Eugene Bigelow Willson





Portrait Pictures courtesy of Anne Willson Whitehead, author of <i>Willson Brothers Running Water Ranch: The Homestead Cabin Story</i>
Portrait Pictures courtesy of Anne Willson Whitehead, author of Willson Brothers Running Water Ranch: The Homestead Cabin Story

Photo courtesy of the Joshua Brackett Eagle Scout Project
Photo courtesy of the Joshua Brackett Eagle Scout Project

(October 18, 1852 - January 28, 1935)


The Lusk Herald
January 31, 1935


E.B. WILLSON, 83, WYOMING PIONEER, ANSWERS LAST CALL

One of Organizers of Niobrara County, First Chairman Board of Commissioners, Who Came to Wyoming in 1870, Passes Away at Ranch Home Near Lusk, Monday Morning; Funeral Here Thursday Afternoon

Eugene B. Willson, 83 years of age, one of the first settlers in what is now Niobrara county, died at his ranch home, about five miles west of Lusk, at 10:00 o'clock Monday morning after an illness extending over a few weeks.

Funeral services were held Thursday afternoon from the Lusk Congregational Church, with Rev. Clayton Judy of Douglas officiating, arrangements being in charge of the Midwest Mortuary, interment being made in the Lusk Cemetery beside his two brothers, George and Edmund, who preceded him in death a few years.

Active pallbearers were D.A. Shoopman, Thomas O. Miller, William Miller, Lee Stoddard, Frank Chambers and Harry Sager. Honorary pallbearers were Lee A. Miller, Harry B. Card, Chris Joss, Ral Collins, Alfred Johnson, Foster Rogers, Ed M. Arnold, all old-time friends and associates of Mr. Willson.

At the church services a mixed quartet composed of R.A. Faulk, Ford B. Kuns, Mrs. H.J. Templeton and Mrs. Robert Taylor, accompanied by Miss Alice Fowler, gave three appropriate selections.

Rev. Judy paid a fine tribute to Mr. Willson, taking a portion of his text from the 23rd psalm.


ONE OF FIRST TO SETTLE IN NIOBRARA COUNTY

E.B. Willson and his brother, George Willson, who died about three years ago, were the first settlers in this section of Wyoming. When employed as surveyors running out lines of the military reservation at Fort Laramie in 1872, the Willson brothers learned of the rich grasses and fine water in this territory, and determined to settle here when opportunity was at hand. After the Indians left, and the country was thrown open, they came and staked out one of the first claims and built their cabin, near the site of the Willson ranch home now, and where both Eugene and George passed away, after more than a half century of activities. This pioneer cabin which the Willson brothers built was moved to Lusk several years ago and is now located on the site of the city park, where it serves as headquarters of the local chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution.

E.B. Willson was one of the prime movers in organizing Niobrara county, which was created from a part of Converse county. He helped push the bill through the Legislature, and when the county government was set up, Joseph M. Carey appointed him a member of the first Board of County Commissioners. At the first session of the board, he was elected chairman. He only served a two-year term, refusing to run for re-election.

Although of a retiring disposition in later years, Mr. Willson never lost interest in public affairs, and was well informed on almost every public question. He was an active member of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, and a member of the Fort Laramie advisory board to the Wyoming Historical Landmarks Commission, a work in which he was much interested. When the new Congregational Church was built in Lusk, he was a liberal contributor to the building fund, and was a member of the committee which built the George Lathrop monument.

Besides his wife, Mr. Willson is survived by three sons - E.P. Willson of near Lost Springs, Frederick B. Willson, in the government service at Cheyenne, and Kenneth Willson, geologist for an oil company near Fort Worth, Texas; one daughter, Edna, wife of H.H. Koontz, of Keeline. All except Kenneth were present at the funeral services.


Highlights In Life of E. B. Willson
Connected with the development of Wyoming for more than 60 years, Eugene Bigelow Eillson has been for a generation one of the outstanding men of Eastern Wyoming, one to whom the growth of this section in wealth and importance is largely due. Drawing upon his wide and ripened experience, he has always acted according to logical premises and results have been practical and substantial. A man of generous spirit, he has contributed liberally to all worthwhile public enterprises, the most notable among which are the Congregational Church of Lusk, and a substantial interest in the George Lathrop pioneer monument, he being a member of the committee in charge of the building of the monument.

Eugene B. Willson was born at Como, Whiteside County, Illinois, October 18, 1852, the son of George C. Willson, the latter of whom was born in Massachusetts, and died at Petersham, Mass., aged 83 years - almost exactly the same age as the subject of this sketch.

