HENRY WILLIAMS - Henry Williams, now deceased, was a progressive business man of Springfield, whose well deserved success came as the result of his individual efforts, while his honorable methods won him the trust and confidence of those with whom he had dealings. He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, July 15, 1824, and when but a young boy began working on a farm. His educational privileges were limited to the meager advantages afforded by the district schools, and his early youth was fraught with many trials and hardships. His mother and brother James came to Illinois in 1840, traveling in a "prairie schooner," and were three weeks making the trip. They settled at Salem, and James, who subsequently enlisted in the Union army, gave his life to the good of the cause. His mother died in Springfield at the ripe old age of ninety years.
Henry Williams took up his abode in Beardstown, Illinois, but after a short time removed to Springfield. He worked at the cabinet-maker's trade in Beardstown and on his removal to this city found employment with J. Hough. Later he began business for himself in connection with Christian Link, their building being located on the present site of engine house No. 3. There their plant was destroyed by fire, causing a total loss. Mr. Williams, however, immediately erected another building and continued the manufacture of furniture on a larger scale than before. He also opened a retail furniture establishment in the center of the city and in connection with its conduct manufactured coffins, billiard tables and furniture. On dissolving partnership with Mr. Link he took the retail store and added an undertaking department. Mr. Williams was the oldest undertaker in Springfield and buried the first body in Oak Ridge Cemetery, about 1861, when there was nothing but hazel brush in what is now one of the most beautiful cemeteries of Illinois. In his business affairs Mr. Williams was very successful, his trade growing to large proportions, and when it brought too many cares and responsibilities he sold his furniture department and removed the undertaking business, in 1888, to No. 420 East Washington street, where he continued up to the time of his death.
Mr. Williams was married in Springfield to Miss Sarah Wahl, who was born in the north of Ireland and was educated in the Presbyterian faith. They had two sons, James H. and Franklin E. The former was born in October, 1850, was in his father's employ for a long period, and died in Springfield at the age of forty-five years. The family home was on Madison street, between First and Second streets, where the father lived for forty-four years. His wife died March 3, 1888, at the age of sixty-five years. He afterward left the old home and in 1896 purchased the family residence at No. 1027 South Second Street, where he remained until his death, November 1, 1902. He had long been a resident of the city and his life work was well done, making him a valued resident of the community.
Franklin E. Williams, the younger son fo the family and now the only living representative, attended the public schools and was afterward graduated from the Springfield Commercial College. He then entered the bank owned by Jacob Bunn, as assistant teller and bookkeeper, and was connected with that institution for eight years. He next accepted a position as traveling salesman for the Richmond Casket company, selling caskets, coffins and undertaking supplies, representing that house for two years. He then went into the store with his father and his brother, there remaining for some time. The furniture store was then sold and he continued in the undertaking business, which since 1852 has been in possession of the Williams family. He has been sole proprietor since the death of his father and now the oldest undertaker in point of service in the city.
Mr. Williams has been active and influential in local political circles. He served as city clerk for two terms and for two years was city treasurer of Springfield, and has always been progressive and public-spirited in regard to anything that promises to prove of benefit to the city or to advance its substantial interests.
Mr. Williams has one son, D. Franklin, born December 20, 1889, and now living with his father at the home place. Our subject is a member of Springfield Lodge, o. 4, A.F. & A.M.; Capital Lodge, No. 14, K.P.; Sangamon Lodge, No. 6, I.O.O.F.; and has many friends among his brethren of these fraternities. He has a very wide acquaintance in the city in which his entire life has been passed and warm friendship and high regard are extended to him.