FIVE GENERATIONS OF THE WILLIAMS FAMILY

A Brief Family History

 

Williams Family fruit productions began in the early 1900's. It didn't even begin with James H grandfather birth in Sawpit near Telluride in 1885. The story has it that in late 1800's  James great grandparents were engaged in a nursery selling fruit trees in Chicago.  The tale is that the family moved west where their trees were being sold when Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over the lantern destroying the nursery and the family home.  

Orville's grandfather James Percy Williams became the justice of the peace and judge for Ridgeway and James H. Williams (his son) became a cowboy on a big cow outfit in that area.  It was at this time that James met Bertha Beach at a rodeo in Delta and exclaimed he was going to marry that woman.

James Williams & Bertha married in 1912 and moved to Delta started a small cattle ranch while holding a second job as a blacksmith in the Eckert blacksmith shop.  James wanting to be outside more so they purchased the 40 acres west of Cedaredge in spring of 1921 which was already planted to fruit and built the house on the property in 1924.  Orville was born in 1922 in the old packing shed still standing on the 

original property purchased.

James added another 20 acres in the early 20' and in 1937 added the upper 40 acres to total 100 acres.  Orville graduated high school and started running the Starr, Williams & Palmer packing shed known as Austin Packing & Storage.....the first cold storage built in the area in 1948. In 1943 there was a complete freeze out and Orville went to White Pine (above Gunnison) to work in the mines where he met Eleanor McDonald.  Persuaded her to marry him in 1942 in the Presbyterian church located at Eckert.  Orville father took ill and Orville & Eleanor returned to the orchard to help.  Their new home was a U.S. government corn crib renovated into a home. They were blessed with three children: Jo Anne (O'Fallon) of Grand Junction; Dan and Steve of San Francisco. Eleanor knew from the time Dan was two he was going to be a fruit grower; he loved everything about it!

 

Connie comes from two pioneer family that homesteaded the eastern planes of Colorado.  The Ashcraft's and Nicks';  both families weathered the great dust storms of the 1920's.  Willard Nicks built the first livestock commission sale barn in Limon.  Moved on to Sugar City  to own a dairy and at age of 9 months Connie's parents moved her to Montrose to build the first commission sales barn there and bring the first tractor to the Montrose area. Being the Montrose Little Britches 1963 rodeo queen Connie was introduced in the grand entry and placed beside the car where JoAnne (Dan's sister) was riding as she was one of the Harvest Festival Queens.   Connie's horse proceeded to rip off a piece of lace from her formal. The first introduction to the Williams family.  Later Jo Anne and Connie went head to head in rodeo competitions.

Leaving the arena after barrel racing at Cedaredge in 1964 my horse again attacked another Williams...Grand dad James smearing up his car windshield.  I had to get water and clean it off.  Later he suggested to Dan that this girl might be a keeper.   Sound familiar???  Connie Nicks appeared in Dan's live for good at the age of 16 when Connie asked Dan if he could trailer her horse to the  National Finals LB Rodeo.  The beginnings of the team we still are today.

In 1967 we ventured off to college together at Western State College. Married in 1969 here in Cedaredge. The first time Connie would see the orchard in full bloom she was sent to the hospital to deliver Ty: May 8,1971.  Its true! Fruit growing does runs in Williams' veins...the whole family would build tiny wooden bins, flat bed truck, chemical sprayers, small wind machines; everything so Ty could farm like his dad.  These were Ty's request to Santa and you just don't go out to a toy store and buy these.

Dan & Connie added 76 more acres to their business.  In the 1970's-80's Dan being the innovator he is, purchased one of the first wind machines to protect from spring frost, the first underground piping for the ditches, the first micro sprinklers to conserve water plus designing it to gravity flow not using electricity; the first high density trellis systems for the trees planting thousands per acre instead of 49 to increase production and hail netting (again the first placed over the orchards to increase pack out at the packing sheds.  

 

Connie was a member of the Historical Society and worked to get the Stolty packing shed moved to this location.  In 1992 she purchased the Palmer Packing Shed to renovate into an art gallery known as The Apple Shed.  Connie ripped out all the cold storage  and Dan latched onto the back of the Apple Shed returning it once again to a packing shed for the orchard where we packed our peaches and apples.

Ty ventured on to college in 1986  after graduation from the same high school that his ancestors before him did.  Phone calls were long distance then.  He called at least once a day if not three times just to see how things were going on the orchard.  It was obvious to the family he could not stay away from the orchard.

In the late 1990's Ty returned, married and had two children; a daughter Sierra (1994) and a son Austin (1996).  Renowned in track and field events and records.  Both of which are currently pursuing Agriculture degrees at CSU in Fort Collins.  Our fifth generation is planning on returning to the orchard to continue on in the Williams' footsteps.

In 1992 the Tomahawk Packing located in Eckert was sold for a new venture in Texas:  Top of Texas Apples.  Dan spent many a day in the winds of Texas teaching those growers how to grow apples and pack fruit.  We now have 50 acres of apples, peaches, adding grape vines in 2017, plus a packing shed in Texas. In 2011 Dan explored wine making and for their anniversary, Connie bought him his first barrel to make wine in the basement of the Apple Shed.

After a couple of years we had to become a winery cause we were approaching the legal limit for wine.  The name Williams Cellars in 2012 was chosen being located in the basement of the Apple Shed it seemed to fit.  An awful hail storm in 2013 damaging our honey crisp apple crop gave rise to Ty's creation of Snow Capped Hard Cider.  Ty's cider is marketed all across the state in 388 stores and restaurants.  Both Dan and Ty have won several gold & silver medals for their wine & hard cider. 2016 gave rise to Ty adding more orchards land and leasing a vineyard.  We now operate 350 acres. This year the opportunity arose to purchase back the Tomahawk  Packing Shed:  so we did!  We moved the packing line to Tomahawk doubling our packing & storage to meet the needs of a "vintage crop" (Dan used this term in 1987 in a news paper article to define a bumper crop).  2016 is the largest crop ever produced and packed by Williams Orchards. 

 

We also moved the cider production to its new location and greatly increasing its production abilities.   We are moving all our orchard operations toward be totally organic as this is the needs for the future.  We have placed our land and water in to land trusts to preserve our land and water for our next Williams generation...Sierra & Austin  "Our fifth generation of fruit growers" and hopefully more to come.

Williams Orchards
250 South Grand Mesa Drive
Cedaredge, CO 81413
970-856-7006