David J. Williams emigrated from Wales in about 1824 and settled in Nicollet County in 1855. He died in 1862 and was buried in what would be called Williams Cemetery, a one-acre plot overlooking the Minnesota River valley near Nicollet.
The family patriarch’s headstone would be joined by his descendants’ markers, and at least 27 people would be buried there, according to historical records. But the cemetery fell into neglect and over the decades began to look more like a dump.
When 16-year-old Nathan Enter of Nicollet first stumbled across the small cemetery about six years ago, it was littered with shotgun shells and appliances. The only signs that it was a cemetery were the bases of three headstones covered with adhesives, marking an apparently failed effort to keep the stones standing. The headstones themselves were gone, perhaps taken by family members in the last few decades.
Enter kept the run-down plot in the back of his mind as a potential Eagle Scout project.
The years passed, and this spring he got moving on the project. But not alone. He asked his Boy Scout troop to help clean the site and persuaded local companies to donate a granite marker and cemetery sign.
“It’s kind of a shame to see pioneers be lying in a run-down, trash-filled cemetery,” he said.
His father, Don, has taken an enthusiastic interest, as well.
“This has bothered me all my life,” Don Enter said.
Descendants of the Williamses read about the effort and contacted the Enters.
“I can’t be more pleased, and he should be recognized for what he’s done,” said Jane Williams Thom of Prior Lake. Her paternal great-grandfather was William Cadwaladar Williams, who married Hannah Sarah Williams, David J. Williams’ daughter.
Though the project was initially limited to a cleanup, the Enters have done some genealogy research of their own, mostly through the historical societies of Blue Earth and Nicollet counties.