by John Grant
The earliest settlement on this site seems to have been "Fruits," which had a post office established on January 4, 1828. On September 28, 1835, the Fruits post office was closed and another was opened under the designation of Williamsburg. According to tradition, Williamsburg was actually laid out some two years after it was founded. Courthouse records date the plat from December 1, 1836. B.G.D. Moxley, a partner of Harvey Williams, and a man named Compton are credited with laying out the town. They also operated its first store.
Williamsburg's location was significant because of the difficult terrain due east of there. Loutre Creek and the nearby hills were a hazzard for the heavily loaded wagons. Since the flat prairie west of Williamsburg offered little trouble to the frontier traveller, the little town soon gained prominence as a provisioning point. And in more modern times despite two relocations, the main St. Louis- Kansas City highway continues to run nearby. With easy access to and from U.S. Highway 70 Williamsburg continues to get considerable trade from the traveling public.
The population statistics tend to reflect the ups and downs of most small communities during the past century. For Williamsburg they are 1880-106; 1910-100; 1920-105; 1930-36; 1950-84; 1960-70; 1970-90; and today there are between 50 and 60 people living there.
From 1880 until the 1920's and 1930's Williamsburg was the trade center for the surrounding area.
Groceries, hardware, clothing, farm supplies, as well as medical attention and drugs were all available locally. Of course, with the coming of the industrial revolution and modern roads and means of transportation this is no longer true, but because of its location and the ability of its people to evolve with changing conditions, Williamsburg has survived these changes in good health when many comparable communities have died. The Mercantile Agency Reference Book, published in 1888 lists the following businesses:Arnold Bros.- General Store; Jules Cruchon- Harness Maker; F.K. Eligin- Saloon; Ole Hanson- Shoe Maker; T.B. Hassler- Blacksmith; Jesse McMahon - Wagonmaker; George Oliver-Wood work and Blacksmith; R.I. Owen- Blacksmith; J.F. Peters- Saloon; and George Yates- Drugs.
A business directory of Williamsburg compiled in 1884 lists the following persons and businesses:Arnold and Co-vington- General Store; John T. Bell- Painter; J.J. Bol-ton- Physician; Mrs. Kitty Britt- Milliner; P. Buchhanan-Saloon; Ole Hanson- Shoemaker; R.J. Hassler- Blacksmith; McCullock and Dutton- General Store; J. McMahon- Wagonmaker; T.M. Maughs- Physician; George Oliver- Wagonmaker; Robert J. Owen- Blacksmith; and George Yates- Druggist.
A roster of business establishments in Williamsburg-1983: Dennis Dillon- Dillon's Antiques; Frank Harjung-Williamsburg Package Liquor Store; Richard Weeks-Garage; Ray Stewart- Ray's Truck Plaza; E.F. Bishop-Garage and Truck Brokerage; William Stewart- Garage; William Crane- General Store; and William Antweiler-Antweiler Trucking Incorporated.
It is of interest to note that of all frontier businesses and professions in Williamsburg in 1884, only one still remains- the General Store. The blacksmith shops, the wagon makers, the physicians, etc., are all gone. But a look at the present businesses will show that they have been replaced by enterprises that were not even imagined a century earlier.
Beside the privately owned enterprises that are listed, there are a number of public and cooperative things that add to the town. Some of these are: The Williamsburg Community Club, which is housed in the old Methodist Church building whose congregation had served the community from before 1884 until 1951; the Williams-burg-Calwood Lions Club, who have their own building; The North Callaway Fire District fire station; The Missouri Highway Department garage and maintenance shed for their area; The Old Auxvasse- Nine Mile Presbyterian Church, whose history is recorded elsewhere in this book; and the Williamsburg Post Office, which has served the area since 1835, despite its not being on a railroad. Also the Williamsburg Elementary School, with 213 students, serves the surrounding area of Callaway County.
