William (12) Woodhurst

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Brief biography

William (12) Woodhurst was born to parents John (6) Woodhurst and his wife Ann Susan Russell. He was christened on November 7th 1830 at Milton-next-Sittingbourne, Kent [Parish Register Baptisms 1813-33 in CCA: Piece P253/1/6]. The record gives his father's occupation as brick-maker.

In 1837 he emigrated with his parents on the ship Wellington to America, arriving at New York on May 15th 1837.

The US 1840 Census finds him living with his parents in Connecticut in Windsor township, Hartford County.

The US 1850 Census finds him living with his parents in Oxford township, Butler County in Ohio. The record gives his age as 19, his birthplace as England and his occupation as plasterer.

His biography on pages 161-162 in An Illustrated History of Lincoln County and her People: Vol. 2 [published by the American Historical Society, 1920 : editors Ira L. Bare and Will H. McDonald] states that he worked as both plasterer and brick mason in St. Joseph, Missouri.

He married Mary Adaline (or Adeline) Rogers in 1859. The IGI gives the place as Buchanan County, Missouri and the date as January 4th 1859 [IGI: Batch M514671]. However, an internet gedcom record [RootsWeb WorldConnect Project] gives the slightly different date of February 9th 1859. The latter record further states that Mary was born in Indiana on January 7th 1839 of parents Jonathan Rogers (born January 20th 1810 in Ohio) and Abigail M. Dunn (born January 30th 1811 in New York).

The US 1860 Census finds William (12) and Mary living at 3rd West Street, St. Joseph City in Buchanan County with their first child. He was occupied as a hotel keeper. His birthplace is wrongly cited as Connecticut. Mary is described as aged 21 and born in Indiana.

Around mid-1861 the family moved to Nevada, as recorded in the autobiography of Hester Ann, one of Mary's sisters. This document, now possessed by a descendant of Hester, contains the following remark:

My sister, Mary Woodhurst and her two little babies, one six weeks old and the other a year old, went to a new gold field in Nevada in a covered wagon from St. Joseph, Missouri.

In 1862 he journeyed with his family "in an ox team" across the plains to California and for at least four years worked successfully in mining there on the Pacific coast, after which the family travelled, by a tempestuous sea journey via Panama, to New York. From there they went to Indiana and thence to Omaha, Nebraska in 1867 [op. cit. Bare & McDonald].

The personnel records of the Assembly Front Desk of the Nevada State Legislature state that he served in 1867 as the Sergeant-at-Arms.

In 1868 he settled in Lincoln County and became Deputy Sheriff [op. cit. Bare & McDonald].

Mary's father Jonathan had moved to Nebraska around 1859-60. She and her husband must also have gone there around 1867-68, since by 1868 William (12) was serving as Sheriff of Lincoln County in Nebraska's North Platte township. Several references to him appear in the book North Platte and its Associations published in 1910, which has since been transcribed onto the web by Chris Geis for the NEGenWeb Project. Its author Archibald R. Adamson pays tribute in his preface to the many contributions made to the book by William (12), referring to him as "Maj. William Woodhurst". This attribution of a military rank is curious, as no records have been found that refer to his having rendered any military service in the Civil War or in any other context. The town appears to have been a rather alarming place - Adamson states that "North Platte was infested with reckless desperados, brothels, gambling dens and unlicensed saloons that ran wide open all days of the week and hours of the night. Most men went armed, and few law abiding citizens ventured out alone after dark". One of the events he records [pages 43-45] for the year 1868 was that in which William (12) had to chain up the engines of the Union Pacific railway in order to enforce payment of taxes ordered upon the company by the Nebraska State Court.

On February 15th 1870 William (12) and another man Thomas Tracy witnessed the marriage at Lincoln City, Nebraska of Thomas Daily (aged 22) and Mary Chisson (aged 18), officiated by W.M. Stone [Nebraska Genealogical Society: October 1926 archive]. Despite being so young, the bride may have been recently divorced or widowed, as the record names her (perhaps mistakenly) as "Mrs. Mary Chisson".

In February 1870 William (12), then serving as Deputy Sheriff in North Platte, became involved - with the then Sheriff Nathan Russell - in the aftermath of the lynching by local vigilantes of two armed jewelry robbers [op. cit. Adamson: Pages 62-68].

The US 1870 Census finds William (12), his wife and their two sons in North Platte. He was still serving as Deputy Sheriff. In this record he wrongly gives his birthplace as Massachusetts.

The records of the Commissioners' Court for Lincoln County in 1870 show him being allowed a claim for $16.00 [Nebraska Ancestree: Vol. 4, No. 1, Page 26, Summer 1983], probably in connection with his work.

