William J. Taylor, one of the most picturesque and best known of the early residents of the Kittitas Valley, passed away at 6 o’clock last evening [May 1, 1924] at his home in East Eleventh Street, of stomach and kidney trouble. He had been ill for several months, his second illness in the 71 years of his unusually active life. Mr. Taylor, not at home out of the saddle, had ridden range in the valley almost continuously from the time he first came here in 1870 until a few months ago.
“Bill,” as he was known to all his many friends, rode a horse to the valley in 1870 from Seattle, leading a pack horse. Born at Sublimity, Marion County, Oregon, September 28, 1852, the son of Melville and Cyrena Taylor, who crossed the plains in 1847, Mr. Taylor when 14 set out for himself and landed first in Seattle when there were but two houses there. He was only 17 when he came to Kittitas Valley with $20 in his pocket. He first worked for Walter A. Bull on the latter’s ranch south of Ellensburg, when the coyotes were so numerous they were a nuisance around the house. Next he worked for six years for George S. Smith, riding range, and rode range for Phelps and Wadleigh in the Okanogan Country, when the three were the only white persons in that section of the state.
Later he took up a homestead on what later was known as the Smith ranch, but disposed of that. He bought what is now the McKenzie place on the Nanum, and resided there until 1890. Three years previously he had married Miss Mary Grewell, the first school teacher in the Denmark District, whose parents crossed the plains by ox team in 1863, her father dying enroute. Three children were born to them at the Nanum ranch, two of whom survive, Mrs. Pete Michels and Frank Taylor.
Mr. Taylor built the second store in Ellensburg in 1873, helped put up the first lumber-built house in the valley, and whipsawed the lumber for the first lumber floor in the valley. Most of the past many years, Mr. Taylor rode range for John Smithson, and his tall, erect figure was familiar to every resident of the valley. His grandfather was John Taylor, a cousin of Zachary Taylor, of Mexican War fame and later president of the United States.
The last rites will occur Sunday at 2:30 o’clock from the Baptist Church, the Rev. B. A. Hylton officiating. [Interment at IOOF Cemetery.]
Contributed by: Shelli Steedman