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Manuscripts by Subject - Politics / Government - #10048

Title: Erastus Appleman Williams Papers

Dates: 1890-1923

Collection Number: 10048

Quantity: .75 feet

Abstract: Correspondence concerning political appointments and affairs, correspondence, blueprints, and documents pertaining to the acquisition of land at Bismarck, ND for the Soo Railroad, rough drafts of Williams' political platform, correspondence of the North Dakota Irrigation Association, specifications for the Bismarck Auditorium, copies of bills introduced into the legislature, resolutions of various organizations, campaign literature, pamphlets, photographs, newspaper clippings, and records, of the Surveyor General's office.

Provenance:  The State Historical Society of North Dakota obtained the Erastus Appleman Williams Papers from Mrs. Roy S. Towne at an unknown date.  Gregory S. Camp prepared the inventory to the Erastus Appleman Williams Papers in August, 1986.

Property rights:  The State Historical Society of North Dakota owns the property rights to this collection.

Copyright:  Copyrights to materials in this collection remain with the donor, publisher, author, or author's heirs.  Researchers should consult the 1976 Copyright Act, Public Law 94-553, Title 17, U.S. Code or an archivist at this repository if clarification of copyright requirements is needed.

Access:  This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Citation:  Researchers are requested to cite the collection title, collection number, and the State Historical Society of North Dakota in all footnote and bibliographic references.

Transfer:  Two hundred and twenty-nine (229) photographs, mostly family pictures, and ten (10) newspapers were removed to the Photo Archives and Library respectively.

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

There are few people in the history of North Dakota who figured as prominently in the political and economic establishment of the state as Erastus Appleman Williams.  Born to Daniel R. and Matilda Appleton Williams on October 14, 1850 in Mystic, Connecticut, Erastus spent the majority of his youth in his home state, as well as Illinois and Wisconsin.  At an early age, Williams expressed interest in the bar as a future occupation.  After he received his legal training at the University of Michigan, he was admitted to the bar in Freeport, Illinois in 1871.  That same year Williams moved to Yankton, Dakota Territory where he practiced law.  In 1872, Williams accepted the opportunity to move to the future site of Bismarck, then a railroad camp on the east side of the Missouri River known as Edwinton.  He traveled north from Yankton with a group of railroad employees, and even took his turn as armed guard on the lookout for hostile Sioux Indians.  Williams arrival in northern Dakota Territory marked the beginning of a colorful career in many fields of endeavor.

Erastus Appleman Williams held jobs in a wide variety of professions.  Upon his arrival in Bismarck in 1872, the Northern Pacific Railroad Company hired him on as land surveyor and agent.  To Williams' surprise, he was elected to the lower House of the Territorial Assembly within a few months of his arrival.  A short two years later, Williams was elected to the Territorial Council.  By 1875, the railroad camp known as Edwinton was renamed Bismarck.  It was at that time that Williams began his law practice.  He was, in fact, the first attorney to hang a law sign advertising his profession in what then comprised the town of Bismarck.  As the decade of the 1880s approached, Williams was a familiar part of the Dakota Territorial political and business scene.

In 1883, Williams was once more elected to public office.  Elected to the Dakota Territory House of Representatives that year, Williams' fellow solons chose him as the Speaker of the House.  Williams was re-elected to the Territorial House in 1885, and again in 1887.  In 1899, he was a member of the North Dakota House of Representatives.  Seven years later, Williams again served as a Speaker of the House, this time for the State of North Dakota.  Erastus Williams' service as a politician in North Dakota's lower legislative body continued into the 20th century when he was re-elected for consecutive terms in 1911, 1913, and 1915.  Highly successful in politics, Williams proved himself in other endeavors as well.

In 1890, President Benjamin Harrison appointed Williams as the United States Surveyor-General for North Dakota.  He served in this capacity until 1894. In 1898, President William McKinley reappointed Williams to the same position.  Williams continued as surveyor-general until the position was eliminated in June 1908.  As a result of his experiences in politics and land development, Williams was an active participant in the construction and development of both Dakota Territory and North Dakota proper.  In a less spectacular way, Williams and his family contributed to the social life of Bismarck.

