This is the first in a series of stories about life in early Clear Lake, as part of the celebration of Woodford Lumber and Home’s 150 years in Clear Lake.
Their story is one shared by many of the pioneers who settled in the West after the Civil War. They were eager for new adventures and opportunity, but anguished about leaving loved ones. They knew there would be some they would never see again.
Olive Woodford’s book, “Leaves of Affection” provides a window into those mixed emotions. The book is filled with heartfelt and beautifully scripted handwritten notes from friends and family who wrote their sentiments in 1879 as the Woodford family readied to leave upstate New York and start a new life chapter “out West.”
Longtime friend Kathrine and Dick Rogers discovered this treasure recently when they were sorting through family memorabilia at the Clear Lake home. The Rogers’ ancestors and the Woodfords were close friends in the late 1800s and into the next century. Thank you so much to the Rogers for rediscovering this!
Hundreds of thousands of settlers from east coast states like New York had been pouring across the new territory west of the Mississippi from the 1840s through the 1860s in search of new opportunity. Settlements like Clear Lake were sprouting rapidly. George Woodford grew up in Candor, New York on their family farm. As an adult, George went into the livestock and also the lumber business there. He married Olive Wright, who lived in a neighboring county and they had two children.
But he was one of the many young men who heard about the “excellent opportunity presented by the states farther west,” and so he traveled to Iowa in July 1879 to see for himself. His uncle, who lived in Milwaukee, had started a lumberyard in 1869 in the growing community of Clear Lake, Iowa but it needed a full-time manager. George decided his family should plant their roots in Clear Lake and his family joined him in October.
Olive Woodford’s Inscription in her book:
Candor Sept. 12th 1879
Hoping my friends will all leave upon the pages of this Book a few words right from the heart, that I shall love to look upon in coming days (word not legible) adrift only saying that - it is not to be opined by myself until we reach our Western home when I shall see your face mirrored in the lines and they will be very precious and dear to us all.
Lovingly – Mrs. G.G. Woodford
Some of the Beautifully Handwritten Notes:
From Her Mother
My Dear Child
In attempting to write you a few lines, my thoughts very naturally go back to the past. It seems such a little while, since we, with all our little ones, were an unbroken family around our own fireside. But now how changed - changed forever. “Never again” shall we, as a family meet on earth. The crown & strength of the household is gone, & our family is scattered many miles apart. It is true we have had many pleasant family gatherings. We have had our joys as well as sorrows, & if we never meet again this side the “River”, may we all meet “Over there” is the sincere prayer of your Mother.
West Candor Oct. 12/79
Some cited poetry, authors or Scripture. After their arrival in Clear Lake, Mrs. Woodford had penciled in “Passed Beyond the Gates”, “Gone” or “another friend gone…“ over handwritten notes from loved ones who had passed away since they left:
Hearts are as warm in the far West as in the cultural East
And wheresoever men toil and rest
If kindly thoughts pervade each breast;
And grasping hands be warmly pressed
Their waiting souls are truly blessed
With Love’s terrestrial feast
(Name) Candor, N.Y. Sept. 15/79
I would ‘ford me much pleasure
To know, ere we part,
That of me a remembrance
Would rest in your heart:
Oh, live, George – Oh live, Olive
Your future to bless;
And I pray that your shadows
May never grow less.
“Dear Mrs. Woodford,
When in your western home
Think of one who dearly loves you
And hopes you may love her too.
They say I am too small to write
And little folks must keep out of sight
But I will write if only to bring to mind
Fannie, the little girl you left behind.”
“a friend loveth at all times.”
“Dear George & Olive”,
“with the number of Nephews & Nieces I have your society I have enjoyed the best. Now so far away not oft shall we meet for my age is sixty three and but a few years more are left for me but should we again on earth meet I know with you it will be a welcome greet.”