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Frank Williams one of city's first philanthropists

Frank Williams operated grocery, confectionary and jewelry stores. As his business prospered, he had a building constructed on Second Street (at I Street) known as the Williams Building. The Williams building is on the right. (Photo submitted by The Del Norte County Historical Society).
Frank Williams operated grocery, confectionary and jewelry stores. As his business prospered, he had a building constructed on Second Street (at I Street) known as the Williams Building. The Williams building is on the right. (Photo submitted by The Del Norte County Historical Society).

By Adam Madison

Triplicate staff writer

Frank Williams was born in in LeRoy, Ill., on Aug. 5, 1866, the youngest of 10 children. Williams married Alice Cora Campbell in Mt. Pulaski, Ill., and the couple settled in Fort Dodge, Iowa, where Williams took up the life of a farmer and their first child Mabel Leah was born.

Williams' health was poor and farming became a strenuous activity. His doctor suggested he move to California, which would provide a better climate.

Considering two of Williams' brothers had moved to Crescent City several years before, he saw an opportunity to start a new life there.

So Williams sold his farm and moved his family west. They briefly stayed in San Francisco until boarding a steamship for Crescent City. They arrived here on June 27, 1892.

Williams' two brothers in Crescent City each had businesses. Wesley owned a grocery store on Second and I Streets, and Milton "Candy" Williams owned a confectionary store.

Acquiring businesses

Williams purchased the grocery store from Wesley first and then the candy store from Milton. Wesley and his family moved back to Galesburg, Ill., and Milton moved his family to Oregon.

In 1894 Frank and Alice Williams had a second child, Lawrence Franklin. Following Lawrence's birth, Williams built a large two-story house at Ninth and J Streets with a windmill in the backyard.

Williams' candy store featured a large slab of marble that confectioners would cool and then cut the candy into pieces. The store also had a large wood-burning stove. On rainy days, Native Americans who came in from Lake Earl and other areas would come in to dry their clothes and warm their hands by backing up to the stove.

The Williams grocery store turned a healthy profit. Frank soon bought the building the store occupied and moved his family into the rooms above the store.

In 1901, a third girl, Venita Alice, was born to Frank and Alice in their new home above the grocery store.

A jewelry store owned by Roland Cousineau was located adjacent to the grocery store. Always an entrepreneur, Williams, decided he wanted to learn about the jewelry business.

Cousineau taught Williams about lapidary (the art of cutting, polishing, and engraving precious stones), clock and watch repair and jewelry-making.

Williams eventually bought the jewelry business, bringing his total number of businesses to three.

After purchasing the jewelry store, Williams repaired watches and clocks for many years. He kept his business local by using gold from nearby mines and agates from Crescent City beaches in the jewelry he made.

Williams created watch fobs, rings, lockets and bracelets.

The candy and grocery stores continued to prosper, but Williams had a special love for the jewelry business because of the creativity involved.

Soon after the jewelry shop purchase, Williams bought vacant property across from his grocery store and built the Williams Building.

The bottom floor housed a bank, and the jewelry store was moved there as well. The second floor had an assay office, the Law Offices of G.A. Webb and the Public Library, where Agnes Maxwell was librarian. The building became the Central Hotel many years later.

Williams became very wealthy and was a member of the Foresters and the International Order of Odd Fellows. He also served on the City Council.

Williams was one of the first philanthropists in Crescent City, donating money and gifts from his businesses for those in need over his years in Crescent City. He also provided financial help to any group working on Crescent City's progress.

Reach Adam Madison at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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