Museum the New Llano Colony

Dr. Robert K. Williams


He was born in 1873 at Lowelville, Ohio.

Family Information:

He married Cecil (Criswell) Williams in 1898 at Allegheny, Pennsylvania.


Pre-Colony History: He grew up at Brush Hill, near Clintonville, Pennsylvania - in the heart of the early oil region back in the 1870's. His father was an oil man, as well as his two elder brothers. Stalwart young Bob played his way through a happy childhood, cherishing at an early age the ambition to become a tight rope walker -- he and brother Charley having stretched rope between two apple trees with this laudable aim in view. He was succeeding admirably and might have become a noted circus performer if Charley hadn't eaten a can of spoiled salmon. Here is the connection. The two brothers met in the middle of the swaying rope and Charley blew his breath in Bob's face. The fish odor was so nauseating that Bob fell off the rope and skinned his leg -- and that was the end of his ambition to become a tight rope walker.

But childhood dreams pass. Young Robert was steeped in oil -- even as a sardine -- and oil will out. He early went to the derrick, and as a climber was a good squirrel. When not acting as "elevator man" on tubing and sucker rods, he tossed coals into the boilers, worked at the forge and slung hash equal to Otto of the Waldorf.

Meantime his brother Charley had specialized in telegraphy, at that time a coming thing. Charley had been made manager of the home town Western Union office. Young Bob, too, became fired with the consuming desire to learn telegraphy. His plea to Charley to "learn me to telegraph" met with the affectionate encouragement to "get the so and so out of here -- I'm busy." Wouldn't even allow the youngster in his office. The yen persisted however. Hunting up a dictionary, Bob thumbed it through until he found "Morse" and the telegrapher's alphabet and all the figures, punctuations and everything. With speed he mastered it, and crawling under his brother's office which was built on stilts, he lay and listened -- and worked out what the ticking thing above him was saying.

Denied a practice instrument, he used a knife and fork to formulate the letters. After weeks of secret practice one afternoon he heard brother Charley coming up the sidewalk. Hurrying to the kitchen, he clicked out a message which surprised Charley who fell for his persistence with enthusiasm. Said he, "Go down to the office and bring up a battery and key and sounder." Putting up the set, he sent messages to young Bob for an hour and Bob copied. Six weeks later, Charley was called to the Exchange board at Oil City and Bob took over the home town job.

This turning point in his career happened when he was 14. He had gone into the Academy stage of his education -- was long on everything but mathematics -- not so in that line. Was a "wow" in anatomy, physiology and hygiene; this tendency taking him later in life into the chiropractic field where he became a very proficient and successful practitioner.

In 1900 he and Cecil were living in Pennsylvania where he worked as a telephone operator.

In 1910, he and his wife were living on San Pablo Ave. in Fresno, California with him employed as telegrapher for the Associated Press.

They joined the colony during the California years and made the move to Louisiana with the original group -- Doc traveling with a group of men in several automobiles. They were still in the area in 1919, but left at some point before 1922. They lived in California for years -- in 1930, he and Cecil were living on Colden Ave. in Los Angeles, CA with both working as chiropractors and having Alice C. Austin as their lodger.

In May 1930 he attended a picnic of ex-colonists at Fullerton, California. Each brought a lunch, sufficient for his needs and the needs of several others. Long tables were arranged under the shade of the park trees. The coffee was furnished by Minnie Pickett and John Will saw to it that everyone was generously served. It was unanimously agreed to form an organization that would organize future semi-annual social gatherings for the group. Minnie Pickett was chosen secretary-treasurer and Dr. Robert K. Williams was appointed assistant secretary.

The picnic was attended by more than 65 ex-colonists including: Minnie Pickett, John and Frances Will and Dorothy, Lottie Brown, Professor Lowell H. Coates, Bert Engle, Victor and Alma Swanson and Elwin, Jess and Mildred Morris, Louis and Grace Petty, Louis and Jennie Conlin, Mrs. M.E. Babb, Norman and Ethel Johnson, Ernest and Pearl Wooster, H.L. and Guy Ward, Mrs. Clara Powers and son, George, Mrs. Ada Harper, Ethel Wright, E.E. Vaughn, J.H. Ryan, Val Brown and wife, Lottie Brown, Miss A.C. Austin, Walter Millsap, Jr. and his mother, Cara Millsap, Dr. Robert K. and Dr. Cecil C. Williams, E. Krause and family, John Van Nuland (who passed around a tub of Llano candy sent by Anton, and it was "great stuff" by all those who tasted it) Mr. and Mrs. W.L. Kilmer, Professor Lowell B. Coate, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Wallace, Mr. and Mrs. Charley Earl, Mr. and Mrs. Suhre, A.L Spann, Frederick R. Johnson, A. Hansig.

