Capt. Henry Williams, of Revolutionary fame was the
son of John and Mary Williams, who emigrated from
Chester County, Pa., to Frederick County about the year
1753, and settled in the valley of Flat Run on land
which, in 1812, he would formally name
Fort Henry. (Well
over 350 acres in size, Fort Henry is not occupied by
Silo Hill, and the Jubilee shopping center.)
Henry’s parents were contemporaries of the Reids,
Marshalls, Hugheses, Cochrans, Shield's, Annans, Cawicks,
Bayards, Pattersons, Nobles, Porters, Coopers, McKessons,
and McNairs, etc., who were among the early immigrants
from Pennsylvania to the Emmitsburg area. The William's
were of Scotch-Irish descent.
Capt. Williams' first wife was a Miss McDonald, and
his second wife, a widower, was Jane Witherow With Jane,
Henry he had several children.
Mr. William Patterson, one of Capt. Williams'
earliest and warmest friends, used to relate that Henry’s
first wife often repaired to an old graveyard in
Pennsylvania to visit the graves of her parents and
strew flowers over them. It was the oldest graveyard in
the settlement of Adams County, or in that section of
country, except that of the Elders of Frederick County.
Upon the breaking out of the Revolutionary war, Capt.
Williams, then quite a young, man, was elected second
William Blair's company, belonging to the
regiment commanded by Col. John Eager Howard. [Commonly referred to as "The
Flying Camp Battalion"]
When Capt. Blair fell mortally wounded at the battle
Heights, Capt. Williams took charge of the
"Game Cock" company, First Lieut.
yielding the palm to Lieut. Williams on account of his
great popularity with the non-commissioned officers and
privates of the company. Under Henry’s command, the
company participated in many hard-fought battles, and
Capt. Williams was always in the thickest of the fray.
Williams was a member of the Masonic order, and at an
early period of the Revolutionary era enjoyed the
friendship of Washington and Lafayette. When Gen.
Lafayette was in this country in 1824-26, The Society of
the Cincinnati in Baltimore gave him a dinner, and it
was agreed that each one would in turn relate something
of a personal nature. When it came to the turn of Gen.
Lafayette, he related a story highly characteristic of
the American troops, as showing,, their eagerness to
rush into battle.
"At the siege of Yorktown he said, there were
two columns, one of French the other of Americans drawn
out to assault two bastions, and both were to move at
the same moment. Of course there was much excitement as
to who should make the capture first.
In recognition to Gen. Lafayette support of the
American cause, he was asked by Washington to led the
American Column, as such, Henry Williams reported to
him. Both columns started simultaneously,
each one watching the other. On the march William Curran, Jr., of Capt. Williams'
company, stepped up to the general, apparently unaware
of Gen Lafayette ancestry, and, tapping him on
the shoulder, said, "Hurry, general; those dammed
Frenchmen will get in before us yet.""
An old resident of Frederick supplies the following
concerning Capt. Williams: "My first acquaintance
with Capt. Williams was in 1811. He was then a hale and
hearty old country gentleman of sixty summers. He had
quit the sword, and, like Cincinnatus, had taken to the
plow. I often saw him riding in his plain country wagon
driven by his trusty yellow servant, Gabriel Briscoe,
and his other colored servant, Sam Diggs, accompanying
him. I was told by my father that Capt. Williams was a
prominent man in the Emmitsburg, District and had served
with distinction in the stormy periods of the nation's
In the language of a writer in the Maryland Chronicle
of May, 1786, Capt. Williams and his company (recruited
chiefly in the Emmitsburg District) "covered
themselves with glory and received the special
commendation of Washington and Lafayette." Capt.
Williams was also very useful and active as the
commander of one of the scouting-parties which were
engaged in unearthing the Dunmore-White Eyes conspiracy.
When the war was over he returned home to his estate
near Emmitsburg, where, until his death, be followed the
quiet pursuits of a farmer. He also took an active part
in the politics of the county, the State, and nation
from 1786 to 1816, but seldom appeared as a candidate
for office, although frequently solicited to stand for
the House of Delegates, which be invariably declined. He
sided with the Democratic party and generally supported
In 1812, however, believing with the Democrats of New
York and many other States of the Union that DeWitt
Clinton was a more energetic statesman, and would carry
on the war then waging against Great Britain with more
spirit and success than President Madison, and holding
to the one-term principle for the Presidency, he yielded
to the earnest solicitations of his friends in this
county, and announced himself (without any nomination)
as a candidate for Presidential elector in the district
composed of Frederick, Washington, and Allegheny
He was chosen in conjunction with Daniel Rentch, of
Washington County, by 450 or 500 majority in Frederick
County, and about 160 in the district, over Frisby
Tilghman and Joshua Cockey, two very popular men, who
were the Madison candidates for electors. It was no
doubt owing to Capt. William’s Revolutionary record
and great personal popularity that the district was
carried for Clinton.
Capt. Williams frequently filled the position of a
member of the Levy Court and county magistrate, and at
the time of his death, in 1821, was a justice of the
peace. He was a firm and consistent member of the
Presbyterian Church, but was universally respected by
the members of other creeds.
That Capt. Williams bestowed special attention to the
science of farming appears from the fact that the first
essay on that subject ever published in a Frederick
paper was written by him, and appeared in the Maryland
Chronicle of May 3, 1786. Capt. Williams named one of
his sons Washington, after the father of his Country.
His other son, John H. Williams, was editor of the
Frederick Examiner, and later president of the Frederick
County National Bank.
Capt. Henry Williams and Gen. John Ross Key, who
resided only about twelve miles apart in Frederick, were
bosom fiends. Both entered the Revolutionary war about
the same period, said both died about the same time.
Gen. Key died at his residence near Middleburg,
Frederick Co., May 21, 1821. The people of Emmitsburg
and Taneytown District, then in Frederick County, passed
resolutions at the time of their decease eulogizing
their memories and extolling their public and private
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