Henry J. Williams was the first-born son of William Jefferson Williams and Elizabeth (Stubblefield) Williams. The second of eleven children, he was born on 5 June 1840, most likely in the area that is known today as Crawford Township, Osage County. Compared to his larger-than-life father, Henry kept a low profile.
When Henry was twenty-one he was married by a Justice of the Peace to Syrena Simpson. They married on 16 June 1861 two months after the Civil War had begun. Their first child Elizabeth was born seven months later.
Henry and Syrena began their married life in a time when the citizens of the state were bitterly divided in their allegiances to the North or the South. Battles took place throughout Missouri. In Osage County, inhabitants were more likely to encounter skirmishes rather than battles. Because of that, men in Osage County were more likely to join the Enrolled Missouri Militia (E.M.M.) rather than the Union forces. Often they enlisted for short periods of time over the course of the war. Their responsibilities included guarding bridges and places of strategic importance.
Henry was one of those who was called into service. He joined the 9th Provisional E.M.M., Company A, on 17 March 1863 and was ordered into service the same day. His company commander was his father William Jefferson Williams. Henry was listed as the company Bugler. He was discharged from service on 31 December 1863.
A month before Henry was ordered into service his second daughter Mary was born on 2 February 1863. His third daughter Cynthia was born in October 1865, a few months after the war ended. Their first son, John Michael, was born in October 1867. Their next child, Virginia was born in 1869. The next five children, Nathaniel, Benjamin, William, Joseph, and Kate were born between 1872 and 1883. Henry and Syrena had a total of ten children.
In 1870, Henry had quite a bit of land. He owned three-hundred and thirty-six acres. He owned horses, milk cows, sheep, and swine. That year sixty pounds of wool was taken from the sheep and sixty pounds of butter were made from the milk of the cows. He grew Indian corn, oats, peas, beans, and Irish potatoes on sixteen acres of land.
Henry continued to farm well into the 1880s and 1890s. But his farming days may have been over in 1891. Syrena’s Civil War pension application, filed in 1917, showed that Henry was an invalid on 30 November 1891. Shortly after, in 1892, Henry sold a considerable amount of land to his brother William M. Williams. By 1900, Henry and Syrena were living in Dry Creek Township in Maries County with their oldest daughter Elizabeth and son John Michael. In 1900 they were living in Dry Creek by themselves.
Henry was stricken with pneumonia at the age of seventy-six and suffered with it for eighteen days. He died on 9 April 1917. According to his doctor, the contributing factor to his death was La Grippe, or otherwise known as the Spanish Flu. The Spanish Flu epidemic didn’t begin in the U.S. until 1918 but apparently Henry had it before it became a pandemic in the U.S. Henry is buried in Francis Cemetery in Osage County next to his father William Jefferson Williams. Henry’s obituary read:
Henry Williams Dies
Henry Williams, a son of the late Jeff Williams, died at his home at Freeburg Monday of last week and was buried in the Francis cemetery near Byron. Reverend Affalter officiating.
Mr. Williams lived for many years near Cooper Hill until about 20 years ago when he moved to a farm near Dixon. He disposed of that farm a few years ago and moved to Freeburg where he resided until his death. He was a whole souled, jovial man, and a good and upright citizen. He is survived by his widow, Mrs. Cyrene Williams, formerly Simpson and a number of children.