Biography of Barrett Williams
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This venerable citizen of Boise City is believed to be the oldest man in the state of Idaho, as on the 7th of March 1899, he celebrated the ninety-sixth anniversary of his birth. He was sixty years of age when he came to this place for the first time, in 1862, and during the years which have intervened he has maintained his earnest interest in the development of the town and the resources of the surrounding country. He has always been strictly temperate in his habits, has led an active, industrious life, and is reaping his reward in the evening of his career, for he enjoys very good health, being sound in mind and body, possesses his senses of sight and hearing almost unimpaired, and still takes long walks about the town with perfect ease.
The birth of this worthy old pioneer occurred in Wales, March 7, 1803, and in his native land he learned the saddler’s trade, in his youth. He never attended school a day, with the exception of Sunday school, where he learned to read, and when he grew to manhood he wished to be able to sign legal documents and so learned to write his name. In 1840 he came to the United States and for about a year worked at his trade as a harness-maker in Utica, New York, Licking County, not far from Granville. After four years of farming operations there he removed to Iowa county, Wisconsin, and during the next twelve years successfully carried on a farm.
The praises of the great and growing west had been so long heard that at last Mr. Williams concluded that he would see something of it for himself. In 1861 in company with two of his sons. Thomas and Richard, he crossed the plains to Oregon. They spent the winter in the town of Auburn, and in the spring returned to Idaho, arriving in Boise City, May 22. He was one of the first white men here, though the Bannack Indians were numerous. However, the red men treated him well and he has often camped with them and shared their hospitality. With his sons he went to the Boise basin and discovered gold on Willow creek. He mined there for several years and later was located on Dry creek, where he and his companions each took out about an ounce of gold a day. The rheumatism finally made him seek other employment and for eight years he engaged in farming on Dry creek. Later, he purchased a block and a quarter on Jefferson street, Boise City, and built ten houses on the property. For eight years he was in the lumber business in the mountains, and built two sawmills which he afterward gave to his sons. In 1886 he deeded his real estate in Boise to his children, retaining a life lease on it. He has always affiliated with the Democratic Party since he became a voter but has never been an aspirant to public office. Without exception, all who have known him or been associated with him in business relations speak in the highest terms of his honor and integrity, his kindliness and helpfulness toward those less fortunate than himself.
In his early manhood Mr. Williams married Miss Elizabeth Griffith, a native of Wales, and before they left that country their son John was born. Two children were born in Ohio to this worthy couple and five were born in Wisconsin. All but one of the number are living. Mrs. Williams, who was a devoted wife and mother, an earnest member of the Presbyterian Church and loved by all who knew her well, departed this life in 1885. At present only two of the children are residents of Boise City, namely: Rachel Williams and Elizabeth Ann. the latter being the wife of Charles May, whose history is printed upon another page of this volume. Mr. Williams is being tenderly cared for in his declining years by his daughter, Mrs. May with whom he is making his home.