Attending the public schools of Whiteside County, Illinois, Eugene B. Willson acquired a grounding in the fundamentals of an education, and remained at home until the death of his mother, in the fall of 1869, after which he left the parental home and went to Iowa, where he took a position with the McCormick corporation at Davenport, Iowa.

In the fall of 1870, Mr. Willson came to Wyoming, and secured a position unloading coal for the government at Camp Carlin. A short time thereafter he went to a hay camp on Pole Creek and worked until the cold weather set in. Returning to Cheyenne, he held a position at the old Simmons Hotel until he was able to secure more lucrative employment with Hay & Thomas, United States surveyors, and was employed in surveying and subdividing all over Wyoming for the greater part of four years.

In August of 1873, Eugene B. Willson and his brother, George L. Willson, who passed away in Lusk a few years ago, surveyed the boundary lines of the military reservation at Fort Laramie, and also the south boundary line of the Red Cloud Indian Reservation, formed by the North Platte River. Looking north from the river these two frontiersmen could see the smoke of the Indian fires and wondered what might be in that great wild country, now included in the prosperous valley of the Runningwater.

In the spring of 1877 these two brothers and their other brother, Edmund, drove to Yankton, S. D., where they took a boat to Pierre thence drove to Deadwood in covered wagons, taking with them Dr. Houghton of Rockford, Ill., Mr. Dergen and several others, all of whom later became prominent in the history of Deadwood. From Deadwood, Eugene Willson and his brother George went to Sidney, Neb., where they had a government hay contract which kept them busy until 1877. In the fall of that year they returned to Cheyenne.

The two brothers busied themselves with various ranch jobs, getting out timber, and putting up hay. Eugene Willson spent some time as cowboy for the Half Circle Ten ranch near Cheyenne, where he secured his first knowledge of running cattle and sheep on the open range, which was to prove invaluable to him in later years.

During all their experiences, these two intrepid frontiersmen always cast a longing eye toward the valley of the Runningwater, where they knew from killing the fat buffalo and antelope that there must be fine feed for cattle and sheep. In the spring of 1880, the brothers started out from Fort Laramie in wagons to what was to be their home for the balance of their lives - the valley of the Runningwater. They took up 160 acres of land, on which a cabin was built by them. This pioneer home they gave to the Lusk chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, who moved it to Lusk and it is now located on the tract in the Washington Park, the home of the D. A. R.

With this 160 acres as a nucleus, the Willson Bros. later built one of the finest ranch properties in Wyoming. The Willson ranch consists of some 6,000 acres of deeded land and about 12,000 acres of deed land, making a ranch of some 18,000 acres in all, together with modern homes and other improvements.

Mr. Willson has always taken an active, though modest, interest in public affairs. He was one of the organizers of Niobrara County, and when the county government was organized he was appointed by Gov. Joseph M. Carey as a member of the first Board of County Commissioners. The other commissioners who served with him were Albert Rochelle and Thomas Thompson. At their first meeting the commissioners promptly elected Mr. Willson as chairman of the Board. He retired after two years' service on the Board, refusing re-election.

Mr. Willson was also a director of the Bank of Lusk for a number of years, and built a beautiful family home here at Fifth and Pine streets.

Mr. Willson was married in Chadron, Neb. to Miss Isabel Mack, a native of Ohio. Four children have been born to them, namely: Eugene P. Willson, who operates his own ranch on Harney creek, near the Niobrara-Converse county lines; Edna Lucille, wife of Harry H. Koontz, who also operate their ranch near Keeline; Kennenth M. Willson, geologist for an oil company near Fort Worth, Texas, and Frederick B. Willson, who is in the government service at Cheyenne, Wyo.


Lusk Free Lance
January 31, 1935
Eugene B. Willson, Resident of State Over 63 Years, Succumbs to Illness; Services Held Today


Life's trail for Eugene Bigelow Willson, for more than 63 years a resident of Wyoming, came to an end at the family ranch home, about five miles west of this city Monday morning, January 28th, at 10 o'clock, following a period of illness which covered the past two months. Although in failing health for more than a year, Mr. Willson did not become seriouly ill until early in December. Since that time he failed gradually until the time of his passing. He suffered from a complication of heart and kidney troubles.

With his death, one of the most colorful careers of the pioneer groups was climaxed. Born in Illinois, Mr. Willson came to this state when he was but 18 years old, starting in a meager way and building up his resources until he was recognized as one of the leading and most substantial stockmen of the state.

