Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
William Williams Family Collection, 1808-1851

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, May 2012

Summary Information
Title: William Williams family collection
Creator: Williams family
Inclusive dates: 1808-1851
Bulk dates: 1819-1851
Extent: 23 items
Abstract:
This collection is made up of letters and essays related to William Williams of Utica, New York, and to his sons, Samuel Wells Williams and William Frederick Williams. The elder William composed 6 letters to family members and a series of 6 narrative essays about childhood, religion, and travel experiences (including visits to War of 1812 battle sites). Samuel Wells Williams wrote from China, where he worked as a missionary in the mid-1830s. William Frederick Williams wrote extensively of his life in Lebanon and travels throughout the Middle East in 1850 and 1851.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1999. M-4043.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

William Williams family collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

The collection is arranged by family member. Each family member's material is arranged chronologically.


Biographical/Historical Note

William Williams was born in Framingham, Massachusetts, on October 12, 1787, the son of Thomas Williams, a tanner. He had several siblings, including Sukey and Martha. The Williams family moved to New Hartford, New York, and William joined his brother-in-law, William McLean, in Utica in 1800. There, he assisted McLean in publishing the Whitestown Gazette and Cato's Patrol, which was renamed the Patriot when sold to John H. Lathrop in 1803. William became a partner in 1807, and later a master printer and journalist. He served in the War of 1812 as a captain of a company of volunteers and received an appointment as brigade inspector of the 13th New York Infantry in 1816. William married Sophia Wells in November 1811 and they had at least three sons: Samuel Wells, William Frederick, and Henry Dwight. Samuel moved to Canton (now Guangzhou), China, around the 1830s, and worked as a Christian missionary. William Frederick also traveled widely, and worked with a Dr. DeForest in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1850. William Williams died in 1850.


Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection is made up of letters and essays related to William Williams of Utica, New York, and to his sons, Samuel Wells Williams and William Frederick Williams. The elder William Williams composed 6 letters to family members as well as a series of 6 narrative essays about childhood, religion, and travel experiences (including visits to War of 1812 battle sites). Samuel Wells Williams wrote from China, where he worked as a missionary in the mid-1830s. William Frederick Williams wrote extensively of his life in Lebanon and travels throughout the Middle East in 1850 and 1851.

William Williams of Utica and Tonawanda, New York, wrote 6 letters to family members between 1808 and 1839. His earliest correspondence, June 30 and July 11, 1808 (copied at a later date), is addressed to his sister Martha and describes his recent conversion to Presbyterianism. William wrote two letters to his children, Samuel Wells, Henry Dwight, and William Frederick Williams. The first, written during a trip from Utica to Philadelphia, provides his impressions of Schenectady, Albany, and Philadelphia, with historical commentary on the American Revolution (May 25, 1821). He also wrote his sons from Tonawanda, New York, about a recent legal case concerning a 10-year-old boy whose body had been discovered in the Niagara River (July 5, 1825). Other correspondence includes a letter Sophia W. Williams wrote to her cousin Martha Wells of Detroit, Michigan (June 2, 1830); a letter William wrote to Mrs. John Williams on January 4, 1835, offering his condolences after the death of the recipient's daughter Mary; and a letter William wrote to Henry Dwight Williams and his wife Martha (June 10, 1839).

William Williams, a War of 1812 veteran, also composed a series of 6 numbered essays (26 pages total) about childhood and travel experiences, which he sent to his wife. Essay number 4 is dated November 9, 1819.

The titles are as follows:

  • No. 1. Autumn
  • No. 2. The Snow storm
  • No. 3. The Landscape
  • No. 4. Clyde Bridge
  • No. 5. Queenston Heights
  • No. 6. Lundy's Lane

Samuel Wells Williams wrote extensive letters to his family and friends while serving as a missionary in Canton, China (now Guangzhou), between 1834 and 1836. He commented on local people and customs, and on current events, such as Lord Napier's efforts to increase British trade to the country and conflicts between natives and foreigners. He also described local religious customs and scenery (including the city of Macau). Williams also penned a 21-page letter to his mother while traveling in Egypt, Lebanon, and Palestine in May 1845.

William Frederick Williams composed a 59-page composite letter while working in Beirut, Lebanon, and traveling in the Middle East (April 4, 1850-August 27, 1850). He described the city and scenery, and commented on local religious and secular customs, Greek Orthodox holidays, interactions with Muslim children, and slavery. The letter includes several drawings of bridges and architectural features he saw in Beirut and the surrounding region. Williams wrote similar letters about his Middle Eastern experiences in April and May 1851, totaling over 40 pages.

The William Williams family papers were previously bound, but arrived at the Clements Library disassembled. The original covers remain in the collection, with the bookplates of Frederick Wells Williams and R. S. Williams.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Americans--China.
    • Americans--Middle East.
    • Beirut (Lebanon)--Description and travel.
    • Beirut (Lebanon)--Religious life and customs.
    • Beirut (Lebanon)--Social life and customs.
    • Guangzhou (China)--Description and travel.
    • Egypt--Description and travel.
    • Israel--Description and travel.
    • Lundy's Lane, Battle of, Ont., 1814.
    • Macau (China)--Description and travel.
    • Middle East--Description and travel.
    • Missionaries--China--Correspondence.
    • Muslims--Middle East.
    • New York (State)--Description and travel.
    • Philadelphia (Pa.)--Description and travel.
    • Presbyterianism.
    • Queenston Heights, Battle of, Ont., 1812.
    • Tonawanda (N.Y.)
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • United States--History--War of 1812--Battlefields.
    • Utica (N.Y.)
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Architecture--Lebanon.
    Contributors:
    • Williams, S. Wells (Samuel Wells), 1812-1884.
    • Williams, William, 1787-1850.
    • Williams, William Frederick.
    Genre Terms:
    • Essays.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Box   23, Small Collections  
    William Williams family collection [series]:
     
    William Williams [subseries]:
    Folders   24-25  
     [June 30, 1808]-June 10, 1839, and  undated
     
    Samuel Wells Williams [subseries]:
    Folder   26-28  
     [September 1834]-May 14, 1845
     
    William Frederick Williams [subseries]:
    Folder   29-30  
     April 4, 1850-May 22, 1851
     
    Original boards, with bookplates [subseries]:
    Folder   31  
     Undated
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    Stern, Madeleine B. William Williams: Pioneer Printer of Utica, New York, 1787-1850. Charlottesville, Virginia: Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 1951.

    Bibliography

    Williams, John Camp. An Oneida County Printer: William Williams, Printer, Publisher, Editor with a Bibliography of the Press at Utica, Oneida County New York, from 1803-1838. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906. Note: This volume reprints the letter dated July 11, 1808.