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Adapted by Susan Woodland Howard
Being born on Christmas day is unique in itself, but Alfred Woodland began a life of spiritual destiny and decision on December 25, 1835. He gave his descendants a warm sense of pride and gratitude to claim heritage from this noble man. His parents were George Woodland, born 4 Nov 1810 at Puckington, England, and Anna Prince, born 2 Jan 1811 at Donyatt, Somerset, England. Alfred was christened in the parish church on 18 Jan 1836.
There is no written record of his boyhood, but we are led to believe that he recited the lessons, did the chores, prayed the prayers, shivered the winters, played the games, and absorbed the green beauty of the English countryside. His father, George Woodland, was an agricultural laborer.
Sometime before the age of twenty-five Alfred had crossed the Bristol Channel into Monmouthshire, likely for work there. He was working as a drainer. One day he was working in a drain trench, which he had dug out by his own labor. As he stood in the trench, the top of which was higher than his head, some men passed by above him. He heard these strange words: “In the name of Israel’s God ‘tis true!’ Bewildered, but curious, he investigated and learned that one man was his neighbor and the other two were Mormon Elders from Utah. Interested, he attended their meetings and in due time was converted to the new Mormon faith. Thomas Curtis in the Llandyfod, Herefordshire Conference, baptized him 2 June 1860.
Caerwent, Monmouthshire, was the site of a Roman market town built around 75 A.D. Some of the ancient walls are still standing. “Caerwent” translated into English means Winchester. It has been suggested that it was the location of King Arthur’s court, in other words, Camelot.
In Caerwent Alfred met Elizabeth Ridgeway, a spinster who was thirty-eight years old at the time of their marriage. She had been born in Caerwent in 1822, the daughter of Thomas Ridgeway and Mary Jones. Alfred was twenty-five when the couple wed on the 11th of November 1860. They had three children: Thomas George born 5 Aug 1861, Annie born 3 Feb 1866, and Charlotte born 29 April 1868. Elizabeth ran a bakery: he did day work whenever he could. (The 1871 Wales Census lists his occupation as Agricultural Laborer.)
The Mormon Elders spoke of Zion (Utah) and encouraged the new members of the Latter-day Saint church to gather in America. Alfred was eager to join them, but Elizabeth said a firm “No!” His wife did not share his views about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So many people were prejudiced against the Mormons and Alfred being one of them was hurting her business.
Alfred decided to go to Utah alone, hoping secretly his family would come later. In New York City he was so depressed at leaving his family that he worked and saved money and returned to England for them. His restless discontent was soon evident and Elizabeth suggested he go all the way to Utah and see what the Mormons were really like. She thought he would soon see them as she did. He returned to America, arriving 5 Sept 1872 after having sailed from Bristol on the ship S.S. Arragon.
In Richmond, Utah he found work on the construction of the Oregon Shortline Railroad. He saved his money for his family’s migration. But Elizabeth’s mind was firm and unalterable. She refused to come to Utah. What deep mixed emotions must have torn this devoted man as he made his decision to stay in the United States. It is hard to imagine Elizabeth’s emotions at this time. She had three young children, ages eleven, six and four, to raise alone. Perhaps she was used to being independent and working to support herself. She remained in Caerwent the rest of her life. Elizabeth is listed in the Caerwent 1891 Census, as “Wife,” and still employed as a baker at age 66, with two of her children. Family records give her death as about 1892.
On the railroad was a fellow worker, Niels Thompson, who had left his daughter, Nielsine Dorthea Thompson and her small son Peter in Denmark. She wished to come here but the father was not able to pay her passage over. Alfred loaned Niels the money and in due time she came.
The couldn’t understand each other’s native language, but she pointed him out as the man she wished to marry. They were married and had ten children together and with her son, it made eleven. The marriage was solemnized in the Logan Temple 10 July 1884.
Alfred worked on the railroad many years and became section Foreman, this way paying for a sixty-acre farm south of Richmond. He also sent money to his family in England.
Alfred did the buying for the family, having his own devices for size and fit. When shoes were needed he cut a stick from a tree, measured the foot and carried the stick to the store. He was a faithful church member all of his life. He taught his children to be faithful to the church and loyal to his adopted country. He became an American citizen in 1878.
The principal crop the family raised was sugar beets. The children had to help in the hot hard work of thinning and topping the beets. Two of the girls, Zina and Sarah, would lie down flat in the wagon as it passed through the town so no one would see them going to work on the farm.
Son Noah (Noah Lorenzo Woodland) remembers his father being strict with the children, his mother rather lenient and tolerant. Their house was a plain frame house—five rooms and a cellar. The house was cold in the winter, there was only one stove and it was in the kitchen. The floors were bare except one room, which had a homemade carpet with straw underneath it. There were millions of flies in the summer. Saturday night--bath night--the kids had to be coaxed into the tub. On cold nights the parents hung a quilt near the stove near the tub.
Noah says” I played with the kids all over town. We explored the whole area--hills, creeks, abandoned mills and got as close to haunted houses as we dared. Celebrations were great in those days. The town went all out for a 4th of July parade and big day of sports. But there never seemed to be any money at our house. I remember getting a nickel to spend on the 4th until I was old enough to earn some for myself. There were saloons across the street from our house and I watched the drunks go by. You could smell the whisky when you walked by and could hear the noise inside.
“The school house was just through the block and the square where we played ball just a block down. I spent a lot of time there. A traveling show came to town once in a while and we stared at the strange people when they came to town. At teenage there wasn’t anything to do a evening—we spent the time strolling about town.
“My father died when I was ten. There were three boys younger than I. This was my most difficult time. The older boys were already away from home most of the time working to make a little money for themselves. . . We were too small to run the farm. The farm was getting more run down every year so it was rented to William Smith.
“Before I was fourteen there was no water system in Richmond, --no electric lights, no telephone, no moving picture (I saw the first moving picture called the Train Robbery—and a thriller it was) no automobile, no airplanes and of course no radio or television. And so how did we get along? Horses did all the work. All of these things except the radio and the television came about the same time. At first here was only one telephone and that at one of the stores.
“I started to school at six in an old rock school house. I remember it best—playing at the long sand table making mountains and hunting for coal mines. . . . Next year I went to the new brick school. I went through all the grades and was graduated from the eighth grade. I don’t remember much about my teachers, They had as many as forty in a room and they were kept in the same room all day. There was no planned recreation and discipline was sometimes bad. I think we wasted most of our time. I went to the ninth grade—learned nothing there. Then I went tot Utah State University four years. I did not graduate. I couldn’t make enough money.”
Despite not having a degree, Noah applied for a teaching job, and surprisingly he was hired. He taught two years from fifth to eighth grades. After school he and some of the boys went hunting, fishing or skating together.
Alfred Woodland died of pneumonia on 5 Nov 1901 at age 65. He was buried in the Richmond Cemetery. Sadly, most of his grandchildren were born after his death
(Adapted by Susan Woodland Howard from The Alfred Woodland Family, Woodland Family Organization, J. Grant Stevenson, Publisher, 1978, pp 1-4, 165-9.
As noted above, additional information comes from UK census records.) July, 2006
 1861 Wales Census, Monmouthshire, Caerwent, District 6 gives occupation for Alfred Woodland as “Drainer,” and Elizabeth as “Baker.”
 1871 Wales Census, Monmouthshire, Caerwent, District 6.
 South Wales: Monmouthshire: Caerwent: 1891 Census. Son Henry Woodland, age 29 employed as a gardener, and daughter Charlotte, age 29, assistant housekeeper, are listed with her. Henry must be Thomas George, who would have been age 29 in 1891.
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