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David V. Williams

2019 Cowboy Historian

“I reckon I was just born 50 years too late.” 


David V. (Dave) Williams was born on Sept. 28, 1924 to Clifford and Addie Williams in a farmhouse 6 1/2 miles west of Caldwell, Kansas. Dave and his siblings attended one-room Bailey School built by their great-grandfather John Bailey. A major influence that shaped Dave’s life as a cowboy and western enthusiast was his uncle Kenny Williams, who won many all-around rodeo cowboy championships and traveled the world with the Miller Bros. Wild West Show as a trick rider and roper. After graduating high school in 1942, Dave enlisted in the Navy during World War II. He flew patrols in the Pacific looking for Japanese ships and rescued many Allied sailors and aviators. After his service, Dave returned to Caldwell marrying his high school sweetheart, Marian Prophet on Feb. 23, 1946. Together, they had six children, Terry Williams, Linda “Janie” Williams (who died in infancy), Patti Williams Sprague, LuAnn Williams Jamison, Michelle Williams Schiltz and Danielle Williams Schmidt. They farmed early in their marriage until Dave was offered a job as water well driller. He traveled around the world as a driller for oil and water. Though sometimes the family joined him, most of the places Dave worked were isolated. To pass the time alone, he read stories about Caldwell and the Chisholm Trail. His regular attire of cowboy hat and boots drew much attention in remote villages. Villagers swarmed to meet “Cowboy Dave.” He even drew the attention of Roy Rogers, who on a trip to Ethiopia, went out of his way to meet him. Upon the death of his older brother in 1972, Dave returned to Caldwell to operate the Williams Bros. Livestock Auction, which had been in the family since 1901. Upon his retirement in 1983, Dave resumed his love of researching the history of the area. Disheartened by the loss or deterioration of many historic sites in the Caldwell area he turned his attention to preserving the history of Caldwell. Using the historical knowledge he had gained over the years, he mapped historical sites in Caldwell and on the Chisholm Trail. His endeavors included research for the historical markers lining Caldwell’s Main Street. Dave was sought out as a local historian and re-enactor. He was a source for authors who have written about Caldwell. Dave had memberships in the Caldwell Historical Society and Sumner County Historical Society, and the Cowboy Storyteller Assoc. of the Western Plains. He helped re-establish the Caldwell Saddle Club and was host for the National Leukemia Society’s annual trail ride for several years. He served as chairman of the Border Queen Museum, was a member of the Cherokee Strip Centennial Celebration Committee and helped in the restoration of the Caldwell Opera House. David V. Williams died on Jan. 17, 1998 at the age of 73. He is interred in Caldwell City Cemetery.

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