Sunday, April 28, 2013

His Own Untiring Efforts

There is no disputing it: farming is hard work. It was even harder when Lafayette D. Woodworth was tending his crops in the mid to late 1800s.

We’ve been looking over two biographical reports of the man’s accomplishments: one from 1879, published in Chicago, and one from 1901, published in Los Angeles. We’ve already read the report of L. D.’s earlier days in Wisconsin—interrupted, of course, by a healthy dose of wanderlust and gold-panning adventure in California—from the Los Angeles version. Let’s compare that with what the good folks back home in Wisconsin noticed about his farming ventures in those earlier days.

            Lafayette D. Woodworth, farmer, Sec. 4; P. O. Kenosha; born May 13, 1823, in Chittenden, Essex Co., Vt.[this should be reversed: it was the town of Essex in Chittenden County that was his birthplace]; went to Hartland, Niagara Co., N. Y., for eighteen months; in his 20th year, gave his father $60 for his time, and in 1844 came to Bristol Township, Kenosha Co., Wis., and worked for Harmon & Marsh for eighteen months, then bought a farm of sixty acres, which he gradually increased to 184 acres. During the years 1851-52, Mr. W. was in California, successfully gold mining; was in Beloit, Wis., from 1868 to 1870; bought ten acres of land and a house and lot, which he afterward sold; went back to Bristol Township in 1872, and stayed till 1875, when he sold his property, moved to Pleasant Prairie and bought his farm of 305 acres, upon which he raises all kinds of grain and stock.
It is interesting to see how the California version of the account focused so much more on the detail of Lafayette’s brief excursion to northern California in the early 1850s, whereas the Chicago edition detailed each farm purchase in the state of Wisconsin, with barely a sentence devoted to the journey westward. Yet, within seven years of that book’s publication, Lafayette, his wife and two of his children had left the state and moved to California for good.

It’s all in one’s perspective how the story will be told.

Contrariwise, when it came to reporting civic involvement, the California narrative gave a brief overview of Lafayette’s lifetime involvement in political affairs, while the Chicago publication gave a more detailed accounting of his offices held.

The 1879 volume noted:
He was Roadmaster for several years, both in Bristol and Pleasant Prairie Townships, and School Clerk for both townships. He and his family are members of the Free Methodist Church.
            As to the politics of the administration Mr. Woodworth entertains unusually liberal views, although he usually votes the Republican ticket.
           During his residence in Wisconsin he gained considerable prominence in a political way and held most of the offices within the gift of the people of Bristol and Pleasant Prairie townships, Kenosha county. His rise in life is due to his own untiring efforts. He has surmounted many obstacles in a courageous manner and has won the confidence of his friends and associates.
Perhaps it was just a formality, or a nineteenth-century style of being nice that figured in these concluding notes—but wouldn’t you just love to know exactly what the writer had in mind when he referred to how Lafayette “surmounted many obstacles in a courageous manner”?


  1. I've lost the thread. How are you related to these folks? ;)

    1. Iggy...if you don't mind, I'd like to save my answer to your question for a few more days. I'll explain. Promise!

  2. Oh, I was assuming that the 1879 volume was the story of Lafayette surmounting obstacles. For example, "successfully gold mining." That's an obstacle! He was a really busy guy, in work and in the community. This is a great ancestor to have. I do believe that "his rise in life is due to his own untiring efforts."

    1. Good point, Mariann. I hadn't thought of it that way. I was bracing myself, thinking, "Oh, no, now what else could go wrong for this guy?!"

    2. As an afterthought, it did occur to me that Lafayette and his wife did lose one child--a son, Sumner, whom I've yet to follow up on, but who may have died as a young child. He is not even mentioned in the 1879 summary.


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