On Friday, March 5, two days early, Williams celebrated the 284th birthday of our founder, Colonel Ephraim Williams, with an honorary birthday party held in Goodrich Great Hall and a contest to find his gravemarker on campus, sponsored by the Society of Alumni.
Through all the balloons, cake and festivities surrounding this campus event, an old question concerning Williams, or more accurately, the remains of him, popped into foreground once again. As the card from the Society of Alumni found in SU boxes on Friday proclaims, we think the final resting place of our founder does indeed lie on campus; his remains are thought to be located within the bowels of Thomson Memorial Chapel.
The truth of this claim, however, has been questioned in the past, and remains so today. For many years, the debate over whether the remains entombed in Thomson Chapel are indeed those of Williams has continued, at some times more silently than others. When this was mentioned to some of the students attending the birthday party on Friday, it seemed that a majority of the population did not know that such scandalous potential existed on campus.
Some never knew about the controversy, while others were shocked and appalled at the idea of such a thing. Another student commented that if the college was not sure about the identity of the remains for certain, then they should not be making false claims. So the real question is, how do we know for sure that Ephraim Williams’ remains lie in Thomson Chapel or not?
As the story goes, Colonel Williams was killed in battle Sept. 8, 1755 at Bloody Pond near the foot of Lake George, NY, when his scouting party was ambushed by French and Indian forces. He was buried not far from where he fell, and he remained undisturbed there for 80 years until a distant relative, Dr. N. S. Williams, located the gravesite and removed Williams’ skull, taking it to North Carolina in 1837.
In 1853, a committee was appointed by the Alumni Society to find Williams’ grave and to erect a monument over his grave and the place where he fell. Using the same guide who had led N. S. Williams to the site less than 20 years earlier,