At the time he first came to Wyoming, which was then a territory, Mr. Willson hauled coal, worked as hay hand, waited tables, helped survey a large portion of the state, and later entered the stock-raising industry, at which he was engaged for many of the late years of this life.

Mr. Willson is survived by his wife, three sons, Eugene, Kenneth and Fred and one daughter, Mrs. Edna Koontz.

Funeral services were held from the Congregational church in this city this (Thursday) afternoon at 2:30 o'clock, Rev. Clayton Judy, pastor of the Congregational Christian church of Douglas officiating. A large number of friends, including many fellow pioneers were in attendance. A fitting eulogy was paid by Rev. Judy.

Active pallbearers were D.A. Shoopman, Thomas O. Miller, Lee C. Stoddard, Wm. D. Miller, Frank W. Chambers and Harry Sager. The honorary pallbearers, all friends of Mr. Willson, were A.L. Miller, Harry B. Card, Chris Joss, Ral Collins, of Douglas, Alfred Johnson, Foster R. Rogers, E.M. Arnold and M.P. Vollmer. The remains were laid at rest in the Lusk cemetery. Arrangements were under the direction of the Midwest mortuary.

Eugene B. Willson was born at Como, in Whiteside county, Illinois, and remained in that locality until he was 18 years of age. In the fall of 1869, he left the parental home and accepted a position with the McCormick corporation, at Davenport, Ia, holding to that work for about a year.

It was in the fall of 1870 that he came to Wyoming. His first job in what was then Wyoming Territory, was one of unloading coal for the government. Completing this, he secured employment at a hay camp on Pole creek, and worked there until winter set in. He then returned to Cheyenne, where he waited tables at the Old Simmons hotel for a short time. Following this work he became engaged as a surveyor with Hay & Thomas, government representatives, and for four years he followed this work.

In 1877, the deceased with his brothers, George and Edmund started out on a trip across prairies and creeks, and over mountains to find a suitable place for locating. After traveling about for more than two years they returned to the location of the present family ranch home, and there Mr. Willson and his brother, George established the ranch which for many years was operated as a partnership, which ended with the death of George several years ago.

At the beginning of the partnership they raised sheep, but as the state became more settled, they disposed of their sheep interests and started to raise cattle and horses.

In all these enterprises they were successful, and the ranch in the meantime grew from a small tract of 160 acres, to the present outlay which involves about 6,000 acres of deeded land and some 12,000 acres of leased land.

Mr. Willson was deeply interested in the growth of the west, and particularly of this state. He was appointed as one of the first county commissioners of Niobrara county, being named to this post because of his efforts in helping to organize this county. He was president of that board, serving for two years as commissioner. He was also a member of the board of directors of the Bank of Lusk for a number of years. Mr. Willson was married in Chadron, Nebr., to Miss Isabel Mack, a native of Ohio. Four children, Eugene P., Kenneth, Fred, and Mrs. Edna Koontz, survive.

The log cabin erected by the Willson brothers, and said to be the first structure built in this county, was several years ago given by the deceased to the Lusk chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. It was moved to this city and now stands as a memento of pioneer days, in the city park.

Another enterprise in which Mr. Willson played a prominent part was the erection of a marker over the grave of George Lathrop, pioneer stage coach driver, located two miles west of this city on Highway No. 20. He was a member of the committee having this work in their charge. He was a generous type of individual and gave liberally to a large number of civic causes during his residence in this locality.

Mr. Willson was one of the most esteemed men of the state, and his friends are numbered by his acquaintances, to cover a wide scope of territory. He was a sincere adviser, and a man whose experiences gave him a far greater knowledge than to the average rancher. He was a devoted husband and a loving father. The vacancy created by his death will be felt and grieved by many, and will be one hard to replace.


Highlights in Life of E.B. Willson

Connected with the development of Wyoming for more than 60 years, Eugene Bigelow Willson has been for a generation one of the outstanding men of Eastern Wyoming, one to whom the growth of this section in wealth and importance is largely due. Drawing upon his wide and ripened experience, he has always acted according to logical premises and results have been practical and substantial. A man of generous spirit, he has contributed liberally to all worthwhile public enterprises, the most notable among which are the Congregational Church of Lusk, and a substantial interest in the George Lathrop pioneer monument, he being a member of the committee in charge of the building of the monument.

Eugene B. Willson was born at Como, Whiteside County, Illinois, October 18, 1852, the son of George C. Willson, the latter of whom was born in Massachusetts, and died at Petersham, Mass., aged 83 years - almost exactly the same age as the subject of this sketch.

