JOSEPH WILLIAMSON, the eminent lawyer, historian, and author, of Belfast, is a
son of Joseph and Caroline Cross Williamson. He is sixth in descent from Timothy Williamson of Marshfleld, Mass.,
who was a soldier, killed by the Indians in King Philip's War in 1676. His father, a native of Connecticut, was
a lawyer in Belfast from 1816 to the time of his death in that city in 1854.
Joseph was born in Belfast, Me., October 5, 1828. He received his preliminary education in the common schools of
his native city and his collegiate education at Bowdoin College, from which institution he graduated in the class
of 1849. After a preparatory course of study, he was admitted to the Bar in 1852, and has remained in Belfast until
the present time in the active practice of his profession. Here he has an excellent practice and maintains a high
standing at the Bar of his county, enjoying the respect and esteem of the Court and of his associates, as well
as the confidence of the community in which he has long resided.
Many places of honor, trust, and responsibility have come to him almost unsought. In 1853, and when he had been
at the Bar only about one year, he was appointed, by Governor Crosby, Judge of the Municipal Court of Belfast.
This position he held until 1860. His last term was granted him by election, without a single dissenting vote.
He was City Solicitor of Belfast in 1875 and again in 1886 and in 1890. Enterprising and public spirited, his best
efforts and energies have ever been available in the prosecution of enterprises calculated to promote the public
welfare and advance the material and moral interests of his native city. He has been President of the Trustees
of Belfast Free Library since its establishment in 1887. He is Vice-President of the Maine Society of the Sons
of the American Revolution; his paternal and maternal ancestors having been Revolutionary soldiers. Early becoming
an adherent of the Unitarian faith, he has always been a valued member and an able worker in that church and a
constant attendant at worship.
But while his mind has been considerably occupied by the duties and cares incident to his somewhat active professional,
official, business, and social life, he has found some time to devote to literary labor and historical research.
However valuable the results accomplished in other lines of duty, it is in the literary field that he has attained
his greatest achievements and won most enduring fame. Long after his faithfulness to clients and to official duty
has faded from memory, his name will be bright on the historic page and be gratefully remembered by generations
He published, in 1852, The Maine Register and State Reference Book and, in 1870, An Address at the Centennial Celebration
of the Settlement of Belfast. The result of his greatest literary work is, perhaps, his History of Belfast1 a volume
of nearly one thousand pages, published in 1877. On this work, which was first begun as a pleasant recreation and
to gratify a taste for historical research, Mr. Williamson devoted, faithfully and industriously, his spare hours
for many years, and the result of his labor has received the warm commendations of historical students abroad and
the high appreciation of the people of Belfast, whose history it records.
Mr. Williamson has published about sixty historical and biographical addresses and magazine papers. He has now
ready for the press, to be issued early in 1894, a Bibliography of Maine, from the earliest period to the close
of the year 1890. This work will contain over one thousand octavo pages. The Collections of the Maine Historical
Society, The Historical Magazine. New England Historical and Genealogical Register, American Monthly, and other
publications have frequently been favored with contributions from his pen in past years.
In 1850 Mr. Williamson was elected a member of the Maine Historical Society, and has since been one of its most
active and interested members. He is now its Biographer and Corresponding Secretary. He has been Vice-President
for Maine of the New England Historic-Genealogical Society since 1884. He is an associate of the American Historical
Society, the Vermont Historical Society, the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Buffalo, N. Y., Historical Society,
and was chosen a member of the Royal Historical Society, London, in 1875.
Mr. Williamson has a peculiarly natural aptitude and a great love for historical investigation, and on all matters
relating to the earlier history of at least a portion of Maine he is regarded as prominent authority. It is doubtful
if there is another man in this State whose fund of information on historical matters is more full and complete
and whose authority is more highly regarded than his, or one who has devoted himself to historical and genealogical
studies more devotedly and disinterestedly than he. Maine is under much obligation to him for valuable work in
the line indicated, and those in position to best know and to best appreciate his services accord him the highest
In 1857 Mr. Williamson was married to Miss Ada H. Peirce, of Bangor, who died in 1872, leaving three children,
one of whom, Joseph Williamson, Jr., is in the practice of law in Augusta.