Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lafayette’s Roots

I’m thankful for the time, just over one hundred years ago, when it seemed to be a popular endeavor for publishers to edit collections of local biographical sketches, assembled under the theme of a city or regional history. When I researched my mother-in-law’s line in Perry County, Ohio, I found such a volume indispensible. Likewise, as I’ve studied family lines in both cities the size of Chicago and of lesser population such as Fort Wayne, I’ve learned to look for such history books from that era.

In the case of the Woodworth family, moving from Wisconsin to California during that time period, it turns out that I’ve hit the jackpot with not one but two biographical sketches—the one of the earlier years in Bristol, Wisconsin, and the later edition from this family’s establishment in the greater Los Angeles area.

In the face of that serendipity, though, I’ve not been able to locate that final biographical sketch that gets written on behalf of all those who have gone before—the obituary—so an entry in Find A Grave leaves a solitary note of finality to the life of Lafayette D. Woodworth.

Let’s start with the most recent biographical entry we can find—this one located thanks to the perseverance of reader Intense Guy and the preservation efforts of the Library of Congress.

The source for this study is a thick volume written by J. M. Guinn. At the time the book was published—in 1901, only three years before L. D. Woodworth’s passing—the author was concurrently serving on the board of the Historical Society of Southern California. Lafayette Woodworth’s entry was tucked away on page 735 of Historical and Biographical Record of Los Angeles and Vicinity: Containing a history of the City from its earliest settlement as a Spanish Pueblo to the closing year of the Nineteenth Century. (With a title that long, is it any surprise the book that bore this name was that lengthy?!)

The value of this entry—of course, provided the reporting is proven to be correct in all its detail—is that it yields yet another generation of names, plus a sense of where L. D. Woodworth’s family originated. While the narrative continues past that point with no further remarkable observations in the first paragraph—like every other farm boy, evidently Lafayette divided his time between book work and hands-on practical application—what we’ll see in the next couple days will help piece together more of this family’s story.
            LAFAYETTE D. WOODWORTH is one of the old settlers and successful horticulturists of lower Azusa, in the San Gabriel valley, and owns in his home ranch sixteen and one-half acres, mostly under orange culture. He was born in Chittenden county, Vt., May 13, 1824, being a son of Jabez and Mehitable (Shaw) Woodworth, both natives of New England, the former of Scotch extraction, and the latter of English lineage. When a small boy Lafayette Woodworth accompanied his parents from Chittenden county to Franklin county, Vt., where he passed his childhood days in a manner similar to other farmer boys, learning every department of farm work and going to the district schools during the winter time.


  1. It just occurred to me, you found a photo of L.D., perhaps we can find some more - and ID some of the folks in your mystery photos.

    For instance, the guy on the horse is stocky, but has a family look of L.D.


    1. I'm hoping we can find more photos with identification, but I'm not sure all my mystery photos would belong in the Woodworth category. Since the photos were handed to me from collections of both Leona Bean Grant and her brother, William Bean--Maud Woodworth's in-laws--it may be more likely that they represent family members from other lines linked with the Bean family. I really wish I knew more...and will keep my eyes open! The more I look at the photos, the more confident I feel about grouping some of them (for instance, the farm photos, as the people seem to look familiar across scenes). Still not sure enough to decide which surname group they fall into.

      The sad part about it--and I just have to let the reality of the circumstances sink in here--is that Maud Woodworth's husband, Sam Bean, was blind--naturally, photographs wouldn't mean much to him, and thus something he wouldn't likely pass down to subsequent generations. It's more likely that Leona and Bill might have saved photos from their mother's side of the family (Shields), or Bill might have saved some from his in-laws' side (Ellen Danielson Bean's side).

      Someday, I hope it will all become clearer :)

  2. Replies
    1. I'm loving it that this huge book included a photograph!

  3. has a photo of Marthelen Woodworth, daughter of William C.

    1. Iggy, I ran into some mentions of a family by this name--farther south than Covina, by the way--and they seemed to be quite active, socially. I wonder if this is the same family I had seen.

      At this point--well, until I learn more about this Woodworth family--I don't think they are related to the William C. Woodworth line I'm working on. I guess that's the luck of the draw when it comes to more common surnames--higher likelihood of having duplicates with no connection whatsoever.

  4. Oh, shouldn't there be a historical and biographical record--a collection of local biographical sketches--for every city and town!? It seems that everyone's life deserves that kind of dignity and acknowledgement, if not recognition. Of course, as soon as I say that, I realize that such books would probably be restricted to "prominent citizens." But maybe not.

    So far, genealogists seem to be the ones most dedicated to telling everyone's story. I really commend them for that.

    1. Mariann, the beauty of it is that, in smaller locales, the "prominent citizens" may be the salt-of-the-earth farmers. In this case, in Wisconsin, that is exactly what is happening. I've found mentions in three different books about members in this family line, which, believe me, has really made my day!

      Of course, in larger cities--such as New York City, where my father's family settled--I've had to kiss goodbye any notion of running into mentions about that family! But for ancestors in those smaller communities, Googling "History of ... County" may become your best research ally.


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