Williams, Henry Howell (1796–1873)

By: Margaret S. Henson

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: January 1, 1996

Henry Howell Williams, merchant, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1796, the second son of Howell and Dorothy (Wheat) Williams. Williams went to sea at an early age, probably with his father, a sea captain. During the 1820s he served in the Colombian navy. In 1830 he visited Texas, where he applied for land in Stephen F. Austin's colony but failed to become a resident. He settled in Baltimore and took over the commission house of his uncle, Nathaniel Felton Williams, and owned a schooner named Reaper. He lived in Galveston and served as Texas consul in Baltimore intermittently from 1838 to 1845. He allowed his brother's Galveston firm, McKinney and Williams, to use his credit between 1835 and 1837, but the panic of 1837 forced him to retrench. Nevertheless, he was instrumental in arranging for Nicholas Dawson of Baltimore to build six vessels for the Texas Navy in 1838–39. In 1841 he assumed control of McKinney and Williams in Galveston as a means to recover his money. He operated the commission house as a branch of his Baltimore undertaking, named H. H. Williams and Company, with the aid of his son, John Wilkins Williams. The son and Arthur T. Lynn, the British consul in Galveston, formed a partnership and operated under the company name Lynn and Williams until the late 1850s, when the business passed out of the family entirely. Williams was an investor in the Galveston City Company and was instrumental in building the Tremont Hotel. In 1848 he used his influence to get money for opening his brother's Commercial and Agricultural Bank in Galveston. During the 1850s he returned permanently to Baltimore, where he died on December 17, 1873. He was survived by his wife, Rebecca Wilkins, and his son. He still owned considerable property in Galveston.

Margaret S. Henson, Samuel May Williams: Early Texas Entrepreneur (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1976).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Margaret S. Henson, “Williams, Henry Howell,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 21, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/williams-henry-howell.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1996