Major Oliver Williams

First white settler in Waterford Township, Michigan, with his wife and children, in 1819.

The portraits below are of Oliver and his wife Mary. These images are from paintings owned by the Detroit Historical Museum, painted around 1812 in Massachusetts. The paintings are on display at the Waterford Township Library from February through July of 2019.

oliver williams portrait image mary lee williams portrait image

Timeline of his life

1774   Major Oliver Williams born May 6, in Roxbury, Massachusetts, near Boston, to Benjamin Williams and Anna Fuller Williams.

1796   Married Mary Lee in Concord, Massachusetts

1808   Opened a dry goods store in Detroit, Michigan Territory, travelling back and forth between Massachusetts and Detroit two times a year.

1810  Has ship built "Friends Good Will" at River Rouge as a merchant vessel to help him transport goods for his store.

1812-1813   Friends Good Will taken by the British in War of 1812 and burned. The Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library has a memorandum written by Oliver Williams describing his experiences on his ship Friends Good Will from Detroit to Chicago, returning with furs, and being captured by British at Mackinac.

1815   Moved his wife and eight children from Concord, Massachusetts to Detroit.

1818   Purchased land near Silver Lake in Waterford Township and built log home.

1819   Begins living in Waterford with wife and nine children.

1821  First school in Waterford held in the loft of the sheep shed at Oliver Williams' farm.

1822  First schoolhouse built at the Williams settlement.

1834   Died in Waterford, Michigan, October 11, (at age 60) and buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Pontiac.

1860   Mary Williams died April 1 in Pontiac, Michigan after living with her daughter, Mrs Schuyler Hodges for many years. She is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery.

Read Oliver Williams, a History Lesson, by Sally Strait, president of the Waterford Historical Society for more details.

Children of Oliver and Mary Williams 

Ephraim Smith Williams  Born 1802 in Concord, Massachusetts, died 1890 in Flint
Was postmaster of Flint and then mayor of the city of Flint 1861-1862.

Gardner Davinport Williams  Born 1804 in Concord, Massachusetts, died 1858 in Saginaw
 Moved to Saginaw and was the first Saginaw County Supervisor. Was a member of the state’s first constitutional convention. Was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in its first session after approval of the constitution in 1835, and re-elected in 1840; he was later elected to the Michigan Senate for two terms in 1845 and 1846.

Caroline Lee Williams Stevens  Born 1806 in Concord, Massachusetts, died 1847 in Flint. Married Rufus Stevens in 1823. Moved with her husband to Grand Blanc and became the first settlers in Genesee County.

Mary Anna Williams Hodges  Born 1807 in Concord, Massachusetts, died 1889 in Pontiac.  Married Schuyler Hodges who was Oakland County Sheriff 1828-29 and later built and ran the Hodges House Hotel in Pontiac.

Alfred Leonzo Williams  Born 1808 in Concord, Massachusetts, died 1886 in Owosso, Michigan.
Alfred and his brother, Benjamin O. Williams, were the first white settlers to visit and eventually settle in Shiawassee County, Michigan. They operated a trading post at the Indian Village, Ketshewaudaugoning, prior to founding the village of Owosso in 1837. His papers/letters are held by MSU Archives and Historical Collections.

Benjamin Oliver Williams  Born 1810 in Concord, Massachusetts, died 1887 in Owosso, Michigan.
See above, under Alfred Leonzo Williams.

Alpheus Fuller Williams  Born 1812 in Concord, Massachusetts, died 1884 in Oakland, California.
Went to California with the 1849 gold rush and got into mining. 

Harriot Locady Williams Rogers Born 1814 in Concord, Massachusetts, died 1884 in Santa Rosa, California. Married George Rogers.

James Monroe Williams   Born 1817 in Detroit, died 1903 in Santa Rosa, California.
Named after President James Monroe because the president was visiting Detroit on the day he was born.  His wife Rachel was sister of the late Judge [Michael] Crofoot, of Pontiac. In 1872 he was the first president of the board of Trustees of the City of Santa Rosa (California).


Selected grandchildren and great grandchildren of Mary and Oliver Williams

Mary Abigail Williams, daughter of Ephraim Smith Williams and Hannah Gotee Williams, married Hiram Walker,  founder of the whiskey distillery in Windsor, Ontario.

Gardner Williams, oldest son of Alpheus Fuller Williams and Ann Simpson Williams, was an American mining engineer and author, and the first properly trained mining engineer to be appointed in South Africa.

Gluyas Williams, grandson of Alpheus Fuller Williams and his wife Ann Simpson Williams was a cartoonist whose work appeared in the New Yorker magazine.

Mary "Kate Carew" Williams, granddaughter of Alpheus Fuller Williams and his wife Ann Simpson Williams, was a caricaturist for the San Francisco Examiner, and an artist who studied with William Merritt Chase in Carmel, California.

George Schuyler Hodges, grandson of Mary Anna Williams Hodges, was at one time the secretary of the Welch Motor Car Company in Pontiac, which was later absorbed by General Motors.