Woodford-Wheeler Lumber Company was founded in the period following the Civil War. It opened its doors for business in 1869, in Clear Lake, eighteen years after the founding of the town and a year before the railroad came to this part of northern Iowa.
The business name has changed over the years from Woodford, Wilson and Johnson, then Woodford and Johnston, then Woodford and Wheeler, next Woodford-Wheeler and Tompkins.
From 1905 to 2002, Woodford-Wheeler Lumber Company was its title. In 2003 the name changed to Woodford Lumber and Home Company.
In the first few months of business, the lumber and building supplies were hauled in by wagon and team from Cedar Falls. There was a local lumber mill, however, and a shingle factory.
The coming of the railroad and the beginning of the camp meetings started the growth and prosperity of Clear Lake and laid the foundation for its career as a summer resort.
There have been five generations of the Woodford, Ashland, Connell, Lovell family involved in ownership and management of the business:
Truman Woodford, a brother of the great-great-grandfather of the present owners, founded and started the business in 1869. A large and genial man, he was well known around Cerro Gordo, Hancock and Winnebago Counties, lived in Milwaukee, where he did most of the buying but made frequent trips here to look after this lumber yard and the one which he started a year later in Garner, Iowa.
George G. Woodford, brother of Truman and great-great-grandfather of the present owners, in 1879, purchased an interest in the business, and came from New York with his wife and 18 year old son, Charles R. Woodford, grandfather of the present owner to live here. Both George G. and Charles R. Woodford began at once to work at the yard and each continued to do so until the end of his life.
Charles R. Woodford, great-grandfather of the present owners managed the business from 1890 until his death in 1937. From time to time other lumber yards were acquired. At one time the Woodford-Wheeler chain involved some 12 lumber yards in North Central Iowa. Clear Lake, Ventura, Garner, Britt, Chapin, Goodell, Charles City, Pomeroy, Thornton, Meservey, and Fonda were some of the communities involved.
Esther Woodford Ashland and her husband, L. Earl Ashland, grandmother and grandfather of the present owners, took over the ownership and direction of the business in 1937, continuing until her death 47 years later in 1984.
James F. Connell, husband Marcia Ashland Connell and father of the current owners, came to Clear Lake from Iowa City in 1950 to assume management of the business. He served as General Manager of the business for 50 years until 2000 and passed away in 2002. There were 9 lumber yards in the Woodford-Wheeler chain at one point in his tenure.
Marcia Ashland Connell, mother of the current owners, also assumed an active management role during this time. She became owner after her mothers death in 1984. Marcia passed away in 2008.
In 1989 the company was merged into the Clear Lake Independent Telephone Company as a separate operating division and operates today as a separate operating division still known as Woodford Lumber & Home Company. Clear Lake Independent Telephone Company, yet another Iowa Century Business previously owned by the Woodford and Ashland families, is now owned by Marcia Ashland Connell's daughters Janet Connell Lovell, Susan Connell-Magee and Sarah Connell Ohlrogge. Susan Connell-Magee passed away in 2003.
General day to day management responsibilities of both the Clear Lake Independent Telephone Company and Woodford Lumber & Home are now being carried out by Janet Connell Lovell and her husband Thomas A. Lovell.
The Woodford, Ashland, Connell and Lovell families, the owners, have taken a leadership role in the Clear Lake community through the years. Some of those contributions include: helping bring telephones to Clear Lake in 1876 just two years after Alexander Graham Bell patented the phone; donating Woodford Island, Clear lake's only island, to the state of Iowa; protecting over a mile of undeveloped shoreline and allowing public use of the Woodford Ashland Lone Tree Point Nature Area; restoring almost 200 acres of prairie and allowing a public bike trail through it and co-chairing the Clear Lake Public Library capital campaign for the facility addition and renovation.