his death, his sister-in-law Lavinia Ferguson. She writes, “My late husband William Ferguson was a brother of the Henry Williams you are asking about and I will report that Henry Williams died in my house in June 1915 and was buried in my section of Greenwood Cemetery in Richmond. Henry Williams had lived at my house since 1912.” According to the testimony of his younger sister Patsy Lee, Mr. Williams was born James Henry Ferguson (ca. 1832) at Roselawn, the plantation of Benjamin Green, whose home still stands today on Three Chopt Road. He was sold at a young age — he himself says he was “stolen” — and eventually ended up in Louisiana, near the town of Waterproof, on the Mississippi River. In July 1863, he enlisted in the U.S. Army at Milliken’s Bend, a month and a half after the famous battle of the same name. After the war, he lived much of his life in Mississippi and in Memphis before making his way back to his birthplace. He died three years later. We still haven’t found a headstone, but we believe we’ve identified the correct plot. 

Henry Williams
  • Born: 25 December 1832 (approximate)
  • Died: 13 July 1915
  • Birth Place:
  • Death Place:
  • Spouse: Adline (Ball) Williams
  • Parents: William Ferguson, Easter —
  • Children: Prudence "Prue" Welch
  • Other Family: William Ferguson (brother), Patsy Lee (sister)
  • Occupation:
  • Church:
  • Affiliations:
  • Address:
  • Documents: Union pension application
  • Military Service: Civil War
Contributors to this Record:
Erin Hollaway Palmer