WILLIAMS: Alexander Fraser, m. Frances Mary ROBINSON, has 4 children, mover and shaker in Davenport, Iowa
Alexander Fraser WILLIAMS, deceased, who stood as a splendid example of the enterprising, thrifty and loyal citizen and a faithful follower of the church, whose life did much to inspire and encourage others and whose memory is cherished in the hearts of all who knew him, was born in Westfield, New Jersey, on the 15th of June, 1826. His life record covered sixty-one years, his death occurring in Atlantic,Cass,Iowa, December 15, 1887.
His parents were Charles CLARK WILLIAMS and Eliza HIGH MILLER, who were married in Westfield, New Jersey, in 1818. They became the parents of seven daughters and three sons but only two are now living: William Belden, a resident of Nebraska; and Mrs. Margaret DOUGHERTY, of Iowa. Most of the ancestors of the family were farming people and all bear honorable records as honest, hard-working men and women, living in a quiet, humble way. The WILLIAMS branch of the family were Welsh. Nathaniel WILLIAMS, the grandfather of A. F. WILLIAMS, had three children : a son who died in early manhood; a daughter Ann, who became the wife of Willard BARROWS, one of Iowa's prominent pioneer residents; and Charles CLARK.
For a number of years Nathaniel WILLIAMS lived in Davenport with his daughter, Mrs. BARROWS, and there passed away in 1864, when more than eighty years of age. His mother was of American birth, a daughter of Charles CLARK, who served throughout the Revolutionary war. That he must have held rank as an officer is indicated by the fact that he wore a sword, the silver handle of which was afterward melted into six tablespoons, two of which were given to each of his three grandchildren — Samuel CLARK, Charles CLARK WILLIAMS and Betsy SMITH. This was about eighty years ago and the spoons are still highly prized by the present generation.
In the maternal line A. F. WILLIAMS comes of English ancestry through his grandfather, Ezra MILLER, while his grandmother, Mrs. Mary (HIGH) MILLER, was of German descent, her father, John HIGH, having left Germany when a little boy.
Charles CLARK WILLIAMS, the father of Alexander FRASER WILLIAMS, was a man highly esteemed by all who knew him because of his upright life and fidelity to manly principles. An earnest Christian, he was for many years an elder in the Presbyterian church in Westfield and in Newark, New Jersey, and for several years was also one of the elders of the First Presbyterian church in Davenport, Iowa, where he died of cholera in 1852. All who knew him felt that he was a martyr to the unselfish care which he bestowed upon the laboring men who were victims of that terrible scourge. He had a most faithful and loving wife, who to her family was a devoted mother, her salient characteristics being such as endeared her to all who knew her. She made her home in Davenport and its vicinity for over thirty years and spent the last few years of her life in the home of her daughter in Nebraska, there passing away in 1878.
Alexander FRASER WILLIAMS spent his youthful days on his father's farm near Westfield, New Jersey, and was eleven years of age at the time of the removal of the family to Newark. There he spent several years attending the private schools and academy, and for one year was a student in a good school in Caldwell, New Jersey, so that he obtained a fair education. He was seventeen years of age when in 1843 the family removed to Davenport, Iowa, which was then regarded as the far west. He remained there for four years, assisting his father upon the farm, and also spent several months in making surveying tours through Iowa with his uncle, Willard BARROWS. He did not find agricultural pursuits congenial and, believing that he would obtain more pleasure and profit from commercial life, in 1847 he entered the dry-goods store of his uncle, Moses MILLER, at Racine, Wisconsin. After two years there passed his longing for the east, decided him to return to New York city, where he secured a situation in the wholesale hardware store of John C. TUCKER, in whose service he remained for three years, acquiring a good knowledge of the business during that period and thus becoming well equipped for the line of work to which he devoted the greater part of his' life. In 1852, receiving a more advantageous business offer, he entered the employ of ELY, BowXen [sp?] & McCONNELL, wholesale dry-goods merchants, conducting business on Broadway, New York. For six years he continued with that firm and during half the time had charge of the white goods department, making purchases for the same In the financial crash of 1858, following the widespread panic of the previous year, the New York firm failed and about the same time Mr. WILLIAMS received an offer to go into business in Davenport, where his widowed mother and family lived. This influenced him to return to the west.
On the 17th of February, 1858, Mr. WILLIAMS was united in marriage to Miss Frances Mary ROBINSON, of Chicago, and after spending some two months in the east, purchasing his stock of dry goods, thus combining pleasure with business, he returned with his bride to Davenport and in May, 1858, became the junior partner of the firm of ELDRIDGE & WILLIAMS, at No. 123 Brady street. During the succeeding three years the business increased rapidly, necessitating trips to New York and Boston, which Mr. WILLIAMS made three or four times each year in order to purchase goods in eastern markets. They were enjoying substantial success at the time of the outbreak of the Civil war. Within a few months nearly all business was paralyzed and failures were the order of the day. ELDRIDGE & WILLIAMS were among the unfortunate ones and were obliged to succumb to the pressure.
