#Lookback: The Williamson Family

A County 10 series in partnership with the Fremont County Museum System
where we take a #Lookback at the stories and history of our community and
presented by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

Dave and Jack Williamson were Scottish settlers at Diamond A Ranch about 8 miles southeast of Dubois and at Circle Ranch near Torrey Creek, respectively. The Williamson brothers, along with their father, came to New York from Scotland in 1881 and worked as stonemasons on the construction of Princeton University. The brothers worked their way west, taking jobs with Union Pacific Railroad building stone abutments for bridges and later in Salt Lake City working on the Mormon Temple. In 1888, when they heard of the developing new post, Fort Washakie, they settled in the area and found work building houses and barns. In the early 1890s, they moved further west to Dubois along with their several hundred horses and camped near Torrey Creek, where they would eventually homestead. The Williamson brothers were among the first Scottish emigrants to homestead in the Wind River Valley. Dave and Jack operated a large horse ranch, with three to four hundred Morgans bred from Hambiltonian stock, a thoroughbred race breed that they sold in Fort Washakie. 

Upon moving to Dubois, the brothers befriended one of the first European settlers in the area, Andy Manseau, who owned Circle Ranch. After consulting Andy on where to homestead, he recommended they locate near his ranch. Dave had received a cash entry patent for a homestead near Diamond A in 1904. Jack purchased the Diamond A in 1907. The Williamsons each took out a desert claim. The Desert Land Act of 1877 allowed a married couple to purchase up to 640 acres (a single man could purchase up to 320 acres) of land that could not be cultivated without irrigation for $1.25 an acre with the promise to irrigate the land in 3 years. While in Fort Washakie, Dave and Jack helped to build many of the stone structures and also did work in Lander, including the First National Bank, the old Bishop Randall Hospital, Baldwin store warehouse, and the foundation of the old courthouse. In Dubois, they built many of the structures at Circle Ranch, the Welty, Helmer, Amoretti Bank in 1913, the Dubois State Bank in 1918, and many of the stone fireplaces in homes in the area.

 Dave’s sister, Jean Sinclair and her seven-year-old son, left Scotland with Annie McKenzie around 1905. Annie was eighteen years old when she came with Jean and was betrothed to a stranger in Wyoming. Dave and Annie had never met before, but were married the day they met in Lander in 1906. Annie was surprised at how different the US was from Scotland. According to Annie as recorded by Esther Mockler in Recollections of the Upper Wind River Valley, Annie “began to wonder what kind of a place I [she] was coming to. It looked like a desert and wild.” As very few people in the Dubois area had medical training, Annie was often called upon due to her first aid training she had received in Scotland. Annie was often asked to assist neighbors and residents to help with injuries like bullet wounds and broken bones and to deliver babies. Dave and Annie had one child, Lily Williamson who was born in 1907. When David passed away in 1934, Annie continued to operate the ranch until she sold it in 1966.

Next up for the Fremont County Museum

June 25, 2-4pm “Mapping Adventure” at the Riverton Museum, Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

June29, 10am “Kids Corner: Butter Time” at the Dubois Museum Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

June 30, 7pm “Beyond Heart Mountain” By Alan O’Hashi at the Pioneer Museum, Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

July 1, 9-5pm “First Fridays” at the Dubois Museum, Pioneer Museum & Riverton Museum, State Farm Riverton & State Farm Lander

Thru October 2022, 9-5pm Monday-Saturday, at the Pioneer Museum, “Hurrah for The Cowboy: Men of the Open Range” Art Exhibition

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum need your financial support.  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 Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.  

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