Written by Willard Williams and R. Merril. One in a collection by Allen Bachoroski, Local Historical Writer and author of “Tales Along the Highway of Legends”
In May, 1918, Frank and Mildred Williams completed “proving up” their homestead claim; later they received the patent issued on February 25, 1919 signed by President Woodrow Wilson. The 320 acres of homestead land now was theirs.
To Mildred and Frank a fourth baby arrived, out on the homestead, in January, 1919. It was a baby boy, Robert Merrill, their first son. The family soon began planning to make a change. They sold at auction everything not needed and in October, 1919 they left on a well earned vacation to visit Mildred’s family in Denver. The Williams family returned in late November to the little town now called Branson and lived in a temporary tar paper shack until a new home could be built in town. The town was now growing and prospering.
In March, 1920 Frank and Mildred bought the Snodgrass General Store and started the Williams Cash Store. Lee Williams and Preston Bransetter as clerks. Early in May, 1921 the Williams family moved into their new home, a two story frame house. Then in May, 1921 another baby girl was born, Clara Mae.
A new school was opened in January 1923 and a depot was built. Then in March, 1923 another baby arrived, Willard Franklin, Mildred and Frank’s second son and sixth child.
By this time Branson had a lawyer, doctor, teacher staff, bankers, two ministers, depot agent, and many business people. There were two general stores, a creamery, three hotels and cafes, a clothing store, hardware and lumberyard, two garages and service stations, wholesale oil business, grain elevator, dance hall, pool hall, two newspapers, barber shop, blacksmith shop, carpenter shops, livery stables, stockyards for shipping cattle, city jail and hand drawn fire equipment. The town was alive with activity and settlers.
That year, 1923, the Las Animas County Fair was held in Branson; the harvest brought wagons of grain and beans from as far away as Kim to the grain elevator to be weighed, graded and shipped. Wagons were lined up for miles waiting to be weighed and unloaded.
We now know the year 1924 brought the peak of growth to Branson. In October, 1929 came the collapse of the economy and the stock market crash; the arrival of the terrible depression soon followed close behind. By 1931 Branson had dwindled away as family after family was forced to leave due to hard-ship. This took a deep toll on all business people. Frank and Mildred were exceptionally good archivists. Frank preserved vast quantities of evidence from his earliest years; notes, correspondence, contacts, pictures and genealogy records. This account has made it possible and documented by these records.
Frank loved animals and was a fancier of livestock and poultry. He raised cattle and Rhode Island chickens and exhibited his poultry through the central and midwest states. He won blue ribbons in all categories of superior poultry. He won the State Championship in 1923. Wilma, at age ten, sometimes travelled with Frank’s poultry exhibits.
Frank and Mildred were excellent in business, morally sound, of highest integrity, honest, upright people. Many times they gave boxes of groceries to those in need. They continued their general store and creamery business in Branson until December, 1941. They sold everything and bade good-bye to many friends and business associates and moved to Long Beach, California. Mildred passed away there on November 15, 1949. Frank continued living near his children until his death August 6, 1964.
We are greatly indebted to our dear parents who instilled in their children a love of God, country, family, friends and community. We lovingly remember our home in Branson, Colorado.
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