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WILLIAM THOMAS WOODLAND
William Thomas Woodland was born Oct. 15, 1883 in Richmond, Utah. His father was Alfred Woodland, an English convert to the Mormon church who came to Utah in 1872. Three years later he met and married Nielsine (Sena) Dorthea Thompson, a Danish convert who had traveled to Richmond from Denmark with her family and young son in 1875. Bill was the fifth of eleven brothers and sisters, which included the ten children born to Alfred and Sena, and his older half-brother, Peter.
Most people called him Bill, but his mother always called him Willie. He attended school at Richmond District School and helped his father on the family farm. The Woodland home/farm stood in the center of town, surrounded by stores, bank, blacksmith shop, church school, opera house, and saloon. Bill was a good natured and dependable son who always tried to do a little more than his share of the work.
Baseball was the great game in Cache Valley at that time. Bill was a strong athlete as were most of the Woodland brothers. He was pitcher on the town team. After too many double headers left him with a sore arm, he played first base. There was many a time when Bill could be seen on first base digging the balls out of the dirt and out of the air as they were thrown to him. Later, an accident ended his baseball career as a player so he turned to umpiring. Eventually he taught his love of sports to his children. His sons, Phil and Jean, developed skills in boxing, wrestling, baseball, and football, and his daughter Shelah majored in Physical Education in college.
Bill was only seventeen when his father passed away of pneumonia in 1901. The young family rallied round their mother and helped support one another. While they had little money, they still had the farm. The principle crop was (and continued to be) sugar beets. They had a couple of cows, a few chickens, and sometimes a pig. Bill’s elder brother Alfred had been called by the church to serve as a missionary in the Southwestern Mission, (Texas) so Bill proceeded to fill in for his father whenever he could--always seeing to his family’s comfort before he thought of himself. He had left school at an early age to help with the farm, and eventually apprenticed as a carpenter.
Even with the extra money Bill earned the farm was becoming more run down each year. It was too much for him and the younger Woodland boys to handle, so four years later, they rented it to a neighbor, William Smith.
Bill became acquainted with the Adamsons, a family who had come to Utah from Sweden. His sisters were friends with the Adamson girls, including Lydia who had been working in the telephone office a few doors north of his home. Bill and Lydia became friends, then fell in love and married on November 21, 1906 in the Logan Temple. Their first home was in one of Bill's mother's front rooms. They were there until after their first child, Philip, was born in 1907. A year later they bought a home on First East on the lot connected to Grandma's pasture where Jean William was born in 1911 and Shelah Margaret in 1912.
By this time Bill had learned to be a carpenter, which meant that he worked on a building from the start of the foundation through to the finishing touches. During those early years, he helped build churches, stores, and barns in Richmond, Cove, Smithfield, Lewiston, Franklin and towns in southern Idaho. Phil used to tell about going with His dad during the summers in while he worked on projects outside of Richmond.
In 1912 Bill was hurt while working on a dam in Willard, Utah. Philip was only four years old. Then, while working in Franklin he fell off a scaffold. His backbone was bent and ribs injured. Doctor Budge came from Logan and said nothing could be done to help. Bill was in bed for most of the next year. In those days there was no accident or Workman’s Compensation, hospital or doctor insurance to help when such accidents happened. The strain on the family was tremendous. Bill’s accident left him in pain the rest of his life and eventually contributed to his death.
The family had three cows, a pig and some chickens and a large vegetable garden that supplied most of the food. Milk from the cows brought in a little money when it was sold to the local Sego Milk factory to be made into canned milk. The eggs were also sold for extra cash. With the help of Bill's brothers Ephraim and Milton, who still lived at home with their mother, the young family made it through the tough times. Every day they came by to help with the chores that the children weren’t old enough to do themselves. Once a cow got bloated from eating too much new hay. The veterinarian was away, so Milton came and saved the cow’s life.
The Richmond LDS Ward was the center of most activities in Richmond. Bill sang in the church choir. The organ was powered by hand—one of the choir members turned a pump handle. Lydia was often a teacher or a member of one of the Stake Boards that oversaw church auxiliaries. Stake board members visiting wards in Trenton, Newton and Clarkston traveled by horse and buggy.
The town Opera House was next door to Sena Woodland’s home. The Opera House was used for movies (one or two times a week) public dances, school and church dances, and political rallies. Local groups put on plays, (Lydia was a member of the local actor group) and professional groups came from Salt Lake City. The neighborhood boys passed bills and helped borrow props. They were rewarded with free tickets. The building was also used for boxing and wrestling matches and traveling animal shows. Helen Keller lectured there and band concerts were a regular part of the schedule. In fact, there was no end to the events that took place in that historic building.
During WWI, Bill and Lydia bought bonds. When the bonds matured they had enough money to buy their first piano—a player piano. Bill spent many happy hours during his life peddling out piano tunes and singing the verses that accompanied them. The kids all took lessons from their cousin Marteal in Richmond. Music was an important factor to both the Woodland and Adamson clan.
The Woodland children had their share of broken legs, arms and bruises caused by falls in barns, off of horses, trees, haystacks and fences. Sleighing accidents in the winter were common. Black eyes were a dime a dozen, and arguments among the boys were settled by fistfights. During the winter months, Bill flooded the pasture in the winters so the children could skate and play hockey where the cow grazed during the summer.
During the winter of 1922-23, Bill borrowed money to build a new home on the south lot of his mother's land. The family dreamed of moving into this new home with a bathroom and all, but this was not to be their good fortune. In April 1923 they moved to Salt Lake to find "year round" employment. Bill's brother, Ephraim and his wife Bertha, bought the newly built home.
