Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Samuel Williams Papers, 1814-1856

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, June 2010

Summary Information
Title: Samuel Williams papers
Creator: Williams, Samuel, 1786-1859
Inclusive dates: 1814-1856
Extent: 321 items (0.5 linear feet)
The Samuel Williams papers contain the correspondence, mainly business-related, of the chief clerk in the office of the surveyor-general of the Northwest Territory.
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:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1942-1946. M-429, M-432, M-625, M-626.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Samuel Williams Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The Samuel Williams papers contain the following series:

  • Series I: John H. Eddy Letters to Samuel Williams
  • Series II: Samuel Williams Drafts to Lucius Lyon
  • Series III: Henry S. Tanner Letters to Samuel Williams
  • Series IV: Ezekiel S. Haines Letters to Samuel Williams
  • Series V: Mammoth Cave Drafts and Documents
  • Series VI: Other Correspondence and Documents
  • Series VII: Survey records (located in Oversize Manuscripts)
  • Series VIII: Maps (located in Oversize Manuscripts)

Within each series, items are arranged chronologically. The series are thought to reflect original order.

Biographical/Historical Note

Samuel Williams was born October 16, 1786, in Cumberland, Pennsylvania, the son of Irish immigrants William Williams and Margaret Widney. In 1803, he moved with his father's family to Charleston, in present-day West Virginia, and then to Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1807. He served in the War of 1812, and thereafter worked for the General Land Office in Washington, D.C., until 1815. From 1815-1845, he was chief clerk in the office of the surveyor-general of the Northwest Territory. From 1829 until his death in 1859, he lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was active in the Methodist Church.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Samuel Williams papers contain 272 letters, 30 survey records, 11 receipts, 4 maps, 3 ledgers, and a legal document, spanning 1814-1866.

Approximately one-fifth of the correspondence is organized by writer. The John H. Eddy Letters to Samuel Williams series contains three 1817 letters: September 15, concerning John Eddy's comments on drafts of maps of Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan Territory; September 30, regarding a request for corrections to maps using astronomical observations; and December 6, commenting on cartographic scale.

The Samuel Williams Drafts to Lucius Lyon series comprises 20 letters, covering 1841-1849, and containing comments by Williams on cartography and the work of the Surveyor General's Office. Williams wrote to Lyon on such topics as bills concerning his office, surveys in progress, and cartographical issues. On March 3, 1846, he described disagreements within the office, and referred to colleagues' plans to "sabotage" its work. In several other letters postdating 1845, he attempted to tie up loose ends after his resignation; he made ongoing references to missing field notes on Ohio, and to difficulties in establishing the boundary between Michigan and Ohio (March 2, 1847). Williams wrote drafts to several other recipients on the same pages as his drafts to Lyon, and these are also included.

Thirty-one letters make up the Henry S. Tanner Letters to Samuel Williams series , which spans 1818-1836. Letters concern the death of John H. Eddy (August 16, 1818), the exchange of maps of Ohio and Indiana, and the prices and sale of Tanner's publications. On March 3, 1823, Tanner requested assistance in drawing county lines in several states. The letters also document several financial transactions between the men.

Ezekiel S. Haines became surveyor-general in 1838. He wrote 42 letters in the collection between 1838 and 1847, which comprise the Ezekiel S. Haines Letters to Samuel Williams series . The letters are generally brief and business-like, and mainly concern routine office matters such as payroll, business trips, and communications with colleagues.

The Mammoth Cave Drafts and Documents series contains four items: two drafts of narratives of a trip through the cave, and two detailed manuscript maps of the cave. Although the maps are undated and unattributed, the handwriting that appears on them seems to match Williams' own.

The Other Correspondence and Documents series contains 221 items, both incoming and outgoing, spanning 1814-1866. A retained and signed copy of a letter from William Henry Harrison to Edward Tiffin, surveyor general, dated September 16, 1815, reports the signing of a treaty between the United States and members of the Wyandot and other tribes. Harrison commented that "we thought it probable that the Indians did not really understand that the Treaty gave the latitude of location which the words authorized…."

Many of the early letters in this series document the surveying of Michigan, particularly the difficulties of such a task because of fallen brush and timber (December 25, 1817) and unexpected snow (April 30, 1831). Other frequent subjects include updates on surveys in progress of Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan; corrections to maps and atlases; the sale of public land; and comments on Midwestern geography. The most frequent letter writers were Lucius Lyon, who wrote approximately 20 letters; Robert D. Lytle, who contributed approximately 10; John Mullett, who wrote 5; and Samuel Williams himself, who contributed around 10 letters to various recipients. Lyon wrote letters on a number of business topics, including his progress surveying the Michigan Territory (April 30, 1831), soil and minerals in Michigan, business transactions with mutual acquaintances and colleagues, and ongoing issues arising from the transfer of the Office of the Surveyor General from Ohio to Michigan.

The Survey Records series contains 30 undated records for the Michigan Territory, which include latitude and longitude calculations and comments on trees and soil for various areas of the territory. The "Maps" series contains two maps by Alexander Macomb, located in Map Division: [Michigan Territory And the Great Lakes, 1819] and [Saint Mary's River], 1819.

Subject Terms

    • Chillicothe (Ross County, Ohio)
    • Cincinnati (Ohio)
    • Detroit (Mich.)
    • Michigan--History--To 1837.
    • Ohio--History--1787-1865.
    • Surveyors.
    • United States. Chillicothe Land Office.
    • United States. Surveyor General.
    • Britain, Calvin, 1800-1862.
    • Cass, Lewis, 1782-1866.
    • Eddy, John H. (John Hartshorne), 1783-1817.
    • Haines, Ezekiel S.
    • Harrison, William Henry, 1773-1841.
    • Lyon, Lucius, 1800-1851.
    • Lytle, Robert Todd, 1804-1839.
    • Mullett, John, 1786-1862.
    • Tanner, Henry Schenck, 1786-1858.
    Genre Terms:
    • Correspondence.
    • Land Surveys.
    • Maps.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Correspondence, documents, and drafts [series]
    John H. Eddy letters to Samuel Williams,  September 15-December 6, 1817 (1 folder)
    Samuel Williams drafts to Lucius Lyon,  February 26, 1831-April 28, 1849 (5 folders)
    Henry S. Tanner letters to Samuel Williams,  August 16, 1818-June 10, 1836 (4 folders)
    Ezekiel S. Haines letters to Samuel Williams,  May 7, 1838-February 11, 1847 (7 folders)
    Mammoth Cave drafts and documents,  undated (1 folder)
    Other correspondence and documents,  1814-1866 and undated (33 folders)
    Box   1  
    Survey records,  undated [series] (30 items)
    Box   : Map Division  
    Maps [series]
    Macomb, Alexander. [Michigan Territory and the Great Lakes, 1819.]
    Macomb, Alexander. [Saint Mary's River], 1819.
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    Two maps are located in the Clements Library's Map Division:

    Related Materials

    The Clements Library has several collections that contain correspondence to and from Samuel Williams:

    • The Lewis Cass papers
    • The Lucius Lyon papers

    The Lilly Library at Indiana University has a collection of Samuel Williams papers (3,500 items).


    Fee, William I. Garnered Sheaves from Harvest Fields in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia . Cincinnati: Curts & Jennings, 1900.