On April 9th 1871 a young woman named Kate Manning, aged nearly 28, was found murdered outside the town. The case was investigated by William (12), now in the position of Sheriff. The prime suspect at first was her brother Pete, a local saloon keeper, who was accordingly arrested and placed in jail. A prospective lynch mob, attempting to gain access to the prisoner, was thwarted first by the courage of William (12)'s wife Mary and subsequently by himself [op. cit. Adamson: Pages 71-75]. Eventually Pete and another suspect were both released and the identity of the true culprit was never ascertained. Kate's body was interred in a location that subsequently became the town's new cemetery, being the first female buried there. A marble slab, citing her date of death as (perhaps in error) "May 9th 1871", marked her grave. The Cemetery Association entrusted with establishing this cemetery during 1872-73 was chaired by Mary's father Jonathan [op. cit. Adamson: Pages 79-80]. The matter was reported in The North Platte Bulletin [issue of August 14th 2004] as follows:

Kate Manning - 1871 On April 9, 1871, young Kate Manning was found dead just southeast of town on her land claim. It was obviously a murder, according to the Nebraska GenWeb Project, as Kate was respected and had no enemies. Maj. William Woodhurst was sheriff at the time and he quickly discovered footprints from a peculiar shoe in the soft soil around Manning's tent. Kate Manning's brother Pete, who owned a saloon on Front Street, had a deformed foot. He was arrested and jailed. Pete was a popular guy with a happy disposition, and many didn't believe he could have committed the deed. Rumors circulated that Pete had threatened to "jump" Kate's claim and this, along with other circumstances, made a strong circumstantial case against him. The shoe Pete wore on his deformed foot was found to fit the impression in the soft soil so neatly that he was accused of the murder. A group of about 300 angry townspeople gathered in front of the jail with the intention of lynching Pete. The leader of the mob knocked on the jail door and demanded Pete Manning. Woodhurst's wife told the men that the sheriff was gone but that Manning was confined and a well-armed deputy was inside to protect the jail. "Anyone who enters the jail does so at his own risk," Mrs. Woodhurst told the crowd. Another man stepped forward and repeated the demand. "If you want Manning," Mrs. Woodhurst said, "get him in a legal way; but I think you had better go home to your wife, for I know she never would sanction you leading a mob." She went inside and bolted the door. Sheriff Woodhurst returned and, comprehending the situation, got an extra guard from the Army post to stand outside. The mob then presented a petition demanding Manning. Woodhurst refused, citing his duty to protect the prisoner. Afraid that Woodhurst would sneak Manning away, the mob placed its own guards outside the jail to prevent Manning from being removed without their knowledge. The standoff continued for five days, until Woodhurst conceived a sneaky plan. The sheriff sneaked a soldier's uniform into the jail, dressed Manning in it and had him march to the Army post when the guard was relieved. The scheme worked. After the excitement died down, Manning got a change of venue to Grand Island to stand trial. The trial lasted several days and Manning was found not guilty. He returned to North Platte, financially and physically ruined and, after an illness, died in three years. Manning's bartender was then suspected. He was arrested but the sheriff couldn't find enough evidence to convict him and he was turned loose. The mob resurfaced, tied a rope around the bartender's neck and tried to induce him to make a confession. But even threatened with death, the bartender denied all knowledge of the crime and about Pete Manning's involvement. Whoever murdered Kate Manning got away with it. Her murder remains unsolved 133 years later.

On September 24th 1871 William (12) and Mary witnessed the marriage in North Platte of Benjamin F. Detrick and Jennie Lowe, presumably friends of theirs [Nebraska Ancestree: Vol. 6, No. 2, Page 72, Fall 1983].

An article referring to William (12) was published on March 28th 1872 in The North Platte Democrat [NEGenWeb: Nebraska State Newspaper Extraction Project]. It is not yet known what the article concerned. It may have related to a trip he made to Omaha in order to raise funds for the building in that year of the local Masonic Hall, he being at that time an "enthusiastic Mason" [op. cit. Adamson: Page 176]. His father-in-law Jonathan had also been a Mason.

Around August 1873 William (12) was appointed as Warden of the Nebraska State Penitentiary. On January 11th 1875 a rebellion was mounted by a small group of disaffected prisoners who effectively made William (12)'s wife Mary and their two children captive within the prison. The rebellion was ended through the mediation of Mary, who afterwards received much praise within her local community for the coolness and heroism she had displayed. Reports drawn up after the ensuing investigation variously concluded, however, that the prisoners had been treated inhumanely and that the Warden was chiefly to blame. He was removed from his post on March 24th. Under his successor, a second rebellion occurred on May 26th and resulted in the mortal shooting of a prisoner by one of the guards. Highly graphic accounts of these events, found on the RootsWeb website, can be read on this page.

