Willa Oldham Ramsden Papers

Identifier: 96-49

Scope and Contents

The Willa Oldham Ramsden Papers are divided into ten series, beginning with Series 1, which covers Willa Marie Stillwell's birth and her family. Series 2 moves to her church affiliations, a major part of her life, and follows her from the First Congregational Church in Riverside, California, through Grace Community in Boulder City, Nevada, to her activities in and on behalf of First Presbyterian in Carson City, Nevada. Series 3 and 4 cover Ramsden's professional and community involvement from 1949 when she served as Executive Director of the Riverside Girl Scouts, through her public relations and community work. Another area that encompasses a large part of her life is found in Series 5, which includes her involvement with the Appaloosa horse while living in Boulder City, Nevada. The early part of Ramsden’s life is not well represented as a result of a basement flood in 1952/53 while she was living in Southern California.

The series organization continues through her writing career. Series 6 presents her extensive correspondence, both professional and personal. Series 7 includes her frequent speeches to organizations in Carson City, where her command of Carson City history is displayed. Series 8 deals mainly with her two published books, Carson-Tahoe Hospital: The Story of a Caring Community and Carson City and Nevada’s Capital City, but also shows her interest in other possible publications. Series 9 covers the columns she wrote, both individually and with her husband, C. J. Oldham, both in Boulder City and Carson City. The collection concludes with Series 10, the numerous newspaper and magazine articles that cover, by decades, the 1950s to the 1990s and illustrate her community involvement, her religious thoughts, and her interest in history. Most of the articles in this series are copied from the originals, which Ramsden requested to be returned to her.

Photographs have been transferred to Special Collection's Photo Archives as collection number UNRS-P1997-08 with the exception of those that are mounted in the Red Scrapbook (96-49_1_12).

This collection presents an overview of the life process of a 20th Century active, verbal, and involved woman. It shows the interrelationship of her church, marriages, and community concerns with her writing. Those interested in the places, the era, and the activities of a female writer will find these papers of interest.


  • 1911-1999
  • Majority of material found within 1949-1996


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Biographical Note

Willa Oldham Ramsden was born Willa Marie Stillwell in San Diego, California on November 21, 1911, the daughter of William Henry Stillwell and Martha Ellen Estell, who were married on October 12, 1907. Willa was educated in Southern California and married Earl H. Peterson on October 8, 1936. There is little information on Earl in the collection other than that they were separated in 1942 and divorced in 1943. Willa then married Benjamin Franklin Vickers on August 14, 1943. Willa Vickers became Executive Director of the Riverside, California, Girl Scouts in 1949. It was during this time that she began to publish articles, many of them related to Girl Scouts, camping, and automotive subjects. Mr. Vickers died in December of 1954.

Willa’s third husband was Clifton John Oldham, whom she married on October 16, 1956. Her employment with the Girl Scouts ended in 1957 and the Oldhams left California and settled in Boulder City, Nevada, where they owned a ranch dedicated to raising Appaloosa horses. Oldham wrote articles for the Appaloosa News and was active with the Boulder City Horseman’s Association. She also wrote columns for the Piggin String with her husband and under her own byline. They sold the ranch and moved to Carson City, Nevada, in 1970, where C. J. Oldham died on February 23, 1984. Willa Oldham remained in Carson City and became known as a writer and community activist. She married Percy Herbert Ramsden on April 4, 1992, and became a widow for the third time on October 8, 1993.

Active membership in church was an important part of Ramsden’s life. In Riverside, California, she belonged to the First Congregational Church and while in Boulder City, Nevada, to the Grace Community Church. In Carson City, she and Cliff joined the First Presbyterian Church, where she was not only a communicant but wrote articles for and about the church and developed programs that involved the church and the community, including one for volunteer development and another on the realities of aging.

Recognized as having expertise in the history of Carson City, Ramsden presented speeches to several service organizations and eventually published two books, Carson-Tahoe Hospital: The Story of a Caring Community in 1987, and Carson City, Nevada’s Capital City in 1991.

Throughout her years in Carson City, Ramsden was a regular contributor to the Nevada Appeal. She also kept up an active correspondence both related to her writing and personal, and, by her own admission, wrote 3-5 cards or letters each day.


4.6 Linear Feet (5 boxes, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials



Willa Oldham Ramsden moved to Boulder City, Nevada, in 1957 where she and her husband, Clifton John Oldham, raised Appaloosa horses and where she began writing articles for local newspapers. In 1970, they relocated to Carson City where Willa became well known as a writer and community activist. The collection includes personal information, professional activity material, materials on horses, correspondence, articles, speeches, and copies of her two books on Carson City history.


Arranged into the following series: 1) Personal and Family Information; 2) Churches; 3) Professional Activities; 4) Other Activities; 5) Horses; 6) Correspondence; 7) Speeches; 8) Books; 9) Columns; 10) Articles

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Willa Oldham Ramsden in December 1996 as a result of the work done to collect materials for the Nevada Women’s History project.

Separated Materials

Photographs transferred to the Special Collections Department photo archive as collection number UNRS-P1997-08.

A Part of

Nevada Women's Archives.



Guide to the Papers of Willa Oldham Ramsden
Patricia Stich
November 2004
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)