Attending the public schools of Whiteside County, Illinois, Eugene B. Willson acquired a grounding in the fundamentals of an education, and remained at home until the death of his mother, in the fall of 1869, after which he left the parental home and went to Iowa, where he took a position with the McCormick corporation at Davenport, Iowa.

In the fall of 1870, Mr. Willson came to Wyoming, and secured a position unloading coal for the government at Camp Carlin. A short time thereafter he went to a hay camp on Pole Creek and worked until the cold weather set in. Returning to Cheyenne, he held a position at the old Simmons Hotel until he was able to secure more lucrative employment with Hay & Thomas, United States surveyors, and was employed in surveying and subdividing all over Wyoming for the greater part of four years.

In August of 1873, Eugene B. Willson and his brother, George L. Willson, who passed away in Lusk a few years ago, surveyed the boundary lines of the military reservation at Fort Laramie, and also the south boundary line of the Red Cloud Indian Reservation, formed by the North Platte River. Looking north from the river these two frontiersmen could see the smoke of the Indian fires and wondered what might be in that great wild country, now included in the prosperous valley of the Runningwater.

In the spring of 1877 these two brothers and their other brother, Edmund, drove to Yankton, S.D., where they took a boat to Pierre thence drove to Deadwood in covered wagons, taking with them Dr. Houghton of Rockford, Ill., Mr. Dergen and several others, all of whom later became prominent in the history of Deadwood. From Deadwood, Eugene Willson and his brother George went to Sidney, Neb., where they had a government hay contract which kept them busy until 1877. (Typed as printed) In the fall of that year they returned to Cheyenne.

The two brothers busied themselves with various ranch jobs, getting out timber, and putting up hay. Eugene Willson spent some time as cowboy for the Half Circle Ten ranch near Cheyenne, where he secured his first knowledge of running cattle and sheep on the open range, which was to prove invaluable to him in later years.

During all their experiences, these two intrepid frontiersmen always cast a longing eye toward the valley of the Runningwater, where they knew from killing the fat buffalo and antelope that there must be fine feed for cattle and sheep. In the spring of 1880, the brothers started out from Fort Laramie in wagons to what was to be their home for the balance of their lives - the valley of the Runningwater. They took up 160 acres of land, on which a cabin was built by them. This pioneer home they gave to the Lusk chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, who moved it to Lusk and it is now located on the tract in the Washington Park, the home of the D.A.R.

With this 160 acres as a nucleus, the Willson Bros. later built one of the finest ranch properties in Wyoming. The Willson ranch consists of some 6,000 acres of deeded land and about 12,000 acres of deed land, making a ranch of some 18,0000 acres in all, together with modern homes and other improvements.

Mr. Willson has always taken an active, though modest, interest in public affairs. He was one of the organizers of Niobrara County, and when the county government was organized he was appointed by Gov. Joseph M. Carey as a member of the first Board of County Commissioners. The other commissioners who served with him were Albert Rochelle and Thomas Thompson. At their first meeting the commissioners promptly elected Mr. Willson as chairman of the Board. He retired after two years' service on the Board, refusing re-election.

Mr. Willson was also a director of the Bank of Lusk for a number of years, and built a beautiful family home here at Fifth and Pine streets.

Mr. Willson was married in Chadron, Neb., to Miss Isabel Mack, a native of Ohio. Four children have been born to them, namely: Eugene P. Willson, who operates his own ranch on Harney Creek, near the Niobrara-Converse county lines; Edna Lucille, wife of Harry H. Koontz, who also operate their ranch near Keeline; Kenneth M. Willson, geologist for an oil company near Fort Worth, Texas, and Frederick B. Willson, who is in the government service at Cheyenne, Wyo.








| A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |


Genealogy Search

Type your search terms into the box below and his 'Search!' to begin searching the genealogy archives.




The Niobrara County Library Foundation, Inc. accepts online donations. Click to contribute via PayPal or credit/debit card.


Peruse our extensive genealogical archives, with entries sorted alphabetical by first and last name.
We are currently adding birth record information to the website, with entries sorted alphabetical by first and last name.
This resource provides an alphabetical listing of names, broken down by cemetery, of those buried in area cemeteries. This resource can assist you in locating the exact location of these grave sites.
Genealogy Links

Debbie Sturman, Director
425 South Main Street, P O Box 510
Lusk, WY 82225-0510
Phone: 307-334-3490
© 2014, Niobrara County Library