Williams, Eleazer 1788-1858 | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Williams, Eleazer 1788-1858

Canadian Clergyman, Missionary and Con Artist

Williams, Eleazer 1788-1858 | Wisconsin Historical Society
Dictionary of Wisconsin History.
b. Sault St. Louis, Canada, 1788 
d. Hogansburg, New York, August, 1858

Eleazer Williams was an Indian missionary and self-proclaimed "Lost Dauphin." He was of mixed Indian-white parentage. He was trained for missionary work at Longmeadow, Massachusetts, and attended Dartmouth College.

Missionary Work

Born a Catholic and educated as a Congregationalist, Williams joined the Episcopal Church in 1815. He worked as a missionary among the Oneida Indians in New York. In 1826, he 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 by marrying a Menominee woman of mixed blood.

False Claim

The Indians eventually repudiated his leadership. In approximatealy 1839, Williams began to claim 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 1850s, 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. He died in poverty and obscurity at Hogansburg, N.Y. Many years later, his remains were reinterred at Duck Creek, near Green Bay.

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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.