William Hunter WILLIAMS, deceased, was for many years a prominent representative of the farming and stock-raising interests of Putnam county. He traced his ancestry back to John WILLIAMS, a native of Wales, and Ann WILLIAMS, a native of Plymouth, England. They resided before the Revolutionary war in the colony of New Jersey and during the period of hostilities their home was burned by the British army. The family then became scattered and it is supposed the family records were lost or destroyed at that time. Thomas WILLIAMS, son of John and Ann WILLIAMS, was bound out for a number of years to a farmer, after which he removed to the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he learned the trade of house-painting. On the 2d of May, 1807, he married Frances HUNTER, a daughter of William and Frances HUNTER of that city, and unto them was born on the 15th of January, 1811, a son, William Hunter WILLIAMS, whose name introduces this review.
When he was a lad of about seven years his parents removed to Baltimore, Maryland, where on the 17th of October, 1822, the father died; leaving a widow with four children. They returned to Philadelphia, where William Hunter attended the public schools until about fourteen years of age, when he was apprenticed to William FORD to learn the business of silver-plating. In May, 1837, in consequence of the financial conditions that existed at that time, the country being involved in a money panic, he sought to better his circumstances by removing to the western states.
Accordingly in the early part of June, 1837, Mr. WILLIAMS arrived at the village of Hartford in Dearborn county in the southern part of Indiana. In the month of August of that year he made a prospecting tour on foot to Indianapolis and thence west to the eastern part of Illinois, where his further progress was arrested by fever and ague. His objective point was Alton, Illinois, but the illness which he suffered caused him to endeavor to retrace his steps to Hartford, Indiana. This however, was accomplished with great effort, but he reached that place during the month of September. In the year 1838 he had his first experience as a farmer, but suffered from a relapse of the fever and ague. He had rented seven acres of land, whereon he raised a crop of corn. In the latter part of the summer of 1838 he accepted a position as a clerk in a country store and a few months later he became a clerk and employee on a flat-boat which was to take a cargo of flour and pork to the lower Mississippi river. This task accomplished, in the spring of 1839 he returned to Hartford, Indiana, making a detour to visit a brother in Putnam county, Illinois, upon which occasion he concluded to settle permanently in this state.
Returning to Hartford, Mr. WILLIAMS was offered a position on a store-boat and continued in the boating business until some time in September, 1839. On the 21st of that month he started on horseback for Marshall county, Illinois, where he arrived on the 1st of October. It was on the 1st of May, 1843, that he entered eighty acres of land on section 19, Senachwine township, receiving the government patent for the same under the administration of President John Tyler, and on the 20th of December, 1856, he purchased eighty acres of land adjoining the farm of Samuel C. BACON.
On the 29th of June, 1843, Mr. WILLIAMS was married to Miss Theodosia Holmes LYON, a daughter of Abijah and Comfort (HOLMES) LYON, who were natives of Westchester county, New York, and the father removed from New York city to Marshall county, Illinois, in the spring of 1839, the mother passing away in New York. Mr. and Mrs. WILLIAMS commenced housekeeping on the first purchase of land in the spring of 1844, passing through all of the pioneer experiences incident to that period in the history of this part of the state. In 1847 Mr. WILLIAMS was elected to the office of justice of the peace of Senachwine township and continued in the office for many years. He was also county judge for a period of six years, succeeding Joel W. Hopkins, who was elected a member of the state legislature. For nearly a decade he served as postmaster of the village of Senachwine, now called Putnam, and was township clerk for a number of years. He was likewise township school treasurer for thirty years and for several years was collector. In all of these positions Mr. WILLIAMS discharged his duties with promptness and fidelity and his record therefore reflects credit upon himself and his service was entirely satisfactory to his constituents.
Unto Mr. and Mrs. WILLIAMS were born nine children, seven of whom are yet living: Prances H., the wife of Samuel A. WILSON, a resident of California; William A., who is living in Texas where he has a large fruit ranch; Martha, the wife of C. M. HOBBS, who is living in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and has been yardmaster at the Union Pacific Railroad transfer for thirty-five years; Mary, the wife of O. H. LINCOLN, a farmer and successful raiser of fine horses living in McHenry county Illinois; John Howard, who is living on the old homestead; Emma Elizabeth, the wife of W. B. BERRY, who is a minister of the Christian church and editor of the Christian Pacific, living in San Francisco, California; James A., a resident of Chicago; Theodosia Ann, the deceased wife of Thomas HILL, a resident of Adin, California; and David Herbert, who was drowned in Tennessee.
Both Mr. and Mrs. WILLIAMS were members of the Henry Society of the New Jerusalem or Swedenborgian church, and Mrs. WILLIAMS has been identified therewith for forty-six years. She is still living, on the old homestead with her son, John H. The death of Mr. WILLIAMS occurred August 22, 1898. He had for a long period been an active factor in the agricultural development of this locality and at all times was a busy man, leading an active, useful and honorable life. While he carefully controlled his own farming interests and developed a productive tract of land, whereon he annually harvested good crops, he always managed to find time to aid in the promotion of interests which were of utmost benefit to the community and to assist those who were less fortunate than himself. Any plan or measure that was promulgated for the welfare of the county received his endorsement and support and he was widely recognized as a valued citizen. Mrs. WILLIAMS still survives her husband and is now the oldest resident of Senachwine township. She was born and educated in New York city and although now eighty-five years of age is a most bright and intelligent woman and of excellent health for one of 'her years. She recalls many interesting pioneer experiences. Her father built the first log house on Whitefield prairie in 1839, at which time wolves and other wild animals were very numerous in the county, while herds of deer were frequently seen. The pioneer families largely lived in log cabins, did their cooking over fireplaces and lighted their houses with candles, while the work of the fields was largely done with the hand plow, the sickle, the scythe and the hoe. Mrs. WILLIAMS has lived to see many great changes in the methods of farming and in ways of life here. She still owns the home farm of eighty acres which her son John Howard is conducting for her, and he also owns eighty acres.
Extracted July 2011 by Norma Hass from Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties Illinois, 1907.