Bill had rented a house in Salt Lake City. Lydia's reaction when she saw it was, “How can we live in this dirty place?” After a thorough cleaning they did live there for the summer but before school began in the fall they moved to 251 Vine Street that was only two blocks north of Temple Square. Later Bill bought a house just through the block at 252 Almond Street. It was within walking distance of the 17th Ward and became their home for many years.
During the depression years Bill provided for his family with help from Lydia, who worked as a seamstress in an overall factory and in the kitchen at the Hotel Utah while Philip, Jean, and Shelah were in school. For the first time in their married life they were finally out of debt. The home they built in Richmond had cost about $4,000. During the depression they had sold it for $1500 but had owed the Western Building and Loan Company for the cost of the house. It had taken them some time to manage to pay everything off.
In the summer of 1934, Bill had a prostate operation. Complications, infection and pneumonia kept him in the hospital for sixty days. His doctor, Earl Skidmore, a lifelong friend also from Richmond, told Bill he would not be able to work for a year, yet in just a few weeks he was back at Covey Investment Company remodeling apartments. Bill had developed such a reputation as an honest hard worker that the company had continued to pay him during his illness. It was an act of generosity that was unheard of for the times.
In September 1936 Bill and Lydia bought the home they would consider their “family” home at 210 N State St for $3000. This would be the fourth home they had owned during their marriage and the home Bill would stay in for the remainder of his life. They paid $800 in cash and $25 a month. After moving to State Street, they kept the place on Almond Street and rented it out for a time. The going rent was $20 a month. There was a small apartment attached to the south side of their new home that Bill and Lydia also rented.
The Utah Heritage Foundation has since listed the home at 210 N State St as a Historic Building on Capital Hill. Dr George Ellerbeck built the house in 1890. When Bill and Lydia bought the home, it needed repairs, so Bill remodeled it. He added the second story features to make additional rooms for the family. The historic register reads: “It is a large, one and a half story structure in Victorian Eclectic style and has a paladin window arrangement in the main gable. The gable is clipped at the corners with brackets under the eaves. An arched bay window, gabled dormers and an oval porch emphasize the asymmetrical plan."
Bill continued to work at Covey’s until 1941 when he went to Brigham, UT to work on the new army hospital. He would work in Brigham for over a year. When he returned, he contracted to work small jobs for Covey and other “defense jobs” at Hill Field that often took him away from his home and family for short stretches of time. During 1944, he worked shift work in a box factory–something he had done years earlier at Lietzes Mill. In 1948, his old back injury made work unbearable. In his work, he always tried to do just a little more than his share, pitching hay, building as he was accustomed to in his carpentry work.
Even though the family was in Salt Lake, Bill never left his “farm roots” behind. He would go to pick peaches, apples, potatoes, and other fresh vegetables and fruits each season. It helped the family control grocery expenses and gave him back some of the pleasures he had experienced in Richmond. He liked to get up early, usually around 5 am. He often walked down State Street, either to his job or to town to take a stroll. He would come home on the bus. Folks said you never had to fear when you met him on the street that you would have a different meeting than the one you had on a previous meeting. It was always the same. He was always glad to see you, quietly and graciously greeting you.
Both Bill and Lydia were devoted to their children. Although Phil and Jean did not specifically follow in their father’s vocation, they both became handy with carpenter’s tools. When Phil and Dorothy bought the home on 11th East and 18th South, Bill helped them remodel it. There were major renovations to be done and Dorothy remembered always having Bill there to get things done just right.
Bill and Lydia supported the war effort during WWII by buying bonds as regularly as they had during WWI. While Jean was away serving his country, they made sure he had his Esquire magazine, the Salt Lake Tribune, and regular letters from home filled with both family and local news. Bill did not think of himself as learned or educated. He was quite self-conscious about his writing and general communication skills.
Bill was a devoted Grandfather. It was a role that suited him. He liked having the attention of Phil’s daughters and remarked often how he liked having them meet him at the door when he came to visit. They in turn liked to sit on the bench of the player piano with him while he pumped the pedals that their legs couldn’t reach to play his favorite hymn, “Oh My Father.” When Jean returned after serving in WWII, he and LaNore had their first daughter, Adrienne. Shortly after her birth, Jean moved his family into the apartment Bill and Lydia had formerly rented to others next to their own residence. Bill was obviously delighted with his new granddaughter. He could be seen on many occasions riding the bus with her on his knee.
Bill was always an active member of the Mormon Church. He was ordained a Seventy by Charles H. Hart on Sept. 19, 1909. His children remembered their father as a quiet man. He lived a good wholesome life. He was a builder - a builder in a material way and a builder of character. He was a kind and retiring man, always willing to help others in any way he could.
He contracted small jobs until 1948, when his old back injury made work unbearable. During the final several months of his life he was paralyzed from the waist down. He died April 13, I950 in the L. D. S. hospital. On his death, Phil paid him a fine tribute. He said, “My father was never cross. When we needed correcting, he corrected us in love – in his usual quiet way.” Bill was always in the service of others. He lived his life quietly and graciously; being as little observed as he could; seeking his happiness that way. There was nothing dramatic or showy about him. His life was gentle and the elements so mixed in him that nature could stand up to the entire world and say ‘HE WAS A MAN.’”
Adapted by Susan Woodland Howard from “William Thomas Woodland” by Shelah W. Wilford and Philip Woodland, children of William Thomas Woodland, The Alfred Woodland Family, J. Grant Stevenson, Provo, UT, 1978, also personal notes of Philip A. Woodland.
Nielsine Dorthea Thompson's parents: Niels Thomsen and Dorthe Pedersen. Both from Denmark.: Listed in 1880 Census as Nielsena D. Woodland Birth Year: 1852, Birthplace: Denmark, Age 28
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