Home in Colony:

In Louisiana, he and his wife lived in an upstairs apartment at the Kid Kolony.

Job in Colony: In California, "Doc" Williams served as the official colony guide for visitors. In 1915, he became the secretary of the "Commission of Nine", which became the real managing force in the colony; in September of 1915 he was in charge of housing the colonists.

In March 1922 he was in New York City and writing a column called "Meanderings" for the "Llano Colonist."

In September 1931 one hundred fifty sacks of beans and peas were picked in the forenoon by a volunteer crew of men, women and children. The crowd gathered a little after 7 am and was divided into different crews to look after different fields; by 11:30 the job was done. Volunteers included: Killian, Butts, Lloyd, Baldwin, Waters, Doc Williams, Quentin, Fred Busick, Roscoe Busick, Byron Busick, Vivian Busick, Graves, Webb, John Allred, Melvina Hullinger, Fred Levan, Goeke, Eldred, Tom Farrell, Claud Allred, Earl Swenson, Mackie, Frank Collins, George Collins, Boydelatour, Cleve Campbell, Mr. Caves, Clarence Long, Harry Rennick, Dee Kurtz, Pittman, Edminster, Walter Fread, Clarence Fread, Mrs. Herron, Woodruff, J.W. Gilbert, H.M. Wood, Winegar, Bert Moore, Lindwall, Ole Synoground, Rohr, Carnahan, Hoens, Mrs. Wooley, John Neill, Robert Roe, Warren Roe, Nesnow, Bartrum and B. Stevens.

In the late 30's when the colony decided to try to drill for oil, he managed the Oil Corporation and had his own office inside the colony. In addition to colony labor, he brought in oilmen to run the operations. In June 1934 Esther Allen and Martha Dougherty helped him with the printing of the cards for the Oil and Mineral Dept.

By 1935 enough colonists had become dis-satisfied with George Pickett's leadership that a meeting was held, on May Day 1935, while Pickett himself was out of town, and a new Board of Directors was elected by those attending. "Doc" was chosen to be the new President. There is some evidence that he and the new board tended to focus less on agriculture and even colony industries, instead, they leased out many of the colony businesses.  

Other Info: A popular singer, Doc Williams often led the community singing in the Sunday night shows at the theater and performed as part of various groups, sometimes even at churches "outside".

In January 1932 Doc visited the health home (Webb corrected him; said it's a hospital) where he discovered a real typewriter table made by Frank Gion who had been sick, but at that time was brought to a state of "150 percent" by E.G. Webb.

In December 1932 it was decided (by Gaylord, DeBoer, Chet Page, and Doc Williams) that Comrade Archer who was an expert on the piano, would take over on that instrument for theater performances and Bill DeBoer would take up the bass viol or clarinet in the orchestra; however, Bill would continue to play the piano for the dances while Archer played the sax or violin.

In January 1933 he was planning a Gypsy Program for the theater; Sidney and Ethel Archer were helping him work it out "while the fiddles and etycetery were plinging and a plunking at the roof garden." Lloyd Potter, Gordon Pickett and Margaret (sic) and Jasmine Lewis were practicing the steps for Mrs. Archer's act.

In 1933 he was part of the mixed quartet, the Llano Four, composed of Dr. Williams on the upper end; Anita Brannon and Mary Roe; and Comrade Gaylord on the lower end.

Another service that Doc performed was to sit up every night until midnight or later, listening to his personal radio, so that he might take down in shorthand what was happening the world over; next day he typed several copies of his notes,, one of which was posted to the colony bulletin board -- others sent to the branch units.

In April 1934 a lovely gathering was held at the home of Frank Brough, another New Englander, to "God-speed" the Fay family to Norfolk, Connecticut where they hoped to arrange their affairs over the next few months and return to the colony in the fall.

