Select Woodruff Miscellany

Here are some Woodruff stories and accounts over the years:

Sir Richard Woodrove of Woolley in Yorkshire

In the middle of the 16th century St. Peters church in Woolley contained much painted glass.  In the first light of the east window of the chancel was a figure of Sir Richard Woodrove who died in 1522 kneeling, behind him six sons, and beneath that the following inscription:

“Pray for the soul of Richard Woderove a soldier, son and heir of John de Wolley Woderove, esquire, whose soul be with God."

Woodruffs in the 1881 UK Census













William Woodruff's Childhood in Lancashire

William Woodruff was born in Blackburn in 1916.  His grandparents had emigrated to Massachusetts and his parents had, rather unusually, returned to England to work as weavers in a Lancashire cotton mill.

William was born during the Great War and into abject poverty. Two weeks before his birth, his mother had received a telegram saying his father had been killed in France. On the day of his birth his mother received a second telegram saying there had been a mistake and that his father was alive. William was delivered two hours later in the cotton carding room of the factory.

The extraordinary story of his Lancashire childhood was told in his best-selling book The Road to Nab End, a book that was on The London Times best-seller list for a year.

With the collapse of the English cotton industry in 1920 the Woodruff family became destitute. The cotton mills closed, half the adults were unemployed; people starved to death. The family had to move to a single room in a slum at Nab End.

Young William was haunted all his life by the journey he took at the age of six with his mother to the seaside resort of Blackpool.  During the day his mother would tell him to sit on a bench.  From there he watched men, far better dressed than any he had known, enter the hotel.  Some came out with his mother.  “You’re a grand lad,” some said, tossing him a coin or two.  Billy Boy, as he was known, wondered why.

At the age of 13 in 1929 he left school to become a grocer’s delivery 'barrow boy.'  After the wealthy grocer suffered a stroke William was lucky to get a job in a brickyard.  At age 16 he ran away to London.  He approached the unknown with resourcefulness and self-reliance honed by hard times.  He always counted himself lucky to have been born in Lancashire and doubly lucky to have been born poor.

David Woodruff, Pioneer Settler in Muskingum County, Ohio

David Woodruff, born in New Jersey in 1773, was one of the pioneer settlers of Muskingum county in Ohio, arriving there as early as 1813.  He came by wagon with a group of people that included his wife and three children.

In making their journey from New Jersey to Ohio, and after they had reached Zanesville on the way to Brush Creek, a commotion appeared in the brush.  A number of the men, including David Woodruff, loosened their dogs which immediately pounced upon and killed a bear on the spot where the market house now stands.  David Woodruff and his dogs subsequently killed a bear where the Lutheran church of their township now stands.

Initially David Woodruff leased land near Stovertown and he resided there until around 1819.   Then he bought 80 acres of land where he built a cabin and began clearing the land and improving his farm in various ways.  He lived on at his farm until his death in 1844.

Mollie Woodruff and the Haunted Woodruff Fontaine Mansion

Amos Woodruff grew rich from his carriage-making business in Memphis, Tennessee and invested in a large five story French-Victorian mansion located on what was called “Millionaire’s Row” on the outskirts of the town.  The woodwork was made of machine-carved solid cypress.  The total cost was estimated at $40,000.  Amos, his wife Phoebe, and their four children moved into the mansion in 1870. 

Their daughter Mollie married the next year and inhabited the mansion’s Rose Room.  That was the room where she lost a young child shortly after childbirth.  Three months after the death of the child, her husband Egbert died in the Rose Room from a staph infection.  Mollie was devastated but eventually remarried and moved away.

Legend has it that Mollie’s ghost returned to her father’s house and still roams the halls.  Reports of haunting activity such as a smoke-formed apparition of Mollie have been reported by staff when they tried to update or move furniture in the mansion.  Mollie apparently becomes upset and makes her dislike of the re-redecorations evident by slamming doors and breaking things.  Mollie has also been reported seen sitting on the bed in the Rose Room

Richard and William Woodruff and the War of 1812

William Woodruff served as a private in Crook’s Company at the beginning of the War of 1812 and fought under Captain McClellan at the Battle of Queenston Heights, for which he gave a vivid account.  Both he and his brother Richard were awarded a land grant for their services during the war.

Richard Woodruff was listed as a prisoner at Fort Niagara on June, 1813.  He built a home at St. Davids which was destroyed when the American army burned the village in 1814.  He rebuilt the house in 1815 and his family lived there until the early 1900’s

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