Mary Neosho Williams
1835 - 1914
Mary was born at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in 1835. Her father, Dr. Joseph Bailey, was a U.S. Army surgeon for many years. She spent her early years at various Army posts. She met Thomas Williams, an officer in the 4th U.S. Artillery, at Fort Mackinac, and they were married in 1853.
At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, Thomas was promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteers. He made the first, unsuccessful, attempt with his troops to capture the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. After that he took his brigade downriver to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he was killed during the Confederate attack on August 5, 1862. Mary learned of his death when their son, John, read about it in a newspaper.
In the postwar years Mary and her children lived near other family members in Newburgh, New York. When Mary’s sister moved to Colorado for health reasons in the late 1880’s, Mary and her daughter Josepha moved also to help out. Josepha then studied medicine in Denver and became a doctor in 1889.
In 1893 Josepha bought the property in Evergreen that the family dubbed “Camp Neosho” (now Hiwan Homestead Museum). Mary also bought several thousand acres in and around Evergreen, including most of the downtown area. She financed the sanitarium that Josepha and her cousin, Dr. Madeleine Marquette, ran in Denver on Pearl Street. The sanitarium included the first nurses’ training school in Colorado.
Mary and her son-in-law, Canon Charles Winfred Douglas, helped finance and support one of the first Episcopalian churches in Colorado including African-American parishioners, the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Denver.
Mary died in 1914 but her impact on the history of Evergreen and Colorado are not forgotten.
Source and photo courtesy of Jeffco Historical Society