Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Nathan Williams Family Correspondence, 1816-1851

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, April 2012

Summary Information
Title: Nathan Williams family correspondence
Creator: Williams, Thomas, 1779-1876 and Williams, Nathan Witter, 1816-1902
Inclusive dates: 1816-1851
Bulk dates: 1839-1851
Extent: 28 items
This collection contains correspondence related to Nathan W. Williams, a Yale graduate and preacher in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, including incoming correspondence from friends and family members and his siblings' correspondence with their father, Reverend Thomas Williams of Providence, Rhode Island. Family members shared social news and updates about their travels, and Nathan's friends commented on their lives around New England. The collection also includes three framed, silhouette style paintings of Nathan W. Williams and his parents, Thomas and Ruth, by artist Edward Seager.
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:

2003, 2013, 2014. M-4320.8, M-5007, M-5043.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


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:

Nathan Williams Family Correspondence, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically.


Reverend Thomas Williams (1779-1876) graduated from Yale College in 1800 and served as a Congregational pastor in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. He spent his later years in Providence, Rhode Island, where he lived between 1843 and his death in 1876. He and his wife, Ruth Hale (d. 1867), had 8 children: Thomas Hale, Nathan Witter (1816-1902), Mary, Joseph Stephens, Sarah, Ann, Stephen, and Branch.

Nathan Witter Williams was born in Providence on March 12, 1816, and graduated from Yale in the class of 1842. Between 1842 and 1847, he lived in Philadelphia, where he taught school, and in April 1846 he received a license to preach. He moved to Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, in 1849, and served as pastor of the town's Congregational Church until 1858. He spent most of his later years in Providence, Rhode Island. He and his wife, Frances Barclay, had 4 children, including a daughter named Anne. Nathan Witter Williams died on April 16, 1902.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection contains correspondence related to Reverend Thomas Williams of Providence, Rhode Island, and to his son, Nathan W. Williams, who attended Yale and later became a preacher in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Nathan received 7 letters from friends, 5 from his father, 2 from his brother Thomas, 1 from his sister Sarah, and 1 from his brother Stephen. He also wrote 2 letters to his sister Mary, 2 to his father, and 1 to the Congregational Church at Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. The remaining items include 1 letter Reverend Thomas Williams wrote to his wife Ruth, 2 letters he received from his daughter Sarah, and 1 from his son Thomas.

Reverend Thomas Williams and his son Nathan exchanged 7 letters between December 19, 1849, and November 11, 1850. In 5 letters to Nathan, Thomas Williams shared family news from Providence, Rhode Island, including travel plans and updates on Nathan's siblings and their families. Nathan, in return, wrote about his wife, Frances, and daughter, Anna, describing a "donation party" held for them by his congregation in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts (January 15, 1850). In his letter of November 11, 1850, Nathan was concerned that his sister Mary and her husband "Mr. Grover" were planning to travel to the South for her health and discussed the drawbacks at length. Thomas Williams also wrote one letter to his wife Ruth while living in Foxboro, Massachusetts (May 6, 1816), and received letters from two of his children. In his April 19, 1839 letter, Thomas Hale Williams wrote of his attempts to find a place to live in Hartford, Connecticut, and drew the floor plan of one of the possible choices. Sarah Williams Cotton wrote of her first week of married life in Pomfret, Connecticut (April 29, 1850), and of a visit to her brother Nathan (October 24, 1850).

Nathan W. Williams also received letters from his classmates at Yale College, as well as from his siblings. One acquaintance, Benjamin T. Eames, thanked Williams for sending information on Yale's entry requirements (July 6, 1839), and another, M. Patten, mentioned raising money to pay for Nathan's tuition (January 5, 1842). William S. Huggins, a former classmate, wrote 3 letters between 1849 and 1850, in which he provided news of his recent travels to Washington, D. C., where he witnessed a speech by the Speaker of the House (February 20, 1850), and to western New York and Niagara Falls (October 19, 1850). In the summer of 1849, Nathan's brother Thomas wrote two letters concerning books, and Nathan wrote twice to his sister Mary in Philadelphia, describing his social life and hoping to meet her in New York City (January 4, 1842, and May 8, 1842). Sarah Williams (later Cotton) also corresponded with her brother and sister-in-law (February 6, 1850), as did Nathan's brother Stephen (August 16, 1851).

Nathan Williams also wrote a response to the call from the Congregational Church in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, on January 29, 1849, provisionally accepting a position as the church's pastor but requesting vacation periods and a visit to the town.

The collection also includes three framed, silhouette style paintings of Nathan W. Williams and his parents, Thomas and Ruth, by artist Edward Seager. The Nathan Williams portrait is dated May 1834; his parents' silhouette portraits are undated.

Subject Terms

    • Congregational churches--Clergy.
    • Congregational Church (Shrewsbury, Mass.)
    • New York (State)--Description and travel.
    • Pomfret (Conn.)
    • Providence (R.I.)--Social life and customs.
    • Shrewsbury (Mass.)--Religious life and customs.
    • Shrewsbury (Mass.)--Social life and customs.
    • Yale College (1718-1887)
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Room layout (Dwellings)
    • Eames, Benjamin Tucker, 1818-1901.
    • Huggins, William S. (William Sidney), 1822-1862.
    • Williams, Thomas Hale.
    • Cotton, Sarah Williams.
    • Williams, Stephen.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Paintings (visual works)
    • Silhouettes.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Nathan Williams family correspondence [series]
     May 6, 1816-August 16, 1851
    Box   1  
    Silhouette-style portraits [series]
     May 1834 and undated
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Dexter, Franklin Bowditch. Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College With Annals of the College History... Volume V. New York: H. Holt and Co., 1911.

    Obituary Record of the Graduates of Yale University Deceased from June, 1900, to June, 1910 Presented at the Annual Meetings of the Alumni, 1900-1910. New Haven, Connecticut: The Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Co., 1910.

    Williams, Stephen W. The Genealogy and History of the Family of Williams in America, More Particularly of the Descendants of Robert Williams of Roxbury. Greenfield: Merriam & Mirick, 1847.