JOSIAH B. WILLIAMS
The subject of this sketch was born at Middletown, Conn., on the 16th of December, 1810, and died at Ithaca, September 26, 1883. Few residents of our county enjoyed a wider range of acquaintance than Mr. W., and to none was accorded higher respect of firmer belief in the integrity of his character, his sound judgement, his matured views on social and business questions, and his unswerving devotion to truth and justice. His success in life had its foundation in untiring energy and industry, and capacity to grasp advantages naturally flowing from the pursuit of a certain line of business, or branch of enterprise. In comparatively early life he was attracted to Central New York by the opening of the Erie canal, and, in company with two elder brothers, removed to Ithaca, where he resided until his death, eleven years since, the brothers accompanying him dying in 1840 and 1849. His industrious habits and active mind led him, in company with these brothers, to engage in canal navigation, building and running boats, advocating the enlargement and extension of the canal system, and suggesting many improvements since proved of great practical value. He became interested in the construction of roads, bridges, mills, manufactories, churches, schools, and all the accessories of advanced civilization. The building of railroads, and the use of steam thereon, engaged his earnest attention, and also telegraph lines, opening of iron mines and improved modes of manufacture of iron, were among the enterprises prosecuted by him with earnest and effective energy.
A study of the free banking system of the State so commended it to his mind that the Merchant's and Farmers' Bank was established through his efforts, and continued as a most successful institution until absorbed into the First National Bank, of Ithaca, of which Mr. W. was a prominent officer for years.
On the death of his brother, Timothy S. Williams, then a member of the State Senate, Josiah was chosen to succeed him, serving in that position with great distinction from 1851 to 1856. He was a corporator and trustee of Cornell university, and continued as such to the date of his decease. His broad views of humanity led him to unite with many patriotic men in 1856, in the organization of the "National Compensation Emancipation Society," holding a vice-presidency therein. The object aimed at by its promoters was the purchase and freedom of slaves at the South, with funds acquired from the sale of the public lands of the United States.
Through the long and anxious years from 1861 to the close of the Rebellion, Mr. Williams stood at the front in his support of the government, contributing of his individual means very large sums, expended in raising troops and in the support of families of volunteers.
His wife, a daughter of the late Charles E. Hardy, still survives him, with a very large family of children, all held in high esteem by the entire community.