Wesley Williams moved with his family from Montgomery County, Kentucky, to Adams County, Illinois, in 1825. In the 1830s he became an early settler of Hancock County and built one of the first houses in Carthage. There, and later at nearby Elvaston, he held various public offices, including justice of the peace, circuit court clerk, probate court judge, and postmaster. He also owned a grist and saw mill.
This collection consists of letters from Williams to his family. Eight letters, 1839-49, are to his son John Wesley Williams, of Bourbon County, Kentucky. Subsequent letters are to "children," "grandchildren," or simply "daughter." The letters relate to farming, crop prices, family news, the Mormons, the Methodist Church, an 1849 cholera outbreak in Warsaw, Illinois, and the experiences of Williams' pro-Union family members living in Kentucky during the Civil War. Several letters in 1849 refer to a team of prospectors Williams hired to mine for gold in California during the Gold Rush. The collection also contains an obituary of Williams, written by his Masonic brethren.
Miriam E. Williams donated typescripts of the letters to the Illinois Historical Survey in 1974.