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Perry L. Williams, the father of the boot and shoe business in Sharon and founder of the oldest mercantile house in that place (now conducted by his sons. G. L. and M. L. Williams), was born in Hartford township, Trumbull county, Ohio, on the i8th of February, 1821. His parents were Hector and Mary (Marvin) Williams, natives respectively of Waterbury, Connecticut, and of North East, Erie county, Pennsylvania. Hector Williams came to the Western Reserve (of which Trumbull county is a part) in 1808, the year of his settlement making him one of its real pioneers. In 1819 he married Miss Mary Marvin in Sandy Lake township and soon afterward settled near Hartford, Ohio, where his family was reared. Later, he resided in Brookfield township, Ohio, and became a resident of Sharon five years before his death, which occurred July 20, 1864. His widow survived him until December 18, 1880. Both the parents were Presbyterians, their children being as follows : Perry L., of this sketch, deceased; Laura, widow of James Kennedy ; Lester M., Riley, Alfred and Matilda, all deceased; and Nelson L., who is a resident of Sewicklev, Pennsylvania.
Perry L. Williams received a common-school education; was trained to agricultural labor on the home farm; and at the age,of twenty-one left that part of his life behind him for the shoemaker's trade. In May, 1843, a month following his marriage, he opened a shop in Sharon. As the footwear of those days consisted of the heavy grades and was all custom work, he found a profitable field for his venture. Both farmers and townsfolk were supplied with the same grade of goods, and before long Mr. Williams was obliged to hire six or eight men during the busy season to provide their heavy boots and calfskin shoes. The advent of machinery in the manufacture of Massachusetts shoes, in the early sixties, induced Mr. Williams to engage in the sale of ready-made footwear. In the spring of 1863 he built the store now standing at the corner of State and Porter streets, near the Morgan Opera House, and opened the first exclusive boot and shoe store' in Mercer county. This proved a successful venture from the first, but the unusual growth of that portion of the town east of the river induced him to acquire a site in that section, and in the spring of 1867 he selected the location now occupied by the fine store of P. L. Williams' Sons.
In January, 1880, Mr. Williams' son, George L., became a partner in the business and assumed its active management, its founder dying October 26, 1888. Mrs. Frances Williams, the widow, died July 24, 1898, and in the following January Martin L. Williams, another son, acquired her interest. The business has since been continued as P. L. Williams' Sons and at this writing (May, 1909) has just entered upon its sixty- seventh year—which makes it the oldest mercantile establishment in Sharon.
The founder of this pioneer house was one of the most earnest Republicans in Mercer county and one of the organizers of the party. Not a few public honors came to him and he well deserved them. For sixteen years he was a member of the school board of Sharon; served for several terms in the borough council and in 1884 held the shrievalty of the county. In his religious faith he was a member of the Christian church. The children of his family were as follows: Lester S., now deceased; Albert; George L.: Samuel; Martin L.; and Delia, the last named being the wife of B. F. Price, of Hubbard, Ohio.
George L. Williams, an old and leading shoe merchant of Sharon, Mercer county, and long associated with his father, who established the business in 1843, was born in the place named on the 2oth of January, 1851, being a son of Perry L. and Frances (Buck) Williams. The grandparents, Hector and Mary (Marvin) Williams, were natives respectively of Connecticut and Pennsylvania. They were married in Mercer county in 1819, but located near Hartford, Trumbull county, Ohio, where they resided until 1840. Hector Williams spent the last few years of his life in Sharon, where he died July 20, 1864.
Perry L. Williams, the father, was born February 18, 1821, in Hartford township, Trumbull county, Ohio. He received his education in the district schools of the county, and on May 9, 1843, opened a shoe shop on South Water street, Sharon, which was the origin of the business now conducted by the two sons. The business expanded, and in 1854 the elder Mr. Williams erected more commodious quarters, which still exist just east of the W. W. Moore and Company store. In 1863 he built the store at the corner of State and Porter streets, near the Morgan Opera House, and began the sale of ready-made boots and shoes—this being the first establishment of the kind in Mercer county. The manufacture of custom work was finally abandoned in 1879. In 1867 the elder Mr. Williams located at No. 312 State street, the site of the present store, and further details of his early business and of his life as a whole will be found in the biography especially devoted to him and preceding this.
George L. Williams was thoroughly trained in the business of which he is now the head, in the winter of 1869 beginning work as an apprentice in the custom department of his father's establishment. This practical knowledge of shoe construction, obtained in his early days, has been a most valuable asset in Mr. Williams' progressive career. On January 1, 1880, his ability brought him recognition as a partner with a one-half interest in the business and active manager of the house. Perry L. Williams, the founder of the business, died October 26, 1888, as the result of a fall from an apple tree, and for ten years thereafter the enterprise was continued under the title of P. L. Williams and Son—the widow retaining her interest until the date of her death, July 24, 1898. On January 1, 1899, Martin L. Williams, the younger brother, acquired a one-half interest, and has since been associated with George L. in the conduct of the business, which now ranks as both the oldest mercantile establishment in Sharon, as well as the leader of its kind.
Reverting to personal matters, it may be stated that Mr. Williams is especially interested in the Masonic fraternity, belonging to Sharon Lodge No. 250. A. F. & A. M., of which he is past master; Norman Chapter No. 244, Royal Arch Masons, of which he is past high priest, and of Rebecca Commandery No. 50, Knights Templar, of which he is past eminent commander and has served as its treasurer for the past fifteen years. On September 12, 1871, Mr. Williams married Miss Candace C. Wolfkill, of Urbana, Ohio, and the children of this union are as follows. Perry Lament, who married Anna Hull; Flora Belle, wife of Dr. D. C. Burnett, of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; Kirby, who married Alice Herriott; and Nellie, wife of William W. McMillen, all of whom reside in Sharon except Mrs. Burnett.