Gila Valley History: Roderick Williams and Retta Crockett Williams

Contributed Photo: Roderick Williams and Retta Crockett Williams

Fern Williams Alder—Pima Centennial Book

Dr. Roderick Williams was the son of John R. Williams and Mary Ann Jenkins.  He was born in Brinore South Wales March 19, 1875.   The family came to America when Roderick was 5 years old.  As a young boy, he worked with his father, learning photography.  He studied under a German Artist for one year the ran one studio and his father another.

During the winter of 1896, a Mormon Elder called at his studio to have his photograph taken.  This man was Wilford Crockett.  He later baptized Roderick and his two sisters.  Later the same year, the trio left Pennsylvania, journeying to Arizona — arriving in Pima on Dec. 11, 1896.

Roderick did photography and odd jobs.  He was introduced to Retta Crockett by her dad, Wilford Woodruff Crockett.  Retta was born Nov. 9, 1880, to Wilford and Mahala Reed Crockett in Brases Valley,  Payute County, Utah.  She was brought to Arizona as a small child of two.  Wilford warned Roderick that he was marrying a doctor bill,  as Retta was sickly, having survived typhoid fever and scarlet fever as a child. 

After marriage, Roderick opened the first barbershop and photography studio in Pima in 1898.  Many of the locals had their photos taken by Williams.  Later, they were both called on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This was a very trying time for Retta, as they were not together.  This was the Illinois Mission.  When their service was up, they stayed in Illinois where Roderick attended the College of Chiropractic for two years. 

They returned to the Gila Valley, where Roderick was not only the first chiropractor in Safford but the first in the state of Arizona.  Retta, having grown up in Pima, had many childhood and lifetime friends.  She loved to quilt,  do handwork, and delighted in a pretty yard and home.  They were blessed with four children: Harold, Fern, who was born on Mount Graham, Wilford, who lived on two days, and Waldo,  who died of a head injury in 1942.

This couple devoted many hours to caring for friends and neighbors.  Many times their home was turned into a hospital for tonsillectomies, etc.  Williams retired in 1945 and passed away at home on Aug. 15, 1952, at age 77.  Retta made her home with her daughter, Fern Alder, and Fern’s husband, Paul, for several years, passing away on Sept. 11, 1973, at the age of 93.  Both rest in the Pima Cemetery.

At the Eastern Arizona Museum in Pima, look for the Perfascope, which belonged to Williams and was donated to the Museum by Fern Alder.