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Historic documents found, given to Camden author

Posted: October 12, 2010 4:44 p.m.
Updated: October 15, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Several months ago, David M. Williams Jr. and his wife, Dorothy Williams found a large number of containers in a farm storage building that had not been opened since the 1950s. The containers were filled with letters written to and from world famous weapons inventor and gun maker, David “Carbine” Williams.

The couple contacted author Ross E. Beard Jr. of Camden,  since he had written the biography of Williams. David and Dorothy felt that Beard should have the letters, knowing that he would carefully research them, preserve them and possibly publish some or all of the material discovered.

It took months to carefully open and read the thousands of documents. The documents were sorted by writer and then by subject matter and placing them in date order. They contained documents and letters from 1913 to a few months before Williams’ death in 1978.

“These priceless historic papers contain letters from Carbine’s family; from his mother; his wife; from the prison warden; Captain H. T. Peoples; from the secretary of state; from actor Jimmy Stewart and all of the originals of all of his moon shining and murder trial documents, the entire script from the movie by MGM Carbine and equally important, every legal document and the original 61 patents he held as he invented weapons for Colt, Remington and  Winchester as well as some foreign countries,” Beard said.

“We even found every letter I had written Carbine over the 12 years that I worked with him and for the first time, we have the original drawings that Williams made on scraps of paper, old envelopes and pieces of cardboard of his weapons ideas,” Beard said. “There are just thousands of letters, documents and other papers of great historical importance. We have many here-to-fore unknown photographs of Williams and his family.”

According to Beard, Williams was sent to military school in an effort to “get him a bit more under control.” The family had a large farm but little “ready cash” and could not afford to buy a military school uniform. So they took a Confederate Uniform that was worn by Carbine’s wife’s grandfather and altered it to look like and to fit Williams.
“The family gave me this and a photograph of him wearing!” Beard said.

This will go in the S. C. Military Museum in Columbia as part of the large display already there on Williams.

“As I began opening these long sealed containers, to my astonishment, I found numerous handwritten notes from Carbine addressed to me,” Beard said. “It was a really strange feeling that somehow he felt that sooner or later these documents would be discovered and given to me.”

As Beard inspected these items, one by one, he said he felt as if Williams was communicating with him from the grave. One badly damaged and partially deteriorated envelope contained about half of a pencil and a knife sharpened and well used from a tobacco warehouse. Written on the envelope was a note by Williams saying “I’d best not through this away for ‘REB’ (will give my hell). It was the only pencil I had while confined in prison and I drew my gun ideas with this. This little pencil made me a bunch of money after I got out.”

“There were countless detailed notes often written on envelopes or tablets to me giving me information he intended for me to have,” Beard said. “In examining all of the patents, we were astonished to find that Williams, worldwide known as a gun inventor and maker, had two patents we did not know about. One was a better mouse trap and the other a clothes line that would not sag and let the clothing that was washed touch the ground.”

On Oct. 3rd, Beard met Dorothy Williams and she gave him another container of papers, which included many earlier letters to and from Carbine and his mother.

“I am extremely pleased and honored that David and Dorothy would turn these over to me. I have already taken steps to insure that these papers are carefully preserved and will be filed in such a place as to insure that serious historians will have controlled access to them. I am saddened to add that about a month ago, David passed away. He had been in bad health for quite some time. He is buried with Carbine and many members of the Williams family at Old Bluff Church, which was founded in 1754,” Beard said.

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