Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Williams, John R.

Born in Detroit in 1782, John R. Williams was the first mayor of the City of Detroit. Williams was appointed to the army in 1796, but he resigned in 1799 and to form a trade partnership with Joseph Campau, his uncle.

While trying to obtain supplies for his business in Canada, Williams was in a duel in which he shot Robert Cavalier, Sieur La Salle. Sieur La Salle was only wounded, yet Williams was put in jail in Montreal for several months. During The War of 1812, Williams became Captain of an artillery company where he was once again taken prisoner.

After the war, Williams moved briefly to New York, but in 1815 the Williams Family returned to Detroit. In Detroit, Williams was appointed Associate Justice of the County Court and was later made a County Commissioner and Adjutant General of the Territory. He assisted with the writing of the City Charter of 1824 and served as the first mayor of Detroit. He would go on to serve as mayor for six terms, spread out over the period from 1824 – 1846.

Williams was married to Mary Mott and the couple had ten children. John R. Williams died in 1854 and is interred at Elmwood Cemetery. One of Detroit’s main thoroughfares, John R. Street, is named for him.