John T. Williams

From the book
Portrait and Biographical Record
of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania
Chapman Publishing Co., New York, 1897

Hon. John T. Williams, an influential and respected citizen of Scranton, was born in Carmarthenshire, South Wales, in 1839, and is a son of Thomas and Barbara (Jones) Williams, also natives of that shire. His father, who was a son of Reese Williams, a farmer, spent his entire life in the south of Wales, engaged as a mason and builder, and died there when sixty-three years of age. The wife and mother, who died in 1887, was a daughter of John Jones, who was a soldier in the British army, but afterwards returned to Carmarthenshire and settled on a farm that is still owned by members of the family.

Eight children were born to the union of Thomas and Barbara Williams, all but one of whom attained maturity, and five are living, three in Wales, one sister in Australia, and our subject, the oldest son, in America. A son who came to the United States died soon after arrival in this country. John T. was reared in Wales and attended a private school until sixteen years of age, after which he worked in a mine. In April 1859, he left Swansea, Wales, for Liverpool and there took passage on the "Dread Not," which landed him in New York after twenty eight days. He came to Scranton and secured work as a laborer in the Hampton mines of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Company.

Follow this link for an image of the front page of the Dreadnought's passenger list for the voyage that brought John T. Williams to America. The Dreadnought arrived in New York on 11 May 1859. John Thos. Williams is listed on page 4 of the manifest as a 20-year-old laborer.

When the gold excitement was at its height, Mr. Williams went to California in 1861, making the voyage by steamer from New York by way of Aspinwall and Panama to San Francisco. Soon after his arrival he began mining at San Juan, where he remained for five years. Returning to Scranton in 1866 by the same route over which he had traveled going west, he resumed work with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Company. In 1872 he was made inside foreman of the Sloan mines and this position he held many years. In 1884 he returned to Wales to visit his mother and friends there, and also spent a short time in other parts of the British Isles. About one week after his return to Scranton, he was nominated by the Republican party as their candidate for the legislature, and in the fall was elected by thirteen hundred majority, his colleague being George Ferber. In the session of 1885 he served on various committees. The following year he was re-elected by a good majority, but his colleague was defeated, Martin Jordan, Democrat, securing the election. In the session of 1887 he was chairman of the iron and coal committee and a member of other committees. During his first term he introduced an appropriation bill for the oral school. It passed both houses, but was vetoed by Governor Pattison. During his second term, however, it again passed and was signed by Governor Beaver. By means of this appropriation the present building was erected and maintained. He also introduced the Free Prop amendment to the mine law, which proved a benefit to mine owners; and an amendment providing for the appointment of board of mine inspecting examiners by the Lackawanna County judges, a bill vetoed at that time, but since made a law. At the close of his second term of office, he did not seek renomination, but turned his attention to business affairs.

Until March 1, 1866, Mr. Williams retained his position as foreman with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Company, but at that time he resigned and embarked in the general mercantile business under the firm name of Williams & Co., his partner being John H. Williams. His business has since been conducted on the corner of South Main Avenue and Eynon Street, and is one of the Flourishing enterprises of the city. In addition to this, Mr. Williams was one of the original stock holders in the West Side Bank and is now a director. He is interested in and a director of the Scranton Packing Company, and has large interests in coal lands of Schuylkill County. He is a director and treasurer of the Cambrian Mutual Fire Insurance Company. In 1896 he was a delegate to the Republican convention at St. Louis. He has been a member of the state committee and is now identified with the county committee.

In this city in 1867 Mr. Williams married Miss Mary Lewis, a native of Aberdare, Glamorganshire, Wales, and daughter of George Lewis, a shoemaker, who died there at the age of forty-three. Her grandfather, George Lewis, Sr., was a farmer in Glamorganshire. Her mother, Mary, was a daughter of Noah Williams, and was reared on his farm in Glamorganshire. After the death of her husband she brought her six daughters to America, arriving at Neath, Bradford County, Pa., in November, 1858. There she died three years later. Of her daughters, four are living. Mrs. Williams, who was next to the youngest, attended the public schools in girlhood, and in 1866 came to Scranton. She became the mother of four children, namely: Alma, who died at four years; Elmer, a graduate of the Bloomsburg State Normal School in 1892, afterward in business with his father until his death in 1895, at the age of twenty-four; Palmer, a member of the class of 1897, Bucknell University; and Reba, at home. Fraternally, Mr. Williams is a member of Hyde Park Lodge No. 339, F & A. M., and Silurian Lodge No, 763, I. O. O. F. In the Welsh Baptist Church he is a deacon and secretary of the board of trustees.

Return to the Prominent Welshmen of Scranton page
Read more about the connection between Scranton and Brynmawr, Wales
Read more about the history of Hyde Park
Return to the main page at the Thomas family website

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