The US 1880 Census has two records for William (12), one in Nebraska and the other in Iowa. The censuses for these two states were taken on June 12th and June 24th respectively, indicating that he moved from one to the other around mid-June of that year. The Nebraska record shows him with his family living at North Platte, aged '49' and occupied once again as a hotel proprietor (the hotel may have been the town's first one, named the Pawnee Hotel). It gives his parents' birthplaces correctly as England but his own as Connecticut - perhaps he remembered only having been in Connecticut in his early childhood. The Iowa record is somewhat less accurate and in some respects not consistent with the Nebraska one - the details may have been supplied by some other member of the household. Upon arrival in Pacific Junction in Mills County, Iowa he appears to have taken up work as a carpenter and builder. The two records indicate that Mary was born in Indiana but both appear to under-estimate her age by several years.

By 1882 William (12) and Mary had divorced. William (12) then remarried to Katherine Dorn in the township of Saint Louis in St. Louis County, Missouri on March 16th 1882 [IGI: Batch M515703]. The latter source - unlike later references to her - spells her forename as "Catherine".

On October 15th 1882 Mary - still using her Woodhurst surname - witnessed the marriage at Pacific Junction of John S. Anderson, a locomotive engineer aged 29 whose birthplace was given as Jefferson County, Tennessee [Clinton County, Iowa Marriages: Marriage Register 1, FHC Film 1491826, Item 5, Page 25]. It is not impossible that this was the same person recorded living with the Woodhursts in the 1880 Census for Pacific Junction under the name "John Henderson", described then as single and aged 27; however, the latter person was described in that census record as born in Kentucky and occupied at that time as a cook.

In 1884 William (12) witnessed the marriage at Pacific Junction of Helma M. Kroon, the Swedish daughter aged 21 of Samuel Kroon and Katrina (nee) Larson [Clinton County, Iowa Marriages: Marriage Register 1, FHC Film 1491826, Item 5, Page 40]. She may have been an associate of the Swedish servant Mary Peterson who had been living in his household at the time of the 1880 Census.

A census of Iowa held in 1885 finds Mary as a divorcee living with one of her sons. With them was an Irishman George E. Cole who had been with the family since their days in Nebraska. All three were now occupied as hotel proprietors - probably joint owners of one hotel. The location then of her other son is not known. This record, which also under-estimates Mary's age, gives the following information:

Pacific Junction, Mills County 1885 Census for Iowa: Dwelling 50 Page 358 
Mary A. Woodhurst : divorced : 42 : hotel proprietor : [born in] Indiana
William H.C. Woodhurst : single : 24 : hotel proprietor : Missouri
George E. Cole : single : 48 : hotel proprietor : Ireland, parents foreign-born
Theodore Sherwood : single : 25 : clerk : Connecticut
John L. Pugh : single : 34 : clerk : Ohio

This same census has an entry for a Dr. Andrew M. Crawford living very near to Mary. It seems likely that Mary subsequently married Andrew. The 1900 Census apparently finds them living together in Denver, Arapaho County in Colorado. This is consistent with the fact that William (12)'s biography [op. cit. Bare & McDonald] - which makes no mention of his having divorced Mary - says simply that "she died in Denver, Colorado". Moreover, the family of Mary's son Charles John was also living in Denver in 1900.

The US 1900 Census finds William (12) and Katherine living in 8th Street, North Platte. Their surname is misspelt as "Woodhust". He was occupied as a County Commissioner. The record describes him incorrectly as born in October 1831 in Connecticut, and describes Katherine as born in November 1853 in Ohio of parents who were born in Germany. They had been married for "16" [actually 18?] years and had produced no children. The record contains no details of his immigration or citizenship.

It is curious that in no census after that in 1850 did he cite his birthplace as England, even though he knew his parents were English. He would have been aged nearly 7 when he crossed the Atlantic and surely could not have forgotten that experience. Perhaps it suited him to present himself as American-born. However, if he had genuinely forgotten, that would suggest he had little or no contact as an adult with his siblings or parents, even though his father had remained alive until at least 1875. His biography [op. cit. Bare & McDonald] gives a more fanciful account, that he "was born on board ship in New York harbor while his parents were crossing the Atlantic en route to the United States from their native country" which, given the weight of historical evidence proving his origin in England, is clearly nonsense. The biography also notes that he was a staunch Republican, liberal in his views and an active member of the Unitarian Church.

He died aged "85" on July 10th 1916 and was buried in the North Platte Cemetery on July 12th. The cemetery records give his birthdate as October 7th 1830. His grave reference is Section AD, Lot 907, Space 1. The following year his son Charles John was buried next to him.

His death was reported in the July 13th 1916 issue of The North Platte Telegraph in which he was named "Major William Woodhurst" [NEGenWeb: Nebraska State Newspaper Extraction Project].

Katherine died aged "70" on June 22nd 1924 and was buried the same day next to William (12) in Section AD, Lot 907, Space 2. The cemetery records give her birthdate as June 13th 1854, in some disagreement with her 1900 Census entry.

His children by Mary Adaline Rogers

  1. William Henry Clay Woodhurst
  2. Charles John Woodhurst

His children by Katherine Dorn

  1. presumed none