Henry Chester Williams (known as Chester) was born on August 19, 1892, at 38 Lawrence Avenue in Dorchester. His father, Henry Russell Williams, had been born in Manchester, New Hampshire. His mother, Josephine S. (Tillinghast), was from New Bedford, Massachusetts, where the couple married in 1880. They also had an older son, Russell Tillinghast, born in 1887.
Henry R. Williams was a successful wool broker, in business for himself with an office in Boston at 210 Summer Street. The Williamses owned their home at 38 Lawrence Avenue, where they employed a live-in maid. In December 1914, Henry retired due to illness. The next May, he died of stomach cancer. According to his obituary, at the time of his death, “He had been longer in the wool business in Boston than any other individual. The firm sign, H.R. Williams Company, is one of the oldest in the wool trade. He started in business for himself.” By 1915, Chester, his mother, and brother had moved to 17 Kenwood Street.
Chester was a graduate of Dorchester High School, class of 1910. In the summer of 1916, he attended the Plattsburg Military Training Camp in Plattsburg, New York, for a month of officer training. This was before the United States entered the First World War; the goal of the Plattsburg program and others like it was to create a pool of officer candidates who were trained and ready to serve if the United States joined the war in Europe. After completing the training, Chester returned to 17 Kenwood, living with his mother and brother, and working as a clerk in the wool business, employed by the Ayres, Bridges Company of 200 Summer Street, Boston.
On November 25, 1917, Chester was recommended for a commission in the Field Artillery. Two days later, he was called to duty as a second lieutenant, assigned to Company B, 12th Field Artillery, 2nd Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Division. He sailed overseas on January 15, 1918, departing from New York City. According to his service record, while in France he was present at the engagements in the Aisne defensive sector June 4 and 5; the Aisne-Marne offensive July 18-25; the Saint Mihiel offensive September 12-16; and the Meuse-Argonne offensive October 1-28 and November 1-11. On February 8, 1919, he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with a silver star, under Order Number 13.324 D, General Headquarters, French Armies of the East. The citation stated that “During the period from October 3-11, 1918, near Blanc Mont he rendered great service in keeping up the supply of his battery.”
He returned to the United States on the USS Rijndam, departing Saint Nazaire, France, on January 26, 1919, and arriving in Newport News, Virginia, on February 9. He was quoted in a Boston Globe article about the ship’s arrival: “‘We had a beautiful trip over,’ declared 2d Lieut Henry C. Williams of the 12th Field Artillery of 74 Elm Hill, Boston. ‘We left St Nazaire on Jan 26 and with the exception of one or two rough days the voyage was ideal.’” Chester was discharged on February 12, 1919.
While he was overseas, his mother moved to Elm Hill Avenue in Roxbury, not far from the home on Lawrence Avenue. In 1920, Chester and Josephine resided at 45 Elm Hill Avenue, where they were among a number of boarders in the home of Frank and Amy Lecain. Chester was employed as a commercial traveler selling dye stuffs. By 1925, Chester and his mother had moved to 39 Auburn Court in Brookline, Massachusetts. The Brookline directory continued to list them at this address through 1930. Chester appeared on the 1930 census at 6 Auburn Court, living with a cousin, Eugenia M. Williams, age 72, while Josephine was recorded at number 39. On the census, Chester’s occupation was given as “salesman, cotton goods,” though he was currently unemployed. Chester and Josephine moved a short distance in 1931, appearing in the Brookline directory that year at 41 Park Street. Josephine died on May 31, 1932, leaving an estate valued at $59,976.93.
In 1933, Chester travelled to Jamaica with his aunt and uncle, Zaidee and Joseph Tillinghast. On the passenger list, his address was given as 32 Cleveland Road in Needham, Massachusetts, the home of his brother. Chester returned to the United States on the SS Pastores, docking in New York on April 10. Chester died later that year on October 14, 1933.
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Roster of Attendants at Federal Military Training Camps 1913-1916. NY: Military Training Camps Association of U.S., December 1916; Ancestry.com
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