Williams family celebrates 100 years at Triangle Ranch

Log house … built by the H.H. and Grace Williams family one hundred years ago on the Triangle Ranch on the Bad River. Courtesy photo

Descendents of Harris Howard and Grace Williams gathered at the Triangle Ranch homestead over the weekend to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the ranch.

The occasion also marked the sixtieth wedding anniversary of Jess and Velma Williams and the thirty-fifth anniversary for Kenny and Lyndy Ireland.

Jess Williams is one of the three surviving members of the third generation of the Williams family and Lyndy (Williams) Ireland is a member of the fourth generation.

The Williams family came to this area from Dexter, Iowa. H.H. Williams and his wife, Grace, were renting a place at Mt. Vernon, SD, when they decided to homestead.

H.H. came west in 1903 to scout homestead sites on the Bad River. A land agent showed him several places, but it wasn’t until he saw a bend in the Bad River that he knew he’d found the ranch he wanted. “This is the family story,” his great-granddaughter Lyndy Ireland relates.

Ireland says a squatter named Smokey Stearnes had an open-range horse operation on the land at the time. Family history has it that H.H. traded “a really good” team of horses and a buggy to Stearnes to relinquish his claim to the one hundred and sixty acres of land. Stearnes included some haying equipment and some cured house logs in the deal.

“Grandpa went back to Mt. Vernon and brought his family out in 1904,” Ireland relates. The Williams family included five children at the time.

“When they arrived, the logs had been stolen,” says Lyndy. A neighbor told H.H. that a neighbor lady had taken the logs. The lumber was already part of her house. “He was without logs and pretty darn mad,” Ireland says the family story goes. The family ended up having to live in a dugout for their first year on the homestead.

Ireland says H.H. made his living when he first got here by breaking up the river bottoms to raise alfalfa seed. He also served as a land locator for homesteaders coming west by way of Chamberlain.

“Great grandma cooked for railroad crews,” Ireland adds. What are now called the DM&E line to the north and the Dakota Southern line to the south were under construction as the Williams family established their homestead.

The five children who came to the ranch were George, Peter, W.H.K. (called both William and Bill), Dell and Sarah.

Ireland says the oldest son, George Williams, went off to Chicago where he played the harp in an orchestra. He traveled the world and had many adventures, but he never did have kids, says Ireland.

With George gone, when their father’s health began to fail the sixteen-year-old second son, Bill, took over operation of the ranch. He went on to homestead the adjacent ranch that was operated by Jess and Velma Williams until they sold to their nephew, Justin Wheeler in 1992. The old Recluse post office was located on the W.H.K. Williams ranch.

Peter and Sara were stricken with diptheria as children. Sara died at age three. Her older brother lingered until the next spring.

The remaining daughter, Dell, married Jim Garner. Dell died giving birth to her daughter, Asta (Amiotte), who now lives in the Interior area.

It was a surprise to the family, Ireland relates, when Grace found herself expecting another child at age 40. The youngest child, Mary, married George Wheeler in 1936.

George had come to work at the Triangle Ranch in 1935. “It was an old-time cattle ranch,” says Joyce Wheeler, George’s daughter-in-law.

George and Mary’s son Justin and his wife Joyce, his granddaughter Joan Cantrell and her husband Jim and family, and grandson Jimmy Wheeler continue to ranch on land homesteaded by H. H. Williams and his family.

Lyndy and Kenny Ireland currently operate a bed and breakfast from the Alhambra Sears & Roebuck home built on the Triangle Ranch in 1917. Lyndy says the application is in for a century farm designation from the state of South Dakota.