Ezekiel “Zeke” Williams was a trapper, trader, and frontiersman in the American West.
Ezekiel was born in Kentucky in about 1775, where he went to school. More familiarly called Zeke, he grew up to marry and fathered a son. By 1807, he was in St. Louis, Missouri, and worked his way up the Missouri River, trapping along the way. He joined Manuel Lisa and helped construct Fort Raymond at the Big Horn and Yellowstone Rivers confluence. Zeke returned to St. Louis with Manuel Lisa in 1808 and, the following year, accompanied St. Louis-based Missouri Fur Company back up the river, working out of Fort Mandan in present-day North Dakota.
In 1810, he was trapping along the upper Arkansas River and later joined the Arapaho Indians, with whom he was thought to have spent the years of 1812-13 with them in New Mexico. By December 1814, he was back in St. Louis, Missouri. While trapping along the Arkansas River, he was working with Jean Baptiste Champlain, who had been killed along the way. Some accused him of Champlain’s death and stealing his furs, but this was most likely unjust.
He married again, farming near Franklin, Missouri, in 1814, and later moved to Boonville, Missouri, in 1823. In 1827, he led a party to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and returned safely. He then moved to Benton County, Missouri, where he died on December 24, 1844.
© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2022.
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