Biography of William G. Williams


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WILLIAM G. WILLIAMS, who, by reason of his long connection with educational interests in this county and elsewhere, is one of the most widely acquainted school officials in the State, was a native of Columbia county, born in the city of Hudson, September 17, 1829. He was the son and one of six children of Nathan Williams, an earnest, honest and hard-working man, who possessed little means, and who died when William was an infant. After this misfortune the older children of the family were placed out in various homes, where they would be brought up under right influences, after which the widowed mother and William went to Norwich to live in the family of her uncle, James Birdsall, a banker. In a few years Mr. Birdsall removed to Addison, Steuben county, where he had a store and mills, and here William G. Williams acquired his elementary education in the district schools; but soon afterward (1840), his mother took him to Homer, where she lived for a few months and thence removed to Preble. Here the youth was placed in the home of a Methodist clergyman, where he had access to a good library and, still better, was given the benefit of an excellent village school. At the age of sixteen years he received his first teachers’ certificate, and at once entered upon a career which he has since faithfully and studiously followed, keeping pace with the ever changing and progressive methods that have carried him through almost half a century of years, and have given him a rich and varied experience such as has been the good fortune of but few public educators and superintendents. In another department of this work will be found a more detailed sketch of the early life, struggles and ultimate success of Prof. Williams, wherefore in the present connection it is not deemed advisable to repeat the minutia of those events.

As has been stated, Prof. Williams began life as a school teacher in Cortland county in 1845. Two years latter he taught a short term at Brunswick, Rensselaer county, and in the spring of 1848 came to Jefferson county and began teaching in old district No. 9, town of Watertown. He was thus employed several years, but in the mean time, when his own school was closed, he took a course of study at the Jefferson County Institute, and was graduated in 1851. For the next five years he taught the Brownville school, and during the time served two terms as town superintendent of common schools. In 1855, under the law creating the office of county school commissioner, he was appointed to that position for the Third district of this county, but before his term had fully expired he was prevailed upon by the late Lotus Ingalls, district trustee, to take charge of the Lamon Street school in the then village of Watertown.

From that time Prof. Williams has been a part of the educational system both of the village and subsequent city, as teacher at the desk in the schoolroom and as superintendent in charge of all the schools of the city, and also the chief adviser of the Board of Education. Here his rich and varied experience have been important factors in establishing and maintaining the standard of efficiency for which the Watertown public schools are noted throughout the State. Prof. Williams taught in the village schools until they were resolved into the Union Free system, and then continued under the advanced method until 1869, when he was elected superintendent of city schools. However, in 1870 he was appointed postmaster, therefore temporarily discontinued his actual connection with, but never his interest in, the public schools. During the twelve years of his incumbency of the postmastership, he was much of the time a member of the Board of Education, and also during the same period he became interested in several manufacturing enterprises in the city, but having no time to personally look to these interests, certain of them subsequently proved unfortunate from a business point of view. In March, 1883, on the resignation of Fred Seymour, Prof. Williams was elected his successor as superintendent of schools, which position he still holds; and in all the changes of later years (particularly in introducing the desirable Quincy system), he has earnestly advocated advanced methods, and at the same time has been mindful of the financial interests of the city and taxpayers.

William G. Williams has been twice married. His first wife, whom he married November 18, 1854, was Mary C. Gard, of Brownville. She died February 2, 1885, leaving one daughter, Florence E. Williams, now a teacher in the city schools. On April 5, 1883, Prof. Williams married Mrs. Mary E. Barrows, who for many years has been connected with the public schools of the city.

Our County and it's people
A descriptive work on Jefferson County, New York
Edited by: Edgar C. Emerson
The Boston History Co., Publishers 1898

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