In 1882, Erastus Appleman Williams married Jennie Hettinger and together they made their home in Bismarck.  The couple had known each other during their years in Freeport, Illinois.  The Williams had five children: Eva, Odessa, Matilda, Erastus, Jr., and Alice.  Mrs. Williams died after a four-day illness in April 1894, however, and left her husband to care for their young children.  During her short life in Bismarck, Jennie became involved in a number of social organizations.  Likewise, Erastus was a member of the Masons and Knights Templar; Mr. Williams was also a Presbyterian.  Erastus Appleman Williams died on March 26, 1930, at the age of 79.  He left a considerable legacy of participation and service to the state.  The state recognized Williams' contributions several times during his lifetime.  Funeral services for the "General" were held in the House Chambers in Bismarck and were attended by family, friends, and an array of then past and present politicos.

Sources:  Compendium of History and Biography, (Chicago, George A. Ogle and Company, 1900), pp. 1296-1299
W. B. Hennesey, History of North Dakota, pp. 439-440
Bismarck Tribune, April 27, 1894
Ibid., March 26, 1930
Ibid, March 27, 1930.

SCOPE AND CONTENT

The Erastus Appleman Williams Papers consist of seven records series:  Political Papers, 1892-1923; North Dakota Irrigation Association, 1892-1923; Surveyor-General Papers, 1890-1908; Railroad Papers, 1902-1905; Bismarck Plats/Architectural Material, 1902-1906; Personal Papers, 1903-1922; and Scrapbooks, 1892-1980.

Series I, Political Papers, 1892-1923, is comprised of correspondence, party  and personal platforms, legislative bills, pamphlets, and out-of-state newspaper clippings that pertain to items of national and international political interest.  Theodore Roosevelt, an apparent favorite of Mr. Williams, appears with regularity in this series.  The remainder of Series I deals with state and local politics, especially between 1892 and 1915.  The value of these are in their overview of political events between 1892 and 1923, and to a lesser extent state issues during the same time period.  Series I occupies approximately three-quarters of a cubic foot.

North Dakota Irrigation Association Papers, Series II, 1892-1923, is comprised of correspondence, pamphlets, contractual agreements, and plans.  This small series, approximately 1/4 of a cubic foot, details Williams' involvement and interest in irrigation as a means of increasing crop production and hopefully attracting more people to the state.  Most of the correspondence pertains to inquiries and specifications concerning the Association and its function.  One letter, from Theodore Roosevelt, commends the organization for its work promoting irrigation and offers encouragement for future work.  The significance of this series lies perhaps in its subject, Erastus Williams, and his involvement in yet another organization designed to promote the state and practical farming practices.

Series III, Surveyor-General's Papers, 1890-1908, is comprised of office ledger books, outgoing correspondence, and general correspondence.  This small series, approximately one-quarter of a cubic foot, offers little more than a limited view of the workings of the Surveyor-General's office, and then mostly through the correspondence.  The value of this portion of the collection is its ability - albeit limited - to give the researcher a look at the routine of the job and the concerns connected with it.

Series IV, Railroad Papers, 1902-1905, is comprised of correspondence to and from Erastus Appleman Williams and the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Sault Ste.  Marie Railway Company dealing with right-of-way, sale of land, effects of the railroad on Bismarck, and the importance of the railroad to North Dakota.  Throughout this series, a definite pro-railroad sentiment can be detected.  This is not surprising, however, since Williams was once an employee of the railroad.  Although only one-quarter of a cubic foot in size, the series details the influence the railroad had on the development of the Territory and state.

Series V, Bismarck Plats and Architectural Material, 1902-1906, is under one-quarter of a cubic foot in size and is comprised of a hand drawn plat of 1873 main street Bismarck.  It also includes architectural specifications for the Bismarck Auditorium, city plats and abstracts, and tax assessments.  Other than the obvious architectural value of this series, Series V is limited in what it has to offer the researcher.

Series VI, Personal Papers, 1903-1922, is comprised of a correspondence letterbook and general correspondence to or from E.A. Williams.  The majority of the letters deal with family and friends, and in general are personal in nature.  This series is also quite small, approximately one-quarter of a cubic foot in size or less, and as a result is limited in what it reveals about Williams and his family.

Series VII, Scrapbooks, 1892-1980, contain newspaper clippings on just about everything that interested Mr. Williams, as well as a scrapbook from Dan Williams, brother of Erastus.  As is usually the case with such items, their value is limited other than providing the reader with a rather broad-brushed view of Mr. Williams' interests.  This series occupies one and one-quarter cubic feet.

