Jonathan Williams

Possibly the son of the landlady (according to one of the Ripley Bee interviews) or son of the landlord (according to the 1876 interview) named Williams who alerted lawyers to the kidnapping of Henrietta Wood.

This history of Florence mentions a “J. Williams, hotel keeper” in the village in 1865-1866, who ran a hotel that became the Southern Hotel, run by Virginia Grant by 1870.

In the 1850 census and 1860 census he is listed as Jonathan Williams, born in Pennsylvania and married to Almira, and the 1850 slave schedule lists him as the owner of three slaves. He is listed in an 1859 business directory as the proprietor of Williams House.

A Jonathan Williams also appears in the 1853 tax list for Boone County, with a town lot in Florence worth $250, one slave, a tavern license, and two children between six and eighteen years old..

There may have been a Williams hotel keeper in Florence as early as 1824, when the Marquis de Lafayette passed through the town:

Thomas Madden, one of the men who assisted in laying out the town of Florence owned the first tavern in the village and a family by the name of Williams had charge of it. During 1824 the Congress of the United States made a request to President Monroe that he invite the Marquis de Lafayette to visit the United States … On his way from Cincinnati to Lexington by stage coach he stopped and dined at this tavern in Florence and left a half dollar to pay for his keep. Mr. Yealey came into possession of this coin, which was coined in 1820, in 1900 through heirs of Mr. Williams.1

There is also a William J. Herndon listed in the 1850 and 1860 censuses for Florence as an “inn keeper.”2

  1. A. M. Yealey, “The Story of a Silver Half Dollar,” in Florence, Boone County, Kentucky (Florence: Boone County Historical Society, 1958), 19. See also the same story contained in Yealey’s longer history of the county.

  2. Hillary Delaney notes that there is an Esther Herndon living near to Herndon, possibly his mother, and many girls in that home. Perhaps they are the group of women that Wood remembered worrying over her fate in one of the Ripley Bee interviews.