PO Box 1545
Douglas WY 82633
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Ruthe James Williams Center

Wyoming Pioneer Association members attending the 2012 Wyoming State Fair and Rodeo, the 100th celebration, had a chance to make history. They were the first group of Pioneers to meet in the new Ruthe James Williams Center.

“In 1927 the Wyoming Pioneer Association built the Pioneer Cabin to host their annual meeting. Just one year earlier, the group dating back to 1884, was incorporated,” says WPA President Mary Engebretsen. “In recent years, with a group too large for the cabin, we’ve been meeting in the Wyoming State Fair Cafeteria.” The group saw a need to not only enhance their own meeting facilities, but also involve additional community members with the museum by offering new space amidst some of Wyoming’s finest historical collections

Ruthe James Williams’ pioneer spirit and her late husband’s sacrifices on behalf of his country will forever be remembered through the new building. Ruthe was born in the Douglas area in 1919 following her pioneering parents’ arrival in the area in
1917. Ruthe received most of her formal education in Douglas, but graduated from high school in Iowa at age 16. Shortly afterwards she returned to Douglas.

Back in Douglas, Ruthe and Jack Williams began courting. At the time of Jack’s death in March 1942 Ruthe had resigned from her job with the telephone company and was making plans to join him on the coast.

Jack Williams, a member of the Wyoming National Guard, was stationed in Fort Lewis, Wash., when Pearl Harbor was bombed in December of 1941. His unit patrolled the Northwest Coast for Japanese submarines. In March 1942 Jack’s unit was stationed in Roseburg, Ore., living in temporary barracks where ammunition was also stored. Jack was on night watch when the ammunition exploded causing an early morning barracks fire. Then 25 years old, Jack entered the building to save his friend, Sergeant Harry Boles. Both young men were lost in the fire.

Just six months earlier, on Sept. 19, 1941, Jack had married Ruthe James while on a two-week furlough in Wyoming. At the time of Jack’s death the young couple hadn’t yet told their families of the quiet wedding that took place at a parsonage in Chadron, Neb. Ruthe carried through with her plans to move further west and lived out the rest of her life in Washington State.

Upon Ruthe’s passing in September 2008, at her request the Wyoming Pioneer Association received a large portion of her estate. Those funds enabled the group to build the Ruthe James Williams Center adjacent to the Wyoming Pioneer Museum.

 
 
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