BOX / FOLDER INVENTORY

Series I:   Political Papers, 1892-1923

Box 1:
1 Correspondence, 1892-1914
2 Correspondence, 1892-1914
3 Letter press book correspondence, 1904-1907
4 Miscellaneous platform and campaign material, 1892-1923
5 Miscellaneous platform and campaign material, 1892-1923
6 Miscellaneous pamphlets, 1892-1923
7 Legislative bills, 1892-1923
8 Political campaigns newspaper clippings (out of state newspapers)
9 Newspaper clippings (out of state) regarding Theodore Roosevelt, 1900-1910
10 Newspaper clippings (out of state), regarding initiative and referendum
11 Newspaper clipping (out of state) regarding wages, n.d.
12 Newspaper clippings (out of state) regarding Parcels Post, 1900-1910
13 Newspaper clippings (out of state) regarding federal courts, 1900-1910
14 Newspaper clippings (out of state) regarding federal courts, 1900-1910
15 Newspaper clippings (out of state) regarding irrigation, 1900-1910
16 Newspaper clippings (out of state) concerning Asiatic immigration, 1900-1910
17 Newspaper clippings (out of state) concerning Asiatic immigration, 1900-1910
18 Newspaper clippings (out of state) concerning Temperance, 1900-1910
19 Newspaper clippings (out of state) concerning Pine lands, 1900-1910
20 Newspaper clippings (out of state) concerning Wall Street, 1900-1910
21 Newspaper clippings concerning political platform of various North Dakota candidates, 1900-1910
22 Newspaper clippings (out of state) concerning William Jennings Bryan, 1900-1910
23 Newspaper clippings (out of state) concerning the United States Constitution, 1905-1910
24 Newspaper clippings (out of state) concerning the Panama Canal, 1905-1910
25 Newspaper clippings (out of state) concerning subsidies, n.d.
26 Newspaper clippings (out of state) concerning Michigan Constitution, n.d.
27 Newspaper clippings (out of state) concerning state affairs, n.d.
28 Newspaper clippings (out of state) concerning waterways, n.d.
29 Newspaper clippings (out of state) concerning tariffs, n.d.
30 Newspaper clippings (out of state) concerning Indians, n.d.
31 Miscellaneous newspaper clippings, n.d.

Series II:  North Dakota Irrigation Association Papers, 1892-1923

32 North Dakota Irrigation Association pamphlets, 1922
33 Correspondence, 1900-1904
34 Correspondence, 1902-1905
35 Correspondence, 1902-1906
36 Correspondence, 1922
37 Miscellaneous correspondence and irrigation agreements, 1919-1923
38 Miscellaneous correspondence and irrigation agreements, 1919-1923
39 Miscellaneous correspondence and irrigation agreements, 1919-1923

Series III:  Surveyor-General Paper, 1890-1908

Box 2:
loose     Surveyor-General's office ledger book, 1890-1908
loose     Surveyor-General's outgoing correspondence, 1898-1899
loose     Surveyor-General's outgoing correspondence, 1900-1905
loose     Correspondence, 1900-1908
1 Correspondence, 1900-1908
2 Correspondence, 1898-1908

Series IV:  Railroad Papers, 1902-1905

3 Correspondence and land rental agreement between City of Bismarck and Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Sault Ste. Marie Railway Company, 1902-1905
4 Correspondence and land rental agreements between City of Bismarck and Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Sault Ste. Marie Railway Company, 1902-1905

Series V:  Bismarck Plats/Architectural Material, 1902-1906

5 City of Bismarck plat (1873), hand drawn and typed, c. 1900
6 Specifications for Bismarck Auditorium, 1912
7 City Plats and specifications, plats, 1902-1906
8 Tax Assessments, 1902-1903

Series VI:  Personal Papers, 1903-1922

loose  General correspondence letterbook, 1905-1908
9 Miscellaneous and personal correspondence, 1903-1908
10 Miscellaneous and personal correspondence, 1903-1922

Series VII:  Scrapbooks, 1892-1980

Box  3:
loose    Loose Leaf Digest of Short Ballet Charters, by Charles Beard, n.d. (contains newspaper clippings)
loose    Erastus Appleman Williams' newspaper scrapbook, 1892-1923
loose    Erastus Appleman Williams' newspaper scrapbook, 1892-1923
loose    Erastus Appleman Williams' newspaper scrapbook, n.d.
loose    Daniel Williams' scrapbook, 1980
loose    Erastus Appleman Williams' diary, n.d.

Box 4:
1 Photocopies of scrapbook material, 1892-1923
2 Photocopies of scrapbook material, 1892-1923
3 Photocopies of scrapbook material, 1892-1923
4 Photocopies of scrapbook material, 1892-1923

 

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