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John R. Williams

john r. williams, john r. williams obituary
John R Williams May 4, 1782 – October 20, 18541 was an American soldier, merchant, and politician who is most well known for serving as the first mayor of Detroit, Michigan In total, he served as Detroit's mayor for five other terms He also was a brigadier general in the United States Army during the Black Hawk War


  • 1 Personal life
  • 2 Career
    • 21 Military and business career
    • 22 Political life
  • 3 See also
  • 4 References

Personal lifeedit

Born in Detroit, he was baptized as John Williams he later adopted the ‘R’ in his name to distinguish himself from another John Williams who was living in Detroit at the time12 His parents were Thomas Williams and Cecile Campeau, of Detroit's Campau family34 His father, who had been active in civic and political affairs,1 died before December 12, 1785, at which time Joseph Campeau which he generally spelled Campau leased a house to Cecile widow of Thomas Williams that was located north of the Detroit River and adjacent to Joseph Campau's property5 His mother married Jaques Leson in 1790 and lived in what is now St Clair County, Michigan46 Cecile died on June 24, 1805 and was buried in the St Anne's church cemetery7 Raised in his mother's French Canadian community, he spoke and wrote fluently in both French and English12

Williams married Mary Mott, one of his cousins, in 1804 She was the daughter of Gershom Mott,12 who served during the Revolutionary War, and Elizabeth Williams, who was the sister of Thomas Williams from Albany8 The couple had ten children together12 One of them, Union General Thomas Williams, was killed in action during the Civil War at the Battle of Baton Rouge 18629

See also: Campau family


Military and business careeredit

Williams served in the Territorial Militia from 1796 to 1799 at Fort Marsac in Tennessee1 Upon leaving the army, he returned to Detroit and joined his uncle, Joseph Campau, in his successful mercantile business1 During the War of 1812, Williams again served in the militia, this time as the captain of an artillery company1

Political lifeedit

After the end of the war, Williams was appointed Associate Justice of the County Court for Michigan in 1815 He went on to serve as a County Commissioner and Adjutant General of the Territory,1 and at his death was the senior Major General of the state militia10 In 1824, Williams wrote the City Charter and served as the first official mayor of the City of Detroit He was also elected and served as the fourth and thirteenth mayor in 1830 and 1844–1846, respectively1 Besides serving as mayor, Williams was a landowner, merchant, and bank president during his lifetime10 He served as one of the first trustees of the University of Michigan, was president of the Detroit Board of Education, and was a delegate to the first Michigan Constitutional Convention10 In 1831, Willams and Joseph Campau started the Democratic Free Press newspaper, which became the Detroit Free Press11

Mary died on January 18, 18308 Williams died at the age of seventy-two on October 20, 18541 He is interred at Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit812

Today, a street in metropolitan Detroit bears his name "John R" Street was named while John R Williams was still living, atypical to the way most roads obtain their name which is usually posthumously13 In fact, Williams gave the road its name himself

See alsoedit

  • List of mayors of Detroit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "John R Williams" History of Detroit com 2008 Archived from the original on July 24, 2012 Retrieved September 8, 2010 
  2. ^ a b c d Clarence Monroe Burton; William Stocking; Gordon K Miller 1922 The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922 S J Clarke publishing Company p 1402 
  3. ^ Silas Farmer 1890 History of Detroit and Wayne County and Early Michigan: A Chronological Cyclopedia of the Past and Present S Farmer & Company p 1021 
  4. ^ a b History of St Clair County, Michigan: Containing an Account of Its Settlement, Growth, Development and Resources, Its War Record, Biographical Sketches, the Whole Preceded by a History of Michigan AT Andreas & Company 1883 p 231 
  5. ^ "Lease of House and Lot in Detroit" Historical collections Collections and researches made by the Michigan pioneer and historical society 8 Library of Congress p 645, 1174 Retrieved October 6, 2016 
  6. ^ Historical Collections 31 The Society 1902 p 315 
  7. ^ "People Buried from Ste Anne de Detroit 1800-1805: Part VII" PDF Michigan’s Habitant Heritage October 2011 p 11 Retrieved October 8, 2016 
  8. ^ a b c Michigan State Historical Society 1902 Michigan Historical Collections p 319 
  9. ^ "The Rev G Mott Williams, MA" The Churchman Churchman Company 1895 p 709 
  10. ^ a b c "John R Williams, 1818 - 1829" State of Michigan Department of Military and Veteran's Affairs Retrieved September 8, 2010 
  11. ^ http://michigannewspaperhistorypbworkscom/w/page/42160960/Detroit%201809-1899
  12. ^ "Index to Politicians: Williams, J" Political Graveyard Retrieved September 8, 2010 
  13. ^ Mary Bailey February 17, 2005 "Detroit's street names honor early leaders" The Detroit News Archived from the original on January 4, 2009 
Political offices
Preceded by
New Title
Mayor of Detroit
Succeeded by
Henry Jackson Hunt
Preceded by
Jonathan Kearsley
Mayor of Detroit
Succeeded by
Marshall Chapin
Preceded by
Zina Pitcher
Mayor of Detroit
Succeeded by
James A Van Dyke

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