The financial outlook was dark and discouraging but Mr. WILLIAMS was of an optimistic nature and believed that the obstacles and difficulties could be overcome by persistent, determined and honorable effort. He desired to take part in the struggle in which his country was engaged, but his only brother, Belden WILLIAMS, and Frank C. ROBINSON, his wife's only brother, were among the first to enlist, serving faithfully through the long four years of the war. With those two at the front, Mr. WILLIAMS felt convinced that his duty must lie at home in the care of his widowed mother, his young wife and child. Accordingly, in the fall of 1861, he accepted a position with Sickles & Preston, a prominent hardware firm of Davenport, with whom he continued for about four years, two of which he spent upon the road as traveling representative of their wholesale house that had just been established in Chicago. At the end of that time he received an offer from the well known hardware firm of William BLAIR & Company, of Chicago, bringing him a large advance in salary. He traveled for that firm for four years, at the expiration of which time he was quite ready to settle down in the city of his choice — Davenport — where his family had continued to reside during the six years which he had spent upon the road, giving the best powers and strength of his young manhood to the honorable canceling of all of his indebtedness.
In 1869 Mr. WILLIAMS formed a partnership in the wholesale heavy hardware trade with R. SIEG, under the firm style of SIEG & WILLIAMS. His comprehensive knowledge of the business naturally made him the buyer for the house and during the eighteen years in which he was connected with the business he contributed largely to the upbuilding of a profitable enterprise which is still continued under the name of the SIEG Iron Company. The firm of Sieg & Williams were extensive jobbers in heavy wagon stock and other manufacturers' hardware, and in addition to his mercantile interests Mr. WILLIAMS was a director of the Security Fire Insurance Company, a member of the Board of Trade and was connected with other business organizations. As the years went by he prospered in his undertakings, becoming recognized as one of the foremost merchants and leading business men of the city. His name stood as a synonym for commercial integrity, for he never made engagements that he did not fill nor incurred obligations that he did not meet. His methods were progressive and his course won for him the admiration and respect of his contemporaries and colleagues. Mr. and Mrs. Williams became the parents of four children, namely: Ella, who gave her hand in marriage to J. S. THOMPSON and now resides in Escondido, California; Anna, the wife of Dr. J. P. CRAWFORD, whose sketch appears on another page of this work; Frederick CROSBY, who passed away in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on the 21st of September, 1894, when twenty-four years of age; and Joseph ROBINSON, who died on the 19th of February, 1894, when a youth of eighteen years.
Mr. WILLIAMS passed away at Atlantic, Iowa, December 15, 1887, after a brief illness of ten days. He had for nearly thirty years been intimately associated with the growth and development of Davenport and was deeply interested in everything which promoted its prosperity. He felt a special interest in the Hennepin canal project and the building of the Davenport, Iowa & Dakota Railroad and was one of its directors. His cooperation could always be counted upon to further movements for the public good and he gave of his time and means, as it was possible, to aid in the work of general improvement. While in business in New York, he became a member of the Baptist church and for more than three decades was a consistent and active worker in the denomination.
He served for a number of years as senior trustee in the Calvary Baptist church of Davenport. While he became known as a prominent and representative business man, it was his Christian spirit that made him most honored, for he molded his entire life in conformity with the teachings of his Master, ministering to others as the occasion offered and giving freely of his means to the support of the church and charity. He was one of the teachers in the Sunday school, a worker in the Young Men's Christian Association and at the time of his death was taking a most active and helpful interest in the work of erecting a house of worship for the Baptist people, acting as chairman of the building committee.
It has been said: "Not the good that comes to us but the good that comes to the world through us is the measure of our success," and judged by this standard Alexander Fraser WILLIAMS was a most successful man.
1. Ella Ophelia b 5 Mar 1859, Davenport, m. John S. Thompson living in Escondido, CA 1928
2. Anna Williams b 26 Feb 1862 in Davenport m. 14 Oct 1885 Dr. Jennings Price Crawford, d 12 Oct 1928 in Los Angeles, CA
3. Frederick Crosby b 11 Sept 1870 in Davenport d of tb 21 Sept 1894 Colorado Spgs, El Paso, CO
4. Joseph Robinson b 19 Mar 1879 in Davenport d 11 Feb 1894 in Dav of brain tumor. "Rob" bur Oakdale with siblings.