Source: REGISTER OF OLD SETTLERS , BOOK One, page 44 & 45
submitted by Neal Carter, Aug. 14, 2007


Courier of April 1,1870

Hon. Joseph Williams, one of the earliest settlers of this county, died at Fort Scott, Kansas, yesterday morning, March 31st of Pneumonia. His remains will leave Fort Scott this morning for final interment at this place.

Judge Williams was born at Greensburg, Westmoreland Co., Pennsylvania, December 28, 1801, and was consequently in his 69th year. Immediately on the organization of Iowa as a territory in 1838, he was appointed by President Van Buren one of its territorial judges, and continued in that capacity until Iowa was admitted into the Union as a State in 1847. He then became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State until 1848 when, he was succeeded by S. C. Hastings, formerly of this place. In 1849 Judge Williams was again called to the Supreme Bench as Chief Justice, which position he held until 1855.

In 1857 he was appointed by President Buchanan, one of the judges for the territory of Kansas, and remained on the bench until the admission of Kansas as a State. In 1863, while at Memphis, Tenn., General Veach, who had command of that post, found it necessary to organize a judicial tribunal for the trial of civil crimes, the war having suspended the ordinary legal tribunal. Judge Williams was offered, and accepted, a seat on this tribunal, which was called the civil commission, and continued a member of it during its existence.

Some four years ago he returned to his farm in Lake township, where he resided up to the time he left for Fort Scott, about four weeks since.

Judge Williams was a man of eminently social qualities and boundless benevolence. Plain and simple in his tastes and habits, and wholly free from pride, he was accessible to all, and always had a kind word for every one. As a Judge, his duties were discharged with strict impartiality and fearless independence. His many excellent qualities of head and heart endeared him to all who knew him, and his death will cause a vacancy not easily supplied.



Preached at the Funeral of Hon. Joseph Williams, in the Presbyterian church, Muscatine, April 4th, 1870, by the Rev. JOHN ARMSTRONG, pastor of the Church, and printed at the request of the “Old Settlers of Muscatine.”

Zech. 1, 5. – Your fathers, where are they?

It is no ordinary occasion that brings us all together this day in this house of God. Whenever death comes, there are hearts made to bleed, but there are but few whose death could touch so many hearts as his to whose memory we come to pay tribute this day. I could wish that it had fallen to some other one to address you on this sad occasion. It was hoped, until a few hours since, that an old and trusted friend and pastor of the deceased would have been with us today, and addressed you from this desk. However, there is no apology needed. I stand in the midst of those among whom he lived for more than 30 years. The most of you are more familiar with his life than myself, and that life is eulogy enough. To strangers we may relate his virtues, here they are known already.

He was born in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, in the year 1801, of Presbyterian Scotch-Irish parentage, -- a hardy, energetic, tolerant, liberty-loving, God-fearing stock, which has done so much to lay the foundations of this government, deep, broad, and strong, and which has given so many eminent and useful men to our country. He read law in his native town, with a distinguished lawyer – Maj. Alexander. He removed thence to Uniontown, where he was united in marriage to her who remains with us still to mourn his departure. Some years were afterward spent in Somerset and Chester, Pennsylvania, during a part of which he was clerk of the Constitutional Convention of Pennsylvania, and his reputation was spread over the State – In 1838 he was appointed by President Van Buren, Judge of the territory of Iowa. In the same year he removed to this city, then a small village, and lived in a small house near the river, on the west side of Pappoose creek. For nine years he was territorial Judge of Iowa, and after the State was admitted he was elected several times to the associate and Chief Justice’s place. In all he was nearly twenty years on the bench in Iowa, as Chief Justice or Associate. In 1857 he was appointed by President Buchanan Associate Judge for Kansas, and removed to Ft. Scott. In 1862 he was appointed to a military judgeship in Memphis by President Lincoln, where he remained for a couple of years. With the exception of these two appointments, he spent his life in or near this city since his removal hither in 1838. This was his home and though he was removed to a higher court while among old associates in Kansas, it is proper that his remains should sleep with those of his sainted mother and friends in our own cemetery.

He came hither at a time when society was in a formative state. He began at once to labor for the welfare of this community, and realizing that the religion of Jesus is the corner stone of our political institutions, and that without it no republic can endure, he began his Christian labors in cooperation with Mr. Whicher and Hon. John A. Parvin by organizing a Sabbath school the year after his arrival, 1839. To him with those mentioned, belongs the honor of establishing the first Sabbath school in Muscatine. About the same time he and his beloved wife united with the first class of the Methodist Episcopal church, in this place, which had been founded but two or three months, and was composed of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Morford, Mr. and Mrs. John A. Parvin, Mr. and Mrs. George Bumgardner, and Miss Mary Williams.

