One House’s Story: Dr. Israel J. Williams & Family

The Dr. Israel Williams House on Front Street SW, New Philadelphia, Ohio, (Source: google.com)

I thought I would, once again, take a look at a house that now serves as a place of business as opposed to a residence. You may be one of the many people who have visited this house in its modern role as a community pizza parlor, but it started out life as the home of a prominent city dentist.


A note about addresses: House numbers and street names often change over time.

Silas Williams (1796-1848) was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1796 and before the age of 22 had migrated west into Tuscarawas County, Ohio. There he met, and subsequently married, fellow Pennsylvanian Sarah Lappin (1799-1839). The couple established their home in Fairfield Township, Tuscarawas County and started, what would become, a large family. Sarah gave birth to twelve children in all, including a son named Israel J. Williams (1832-1887).

Israel worked on his father’s farm in his youth, while also occasionally working on the farms of his family’s neighbors. It was perhaps during his time off the family farm that he met Catherine Clark (1835-1888) and the two were married in the spring of 1855. It was after his marriage to Catherine that Israel began his training in dentistry what would become his future career. It is possible that Israel trained with New Philadelphia dentist H.S. Stone before taking over his dentistry business in the fall of 1863.

  • Record of the marriage of Israel J. Williams and Catherine Clark, March 1855. (Source: familysearch.org)
  • The newspaper advertisement promoting Israel J. Williams' purchase of the dentistry business of H.S. Stone, September 1863. (Source: newspaperarchive.org)

Israel advertised his dentistry business throughout the 1860s and 1870s and, by all accounts, was a successful and respected member of the community. He and Catherine welcomed four sons into their household from 1856 to about 1866, though only two of those sons survived to adulthood. It was also during this period of professional and personal growth that Israel and his wife acquired Lot #49 on the corner of West Front Street and (then) South 5th Street where they built a house worthy of their status in the community.

The Williams house has been modified and altered so significantly over its history that determining its original architectural style is quite a challenge. Knowing roughly when the house was built and examining details that have remained, assumedly, unchanged one can at least make an educated guess. The roof details and orientation of the home indicates that it was likely a modified version of a gable-front family version of the National style of architecture common at the time. Though, if Israel and Catherine were early adopters, it may have had decorative elements consistent with the Queen Anne style as well. Later depictions of the house show a front porch and other additions as well.

  • An image of a 19th century dentist at work. (Source: loc.gov)
  • The earliest map depiction of the Williams House on West Front Street, 1892. (Source: loc.gov)
  • Israel Williams' advertisement in the New Philadelphia newspaper offering laughing gas, September 1868. (Source: newspaperarchive.org)

Israel’s business continued to flourish into the 1880s and, with that success, Israel found himself in leadership roles in his church and as a member of the Masons and Odd Fellows. He advertised frequently in the New Philadelphia newspapers, offering the latest in dentistry techniques. One of his advertisements stated that he administered “laughing gas…every Saturday” for those clients who might be adverse to seeing a dentist otherwise. While his professional life was successful, for reasons not known his health began to decline in the early 1880s.

Israel apparently battled a number of unrecorded health issues in the years leading up to his death in August 1887. That month he came down with a serious case of chest congestion and, on August 11, 1887, Israel died. His death record listed his cause of death as “nervous prostration.” Less than a year later Catharine Williams also died and the house on West Front Street was sold by the estate to successful lumber merchant, and owner of the Champion Planing Mill, John Nagely (1832-1907). Israel and Catherine are both buried in the Fair Street Cemetery in New Philadelphia.

  • Israel Williams' obituary in the New Philadelphia newspaper, August 1887. (Source: newspaperarchive.org)
  • The Williams House. (Source: google.com)
  • The Williams House. (Source: google.com)
  • The Williams House. (Source: google.com)

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© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.

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