William Williams family collection  1808-1851 (bulk 1819-1851)
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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.

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