***continued on page 45***

He was in many respects a model man. He was a learned jurist, and an incorruptible judge. Though he held office under the government for more than the third of a century, he never used his position to enrich himself. He was kind and generous and forgiving. Though at times he might be the object of envy in the eye of some aspirant for public favors, no matter what such might say of him in the heat of political partisanship, he never manifested any hostility, nor uttered against them an unkind word. He was incapable of envy or malice or vanity or pride. He was kind and courteous to the poor and to the rich alike. He had a keen appreciation of worth in others. He was ever ready to lend a helping hand to meritorious young men. And he took a special interest in those young men who had chosen his own honorable profession, and who were struggling through difficult times. Many who now adorn the bar and the bench of our State regard him with the gratitude, the veneration and the affection of a father. It is to be hoped that some one of his numerous friends in the profession, will give us, in a form to be preserved, some account of his life, his virtues and his legal attainments. His life is part of the history of Iowa. One who knew him intimately writes, “It would take volumes to tell the story of his remarkable life. From Maine to Oregon he was known as a model and representative of all that is genial in social life. For fifty years he has dispensed sunshine and laughter and tears by his remarkable wit, pathos and personations of character. His fame is as wide as the continent. His character was threefold. He was the upright judge upon the bench. He was the wit, the musician, the ventriloquist, the inimitable mimic and actor in the private circle of his friends. And these social gifts were used so purely and so well, that no one disputed his lo—claim to consistent membership in the Methodist church, and to the daily wage of a Christian life. All over the land memories will be touched and hearts will be sad, when it is known that the good Judge is gone.”

-- [Fort Scott Monitor.] Only a few weeks ago he was upon our streets apparently healthy and strong, as if Time had dealt kindly with him, but the exposure incident to his tollsome life in the early history of our State had impaired his strength, and rendered him less able to resist the attack of disease that so rapidly hurled him into eternity. I met him at Burlington on that last journey to Kansas. He was standing at the depot and looking at the buildings, the shops, and the engines and cars, the signs, the cause and the effect of the commerce and civilization of the age. It struck me at the time that his mind was reverting to the past, to the early times and to the appearance of that place when he first knew it, and to the change and progress there. Little perhaps did he think it would be the last time that he would gaze upon those scenes. Little did I think that instead of greeting him on our streets again I, as a minister of that church in which he was born, in whose bosom he was reared, in which he first found the Saviour, to which he first united, and to which he gave his first love, should be called to utter the last sad words over his cold remains in the midst of these weeping relatives, and this multitude of sympathizing friends.

Only a day has intervened since we followed to the quite resting place one of the Old Settlers of Muscatine, a wife, a mother, a christain, whose life adorned every sphere in which she moved. Today we bear hence, another from those fast thinning ranks. It is the husband, the father, the Christian, the jurist, -- Muscatine’s most honored, revered, distinguished citizen. “The fathers, where are they?

I see before me the “Old Settlers of Muscatine,” whose friendship, formed in a season of trial and hardship, is cemented by time. A thousand associations bind you together. Death cannot dissolve that bond, but it has invaded your lessening circle, and borne hence a most beloved and cherished member. I see also, here, the children of the Sabbath schools of our city, who come to add their tribute of respect and affection to the memory of him who helped to organize here the first Sunday school. I see those who were associated with him at the bar and on the bench, whose helping hand and encouraging words smoothed the pathway before you, and stimulated you to effort and perseverance, when friends were as scarce as clients, and obstacles and difficulties multiplied.

I see here the Christian men and women of this community who mourn a father in Israel fallen, -- but who mourn not as those without hope. I see here those of various ages who come from their homes, their shops, their business, to drop a tear over the remains of the generous friend, the kind neighbor, the honored citizen – whom you will meet no more on earth. Aye, and there is here an inner circle of mourners whom no words of mine can comfort. The beloved companion of a long pilgrimage is left to travel alone, and the day is far spent. The arm that gave support is withered, the staff is broken. It is a brother that has been taken, the playmate of childhood, the companion of youth. It is a father, and the children are bereft. The tongue of the counselor is still. There is no one to take his place. The head of the family is removed; and yet, dear friends, all is not taken; Jesus still remains. He is more than husband, brother, or father, and he will not forsake those that put their trust in him, though the day decline and the shadows of night gather around you.

