Biography of Charles H. Williams
San Francisco, CA Biographies





CHARLES HENRY WILLIAMS
One of the most reputable and honored citizens of San Francisco was the late Charles Henry Williams, for many years prominent in this city as representative of the Brunswick Balke Collender Company, with whom he was associated for a period of forty five years; and also as a public spirited citizen and a leader in club and social affairs of this community. He was a native of the country of Wales, where his birth occurred in the year 1845. He was brought to the United States when he was only four years of age, and his early boyhood days were spent on a farm in Wisconsin, sixteen miles from the nearest schoolhouse, as a consequence of which his educational opportunities were quite limited during the years of his youth.

When the call for volunteers came at the opening of the Civil war, he attempted to enlist in a company which was being organized in Fox Lake, Wisconsin, but he was rejected on account of his age and size. However, he was determined to enter the service, and a few months later he succeeded in enlisting as a drummer boy and, through the influence of the captain, was mustered into the service as a full fledged drummer, his pay being thirteen dollars per month, one dollar more than he could receive by working as a farm hand. He was too young to understand thoroughly the causes of the war, but he was enthusiastic with his new drum and uniform and very soon became skilled with the drumsticks. He was assigned to the Twenty ninth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, and with this regiment left for the front. By rail the outfit went to Cairo, Illinois, thence by steamer down the Mississippi river to a point within one hundred miles of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Here they went into training camp, having been brigaded with troops from Indiana, veterans of Shiloh and other engagements. General U. S. Grant was at this time mobilizing his forces against Vicksburg, which city covered the passage of the river. Mr. Williams' regiment marched southward past Vicksburg, on the opposite side of the river, to a point one hundred miles south of the city, where camp was made to await the arrival of the federal fighting vessels which were to run the blockade. This accomplished, the land forces crossed the river on gunboats to attack Vicksburg from the rear. The first conflict occurred on the second day after the landing, and Company E of the Twenty ninth Wisconsin, Mr. Williams' company, lost twenty five out of one hundred men during the action. Mr. Williams was wounded, and was invalided to a hospital for three weeks. He then rejoined his regiment, which was participating in the siege of Vicksburg. A grant assault was planned for July 4th, but on the evening of the 3d the Confederate staff decided to surrender in the face of hopeless odds, which was accordingly done on the morning of the 4th. After the capture of the southern stronghold, Mr. Williams accompanied his regiment in the campaign against Jackson, Mississippi, the capital, which surrendered in two weeks and was burned by the Union troops. From there, the regiment went to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and thence to New Orleans, where it was attached to the army of General Banks. The next move was to support the fleet in Mobile bay. The Twenty ninth Wisconsin was the first regiment to cross the river on gunboats and unfold the stars and stripes over the city hall. They were then ordered to return to New Orleans, and again became a unit of General Banks' army, which was operating in connection with the fleet of Admiral Farragut against Shreveport, Louisiana, and the Confederate forces under General Nick Taylor. When the regiment was within twenty five miles of Shreveport, it was defeated, and while in retreat Mr. Williams lost his much prized drum. However, on the next day, the Union troops resumed fighting, and were victorious, thus ending the hostilities in this section of the fighting area. The brigade was stationed in Louisiana for a period after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee, and finally, after three years' meritorious service, Mr. Williams was honorably discharged.

His military career finished, Mr. Williams spent the following eight or nine years as an advance man for various theatrical companies. He went to Chicago from St. Louis in 1871, and soon after the great fire in the former city he was employed by the firm of Stephani, Monheimer & Hart Company, dealers in billiard supplies, as a salesman. He remained with this company until 1876, when it failed, his position at the time having been as manager of their exhibit at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mr. Williams then returned to Chicago, and became associated with the J. M. Brunswick Company, which is now known over the whole world as the Brunswick Balke Collender Company. With this concern, Mr. Williams had a long and successful career, having been in their employ for a period of forty five years at the time of his retirement to private life in 1921. In the conduct of his duties, in the establishment of branch offices for his company, he traveled from Chicago to the Pacific coast, and from the Canadian border to the Mexican. He traveled through Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and in the northern Lake Superior territory, covering these areas during the romantic and adventurous frontier days. He traveled many times by freight trains and construction trains. He was in Fargo, North Dakota, when it was only a tent city, reached by stage line from St. Cloud, Minnesota. He journeyed from St. Cloud to Winnipeg, Canada, by stage, over three hundred miles, when the weather was bitterly cold, the thermometer registering forty degrees below zero. Winnipeg then had only about a dozen houses. In the year 1887, Mr. Williams was transferred to the Pacific coast, and he was an honored resident of San Francisco from that time until his death, which occurred July 19, 1931. He was popularly known as "Cap" Williams, and in his passing the city lost one of its finest citizens, one held in affectionate regard by hosts of friends and acquaintances.

Mr. Williams figured very prominently in the club life of San Francisco, and he was one of the founders of the Union League Club of this city. He also was an active member of the Olympic Club, the Pacific Union Club, the Family Club, and the Elks Club. He was a member of the George H. Thomas Post of the Grand Army of the Republic. Mr. Williams made his home for a time at the Bellevue Hotel, and also resided at the Union League Club and the Elks Club for different periods.

Earle Williams, grandson of the late Charles Henry Williams, is the manager of the New Fillmore Theater at 1329 Fillmore street, San Francisco. He was born in San Francisco, September 14, 1900, and his mother, Daisy (Citron) Williams, has been a resident of this city for many years. Mr. Williams was reared on a ranch in the San Joaquin Valley, near Fresno, California, and attended the country schools. In subsequent years, he went through the Belmont Military School in Belmont, California, and then studied at Santa Clara College, but did not graduate from this institution. He was employed by the telephone company after completing his studies, and seven years ago entered the theatrical business, in which he has made a success, being known as one of the most enterprising of the younger business men of San Francisco. He is a thirty second degree Mason, and belongs to Islam Temple of the Mystic Shrine, and was also for a time a member of the Union League Club and the South End Rowing Club. Mr. Williams has been a resident of San Francisco since 1920, and is unmarried.

From:
The History of San Francisco, California
Lewis Francis Byington, Supervising Editor
Oscar Lewis, Associate Editor
The S. J. Clark Publishing Company
Chicago-San Francisco 1931


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