Keeping a sharp lookout for marauding renegades, Emma Williams and her three young sons came to Missouri during the turbulent days of the Civil War to be united with her husband, Owen Williams, who had gone before her to seek employment in the St. Louis area.
LeRoy, the eldest son, shot rabbits for meat, greens were plentiful, while a cow hitched at the back of the covered wagon furnished milk for the family. A churn tied to the side of the jolting wagon soon converted any surplus milk into butter.
Owen Williams’ father, David Williams, had been a Welsh immigrant who had settled in Lansing, Michigan, where young Owen had been born. Owen had grown up there, married Emma Wilson, and fathered three sons before he started out alone to find a place where he could better maintain his family. He was quite successful and after a short time was able to send for them with glowing promises of a fine life in Missouri.
There was no happy reunion. The travelers found the father dead and buried and themselves almost destitute. Fortunately for the sorrowing mother, she soon obtained a place near St. Louis as housekeeper with the motherless family of Dr. Williams, and was thus assured of a comfortable living and a place to raise her children with the doctor’s own son, Crawford.
Emma Williams did not long remain the doctor’s housekeeper – she married him. Her circumstances were now such that when her Francis, who had been born in Lansing on March 21, 1855, grew older, she was able to send him to college at Glasgow, Missouri.
Finishing his work at college, Francis took a position as teacher, married Emma Wilhoit, and began to raise a family. Two children, Maude and Austin, had been born when the news of the coming of the steel rails of the Santa Fe began to spread over the state.
Francis Freemont Williams could not resist the lure of the Magic City. Together, he and his stepbrother, Crawford, moved their families to Marceline. Crawford operated an amusement park near the present junction of Highway No. 5 and County Line Road while Francis opened a grocery store in a small building near the Santa Fe viaduct.
Very soon Francis was able to get a larger place. This frame building occupied the plot on which the Zurcher Jewelry now stands. The grocery business was in front while the family occupied the rear as living quarters and it was there that two more children, Della and Edith, were born.
The father, Francis Freemont Williams, died September 3, 1906. The eldest daughter, Maude, became the wife of Ollie Hedrick; Austin married Elizabeth Riley and for many years followed in his father’s footsteps in the grocery store; Della became the wife of William Baty and Edith married George Willis.
Of these four children, only one daughter, Mrs. Della Baty, survives.
FRANCIS FREEMOND WILLIAMS FAMILY
Standing: Maude Williams, Austin Williams.
SEATED: Francis F. Williams (holding) Della Williams, Emma Wilson Williams.