Willson family members gathered for reunion in Miles City last month


On Saturday and Sunday, July 29-30, Jim and Annalise Willson hosted a Willson family reunion at the Range Riders Museum in Miles City.
This was the first time that most of the cousins had ever met, according to a news release from the Willsons. The couple were assisted by their daughters, Jaci and Sabrina Willson, cousin Cathy (Sillson) Gamrath and by their son, Jess Willson’s children, Josette, Jade, Chloe and Zach.
There were 80 cousins in attendance. Cousins came from Sharon, Ontario, Canada; Baltimore, Maryland; Jersey Villate, Texas; Lansing, Kansas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Casper, Wyoming; Franktown, Colorado; Belle Fourche, South Dakota; and Helena, Joliet, Ryegate, Kinsey, Bighorn, Volborg, Rosebud, Winifred and Ekalaka.
Those attending the reunion had a roast beef dinner Saturday evening. After the meal, Jim Willson gave a brief history of the Willson family.
According to Willson, the Willson family followed William the Conqueror to Northumberland, England, in 1070. Then, in William III’s time a branch of the family followed him to northern Ireland in about 1690. There the Willson family members were merchants dealing in the linen trade. They lived in the city of Carrickfergus in the County of Antrim, Ireland.
In about 1768, the family’s fifth great-grandfather, John, came to America, and lived in Poukeepsie, New York, until around 1810 when the family moved to Canada near Lake Simcoe, north of Toronto, Ontario. In 1880, great-grandparents John and Priscilla Willson migrated to Buffalo, Minnesota, with eight of their 11 children.
While in Buffalo, Jim Willson’s grandfather, Lionel, was born in 1883 and brother, Leon, was born in 1886. In the spring of 1891, the Willsons moved again to Ekalaka, and the last child, Ulric, was born there in 1894. From there the Willsons scattered across Montana and the United States.
Willson family reunion activities continued on Sunday, July 30, with a buffet-style breakfast. It also was the 81st birthday of cousin Bert Hammond, so cake and ice cream were served in his honor at the museum. That afternoon, Chet Holmes and Gary Haughin, assisted by Gary Miller, took the Willsons for a ride in two horse-drawn wagons.
The group left the museum for a trip to the Custer County Cemetery to observe the graves of the relatives residing there permanently. After the group returned to the museum, they left for their various homes.
Sue Willson Brooks from Baltimore, Maryland, was presented with a L.A. Huffman photo for traveling 2,000 miles to attend the reunion. Peggy (Hammond) Penning of the Sharon Temple in Sharon, Ontario, also was presented with a photo. The Sharon Temple was built by David Willson in 1825. Penning received the photo for being the oldest person to attend the reunion.