Los Angeles County
HENRY A. WILLIAMS
Coming to the Pacific coast in pioneer times, Henry A. Williams was not only a witness of but a participant in the actual “winning of the west,” and was one of the chief factors in the development and utilization of the rich mineral resources of San Diego county. He had a clear, farseeing brain, as well as the energy and determination essential to important achievement, and belonged to that class of men who are destined to gain prominence in every field they choose to enter.
Born in Massillon, Ohio, in 1844, Mr. Williams was there reared and educated. As a young man he heard and heeded the call of the west and visited the mining districts of Nevada and California. In Virginia City he met Samuel M. (sic) Clemens, better known as “Mark Twain,” and became a close friend of that noted humorist. Desirous of seeing his mother, Mr. Williams returned home and at Massillon founded the Massillon Bridge Works, of which he became the president. Although not an engineer himself, he met with marked success in this venture, building many large bridges. A keen judge of character and ability, he perfected a highly efficient organization, having on his staff Eckhart and other engineers of note. His dealings with the Carnegie Steel Company brought him into contact with Andrew Carnegie, whose friendship he was privileged to enjoy. An executive of exceptional ability, Mr. Williams not only made money for himself but for all the stockholders in the Massillon Bridge works. While conducting that business a distant relative wrote to him from California, asking for loan in financing a mining venture in San Diego county. He complied with the request and after sending a considerable amount of funds to other friends on the Pacific coast, decided to return to the west. Accordingly in the ‘80s he revisited California and invested in mining property in the Julian district of San Diego county. In order to look after these interests it was necessary to make several trips back and forth, so he finally sold the business in Massillon and moved his family to San Diego. He purchased large tracts of land in and near Julian and spent a fortune in trying to develop the mines of that district. Although confident it was a good prospect, he depended entirely upon his personal means in financing these mining ventures, never asking others to risk their funds in the organizations which he controlled. While he did not live to see his faith completely justified, time has proved the wisdom of his judgment, for a number of the mines which he acquired from time to time are profitably operated. Among these was the Owens mine, an old producer turned over before his death to the Williams Gold Mining Company, a closed corporation now headed by W. E. Sawtelle, of La Jolla, a well known philanthropist, who donated the land for the site of the Soldiers’ Home in Sawtelle, Los Angeles county. Howard, the youngest son of Mr. Williams, is in charge of the mines and assessment work.
On November 15, 1872, at Massillon, Ohio, was solemnized the marriage of Henry A. Williams and Arvilda Beazel, of Martins Ferry, that state. Of their seven children, two died very early in life and two after attaining mature years. These latter were: Walter Kent, who passed away in 1917; and George Henry Williams, whose brilliant career was abruptly terminated by death in 1927. His technique had already won for him prominence as a violinist and he was well on the way to fame, due to his artistic work as a painter in oil. The surviving children are: Helen Frances, of New York city, who is the wife of William R. Malone, president of the Postal Life Insurance Company, and has become the mother of a son, Justin Depew Malone; Mary Belle and Howard, who are among the large stockholders in the Williams Gold Mining Company. The last named, who has inherited his father’s business sagacity, is successfully managing the mines at Julian, but might have gained distinction in the field of music, having been endowed by nature with a voice of exceptionally fine quality. Mary Belle Williams, who resides at 1620 Sixth street, San Diego, is a recognized leader of art in this city and her canvases are in demand in the east as well as the west. She devoted many years to the study of art, gaining her initial training in New York, where, as a child, she had the advantage of the best instructors obtainable, and perfected her skill in the eastern metropolis, where she was a member of the Art Students’ League. She is at her best in portrait work and one of her important achievements in this connection was a likeness of Mrs. Robert Smart, reproduced in a recent issue of the San Diego Union. The writer of the article in that paper said: “An art patroness who understands so well the artist, and who has been his patron always, has now been charmingly ‘understood’ by the artist. The drawing reproduced here was made by Miss Mary Belle Williams, a skillful local artist, who has the remarkable faculty of making posing a pleasure for her sitters. By talking to them she acquaints herself more thoroughly with their personality; thus it is more than a photographic likeness which she gets. She has, with the drawings of Mrs. Smart, caught most satisfactorily the character and sweetness of her model.”
Henry A. Williams passed away at Glendale, California, in April, 1924, at the venerable age of eighty-four years, and was laid to rest in a cemetery at San Diego. Retiring by nature, he sedulously avoided the spotlight, and was quick to discern the real from the unreal, the true from the false. He enjoyed the social side of life and his keen sense of humor, geniality and kindness drew to him a wide circle of friends, whose admiration for his business acumen and foresight was exceeded only by their respect for his honesty and strength of character.
Transcribed 1-20-12 Marilyn R. Pankey.
Source: California of the South Vol. II, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 19-22, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2012 Marilyn R. Pankey.