My Contribution: As a former enslaved person who found freedom in the north, I worked to assert those freedoms in Harrisburg. I helped my community as the first African American patrolman in the city. I also served on political committees to ensure that voters’ voices were represented at the polls.
My Legacy: As a patrolman, I protected residents so they could live peaceably. I encouraged many citizens to use their Fifteenth Amendment rights to ensure voice and representation in voting. These actions worked towards a better life for citizens in Harrisburg.
About Me: “William C. (‘Uncle Bill’) Williams, born a slave on a Virginia plantation, whom the fortunes of war brought north to this city during the retreat of General Banks in the Civil War….became a Hod carrier in this city until he was appointed as the first Negro city policeman by Mayer Cameron Wilson. He later became chief contractor in unloading coal boats that plied the canal from Steelton… Fifty years ago ‘Uncle Bill’ helped the late Danie H. Potter found the Zion Primitive Baptist Church” — Harrisburg Telegraph, Aug 6, 1927.
Full Name: William C. Williams. Nickname Uncle Bill
Birth Date: May 1838 (1880 and 1900 Federal Census), 1839-1840 (1910 and 1920 Federal Census), 1848- 1850 (death certificate and obituary)
Death Date: August 5, 1927 (buried in Lincoln Cemetery, Penbrook, Pennsylvania)
Place of Birth: Fauquier County, Virginia on plantation of Colonel Joseph H. Hoerner
Race: Black (federal censuses) and “Colored” (marriage and death certificates)
Places of Residence: Fauquier County, Virginia; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Sixth Ward, 1408 Marion Street (1883), 335 Calder Street (1892), 1333 Margaret Street (1900), 1337 James Street, 1314 Marion Street (1899), and 1332 Williams Street (1910-1927)
Connection to the Old Eighth Ward: Resided several blocks north of Eighth Ward; knew Eighth Warders.
Family Members: Wife: M1: Jennie (Smith) Williams. Wife M2: Elizabeth “Eliza” Trummel Williams, m. 1900-August 5, 1927. Siblings: George Williams. Children: Shelly Williams, James Williams, Elmer Williams, Clara Williams, Mary Williams, Clarence “Waxey” Williams, Robert M. Williams, Newton Williams, Mrs. Lillie Williams Crummel, George Williams, Pear Williams (adopted), Carrie Williams Brown, Mrs. Eliza Williams Alexander, Alverta Woodson (step-son), Lester Woodson (step-son). Grand- children: William D. Williams.
Education: Could read and write
Occupations: City Policeman, appointed in 1883 by Mayor Cameron Wilson. Laborer. Street sweeper. Hod carrier, construction. Contractor, unloading coal boats. Janitor, Calder School building
Church Membership: Zion Primitive Baptist Church on Marion Street (founding member, treasurer and deacon).
Activism: served as Member, Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, No. 896; active in Republican politics
Connections: George H. Imes, John W. Simpson, Clarence Williams, and Daniel H. Potter.