Williams, Arizona may be known for Route 66 and the Gateway to the Grand Canyon, but where did its name come from? Founded in 1882, Williams was named for Bill Williams Mountain, the volcanic peak that rises above it. The mountain has long been important to native peoples of the region including the Havasupai, Hualapai, Yavapai and Hopi. It marks the boundary of traditional Hopi lands, and is known to them as Tusaq’tsomo, “The Grassy Hill.”
The mountain was named in 1851 by members of the Sitgraves Expedition to commemorate the legendary mountain man and scout Williams Sherley Williams, who died in 1849. Historians argue over whether Ol’ Bill ever saw the mountain named for him.
Bill Williams lives on in frontier history because of his ability to survive in the wilderness alone, and because of his unusual talents and behavior. When he was a fur trapper and pathfinder in the 1820’s and 30’s, he had a desire to be by himself months on end in land where no white Americans had explored. He had the ability to speak many different native languages and told his friends that after he died, he hoped to be reincarnated as a bull elk, complete with antlers.
Learn more about how Williams got its name at the Visitor Center
Historic Williams Walking Tours
History buffs can explore the Historic District with the help of brass plaques along what has been described as “the best preserved stretch of Route 66 from Santa Monica to Chicago.” Guests are encouraged to stop by the official Visitor Center located at 200 W. Railroad Avenue in Williams for a historic walking tour map, available for a small fee, view the Williams Historic Photo Project, and learn more about the rich history of this unique destination.