Alabama Pioneers Honored

Biography: William Varner born May 9, 1793

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Macon County, Alabama

William Varner was born May 9, 1793, in Decatur, Georgia, the second son of George Varner and Elizabeth Donaldson. George Varner married Elizabeth around 1788. He was an Irishman from Dublin, Ireland while Elizabeth was of Scotish descent.

William Varner married late in life at age 40, Sabrina Watson, daughter of Dougals Watson of Georgia. William and Sabrina resided in Monroe County, Georgia below Forsyth about 20 miles from Macon. They had nine children:

1. Mary Ann Elizabeth Varner (1833-1857); married William B. Bowen Oc.t 25, 1853

2. William Douglas Varner (May 28, 1835-July 15, 1855) After he returned home from college he died on Typhoid July 1855.

3. James Alexander Varner ( Mar 11, 1839- Jan 12, 1860); went to University of Virginia – died the 21st year of age Jan. 13, 1860.

4. Thomas Jefferson Varner (Mar 29, 1841-Sep. 2,1870); went to Franklin College and University of Georgia

5.Edward Terry Varner (July 22, 1843-Jun 27, 1862): married Carrie Ligon (Oct 13, 1847-Jun 12, 1871) went to Franklin College an University of Georgia.

6.Louisa Sabrina Varner (1845-1916): finished Nashville Old Female Academy Feb. 1862 married James M. Alexander– They had a son Edward Robert Alexander who lived in the Varner Alexander house in Macon County, Alabama.

7. Janie Varner (1845-1867); married Hugh M. Keene. She went to LaGrange and finished July 5, 1854, and died in 1857.

8. Robert Roland Varner (Mar. 27, 1850- Feb. 10, 1908); went to Washington and Lee University in Virginia. He married Jan 3, 1883, to Cora Evans (Jan. 8, 1865-Feb. 12, 1937) of Cedartown, Georgia. Her parents were Holden-Evans and his wife Mattie Allen from Greenville, Butler County, Alabama. They moved to Florida where he lived for 10 years. They had a son William Varner born July 20, 1888. in Bonify County, Holmes, FL. He was Probate Judge in Macon County, Alabama and died Feb. 23, 1966. Judge Varner married Georgia Thomas (Aug. 22, 1892- July 5, 1977) March 22, 1916. She was the daughter of Judge William H. Thomas and his wife Lulu McCurdy of Lowndesborough, Alabama.

9.Susanna CorrineVarner, (1852-May, 1853)

All the children were sent to a country school then to college. The country schoolhouse was half a mile from their home so William had a roadway cut through the woods for them. Janie Varner wrote the following in her journal…

In 1847 sister Lizzie went to the Baptist College at LaGrange, Georgia, to school and remained four years until she graduated. Brother William went to Franklin College, now the University of Georgia at Athens. Afterward, he finished his law course at Cambridge, Massachusetts. Sis Janie went to LaGrange, finished July 4, 1854.  Brother Jimmie went to the University of Virginia.  Brothers Tom and Ed went to the Franklin College, University of Georgia.  Bob went to Washington and Lee University, Virginia, while General Robert E. Lee was its president and Stonewall Jackson a professor there.  I finished school at Nashville, Tennessee, at the old Female Academy, which was used by the Federals during the War Between the States as a Post House.  I left there on the last train which came south while the Confederates held Nashville.  The Federal army captured Fort Donaldson the morning I left, Feb. 14, 1862….. My mother’s health began to fail in 1853. During the spring she contacted a cold which caused congestion of the lungs of which she died March 22, 1853.  All her children were present: Sis Janie went home from LaGrange, brother William from college at Athens, Georgia, her father grandpa Watson, Uncle William, and Aunt Betty Jane (her brother and sister), Aunt Janie (my father’s sister), and a neighbor Mrs. Colton.  Mother asked my father to send for Mr. Colton that he might see how a Christian could die.  Mr. Colton was thought to be an atheist.  Mother was buried a short distance from the house in the fruit orchard.  Baby sister Corrine was buried beside her. I was only seven years old and Brother Bob three when our mother died.  In the last of that year, December, we moved to Tuskegee, Alabama.  Father had large landed interests in Barbour County and wished to live in an educational center and be near his farms.  Tuskegee was chosen for the home, 40 to 50 miles from the plantations. There were fine schools, fine social advantages, and healthful climate.  While the home in which we now live was being built, we bought and occupied the house now owned by William Preer?. We lived there two years.”

William Varner moved his family to Alabama after his wife died March 22, 1853. and built a large plantation in Tuskegee where he died April 9, 1870. He is buried in Tuskegee City Cemetery, Tuskegee, Macon County, Alabama along with his wife and many children.

William owned many slaves and records in the Varner-Alexander collection in Montgomery archives include the following.

Bill of sale from William Varner.  Feb. 1, 1864, he sold a negro man named Hiram, 30 years old, 5 ft. 6 inches tall, 160 lbs.  Value $4100.  Color is copper.  Tuskegee, Alabama, enrolling office is Barbour County.

Bill of sale for negroes to William Varner from James Bacon from Worcester County, Maryland.  William Varner, Jones County, State of Georgia, “my two negro girls, Leah and Barbary, aged about 10 and about 12, of dark complexions.”  Amount is $325. Dated Feb. 27, 1826.



1.Varner-Alexander collection in Montgomery archives

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  1. […] Alabama was one of the finest mansions of Alabama’s Piedmont section. It was built in 1840 by William Varner, a pioneer settler of Macon County, Alabama. It is reported that Varner himself designed and […]

  2. My ancestors are from Tuskegee. My great,great grandfather was John Glenn Motley. He was born in Autuga county. The Motley’s moved to Alabama from Virginia. John was a Methodist Minister and farmer in Tuskegee. The stained glass in the church today shows his name as an early minister. He married Louisa Perry 1849. Their son was Robert Motley. John was a soldier in the civil war. They also had the Motley store on the square. The building still stands today. John’s son Robert had a son named Robert Hutchinson Motley in 1888. He was my Grandfather and moved to Miami in the 1920’s land boom. My father William Walker Motley was born in Tuskegee in 1912. I was born in Miami, 1946 and now reside in Atlanta. I recently visited Tuskegee. I also visited on vacations as a kid and stayed with my cousins, the Wadsworths. Generations ago my ancestor, Thomas Motley was born in Wales in 1555. Another ancestor John Motley arrived in Colonial America in Virginia in 1652. A 660 acre land grant. He raised tobacco.
    Robert H. Motley

  3. My parents have lived in the home My Varner and Sabrina lived in before her death in Monroe County, Ga. Sabrina and Corrines grave are situated right next to the home I built on the same property as my parents home.

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