Born in rather humble circumstances in Massachusetts and removing from there with his parents to the wilds of Wisconsin when he was but five years old, and in that state reared to a life of toil on a farm in the newer and more undeveloped section of what was then the West, Fred D. Willson, of Garfield county, Colorado, had neither the favors of fortune to give him a start in life nor the advanced education to prepare him for one. He began with nothing but his own natural endowment of determination and persistent energy, and his unrelenting self-reliance, and all the progress he has made is the result of his own efforts and capacity. His life began in 1859, and he was the third of the seven children born to his parents. About the year 1863, when he was yet a child of but four years of age, the family moved to Wisconsin where his father, Daniel S. Willson, ended his days, dying in 1891, at the age of sixty-two. His mother, whose maiden name was Eliza Woods, was also a native of Massachusetts, and is now living in Wisconsin. The parents were industrious and thrifty farmers, and sought in the new state to which they moved better opportunities of rearing and providing for their offspring than their native place seemed to offer. But they found the conditions of frontier life less fruitful and more difficult than they anticipated, and they could at best give the children good training in active industry and the example of faithful performance of duty; and in this way they inculcated lessons of self-denial and self-reliance, which after all may have been the best estate they could have conferred. Their son Fred passed his boyhood and youth in his new home, attending school in the neighborhood as he had opportunity and acquiring habits of useful labor and a practical knowledge of agriculture on the paternal homestead. At the age of twenty-two he started in life for himself, working on farms near his home. He continued this line of activity there two years, then came to Colorado and settled at Red Cliff in Eagle county. He passed two years there engaged in prospecting and mining, and at the end of that time moved to where he now lives on a ranch in Garfield county, located on Roan creek, about sixteen miles north of the village of Debeque. Here he has since been engaged in farming and raising stock, improving his land and increasing its productiveness, and helping to develop the resources of the section and promote its progress. He has been active and serviceable in all public affairs and, with an eye single to the general good, has aided in pushing forward every commendable enterprise for the welfare of the section in which he lives. In the social and fraternal life of the community he has been a helpful factor, being a prominent member of Roan Creek Lodge, No. 125, of the Masonic order, and influential in all commercial, industrial and educational movements. His ranch shows the marks of his enterprise and skill, and his impress on the general activities of the section has been pronounced and beneficial. His position as a leading and representative man is unquestioned and his hold on public confidence and esteem is equally well established, as it is well merited.
Source: Bowen, A. W. Progressive Men of Western Colorado. Chicago: A. W. Bowen & Co., Publishers. 1905.