The Woodforde Family

A History of the Woodforde Family from 1300


Grace Woodford Snyder 
with grateful thanks to Noah Porter

 My earliest memories of the house include my grandfather Samuel on his knees cutting dandelions out of a perfectly-kept lawn, and I was scolded by my mother for running and jumping onto his back. 

I was only a little child, but he was old and frail and had had several health problems when our parents moved into the house after their marriage in 1898. So they also took care of him, in exchange for rent, I assume, the rest of his life of which I remember only his funeral when I was eleven.  But I also remember the secretary desk in his room, packed with books and he in a rocking chair smoking a Turkish water pipe for weak lungs. The lower half of that desk, I believe, Arlo said she gave to David. The upper half, shelves, is behind the kitchen door at 400 Orchard Street used for storage of dishes. But there is a long history of Samuel's life behind all this which I will go into later.

There were also on the property three other buildings, an outhouse (such as all places had before the possibility of indoor toilets) and two “hen houses;” one now called the tool house still stands and a smaller one which my mother fixed up as a play house for me long after the last chicken had departed the scene. Besides fumigating it and cleaning out hen droppings, she papered it inside, put down old rugs, and had all my dolls and other treasures in it. 

I doubt that Arlo ever saw it, as either she hadn't yet been born or was only a baby when it was ruined by a portable kerosene heater turned up too high on a chilly day and had to be torn down. I also remember that there were several fruit trees on the property: one of yellow prunes, one of purple prunes, one of cherries, and on the corner by the back driveway was an old apple tree which was cut down after I came in one day covered with caterpillars which had dropped down on me and were infesting the lawn. I think there was a pear tree, also.

My mother had been working on plans for several years after grandpa's death and my father had bought out his nephew's (Robert Woodford Gardner, only son of his only sister, Harriet) share of the place. I think no one knew anything about architects in those days, but she had drawn her own plans (which I still have) well enough so that a carpenter could build from them a two-story house from the cottage it had been. 

I was at home for the summer after my junior year at college and though I don't remember the carpenter's name, I remember that he taught me how to nail lath that was the support of the plastered walls and I worked with him on that for part of the summer. A bathroom was not included, so a bathroom was put in after I began teaching and provided the money for one. But there was a big screened-in sleeping porch opening out of what had been grandpa Woodford's room, to the Stickley Furniture Company side; there were two beds on it and for several winters I remember our dad and mother occupying one and Arlo and I the other, often waking up with light snow on top of us. This was at the height of the “fresh-air craze” when tuberculosis victims at Saranac Lake, New York, were supposedly cured by such outdoor sleeping arrangements.

The house remained like that until Red and Arlo were married and our dad took out a mortgage on the house to remodel our big dining room and the sleeping porch into an apartment for them, closing off doors into the kitchen and from the living room out to the sleeping porch and tearing out an old stairway that had led from the apartment side up to the central attic.

In all this remodelling, many things were lost that I wish hadn't been, such as our dad's banjo on which he could occupy himself for hours singing old-time ditties. I wish I'd had the sense to take them down as they'd be real classics now for country music fans. And there was a collection somewhere of 19th century dresses, paisleys and such, that had been our great-grandmothers. I presume Arlo and Red disposed of them to the Good Will; they probably should have gone to some museum.

The small cottage which became a “mansion” by comparison, was the culmination of a life history of Woodfords in this country. I wish I had had the sense to carry my investigations further in England when I was there many years later, as England is full of Woodfords, in the London phonebook, in a Woodford county, and many other indications that the Woodford family came from there. 

My knowledge goes back only to the first name in our family Bible and the first name on a stone in the family cemetery plot, Lucien Bonaparte Woodford

At about the time of his birth (1810) one of Napoleon's brothers, I think it was Joseph, had been sent to America to investigate possible colonization by the French, and probably some romantic mother thought it would be a good name for her son. Or possibly it was Lucien and she started the whole Lucien tradition, Tom's (Snyder) middle name is Lucien. I quote from a biography I have of Lydia Burhans Woodford, our great-grandmother as written by her son George Whitten when he was 86 years old:

“Grandmother was born somewhere in the central part of NewYork State (I thinkTruxton) July 14, 1809, the seventh child of Lydia Churchill and Henry Burhans. The family consisted of ten children; some of them at least were “bound out” to other families in their childhood. As I remember hearing it, it was through drink that grandmother's father lost his house and the children were scattered. Grandmother was taken into the home of Deacon Calvin Coe, who lived on a farm northeast of Sherburne, New York. She never talked about her early life. From Deacon Coe's home she married at the age of 24, Lucien Bonaparte Woodford, who was a carpenter and contractor. She had two children, Almira Mayer, born June 1834, and Samuel Forewell, born October 7, 1831. They lived for a time in Orville, New York. Grandfather got a contract to help build Croton Aqueduct which now helps supply water to New York City, and the family moved there.

One day while the help were eating dinner, Grandfather went out to shoot off a blast of dynamite. Something went wrong and he was killed January 17, 1838. His accounts and money were destroyed at the same time and grandmother with her children was left destitute.  He was buried there, but many years later his son, Samuel, had his remains removed to the family plot in Fayetteville , New York. Grandmother, a widow at the age of 29 with two children to support, went back to Orville on a canal boat. Later she went to Deacon Coe's in Sherburne and Uncle Samuel went to school there. My mother Almira had scarlet fever when she was about three years old and it left her deaf and dumb. Grandmother's health was poor during this time.  I remember scars on the back of her neck from leeches used in “blood-letting” treatments.


Manlius Academy New York

Manlius Academy NY

When uncle (Samuel) grew up he worked at Blanchard's sash factory in Sherburne and from there went to Fayetteville to his uncle Daniel Burhans' sash factory.