Beside the firms and individuals listed, many more have contributed to the life of Williamsburg during the last century. Dr. T.M. Maughs, previously mentioned, was practicing medicine in the area in the 1870's and continued for a number of years. Dr. J. J. Bolton established his practice in 1870 and continued well into the twentieth century. He died in a Masonic home in St. Louis in 1927 at 97 years of age, reputedly the oldest Mason in Missouri; Dr. R.N. Crews had an office in Williamsburg from 1896 to 1909 before moving to Fulton; a Dr. Glover had an office in 1912; Grover Weeks, D.D.S., was practicing dentistry about 1910.
And about 1915, Dr. A.J. Courshon had the last doctor's office in Williamsburg. A few years later he moved to Chadron, Nebraska, where he practiced for many years. Some of the business firms that have not been mentioned are: The Williamsburg Bank, which was founded in 1905 and served the community until 1931, when its assets were sold to the Callaway Bank of Fulton; Walter and Roy Owen had a blacksmith shop in the early 1900's; and Price Pasley had a wood -working and blacksmith shop until after 1930. Tate and Son, C.E. Martin, F.K. Carver, Reid and Garrett, S.B. Ham, and T.V. Ham all had general stores in Willamsburg, probably all in the first thirty years of the twentieth century.
In 1921, B.R. Crane of Mineola bought the T.V. Ham general store in Williamsburg and his son Sam Crane moved there to run the store. The highway was relocated in 1926 and the Cranes built a new store building on the relocated road. In 1932 the only other store in town closed and since that time, Crane's store has been a dominant force in the life of Williamsburg. After the death of Sam Crane in 1963 William Crane, his younger son, took over the active management of the store and after 62 years in Williamsburg, the name Crane has become almost synonymous with honesty and honorable dealing. Other firms that were attracted by the highway, but no longer exist, were Jesse Burton's Garage and Restaurant - 1926-1943; Chan Martin Filling station and Restaurant - 1927-1940; Sam Gasper's Garage - 1955-1966; John Gasper's Garage and Restaurant - 1943-1965.
No doubt, Williamsburg's future will be affected by the large recreation area being developed just north of town. In 1976 the Missouri Conservation Commission purchased over 5000 acres there and is developing it for recreation and wild life conservation. Each year it is attracting more visitors.
No story of Williamsburg covering the last century would be complete without mention of Nala, the great heavy harness horse that was born and trained on the John P. Arnold farm at Williamsburg.
Nala, while on the Arnold farm, was known as David Tulleride. He first gained recognition at Columbia as a four year old. Mr. Arnold drove him to a cart 35 miles from Williamsburg to Columbia and there he cleaned the show. Mr. Arnold sold him to a Chicago man for $1600.00. The name was then changed to Nala. Shortly afterward, the Chicago buyer sold Nala to E.H. Harriman of New York City for $5500.00. During the next two years, Harriman showed the horse in New York several times and he was never defeated. John P. Arnold with Nala.
It is said that Harriman had no intention of selling Nala, but one day he was accosted by a man named McLain of Washington D.C. who asked Mr. Harriman what he would take for Nala. Mr. Harriman without a thought of selling quietly replied, "forty thousand dollars." "Sold," replied Mr. McLain, and thus Mr. Harriman lost his champion horse. Shortly afterward Mr. Harriman offered Mr. McLain $50,000.00 for Nala, but was refused. McLain shipped Nala to London where he won every time he showed.
Some time later, when Nala was about twenty years old, Mr. Harriman paid Mr. McLain $500.00 for him so he could be retired to the Harriman estate in New York, where he died. One of the important changes that has taken place in the Williamsburg area during the 20th century has been the decline of negroes living there. Many of the early settlers were from Virginia and Kentucky and brought their slaves with them when they came to Missouri. Then when the slaves were freed, they stayed in the community, most of them as small farmers or farm laborers. Williamsburg and surrounding school districts, before the schools were integrated, ran two schools - a black school and a white school, and there were several black churches in the area. It would probably not be an exaggeration to say that a third of the population was black.
Then with the greater opportunities in industry and the industrialization of agriculture, requiring less farm labor, practically the entire black population moved to larger towns and cities. This process was expedited by the demand for industrial laborers during the Second World War. Today there are two blacks in Williamsburg.