James Monroe Smith (1846-1910), the son of Peter Smith (of Posey, IN) and Matilda Montgomery, married Jane Stilley (1844-1927). Williamson County Records provide the wedding date: October 15, 1866.  Together, James and Jane settled into life in Southern Illinois. Specifically they found themselves in West Frankfort, Williamson County, Illinois. Actually when they first arrived it was Franklin County. Jane was born and raised in Franklin County. In fact, her family first settled into southern Illinois, before there was a state of Illinois. Her dad, William Davis Stilley (1819-1890) was born in that portion of Franklin County that calved into Williamson County in 1839.

Wikipedia reports that

“Williamson County is often referred to as “Bloody Williamson” due to several outbreaks of violence that have few parallels in American history.[4] These include the Bloody Vendetta (1876), the Carterville Massacre (1899), Coal Strike (1906), The Herrin Massacre (1922), the Klan War (1924–1926), and the Birger/Shelton Gang War, 1926. The Illinois National Guard was deployed repeatedly during the 1920s to separate the warring parties and attempt to keep order.”

Fortunately for our immediate Smith ancestors, our clan had either up and died prior to 1910 or moved on to the Dakotas. I do find evidence of Smiths, Davis and Stilley families who lived in Williamson and surrounding counties throughout the 1900s and continue to live there. An officer by the name of Major Davis was on the good side of the law in the horrific Herrin Massacre (1922). I would imagine he is what dad would call a ‘shirt tail cousin’.

Jane’s father, William Davis Stilley married Nancy Swofford (1820-1888). Have fun finding her last name! The Swoffords are one of those families that never seemed to get comfortable with the spelling of their last name. I find six variations looking at me right now! Nancy Swofford was the daughter of John Swofford (1793-1841) and Sarah Jane Fixes (1797-1850). Sarah is an ‘orphan’ in our tree and by that I mean I find no evidence of any sibling, parent or relative of any kind and I have often wondered if I have the correct spelling of her name. So be it. I get anal retentive when an ‘orphan’ insists on hiding a past from me. It is as if I need to prove their existence or some bloody thing. It becomes an obsession, like solving a tough Sodoku puzzle, or finding a missing sock at the laundromat.

William Davis Stilley had a father, as most of us do, and that father’s name was Davis Stilley. Davis was born in 1785 and married Lydia Rogers (1786-1823). Records indicate she died during child birth or within a few days thereafter. Mother and daughter were buried together on the Davis farm along present day Illinois Highway 149 between West Frankfort and Thompsonville. A gentleman by the name of Walter Perry Stilley notes that he arranged to have her re-interred in the Stilley Cemetery in 1967. Davis Stilley remarried and this time wedded Hannah Moore. We have little detail on Hannah.

Okay, we just flew back in time 100 plus years from 1910 to 1785.  Notice that we haven’t even arrived at the last name, Davis, at this point, but we found Lydia Rogers Stilley buried in the Davis cemetery in southern Illinois.  We have found several generations of children born and raised with the name ‘Davis’ stamped on their birth certificates as a first or middle name. In fact the name remains prominent in the family tree to this day and folks with the name ‘Davis’ were present at a congregation of a Smith conclave many of us were able to attend decades ago. So we have been proud of this Davis name for centuries.

William Davis Stilley was the son of Hezekiah Stilley (1763-1840) and – drum roll please – Sarah Davis (1764-1811). Another example of keeping a surname alive in the family tree. Hezekiah descended from Olaf Stille and spent part of his youth in Hyde County, NC. It was there that he met and married Sarah, the daughter of William and Elizabeth Davis, of a large Hyde County Plantation. And no, this does not lead to any direct tie to Jefferson Davis of the CSA. Separate chapters will be reserved for the Stilley and Davis descendants. Please see the attached pedigree chart to visualize these folks in our  Smith family tree. The Swofford name was also prominent in southern, colonial history as was the Rogers name. We will also review these characters.

There is one more name that becomes prominent once again in the history and geography of our tree. And here it is: The death records for our James Monroe Smith indicate that he died in Simpson, Illinois. That is correct. Four generations, 175 years and  700 miles later, we still find the Simpsons, the Davis family, Stilleys, Rogers and Smiths hanging out like a small town best buddies after a Friday night football game.


His Bible states his birth year as 1785; however, his original gravestone stated 1784. Davis left North Carolina with his uncle, Elder Stephen Stilley and other Stilleys, about 1802 and settled in the Franklin County–Williamson County, Illinois area. He originally was buried on his farm near Crab Orchard, Williamson County; however, a coal company moved his grave and he was re-interred in Stilley Cemetery in 1969. His first wife, Lydia Rogers Stilley, was also re-interred to Stilley Cemetery in 1967. His second wife was Hannah Moore Stilley. Her burial location is unknown.