While traveling in Alabama he met Diannah Greer, a wealthy Southern Belle. They married there in 1822 and later moved to Tennessee in 1832. They had a large home near Dresden Tennessee on 95 acres. They, with the help of many slaves, raised cotton, cattle and ran a blacksmith shop. He also joined the Campbellite church and soon became a preacher there.
Various biographies disagree on the details of his conversion. One claims that while living in Alabama, they heard of the Mormon Church, but they did not join the church until after they moved to Tennessee. Another says that they first heard about the church in Dresden, Tennessee where Williams saw two missionaries holding a street meeting. Williams approached the missionaries when they were done and asked to know more. He arranged for them to speak at his church.
Williams decided to be prepared in case there was any trouble and he placed an armload of hickory saplings just inside the door. When it came time for the meeting, Williams took his place by the door. Only a few came to hear the preaching. The meeting was just beginning when there came a knock and as Williams opened the door he could see a troublesome mob with pails of tar and several bags of feathers. The leader, which was one of his own Campbellite members, said in a burly voice that they had come to give those "blankety blank" and "you too" a little dose of real religion. Williams said they better not try it. As the leader stepped through the door, Williams soundly tapped him with a hickory stick and he fell to the floor as if he were shot! Others tried but each was treated to the same firm tap. After eight or ten unsuccessful tries, the mob took their stunned leader and their pails and feathers and left with their little dose of real religion. (Shauna S Pusey, History of Williams Washington Camp)Williams was baptized "right after the meeting" on August 1st 1841.
Each of the biographies have problems. One claims David Patten and Joseph Smith visited the Camp home in Tennessee. However, Patten had been dead 3 years by the time Williams joined the Church and Joseph Smith never visited Tennessee. Others disagree on the date of his baptism, sometimes by years.
Williams' wife Diannah waited about a year to be baptized on 12 May 1842. I find it interesting that that same summer Williams Camp assisted Amasa M. Lyman on his mission to collect money for building of the temple and the Nauvoo house (Amasa Lyman's Journal, MS, No. 4 1842, p 32-34). Perhaps it was Elder Lyman's visit which prompted Diannah to join the church. One biographer, however, wrote that it was during a visit to Nauvoo that Dianna was baptized by John Taylor.
Brother Camp shows up in Abraham Smoot's mission journal beginning on May 14th 1844. Brother Camp offers shelter to the missionaries, opened his home for for preaching, accompanied Elder Smoot, preached himself at least once, and even provided armed protection for the next 30 days.
Abraham O Smoot May 18, 1844
... I had secured ready a subject to my congregation before the truth of it was witnessed. A pistol was fired at the window like a thunder storm and was followed in quite succession by a shower of brick bits against the window glass. The congregation seemed much frightened & immediately began to leave the house. I hastened to inform them that if they wished to stay that I would protect them, from the fact that I knew had such mobs would abscond as soon as they had executed their diabolical designs. Brother Camp too offered the people protection by standing guard around the Court-house, while I would preach the words of eternal life, which I did in as plain manner as possible, for the space of one hour, then closed and returned to Brother Camp's house and spent the night. (Abraham O. Smoot, Missionary Journal, p 195)
Also Brother William Camp, ... somewhat noted as a fighting character, arose and called on the fleeing people to stop. He told them if they would only sit and listen to the preaching he would go out and look after the persons who were creating the disturbance. About two thirds of the audience again became seated, and he went outside and procured a shot-gun with which he patrolled around the court-house the remainder of the evening,... (A. O. Smoot, "Early Experiences of A. O. Smoot," Early Scenes In Church History, Eighth Book of the Faith Promoting Series. p 23)
The next night at another meeting at the same court house, an unnamed lawyer tried to stop the service. But after being prevented from doing so by a number of Freemasons in the crowd, he was forced to listen to the entire sermon in silence.
...at the close of the meeting Mr. camp took vengeance on the lawyer by knocking him down and kicking him around the courthouse yard (C. Elliott Berlin "Abraham O. Smoot, Pioneer Mormon Leader" p 32)On May 27th Williams Camp was appointed Joseph Smith's elector for the district in the upcoming presidential election (Time and Seasons, Vol. V, No. 12, p 574).
On June 14th, Williams Camp made his last appearance in Smoot's journal. Williams sold a horse to Smoot for him to use for the remainder of his mission that summer. Smoot left for Benton county, and never returned to Dresden.
Williams was a blacksmith by trade. Just before the family moved to Nauvoo, he was fixing a wagon with the help of Ike, one of his slaves. His daughter Catherine was there as well. According to Catherine a mob of 15 men arrived with panted faces. They said they were there to give him some tar and feathers. William responded by first throwing or swinging the hammer he was using at them, which reportedly knocked down two of them. Then he picked up hot "irons in every direction and went after them." Ike and Catherine hid behind the bellows. In short order Williams had routed the mob and returned to the shop. When he got back he said
"Ike, you black rascal, why didn't you help fight those men?" Ike didn't look up but said, "Well, Massa William, I thought you was enough for them few men." My father laughed but said no more to him. (Catherine Ellen Camp Greer, Autobiography, BYU)Williams' relationship to slavery appears to be more complex than stereotypical. His daughter Catherine recalls he offered Ike and his family their freedom if he helped him make it to Nauvoo. Yet, Ike shows up in one family story that happened at Nauvoo. When the family went to Salt Lake they reportedly took only three slaves with them, leaving the rest behind. One biographer wrote that he freed the slaves, telling the ones with him in Salt Lake that they should consider themselves free. Another wrote he sold some and sent the rest to the home of his father-in-law. On a later trip from Salt Lake to Tennessee, the family returned with four more slaves. The exact fate of each of Williams' slaves is a subject for another day, perhaps by someone with experience in this field. (Yes, I'm talking about you, Amy)
In June 1850 they joined a wagon train heading for Salt Lake City, arriving in September of the same year. On a trip back to Tennessee in 1852, Diannah went to settle her father's estate while Williams served a mission to Texas. Diannah became ill delaying their return. It took them two years to get back to Utah. Williams spent the rest of his life in Salt Lake where he died on November 21st 1875.