William H. Abrams, railroad official and oilman, the son of Isaac and Ellen (Rittenhouse) Abrams, was born on January 10, 1843, in Peru, Illinois. He studied at Beloit College in Wisconsin and Monmouth College in Illinois, served in the Union Army in 1864–65, and graduated with a bachelor's degree from Monmouth in 1866. From October of that year until 1873 he was employed by the land department of the Kansas Pacific Railroad, later part of the Union Pacific system. On June 16, 1869, Abrams married Ella (Fanny) Murray Harris, with whom he had three sons. He lived in Marshall, Texas, from 1873 to 1875, after which he was employed by the Texas and Pacific Railway as land commissioner, succeeding James W. Throckmorton. In 1883 Abrams moved to Dallas, where he represented the land interests of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad and auxiliary lines, beginning in 1884.As the company extended the railroad from Fort Worth to El Paso and from Marshall to New Orleans, Abrams aided in establishing new towns along the line. As general agent for the Texas Pacific Land Trust he sold and administered up to four million acres of land and later leased thousands of acres for oil and gas development.
He also bought land and made another fortune from oil. The Abrams No. 1 oil well, drilled by the Texas Company (later Texaco), blew in on July 2, 1920, on Abrams's 1,650-acre tract in Brazoria County and established the West Columbia oilfield as a major field that produced up to 30,000 barrels of crude oil daily. Oil discovered on Abrams's land in Mitchell County that same year initiated some of the first petroleum production in the Permian Basin. Abrams was an Episcopalian and one of the founders of the Dallas Club. He died in Dallas on April 16, 1926, and was buried in that city.