Jesse L Williams, an American civil engineer, born in Stokes co., N. C, May 6, 1807. His family removed to Cincinnati in 1814. He was one of the engineers detailed to make the preliminary survey for the Miami and Erie canal, and continued in the engineer corps of Ohio from 1824 to 1832, constructing a portion of the Miami and Erie canal, and also of the Ohio canal. In 1832 he was appointed by the state of Indiana chief engineer of the Wabash and Erie canal, and in 1837 chief engineer of all the internal improvements of the state, embracing about 1,300 m. of canals, railroads, and other works.. With the exception of five years, during which the construction of the public works of Indiana was suspended, he has continued to act as chief engineer of the Wabash and Erie canal, though mainly as an advisory officer; but he has been chiefly engaged for the last quarter of a century in the construction and direction of railroads. In 1853 he became chief engineer of the Fort Wayne and Chicago railroad, afterward consolidated with other roads as the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago railway.
He has been elected a director of this company yearly since 1856. In 1864 Mr. Williams was appointed by President Lincoln a director on the part of the government of the Union Pacific railroad, and devoted his attention chiefly to securing the best location through the Rocky mountain region. He was reappointed annually till 1869, when he resigned after the completion of the work and opening of railroad traffic across the continent. In that year he was appointed by the U. S. district court receiver of the Grand Rapids and Indiana railroad; he held that position, and also that of chief engineer, until 1871, having built 200 m. of the work under the orders of the court. In June, 1871, he was appointed chief engineer of the Cincinnati, Richmond, and Fort Wayne railroad, and, having located and built the unfinished portion, 65 m., resigned in 1872.