Williams, Nathaniel Felton (1800–1884)

By: Margaret S. Henson

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: January 1, 1996

Nathaniel Felton Williams, merchant and sugar planter, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on August 6, 1800, the fourth child of Howell and Dorothy (Wheat) Williams. Like his older brother, Samuel May Williams, he was apprenticed to his uncle, Nathaniel F. Williams, a commission merchant in Baltimore. By 1827 he had entered a partnership with George Dobson in Mobile; the firm collapsed, however, in 1837, when the banking panic and loans to the Republic of Texas bankrupted Dobson and Williams. Williams's wife, Elizabeth Dobson, died in 1838, leaving five small children, and Williams moved his family to Galveston, where his widowed sister, Eliza W. Sweet, kept house for him. In 1838 Williams, a political supporter of Sam Houston, obtained his brother Samuel's Oyster Creek league in Fort Bend County. With the aid of his youngest brother, Matthew Reed, who had come to Texas in 1830, Williams developed a sugar plantation on Oyster Creek that later became the Imperial Sugar Company; they sold their interest in the plantation in the 1850s. In 1841 Williams married his cousin, Martha Elizabeth, the daughter of his Baltimore uncle, and the following year he moved to New Orleans, where he was senior partner in the business firm of Williams, Whitman, and Company. About 1845 he moved back to Maryland but retained interest in land speculations in Texas. He died in Baltimore on August 19, 1884, and was survived by four children.

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, Nathaniel Felton,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/williams-nathaniel-felton.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1996