Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area

Horse Heaven Pioneer/Best Speller Got a Prize

Tri-City Pioneer
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, 13 August 1961

William Richards was a tall, kindly man. His face always wore a pleasant smile. William Richards religion was DUNKARD. He believed in trine emersions. He did not swear on oath. He made affirmations. He abhorred war. He never wore a beard. His huge red-handlebar mustache was larger than any worn by the stage villians of that day.

William Richards wife was much his junior, and of German extraction. She could speak the German language. Their oldest child, Bertha, was quite a beautiful girl with real “titan” red hair and a creamy complexion. Their second child was John who resembled him mother. He was short and chunky. Their third child, Frank, was more than ten years younger than John and strongly favored his mother.

Richards was one of the pioneer Horse Heaven Hills’ Wheat Ranchers. His ranch was near James Dobson’s place. They were very friendly and exchanged crews during harvesting.

Richards moved his family to Kennewick each year for the three-months school term. Their children attended the old Kennewick School house. Bertha went to Miss Farrell and also to Mr. Welsh. As an incentive for spelling, the school teacher often in those days, gave a prize to each class for the speller who received the most head marks. The speller who stayed at the head of the class for a week without misspelling a word was credited with a head mark after which he started at the foot of the class to work his way to the top. Bertha always won a prize because there were but two in her class. She was the better speller of the two.

It was rumored that William Richards was an ordained preacher of the Dunkard faith. However, he had never preached. He had a natural gift for finance. He rented his farms and devoted his entire time to buying and selling property and making loans. Being known for his honesty, his business grew rapidly and he became one of the wealthiest men in the Tri-City Region.

Richards moved his family to North Yakima where there were greater business opportunities. He was instrumental in founding a bank and loaning company there. He was no relation to Nick Richards, an attorney of North Yakima. William Richards built a large home in the architecture of that period. His daughter, Bertha, married the proprietor of one of the largest drug stores in North Yakima and worked in the store with her husband for many years. As I remember, no children were born to this marriage.

William Richards continued his successful business career. He became one of the wealthiest and most influential citizens in the entire Yakima County. Financial success did not change William Richards, he disliked ostentation. As he advanced in age, his eyebrows became shaggy and flecked with grey. His eyes beamed out beneath. His face never lost its smile. John and Frank were much younger than I. My memory fails to register their activities after the family moved to North Yakima.

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