Williams is named after the Williams River which flows nearby. The river was discovered by Captain Thomas Bannister in 1831 while leading the first overland expedition from the Swan River Colony to King George Sound(now Albany), and was first shown on an 1833 map. More than likely, the name honours King William IV, who reigned in the United Kingdom from June 1830 until June 1837.
The first claims on land in the area occurred in 1832. In 1835 a party led by Governor James Stirling and John Septimus Roe surveyed a route joining King George Sound with York via Williams to encourage inland settlement.No settlement occurred until after Lieutenant Henry Bunbury explored the region in 1836, despite his assessment that "on the Williams the land is generally very bad and the water brackish."
After the building of Albany Highway by convicts in the 1850s, Williams became an important stopover point for passengers and changing of horses and became the main centre in the district. The Williams Hotel was erected in 1871, and a Road Board (predecessor to the current Shire Council) first convened in 1877.
In early 1898 the population of the town was 55, 30 males and 25 females. Later the same year the local Agricultural Hall was opened by Frederick Piesse, it was built at a cost of £250 granted by Parliament.
The original town had been built on the Albany side of the river, but was subject to increasing floods due to the clearing of the land for intensive farming; therefore the town was relocated to the Perth side of the bridge. The town site was surveyed in 1905 and most of the buildings in the present town site were constructed after that time.
Today the town is a centre for the wool, cattle and coarse grains industry, and serves as a stopping point on the Albany Highway. A heritage trail takes visitors past some of Williams's historic buildings and nearby wildflowerstands and dryandra forests are also attractions. One unusual feature is the Jesse Martin museum, a historic village and memorabilia collection constructed by a local farmer on his own property from old shops and post offices on the verge of being demolished in country towns, as well as barns full of old cars and farm machinery
There is an excellent Williams Heritage Trail brochure available at the Roadhouse. It details a total of 19 places of historical interest in the local area. Of these places the most interesting are the old Agricultural Hall (1898) on the Albany Highway which is now used as an Arts and Crafts shop, the superb old Williams Hotel (1871) recognised as the oldest building in town, and the very unusual convict tank, a 4 500 litre capacity underground tank which was built by ticket-of-leave men in the 1880s. The tank is located near the river on the Albany side of town.
The Heritage trail was developed by the Williams Historical Society, Williams District High School and Williams Shire Council. The trail explores early areas settlement and has two sections - a 1km walk around the townsite and a 35km scenic drive to Quindanning.
Click HERE to download brochure