Correspondence and related documents of two generations of the family of Obadiah Williams (1767-1848), Quakers, of Newport and Providence, R.I., New Bedford, Mass., and New York State, chiefly reflecting family matters; connections with the Rotch and Rodman families, whalers and merchants from New Bedford and the Brown family, of Providence, famous for their stand against slavery and founders of Providence Boarding School and Brown University; and the changes, principally those in the first half of the 19th century, involved in the history of the U.S. Subjects include the capture by the British of a ship mastered by Nicholas Williams in 1807, which led to financial disagreements with his brother, David Williams, a clockmaker in Newport; and the War of 1812, particularly pertaining to the death of James Hadwin, a relative, the capture of a family ship by a British privateer, and the embargo in Newport and subsequent difficulties experienced by Quaker merchants which led to the move of Obadiah Williams, merchant, farmer, and businessman, and other family members to Bridgewater and other farming towns in New York State, and Ohio.
Other subjects include the utilization of ties in Newport by family members in New York to conduct trade via the Erie Canal; lands owned in New York State, Ohio, and Massachusetts; political and religious revivalism in New York in the 1820s, including family criticism of the Hicksite movement; the support of Obadiah's son, Henry Williams, of the Whig Party and Martin Van Buren; Quaker women, as exemplified by Ruth Hadwin Williams, second wife of Obadiah and their daughter, Catharine (Williams) Carman, an early student at Providence Boarding School; and descriptions of Newport (ca. 1848), as seen through the eyes of Henry Williams, a visitor, reflecting its people, events, and attitudes. Other family members represented include Dorcas Hadwin Brown, Obadiah Brown, and Mary Rotch.