John Williams vs Roda Williams | Gilliams of Virginia

Scott County, VA Chancery Suits: John Williams vs. Roda Williams
Updated March 20, 2016

John Williams seeks a DIVORCE A VINCULO MATRIMONII, or in other words, a divorce from the bond of marriage—a total divorce of husband and wife, dissolving the marriage tie, and releasing the parties wholly from their matrimonial obligations.

John Williams appears to be the son of Joseph and Sarah Williams and the brother of Neriah Williams. Joseph and Neri Williams were the witnesses of the
Will of David Gilliam. Though David’s Will does not mention a daughter Rhoda, it appears that Rhoda the wife of John Williams is the daughter of David. (The given name Rhoda at this time only appears in the lines of Buckingham Gilliams).
The suit refers to John’s wife as Roda Gilliam. In 1850 John and Roda are living adjacent to David’s widow and son, Edmund Riley Gilliam and near other Williams. John and Roda apparently have two children: Henderson and Mary.
The suit states that Roda had a negro child with a slave of Thomas Lewis and was currently living with Willis Campbell. In 1850 Willis was living with John and Mary Campbell, apparently his parents and by 1860 he was living with the Robert Lyon family. In 1850 Thomas Lewis owned three adult male negroes. Thomas is not found in the 1860 Slave Schedules.
Roda disappears from the census record after 1850.


To the honorable Benjamin Estill, judge of the circuit court of Scott County, the bill of complaint of John Williams of said County respectfully represents that about the year 1840 your orator intermarried with one Rhoda Gilliam of said county who at the time of his said marriage and hitherto was looked upon and esteem by all who know her as a virtuous and chaste woman your orator would further sate that had he not been married very long to said Rhoda until be became convinced that he was wholly deceived and that she was an unchaste and bad woman your orator did all in his power to make her happy and content, but it was all in vain, as she soon left your orator and was guilty of adultery with other men; your orator resolved to disbelieve her lewdness and to live with her as a wife and companion, but it was all in vain, she very soon let your orator again and again and was charged as aforesaid of lewdness with other men. Your orator still bore with it all and suffered her to come and live with him, hoping that reports as to her conduct as a bad woman might turn out to be false and that she would yet become reconciled to live with him and conduct herself as a wife and companion, but your orator would also state to his great mortification about the year 184__ since your orator’s said marriage his said wife was delivered of a negro child, the father of which is a slave who belongs to Thos Lewis and your orator would also state that she has since that time abandoned him and lived in adultery with one Willis Campbell. The prayer of your orator therefore is that the said Rhoda Williams be made party deft to this bill and that she be compelled to answer to the same fully on oath that upon a final hearing your honor will render a decree in favor of your orator, granting him a divorce a vinculo matrimonii from said Rhoda and that such other and further relief be extended by your honor as to justice and equity belongs and is suited to his case. May it please your honor to grant the commonwealth writ of _____ ______ etc.

Sig. D. R. Kane

  • Library of Virginia Chancery Files. Scott County, VA, John Williams vs Rhoda Williams. 1852-006.