Ezekial Williams, 1729-1818

Ezekiel Williams, a successful merchant in Wethersfield, was born in Lebanon, the son of prominent First Church minister Solomon Williams and the brother of Declaration of Independence signer and Council of Safety member William Williams. Ezekiel Williams moved to Wethersfield in 1752, built a large house on the Broad Street Green in 1759 and, a year later, married Prudence Stoddard. In 1761 he joined the militia as a captain and in 1767 he was appointed Hartford County sheriff, a position he held for 22 years.

Strong support for the cause of independence seemed to run in this branch of the Williams family. In 1774, Williams led Wethersfield’s effort to provide supplies for blockaded Boston and was elected to the Committee of Correspondence. He also served on the Committee of Inspection seeking out Loyalist sympathizers and the Committee of the Pay-Table which audited Connecticut war accounts.

In May 1775, Williams was one of eleven men appointed to take charge of prisoners of war in the state and in 1777 he took full charge of such prisoners when he was appointed Commissary of Prisoners. This involved far more that being a jail warden, since most imprisoned officers and gentlemen were housed in private homes and were allowed (on the promise of good behavior or parole) to mingle freely within the community. Williams found safe housing, authorized travel permits, and carried out prisoner exchanges. He also managed the prison ships on which British and
Tory enlisted men were kept.

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