Pioneer Day celebrates 100 years of the Williams arch

Dixie LaGrande gives an oral history of the Williams Arch that her mother, Annette LaGrade and committee, saved from destruction. The 1973 reconstruction and rededication inspired the first Pioneer Day in Williams.

This year’s annual event was a grand celebration that centered on the city’s historic arch, located over the intersection of E and Sixth streets, which for 100 years has greeted visitors who came to Williams.

This year’s Pioneer Day, hosted by Citizens for a Better Williams, was a collaborative effort with the City of Williams and Karen’s House, a new non-profit organization that proposes to build a domestic violence shelter in honor of murder victim Karen Garcia.

Pioneer Day activities included a breakfast for veterans and their families in honor of the 1918 feeding of the “Liberty Boys,” who stopped in Williams before being shipped out to the battlefields of World War I, which the City of Williams sponsored, followed by a ceremony commemorating the historic arch.

“In America, we put in arches as a way to welcome people to our communities,” said Mayor Chuck Bergson. “There are a lot of famous arches located up and down the state of California.”

The Williams arch was constructed in 1917 but World War I delayed its completion and dedication until the following year. The arch, which honors local pioneers, stood for nearly a half century when Annette LaGrande and the community saved it from being demolished.
“In the 1970, over 45 years ago, she (Annette) read in the local paper that the then Williams City Council voted to tear it down because it was an eyesore,” said daughter Dixie LaGrande, at Saturday’s ceremony. “I was witness to her immediate reaction. I’m editing here, but she said something like ‘Oh no they’re not.’”

The next day, Annette LaGrande formed the Williams Arch Committee to raise the money to save the arch, with local businesses contributing.

“It took two years to raise the funds,” Dixie LaGrande said.

LaGrande said that many women of that time belonged to the Women’s Club, which taught young ladies the importance of participating in civic life.

“Saving the arch, this pioneer memorial arch, was such an example of this civic participation,” she added. “So after saving it in 1973, the arch was rededicated, and the first Pioneer Day was inspired to continue to honor our pioneers to this community. And that is usually all it takes…one person to act and a team effort to complete any spark of an idea.”

Although the Women’s Club is no longer active, the tradition of community involvement continues in the city, as was evident on Saturday.

Citizens of Better Williams hosted the annual Pioneer Day Parade, which had nearly 30 entries, in addition to many fire and law enforcement vehicles from throughout the county.
And who better to serve as Grand Marshal to lead the parade than Patricia Allen Schaad, 94, the granddaughter of Williams pioneers, announcer Bruce Rolen said.

Gov. Jerry Brown, Schaad’s cousin, and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, followed in a vintage California Forest Service pickup.

The Allen family settled Allen Springs, located in the foothills west of Williams, which boasted a popular resort in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The springs brought hundreds of visitors from the Bay Area to seek their advertised therapeutic benefits. The area became part of the Mendocino National Forest in 1908.

“Pat has been a lifelong citizen of Williams and Colusa County,” Rolen said. “She was raised at the Mountain House out west in the foothills by a pioneer family.”

Not only were the Allens and Schuckmans (Brown’s family) pioneers, but also the Schaads.
Following the parade, the festivities, including the vendor fair, moved back to Redinger Park for the first Karen’s House rib cook-off.

Nine smokers participated in the cook-off fundraiser and more than a dozens vendors offered food, games, and activities for children. A number of informational booths, such as Victim Witness, Covered California, and Indivisible Colusa County, also participated.

“This was amazing for our first event,” said Tootie Hackett, of Karen’s House. “We are getting a lot of donations. We are overwhelmed by the amount of support. It’s exciting.”
Sacramento Valley Museum tours and the evening’s Pioneer Day fireworks, sponsored by Morning Star, rounded out the full day of activities.

Lloyd Green Jr. is the Owner and Publisher of the Williams Pioneer Review. He is dedicated in publishing the news and informing the community of Colusa County. Lloyd has been with the publication since 2008, and purchased the business in 2010. Under his ownership the newspaper has grown significantly in subscriptions, publishes weekly, and obtained the title of Newspaper of General Circulation by the Superior Court of Colusa County in Sept. 2017. Lloyd is also the director of advertising, classified manager, legal notice clerk, and circulation manager. To contact Lloyd, email him at or call (530) 458-4141 ext. 100.