The death Nov. 6 of historian and author Anne Williams McAllister, of Hickory, ended a career of chronicling the rich history of her local ancestors and the diverse roles they played in the 18th and 19th centuries in forming present-day Catawba County.
The granddaughter of pioneer Newton newspaper editor Francis Marion “Frank” Williams proved her journalistic heritage with her research and award-winning books. She grew up in Lenoir where her father was a city official and businessman, but her writing stemmed from the grandfather who owned the Newton Enterprise, a forerunner of The Observer News Enterprise.
Williams, who was also one of the county’s early attorneys, wrote about Newton’s development as it fostered Catawba College here, the politics and crime news from the county seat of government, the emergence of the textile industry and railroading, even the cataclysmic cyclone of 1884.
His granddaughter, a teacher-turned-businesswoman, had a treasure trove of dramatic history to write about. Through her mother, Hickory native Oneita Miller Williams, she was a descendant of Heinrich Weidner (Henry Whitener), the intrepid German hunter-trapper who is considered the first European to cross the Catawba River into wilderness inhabited only by Catawba Indians.
Through her father, Newton native Macon McCorkle Williams, she was descended from William Williams, a Brit who established an iron forge near present-day Maiden, the first major industry on the frontier. She was a granddaughter of Fannie Ransom Williams, the county’s most prominent woman of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The daughter and niece of Confederate generals Robert and Matthew Ransom, Fannie Williams spent her life working on behalf of veterans and memorializing local war heroes.
Funeral rites for Anne McAllister will be conducted Saturday at 2 p.m. at Corinth Reformed Church in Hickory, and her three sons have suggested memorials to the Catawba County Historical Association and to Corinth Church.
Her research on Weidner led to most of her writing, but her youngest son, Dr. John McAllister of Hickory, compiled with her a book on Frank Williams’ career, The Newton Enterprise 1881-1888. That weekly newspaper was established Feb. 9, 1879.
In 1990 she received a publishing award from the North Carolina Genealogy Society for her book on the early historical Civil Action Paper of Lincoln County and in 1993 for her over 1,000-page two-volume history of the Weidner family, Through Four Generations.