Thomas Williams

Lewiston Morning Tribune
Tues., Jan 27, 1948

Death Calls Thomas Williams After Eventful 106-Year Life

The door to the unknown opened gently yesterday and Thomas J. Williams, adventurer in life for 106 years, walked through to new horizons.

Runaway from home to soldier at 20 sailor, circus man, policeman, gold miner, telegraph lineman, highway construction worker and in his later years, a farmer. Williams was Lewiston's senior citizen. He died at 9:45 a.m. at Somerville home which he entered last year still erect and still as his friends said, "with that young look in his eyes."

Born near Lexington, Ky, May 23, 1841, young Williams late moved with his family to Kansas where, as he said once, he received his education "among the Indians, wolves, buffalos and horned toads."

Marches With Sherman

Life at home ceased to interest a boy of 10 and the first call of distant places sounded. He ran away. When he was 20 he joined the army of General Sherman as a wagon master. He wasn't enlisted to fight but some how he got into the thick of things and was wounded in the hip.

"You're going to die," the doctor told him. "I'll outlive you," Williams replied. And he did.

In 1866 Williams married but was to know home life for only three years before his wife died shortly after giving birth to a child, which also died. Williams joined a government geographical expedition and came to know the far ports of the seas.

In 1880 Williams joined the police force of Kansas City, Mo., then a rough town. In 1885 the lure of gold called him to the Black hills of South Dakota, where he had considerable success. He loaned the profits to a sister at San Francisco. Then he went to work caring for animals for Ringling Bros. circus.

Loses All In Quake

The great fire and earthquake which destroyed most of San Francisco in 1906 brought Williams to the side of his sister, who lost all Williams' mining wealth in the holocaust. Undismayed, he returned to the circus, then in 1908 joined a telegraph company pushing wire east to California. Other work on the coast included working with the construction crew building the Portland to Seattle highway.

Williams had resided in this district for the last 24 years, first settling down on a farm in the Palouse country. Before moving to Lewiston, nine years ago he lived at Genesee and Moscow.

"Nothing unusual about being 102." Williams told a reporter in an interview on that birthday. "It's just the fiber you're made of." Williams asserted then that he never had known a day of sickness in his life. At 102 he hiked out to the dam for fishing on good days. Until he entered Somerville home last spring he lived alone.

Williams has no known survivors. His body is at the Vassar Rawls funeral home with arrangements pending.

Williams was the second Lewiston centenarian to die with six days. John F. Bishop, veteran fruit grower died at St. Joseph's hospital a week ago today, three days after his 100th birthday.

Contributed by Natalie Huntley

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