My friends, what is more important than religion? When one is called hence to that bourne from which no traveler returns, what is the thought that is upper most in our minds? What is the question that we unconsciously ask? What is it in the life that is ended upon which we dwell with the most satisfaction, and that alone affords comfort? It is not that the deceased friend or neighbor was rich, or learned, or honored, -- not that he was a genial companion, or honest man, and filled with stainless honor and distinguished ability high official positions. These are indeed not unimportant considerations, but if these were all, there would be little to assuage the anguish of those that mourn. That which alone can bring comfort is the assurance that the departed one had a personal interest in the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ. -- What are all earthly honors, and worldly fame when once a soul has entered the eternal world and appeared before God? It is this in this sad hour that affords comfort. He had not left this most momentous matter to be attended to in his last hours. He had given to God the strength of his early manhood; and this fact gives us all more satisfaction and comfort than all the other qualities of his mind and heart, which made him such a genial companion and cherished friend, - - When all else is forgotten it will be remembered that he was a Christian. That he was perfect, he, himself, never imagined. To say that he was faultless, would be to say that he was not human. But by the grace of God he was what he was. He looked to the blood of Christ to cleanse him from all sin and his end was perfect peace. He met death without fear, and his last words were expressions of calm resignation and trust in God.

Doubtless, by God’s blessing, he owed his conversion very much to the prayers and instructions of a pious mother, -- Who can estimate the influence of pious parents? It is an inheritance to be desired far beyond riches. If you would prepare your children for an honorable and useful career in the world, train them up for Jesus. If you would have them fitted to mingle among men, and to be strong to resist temptation, and corruption, instill into their young minds the holy principles of the religion of Christ.

My friends, if you would live an honorable and useful life; if you would die a happy, and peaceful, and triumphant death; if you would leave behind you something to console and cheer the friends that survive you, give your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ, and devote your life to his service. Life’s tale will soon be told. Time is swiftly bearing us to eternity. Ere long we will stand before the Judge of all the earth. We will all soon enter an existence of eternal happiness or endless misery. Others have gone. We will soon follow. “Your fathers, where are they?” You will ere long be numbered with them. Where will you be? Let not your soul’s best interests be neglected. Let not life’s great End – the glory of God, be slighted. Live worthily of your endowments and your immortal destiny, and then when your work is done, you will be called up into the presence of God to spend a blessed eternity with Saints, and Angels, and Jesus Christ.


Old Settlers’ Meeting – April 2-1870

Old Settlers’ meeting convened at the Mayor’s office, April 2, at 2 o’clock p.m. Gen. J. E, Fletcher was called to the Chair; P. Fay Secretary pro tem. The object being to pay a tribute of respect to the memory of Hon. Joseph Williams, deceased. On motion, a committee of five was appointed to draft resolutions, viz.: John A. Parvin, Samuel Sinnett, Suel Foster, J. J. Hoopes and Henry Funk.

On motion of Mr. Sinnett a committee of eight was appointed to receive the body on its arrival, viz: A. Chambers, Wm. Parvin, B. W. Thompson, Joseph A. Green, J. B. Dougherty, Wm. McCormic, Marx Block and Frederick Phelps.

Pall Bearers – Col. Chas. Mason , John P. Cook, Dr. Barrows, Samuel Sinnett, J. E. Fletcher, Suel Foster, Samuel Lucas, J. A. Parvin, Wm. Leffingwell, J. G. Gordon, Abram Smalley, J. J. Hoopes and Hon. T. S. Parvin (13).

Committee of resolutions here reported, which report was unanimously adopted, as follows:

, We, the Old Settlers’ of Muscatine county, having heard, with deep regret, the sudden death of our respected brother, the Hon. Joseph Williams, do hereby offer our frail tribute of respect to his memory, and express our heartfelt sorrow for the loss we have sustained in the death of one so honorable and respected and so generally beloved by all who knew him.
, He was appointed one of the United States Judges of the Territory of Iowa and settled at Muscatine in August 1833, therefore
, That in the death of Hon. Joseph Williams the old settlers have lost one of their brightest ornaments – one who was ever ready to soothe the afflicted, succor the distressed, help the needy, encourage the timid and sustain the wavering; who was an honest and upright judge, and faithful friend.
, That in token of our respect for our brother we will, as a united band, attend his funeral.
, That this preamble and these resolutions be entered on the minutes of our record and a copy of the same presented to the afflicted widow of our deceased brother.
And as we are also called to mourn the death of another old settler in the person of Mrs. Woodward, therefore
, That we offer this as a tribute of respect to her memory, and hereby tender our sympathy to the bereaved family.

On motion the city papers were requested to publish these proceedings and resolutions.

The funeral will take place on Monday, at 2 o’clock p. m., at the Presbyterian church. The public is invited to attend.

J. E. FLETCHER, Pres’t.


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