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08/04/2021 11:46 PM
Pennsylvania State Senate

William Williamson

Photo credit:

MacElree, 1918



Session Position District Party
1847 Speaker 4 Whig
 Counties   Chester, Delaware


1794 - 1866

Born February 20, 1794, to William Williamson and the former Hanna Phebe Passmore of West Chester, William Williamson, Jr. descended from Quaker pioneer Daniel Williamson, who arrived in Philadelphia in 1682. Admitted to the Chester bar in 1820, the young attorney became one of the most visible political figures in the county for a quarter-century. His first political position followed in 1824 with a Governor Schulze appointment to county prothonotary.

Indicative of the high esteem accorded the attorney, Williamson was honorary county marshal during Lafayette’s 1824 visit to Chad’s Ford, the barrister accompanying the French military-political celebrity throughout his visit. Williamson coincidentally emerged as an active player in the financial and industrial world, appointed in 1831 as the Director of the West Chester Railroad, and an 1837 organizer of the Bank of Chester County. 

Senator Williamson earned a seat in Congress in 1850, rejecting the position after receiving an appointment as associate judge. The senator served as chief burgess of West Chester in 1834, 1835, and 1840. William was an important defender of the U.S. Bank cause, and in 1833-34, submitted frequent supporting editorials to Simon Siegrid’s Chester County Whig, assuming the posture of an anti-Jackson Democrat. Williamson was a committed Mason and an archenemy of the 1828-32 Anti-Masonry movement.

Williamson’s 1848 legislative session receives note for its introduction of bills reflecting social and industrial changes in Pennsylvania. The first of a series of laws passed redefining a woman’s legal relationship with her husband, reforming the state’s “femme sole trader” statutes. Laws regarding trans-oceanic steam navigation, telegraph companies, labor reform, railroad companies, elementary schooling, and the war with Mexico became issues of debate for the upper house. In relationship to sessions past, Williamson’s calendar seemed refreshingly progressive.

He supported abolition, opposed the Ten Hour Labor Law, backed high tariffs and femme sole trader reform, was pro-education, pro-improvement, and a major contributor to Joshua Hoopes’ Downington Boarding School at West Chester. Senator Williamson later aligned with Cameron Republicans, becoming a frequent correspondent of the GOP boss. The Honorable William Williamson Jr. passed away at his Chester County home on July 25, 1866. He was regarded as one of Chester County’s celebrated native sons. William was survived by his wife of 44 years, the former Esther Good of Chester County.