Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Williams, Samuel mss., 1796-1919, consist of letters and papers of Samuel Williams, 1786-1859, and his son, Samuel Wesley Williams, 1827-1928.

Samuel Williams, after serving in the War of 1812, was connected with the General Land Office in Washington until 1815. From 1815-1845 he was chief clerk in the office of the surveyor-general of the Northwest Territory. He spent most of his life in Ohio, living first in Chillicothe and from 1829 until his death in Cincinnati. He was prominent in the Methodist Church. The Samuel Williams manuscripts proper, which comprise the larger part of the collection, include letters to Williams at Cincinnati, Ohio, from members of his family and friends, who resided in various states, particularly in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri, dealing with private affairs, business, farming, sales of land, education, the Methodist Church, etc. with occasional comments on politics, etc.; papers of the Methodist Book Concern of Cincinnati; bills and receipts, many of them in connection with the purchase and sale of books, chiefly of a religious and educational nature; personal checks; deeds and papers relating to Williams' personal business affairs; papers relating to the Ohio Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church; deeds to lots in the burial ground of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Cincinnati; a few letters and documents dealing with land office business; and some letters referring to the War of 1812, including letters from Hezekiah Niles, which, in addition to commenting on the War of 1812, relate to Niles' Weekly Register, banking and personal matters. A letter copybook, November 8, 1808 to March 26, 1811, includes letters from Samuel Williams to various relatives, in the main cousins of his in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Mississippi, and Ireland, giving news of himself and his family, and discussing politics, religion, the strained relations with England, preparations for war, the advantages and disadvantages of settling in Ohio, etc.

Also included are letters to Samuel Williams from his brother, William Williams, and other members of the family resident in Tennessee, one of these being Edward T. Williams, son of Samuel Williams, who was working as a carpenter at Dover, Tennessee, in the 1840's. The Tennessee letters have been edited by Chase C. Mooney and published as "Some letters from Dover, Tennessee, 1814 to 1855" in the Tennessee Historical Quarterly, VIII: 154-184, 252-283, 345-365, June, September, and December 1949; IX: 64-83, March 1950.

There are also a number of letters to Williams from his sons-in-law, Stephen Widney, farmer, of Piqua, Ohio, who married Samuel Williams' daughter, Eliza, and William J. Ellsworth, Methodist clergyman, who held charges in various towns of Ohio and Kentucky, and was the husband of Williams' daughter, Margaret.

Papers of Samuel Williams' estate of which his son, Samuel Wesley Williams, was executor, are also included.

The collection contains letters to the Rev. Davis Wasgatt Clark, Methodist Episcopal bishop and editor of the Ladies Repository in which Samuel Williams was interested; to William Lytle, surveyor-general; to Return Jonathan Meigs, 1764-1824, governor of Ohio; and Thomas Ritchie, journalist and politician; from various contributors to the magazine, and some letters, 1813-1814, of the family of Josiah Meigs, who was surveyor-general of the U.S. at Cincinnati. Among these are two letters of John Forsyth, 1780-1841, U.S. senator, governor of Georgia, and U.S. Secretary of state under Jackson; one, July 9, 1814, is to Josiah Meigs; the other, July 15, 1814, is to Samuel W. Meigs. There is also a letter from Robert Todd Lytle, a congressman from Ohio, at the time he was surveyor-general of the U.S. at Cincinnati. Other items include a journal kept by Samuel Williams of a voyage from Cincinnati to Nashville and back, April 5-23, 1841; several of his memorandum books, 1803-1806, 1851; one of his account books, 1818-1830; minutes of the Chillicothe- mechanic Society Meeting, 1809; and a membership list of the Chillicothe Handelian Society.

Samuel Wesley Williams, 1827-1928, son of Samuel Williams, graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio, in 1848, taught at the Worthington [Ohio] Female Seminary, 1848- 1849, at Baldwin Institute, Berea, Ohio, 1849-1850, and later at Ohio Wesleyan University, which he left in 1857 to teach at McKendree College, Lebanon, Illinois, for the school year 1857-1858. He worked at the offices of the Ladies Repository in 1859, and was later connected with the Western Methodist Book Concern. A number of his papers are included in the collection. Among these are account books, 1851-1914; diaries, 1848 and 1901-1902; letter copybooks, 1844-1849; memorandum books, 1851 and four undated; a register of camp meeting proceedings, Duck Creek, Hamilton County, Ohio, 1843; six holograph volumes of "The Owl," a popular magazine of literature, science, and art, of which he was the editor, 1847-1848; and letters. Among the correspondents are Alfred Brunson, Benjamin Rush Cowen, Jason Nelson Fradenburgh, Benjamin St. James Fry, Julia Rebecca Galloway, William Logan Harris, John Wesley Hoyt, Mrs. Mary Bigelow (James) Ingham, John Power Lacroix, Frederick Merrick, David Hastings Moore, Albert Julius Nast, Cyrus Nutt, Daniel Alexander Payne, John Morrison Reid, Mrs. Katharine (Dooris) Sharp, David DeCamp Thompson, Joseph Pomeroy Widney, William George Williams, John Flavel Wright, and Jesse Bowman Young. There are also a number of printed programs, etc. of Ohio Wesleyan University.

In addition to the items noted, the collection contains photostats of some original letters in the Ohio Historical Society Library, Columbus, Ohio, to Thomas Kirker and Edward Tiffin, governors of Ohio, from Thomas Worthington and Return Jonathan Meigs, governors of Ohio, William Creighton, a congressman from Ohio, Matthew Nimmo, a judge, and the following soldiers: Joseph Buell, James Findlay, John Stites Gano, John Riddle, and John Smith, 1806-1807. Some of these pertain to the Burr conspiracy, 1805-1807.

Also present are typescripts of Samuel Williams' letters to his wife during the War of 1812. At least some of the original letters are located in the Ross County Historical Society Museum in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Biographical and genealogical material on the Williams family is in the first folder in the first box of the collection.

Williams materials in the Library at the time this collection was acquired were transferred to this collection.

Collection size: 3,948 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.