#Lookback: John and Dave Williamson

    Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. These famous words have greeted millions of immigrants since the Statue of Liberty was officially dedicated in 1886. The late 19thCentury into the early 20th century saw a glut of emigration into the United States of America. People from all over the world came and spread out over the land of opportunity for a chance to enhance themselves economically and socially. Fremont County would not be an exception to this period and the Williamson brothers would help to build it from the ground up.

    John “Jack” Williamson and Dave Williamson were born in 1857 and 1859 respectively, in Scotland. In 1881, they sailed for New York City and set to work practicing their trade as stonemasons, even working on the buildings of Princeton University. Upon completing that project, the brothers traveled westward while working for the Union Pacific Railroad, eventually bringing them over to Salt Lake City.  During their stay in Salt Lake City where they helped to build the Mormon Temple, John and Dave heard about a new fort being built in Wyoming: Fort Washakie. The Williamson’s influence would be felt all over the region, styling the stonework at Fort Washakie, the First National Bank, laying the foundation of the county courthouse in Lander, and working on many other buildings throughout the region.

    Eventually, the brothers would settle near the Wind River just east of Dubois where they started the Upper Circle Ranch raising horses and cattle as well as continuing to practice their masonry. Accumulating 300 to 400 horses, John and Dave would be the largest operation in the region. Dave would marry a fellow Scott, Annie McKenzie, in 1899. John Williamson would die May 15th, 1916 at 57 while his brother Dave would pass away in 1934.

    John and Dave would leave a lasting legacy in the region, both physically and culturally. Embodying the American ideals of entrepreneurship and hard work they came to a foreign land and not only survived but thrived. Their impact in and around Fremont County is something we should all aspire to achieve.

    Next up for the Fremont County Museum

    December 9, 2-4pm at the Riverton Museum, “Santa’s Workshop” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

    December 9, 10-4pm at the Riverton Museum, “Christmas Open House”

    December 16, 5-7pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Old Fashioned Christmas in a Pioneer Village” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

    December 2022-October 2023 at the Pioneer Museum, “Wind River Memories: Artists of the Lander Valley and Beyond” art exhibition

    Call the Dubois Museum 1-307-455-2284, the Pioneer Museum 1-307-332-3339 or the Riverton Museum 1-307-856-2665 for detail regarding their programs.

    The Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation has been created to specifically benefit The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum.  The WRCCF will help deliver the long term financial support our museums need to flourish.  In the current economic environment, the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark over the last four years.  Please make your tax deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation at PO Box 1863 Lander, WY 82520 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.  

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