He established a home and grandmother ( Lydia ) went to Fayetteville to keep house for him. They lived in various rented places, but when my mother (Almira) died of quick consumption, when I was three (1863), I have recollections of the funeral held at Uncle Samuel's house at 400 Orchard Street in Fayetteville, where my grandmother was keeping house for him. 


Fayetteville from an old postcard

Fayetteville from an old postcard


We continued to live there until I was eight. During this time, Uncle Samuel went to Chicago to work. He came back with the “fever and ague.” The doctor advised him to get out of the shops and get a job where he could be out-of-doors. He bought 30 acres of rough, stony land on “the Rocks.” On two sides were stone quarries which were being marked for water lime. The house and barn were not on the land, but were in a group of four or five houses on the main road 2 1/2 miles from Fayetteville toward Pompey Hill. We moved in the spring and it was a great event for me. Uncle Samuel bought three cows for $80 a piece. It was right after the Civil War when everything was high and cows went down soon to $40. 

He bought an old mare named Frank for $90 and a new plough which never would scour. It was my job to ride the horse while uncle tried to hold the plough in the rough, stony land. When I was ten, Uncle Samuel married Mary Ellen Miller from Dryden. By this time, he had gone back to work in Burnchans and Blanchard's Door Factory. He rode the 2 1/2 miles each day on horseback and thought that this was beneficial to his health.

Grandmother was glad to go when Deacon Coe wrote asking her to come care for him in his old age. His wife had died. This would relieve some of the burden from Uncle Samuel's shoulders of supporting two families. Grandmother lived there until she died. I stayed with Uncle Samuel and Aunt Mary for two or three years, living on .the Rocks. But when I was 13, Deacon Coe died and left his house to grandmother. 

She thought it best I come to Sherburne to be with her. On April 28, 1882, while I was living at home, grandmother had a “poor spell.” A neighbour sent me uptown to get something. When I got back, grandmother (Lydia Burhans Woodford) was dead. She was 73 years old. Uncle Samuel came and the funeral was held from the home. She was buried on Uncle Samuel's lot in the Fayetteville cemetery. She was a remarkable woman, strong and dignified. She had nothing but hard work, poverty, and tragedy all her life. Her will left half of the property, house and furnishings to Uncle Samuel, the rest to me.”

From here on I have only memory to rely on, so I don't know just when our grandfather moved off “the Rocks” to Orchard Street, bought the cottage where Arlo and I were both born, and went to work for the then new Stickley Brothers Furniture factory, one of their first employees. I have an old photo of the workforce, including him, which showed 10 workmen in all.  Nor do I know when he “retired”, when I was a little girl my dad was the breadwinner, working at Precision Casting Company across the dyke from the house, then called Cheney's.

As a younger man, he had worked in a foundry in Manlius and had all his life webbed feet from an accident there. A tub of molten metal emptied onto his feet and employees dumped him into a tank of water to relieve his pain, which immediately hardened the metal into a cast on his feet. Nowadays he could have sued and been wealthy the rest of his life!

As a teenager, I used to cross an old suspension bridge over a gorge near the Paper Mill, where Limestone Creek flows nearby, and hike up to “the Rocks” to explore them and try to find the farm our grandfather had tried to work. I remember the huge boulders with deep fissures between them where I could have fallen and broken a leg or a hip, or even been never found, as it was quite deserted up there and no one ever questioned my exploring. 

Sometimes I took a book along to read and sat on a boulder overlooking what is now Solvay Process Company land, overlooking a mile or so distant the highway between Manlius and Jamesville. My mother must have been a remarkable woman to let me wander so far a field in such potentially dangerous wilderness, without worrying, but I'm sure she did.

I remember being told that Grandpa Woodford (Samuel) lost his mother and his wife in one two-month span, both of what was then called quick consumption so Mary Ellen Miller must have died also in 1882. Our Dad used to say that he was “kicked up” by a succession of Irish hired girls so that after he became an adult, family always meant a great deal to him, having lost his mother at so early an age, only five. He met our mother, one of a family of six Goodfellows who lived on the Flats (lower Fayetteville ) because of one of the floods that were then an annual event.

I am sure he'd met her in school previously, but this time he “rescued” the family in a rowboat and thereafter their courtship proceeded on bicycles, even a double (two-seater) which were probably the 19th century equivalent of motor cycles. They were married in 1898, I was born in 1906. and Arlo in 1912, and in the house at 400 Orchard Street, I was married in 1935 and Arlo in 1936, both weddings at the foot of the living room staircase, where the TV now stands. I was six months pregnant with Henry when Arlo was married so I was able to wear quite “fittingly” as matron of honour the yellow dress she had worn the previous year as bridesmaid for me. 

In 1945, our parents had a 50 year anniversary party for all of us in a house on Main Street which did catering. I have always been sorry that Arlo and I bad not been able to put it on for them, but we were both poor as church mice then, raising children and never could have done it as well as our always good-planner mother. They went on a Greyhound trip to Washington, D.C., for their anniversary celebration. Then our mother died in 1951 very suddenly from a cerebral haemorrhage, and Dad died 8 years later in 1959 in his sleep. 

They had planned Greyhound trips to the West, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon , etc. for the summer after the June she died, for the first time in a long marriage of penny pinching and raising two daughters they were out of debt and had some savings. Our dad later took some of the trips they'd planned, alone and on a couple he took Wayne. But like his father before him, 82 seemed to be his allotted life span.

And the above is all that is left of the Woodford history except for me, now approaching that fateful age.  I have tried to keep a faithful record of as much as I can remember, but I wish I knew more.




Comments and contributions to this site are welcome.
Please email us

© Noah Porter 2006 and Stephen Butt 2004-2005   Rev 15/05/06

Site Map              Home Page