The Williams Family Papers consist of correspondence, financial records, essays, and books. Most of the papers relate family news and religious or educational information. The papers are divided into four groups, Genealogical/Biographical Material, William Williams, Samuel Williams, and Samuel Wesley Williams. All of the material in the groups is arranged chronologically; the sub-groups, alphabetically. (Note: Samuel always refers to the father; Samuel W. refers to the son.)
The Genealogical/Biographical Material includes genealogies of the Williams family as well as families which married into the Williams family. Also included are lengthy obituaries for Samuel Williams, Margaret Williams (Samuel’s second wife), and William George Williams (Samuel’s oldest son by Margaret).
The William Williams group contains financial papers and correspondence. A large portion of the correspondence deals with his wife leaving him and his subsequent attempts to reconcile with her.
Much of the Samuel Williams correspondence contains religious information and family news. The correspondence with his cousin, John Widney, reveals the feelings and experiences of young converts who are enthusiastic about their religion and describes various Methodist preachers who traveled the circuit. A letter of July 15, 1810 in General Correspondence discusses the Williams family and the bad relations between the U. S. and Britain. Correspondence between brother, William Williams, and son, Edward T. Williams, includes Tennessee politics, economics, and social life. His journals and essay on his conversion carry on the theme of religion and family life. His Memoir of Mrs. Eliza Williams is a biography of his first wife including the hardships of pioneer life, details of their courtship, and letters that she wrote to him during the War of 1812. The Memoir also tells how he lost his membership in the Methodist Church by attending a 4th of July celebration. His hymnbook is handwritten and leather-bound, and contains some hymns that have never been printed.
The Samuel W. Williams correspondence shows the son to be as extensive a writer as his father. Four folders of letters trace the relationship between father and son over 13 years. Correspondence with John Fletcher Williams shares not only family news, but also information about life in St. Paul, Minnesota. There are three issues of Tweedledum, a handwritten, comical periodical produced by students at Ohio Wesleyan University and a dictionary of slang, as well as more serious essays. These cover such topics as the power of conscience, Methodist history, and descriptions of preachers. His bound journals cover his education culminating in his Master’s thesis to the beginning of his teaching career as a tutor at Ohio Wesleyan University.