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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Williams, Eleazer 1788 - 1858


(Note: birth date given in original as "ca. 1788.") Indian missionary, self-declared "Lost Dauphin," b. Sault St. Louis (Caughnawaga), Quebec, Canada, of mixed Indian-white parentage. He was trained for missionary work at Longmeadow, Mass., and attended Dartmouth College. Born a Catholic and educated as a Congregationalist, Williams joined the Episcopal Church in 1815, was allowed to do missionary work among the Oneida Indians in New York, and later (1826) was ordained a deacon. A gifted leader, he envisaged an Indian empire west of Lake Michigan under his rule. In 1821 he accompanied a delegation of New York Indians to Green Bay, where the eastern tribesmen effected a cession of land from the Menominee and Winnebago on the Fox River. In 1822 Williams established his home there, strengthening his claim to a tract at Little Rapids through marriage to a Menominee of mixed blood. The Indians eventually repudiated his leadership, however, and as early as 1839 Williams began his pretensions that he was the "Lost Dauphin" of France, Louis XVII. Later he claimed that Prince de Joinville, son of King Louis Philippe, asked him to sign an abdication at Green Bay in 1841. In the early 1850's he became an open pretender, tricked his mother into signing an affidavit that he was an adopted son, and issued manifestoes, signing his writings "L. D." (Louis, Dauphin). Williams promised his friends many royal favors when his wrong had been righted; but, doomed to defeat, he died in poverty and obscurity at Hogansburg, N.Y. Many years later, his remains were reinterred at Duck Creek, near Green Bay. Dict. Amer. Biog.; Colls. State Hist. Soc. Wis., 6 (1872), 8 (1879); J. H. Hanson, Lost Prince (New York, 1854); T. W. Clarke, Emigres in the Wilderness (New York, 1941); WPA MS; E. Williams Papers.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has manuscripts related to this topic. See the catalog description of the Eleazer Williams Papers for details.

View a related article at Wisconsin Historical Collections.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]
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