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Reverend Edward Higginson Williams IV

Reverend Canon Edward H. Williams IV. 1977

Edward Higginson Williams IV was born March 20, 1915 in Bethlehem, PA, son of Edward H. Williams III and Gladys (House) Williams. He was the oldest of their four children. He had two sisters, Jean and Jacqueline and a brother C. Richard.

The family moved back to Woodstock VT, where the Williams family has lived for many generations, when Ned was about six years old. He graduated from Woodstock High School in 1934, but his early education was extremely varied.

He attended the American Farm School (founded by his Grandfather John Henry House) in Thessaloniki (Salonika), Greece. In 1928, when he was 13, he and his uncle Charles House and aunt Ann House sailed from New York to Le Havre France. Their overland car trip to Greece lasted 2-3 Weeks. They went through France, Germany, Austria, along the Adriatic in Yugoslavia into Macedonia then, probably Bulgaria to avoid the mountains, then to Thessaloniki, Greece. The car in which they were traveling had been brought over with them, for use at the farm school. It was a large touring car, and carried diplomatic flags that were supposed to let it through any border. Uncle Ned described visiting museums in France and ones in Germany that were later demolished by the war. He remembered Uncle Charlie driving in France, sticking his head out the window at a crossroad to ask "which way to Paris?" As the roads were not always well marked and the maps they had were inadequate. They were traveling with a Greek national who had a US travel passport of a different color. The Greek youth had been going to school in the USA but was returning to Thessaloniki. At the border of Macedonia they had trouble crossing (they may have been going from Yugoslavia into Macedonia, but possibly they were going from Austria into Yugoslavia). Uncle Charlie had to go back and forth to the last town to get special permission from the border Commandant to get through. It was a very harrowing incident as they were dealing with border guards who meant business and didn't or wouldn't recognize the diplomatic flags. Luckily they couldn't read English. Uncle Charlie convinced them that the different color on the passport was for students.

Ned was only supposed to be in Greece a year, but the stock market crash made it difficult for his parents to go over to get him, so it was probably in 1930 that they went to get him, They left their other three children in the care of Grandma Jennie (Mrs. E.H.Williams, Jr.), and as the family story goes that was when she whisked them off to the hospital and had their tonsils removed.

When Ned was 16, he went to Jerusalem during Holy week. With hundreds of others he took part in the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic ceremonies in candle lighted darkness at Mt. Calvary on Good Friday and Easter.

Ned graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, MA, a college founded by a distant relative, Col. Ephrium Williams.

In April, 1942, he was ordained Deacon in St. James Church in Woodstock. Then finishing at the General Theological Seminary School in New York, NY, he was appointed vicar of the Northwest Vermont Missions in Swanton. He was ordained as an Episcopal Priest on Oct. 12, 1942 in Swanton by Rt. Reverend Vedder Van Dyck, Bishop of Vermont.

Ned went on to serve in parishes in White River Junction, Norwich, Bellows Falls and St. Paul's in Burlington, VT. From 1952 to 1972 he served in the New York Dioceses at All Saint's Cathedral in Albany, and ministering to many smaller Albany area churches. He then went to study for a Doctorate in Adult Education at Boston University, but left this field to become Associate Director of Warren House at Troy, NY, where he worked in the area of drug rehabilitation, and served as the Rector of the Church of the Holy Cross.

With his sister Jean, Ned returned to his family home in Woodstock and served as the minister of Christ Church in Bethel for a number of years.

Father Ned, as he became known to his parishioners, spent his so called retired years filling in and helping out at a number of churches in the area including the St. James Episcopal Church in Woodstock.

Ned was the founder of the Robert Williams (1608-93) of Roxbury, Massachusetts Association. In 1991, Ned brought the association to Woodstock for its inaugural gathering. His genealogical research took him to England and Wales and all across America. He was close to publishing a book on the first six generations of the descendants of Robert of Roxbury when he died. It was a work that had been started by his Grandfather Edward H. Williams, Jr. Much of which had been destroyed in a fire at the family home in West Woodstock in the early 1920s.

When the newly renovated Norman Williams Library of Woodstock was reopened in September 2000, Ned and his sister Jean cut the ceremonial ribbons. Edward Higginson Williams, their great grandfather gave the funds for construction of the library in 1884 and asked that it be named for his father Norman.

Reverend Canon Edward H. Williams IV, died Oct. 19, 2000 at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH at the age of 85. Rev. Christina Brannock officiated at his funeral service. He is buried in the River Street Cemetery in Woodstock, VT.

When Ned was less than a year old he pulled a bureau scarf into his crib and drank from a bottle of rubbing alcohol. He had been ill with a fever and they had been using it on him to lower the fever. The doctors thought he would not pull through, but he did, proving that what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.

Portrait of Ned by his sister Jackie (1938)

Testimonials to Rev. Canon Edward H. Williams IV

Among the many things he can be credited for, Father Williams helped guide the futures of David and Nathan Butler, the teenage sons of his sister Jacqueline, in profound ways. Both of them were fortunate to have been able to tell him their stories and express their gratitude for his guidance.

For Nathan the story starts in the early 70's during a visit to his Uncle Ned, who was living in Boston at the time. Nate eagerly responded to the invitation to visit (which may have been inspired by his parents' concerns over his shoulder length hair and other worrisome behavior). When Uncle Ned said that they would go to see a Boston musical, Nate was convinced his "cool" uncle would take him to see Hair. Instead, it turned out that his uncle had purchased tickets to Godspell, the musical based on the Gospel of Matthew. Despite his best efforts to hate the experience, Nate found he liked the music and bought the record album in the lobby on the way out. His uncle, encouraged by this no doubt, tried talking to him about the Lord as they walked home, but Nate refused to discuss it rationally or politely.

After Moving to Albuquerque Nate began to worry that he was losing his mind, as strange and unwelcome thoughts about the possible reality of God started to enter his mind. Finally in November of 1979, he wrote to his Uncle Ned to ask for his help and opinion. While awaiting a response, he remembered he had the Godspell album. As he played it and sang along, he vividly recalled the visuals of the stage play he had seen 7 years before. As the death and resurrection were once again recreated in his mind and on his lips, he finally understood, for the first time, something of the enormity of what Jesus Christ had done for him. He felt the Holy Spirit come down on him, and he fell to his knees, stumbling through his first prayer in over 13 years. His whole life had just turned downside up. [Excerpted from Nathan's biography page.]

For David the story starts about 6 months after graduating from Cromwell High School in 1970, David was working at a gas station with no clear future plans. College was something his older brother and sisters had somehow accomplished on their own and he had no idea where to start. Uncle Ned arrived for a visit and innocently asked what David was planning to do. Like Nathan, he sometimes wonders if his parents hadn't put Uncle Ned up to the task. David loved to draw, but also was very mechanically minded. Almost without real thought he said, "Well, I have been thinking about getting into electronics." The next thing he knew they are looking in the yellow pages for electronics schools in the area and the next day, or very soon after, Uncle Ned drove him up to Ward Technical College at the University of Hartford and, after a short interview, he simply applied right there on the spot. David credits his Uncle Ned and those two years of school with launching him on a fulfilling and progressive career, from technician, to technical illustrator, to print and web publishing.

Since David also inherited his interest in genealogy from his Uncle, this web site owes much to the soft spoken efforts of Ned Williams.