Attendees enjoyed music, games and a wonderful lunch. They included: Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Archer, Drs. Robert K. and Cecil C. Williams, Mr. and Mrs. George Matz, Mrs. Maki, Smith Sanford, DeForest Sanford, George Leevey, Wm. Bingham, Dennis Stanley, Forest R. Waters, Mary Emery and the Brough family, consisting of Margaret, William and Frank.

After the May Day Revolution of 1935, he signed a statement supporting John Szpila's letter, which had been published in the September 21, 1935 issue of the "Llano Colonist" and spelled out the reason's the overthrow of former General Manager, George T. Pickett, had been necessary.

In October 1935 he was nominated to be on the Board of Directors, along with (in order of nomination), Robert K. Williams, E.D. Carl, Lester Caves, Crockett Campbell, John Szpila, Harold Emery, Charles Lawrence, Chester Peecher, E.O. Joynes, Chester Page, Horace Cronk, George Hullinger, Walter Robison, "Chauncey" DuProz, Mrs. Olive Lentz, Mrs. Mabel Busick, Lionel Crossland, Charles Derleth, J.H. "Dad" Ribbing and Cy Horney. The meeting also adopted a rule permitting all resident members who had been at the colony more than sixty days to vote in the election, provided too few proxies were received to hold a regular stock holders' meeting.

Less than one fourth the required stock was represented at the Stockholders' meeting, so the colonists proceeded with the election of a new board of directors as planned. Those selected were: Robert K. Williams, E.C. Carl, Lester Caves, Crockett Campbell, Harold Emery, Chester Peecher, E.O. Joynes, Charles Lawrence, and Chester Page. Runners up were Mrs. Mabel Busick, Horace Cronk and John Szpila.

In 1936, Doc and Mr. Joynes traveled 15 miles below DeRidder, where they inspected the Hauser model farm and seed nursery and came back much enthused over lespedeza as a stock fodder suitable to this locality. During another trip in 1936 he, Roy Parson and Charley Derleth made a hasty run to Shreveport searching for a much-needed "dado" or groove cutting machine to be used, but none could be found. While there, they stopped to inquire after two colonists who'd been some time in the Shreveport hospital -- E.A. Bennett and George Collins. It was too early for visiting hours, but they inquired of the head nurse and she assured them that both patients were doing finely.

In May 1937 Doc Williams took Bondell Jensen, her son Earl Banta and C.S. (Daddy) Thomas to the Shreveport Hospital -- Earl to see a doctor about an injury to his eye and Daddy because his vision had been getting worse. They arrived around 10 and as usual, the hospital was very busy and it required considerable time before the two patients were seen. Finally they were examined and told to wait. Around noon, Daddy, who had to have a slight operation was told to stay over and taken to a ward and so they completely lost sight of him. Earl was eventually taken to a ward on the third floor and put in a white robe. He didn't fancy that very much, as he didn't want to go to bed in the daytime. At 4 pm the Dr. finally came around and looked Earl over, deciding that there was no need for an operation. He had nothing but a scar on his eyeball and adding another would only make matters worse. Mrs. Jensen was very relieved and Earl was immediately ready to return home.  

Post-Colony History:

In 1940 he and his wife were living in Leesville, Louisiana where he worked as a taxi driver. In July 1948 they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the Methodist Church in Leesville.


Sources: Pennsylvania County Marriage Records; US Census 1900, 1910, 1930, 1940; Pennsylvania County Marriage Records; "Llano Colonist": March 25, 1922, May 10, 1930, September 5, 1931, October 10, 1931, December 10, 1932, January 23, 1932, January 21, 1933 (Early Days in California), January 28, 1933, February 25, 1933, June 3, 1933, April 21, 1934, June 9, 1934, October 12, 1935, February 29, 1936, June 27, 1936, August 8, 1936, October 24, 1936, May 8, 1937; "Can We Cooperate" by Bob Brown; "Leesville Leader": July 22, 1948, August 5, 1948  

Dr. Robert K. Williams

Doc Williams and Job Harriman.

New Leaders (1935) - Walter Robison, Eugene Carl, Dr. Robert K. Williams.

Clipping from the "Leesville Leader" dated July 22, 1948.

Drs. Robert K. and Cecil Williams on their Golden Wedding Anniversary from the "Leesville Leader" dated August 5, 1948.

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