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ECP Missionary Letters
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Lydia Adamson
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Alfred Woodland
William Thomas Woodland



Lydia Anna Adamson

“The Ship was like Cow Stalls”

In 1884 a little five-year-old Swedish girl boarded a small boat in a canal near her home in Sweden.  She and her parents, three sisters and a brother were bound for a far away place that even the grown-ups knew little about.  Friends and relatives stood on the bank of the canal, scoffing at the family of Anders and Margaret Adamson.  They had joined the Mormon Church, and now, carrying just a few possessions with them, they were about to emigrate to Utah to live with others who believed as they did.   They faced a cold, stormy voyage across the ocean in uncomfortable accommodations.  Some of the children would become sick.  Lydia, the five-year old girl, might never see her homeland again.

Lydia Anna Adamson was born Nov 30, 1878 in Rangarno, Stockholm, Sweden.  Her parents were Anders Adamson and Margareta Catharina Mattsdotter.  (Mattson.)   Margaret Adamson had walked ten miles through snow three feet deep to be baptized into the Mormon Church in the ocean because the rivers near her home were frozen over.  She and her husband Anders had sacrificed nearly everything to come to America.

When Anders and Margaret left Sweden in May 1884 they had five children: Hilma, Amanda, Lydia, Ephraim and Elizabeth.  Upon their arrival in Utah, the church authorities sent the young family to settle in Richmond, Utah, a small town in northern Utah’s Cache Valley.   Here there was little opportunity for Anders Adamson to use his skill as a mathematician that he had acquired as an officer on Swedish ships.  Financially, the family had a difficult time.  Three more children, William, Edward and Otto were born, but Edward died before his second birthday on a cold January day in 1890.

Lydia remembered the trip from Sweden. “Left Sweden May 31 and arrived in Richmond on June 30, 1884.  I almost did not arrive.  Illness on the North Sea.  I remember two men by my bed or bunk and later a man in white with a tray of hashed potatoes.  The place where we were on the ship was like cow stalls.  The first thing I remember in Richmond was a celebration, a tub of lemonade at the foot of the tall stairs of the meeting house.”

 “Sam Hendricks as the teacher in the brick schoolhouse . . . Was Valedictorian of my class graduating from the eighth grade.  The address was written up in the newspaper, The Tri-Weekly Journal, Logan, Utah, June 20, 1895.”   In those days students were required to go to Logan for further schooling and Lydia did just that.  She attended Utah State Agricultural College in Logan for a short time.  She was a good student, but because funds were short, it was necessary for her to leave formal schooling behind and find employment. She always regretted not being able to continue her college education.

Along with her two sisters, Amanda and Elizabeth, Lydia traveled to Salt Lake City to find work.   Here she learned much about taking care of a home, cooking, etc. for she found work in some of the wealthy homes. Lydia would say later she always preferred working for the Gentiles along South Temple rather than for the wealthy Mormon families.  They paid better and treated their help with more dignity and respect.  She also worked for a short time in a hotel in Mercur, Utah, which was the largest mining  town in Utah until it was wiped out by a fire and the mines closed, leaving it a ghost town.  Lydia made good friends there, and she enjoyed meeting them again each year for the annual Mercur Reunion.

Amanda, two years older than Lydia and closest to her in age, became ill so Lydia returned  to Richmond to help care for her. After a long and difficult illness, Amanda passed away in October of 1903.   She was only 27 years old. 

A letter written by Anders Adamson in 1904 indicates that both Lydia and her brother Bill Adamson had returned to Salt Lake to seek work. He writes,” Willie and Lydia are in Salt Lake City and have had luck in obtaining good conditions in slow times. The rest of the family is for now at home.”   (Anders would die in 1910 at age 65; Margaret lived until 1924.  She was 73 when she died.)


Big Events on a Three-Dollar Budget

Lydia returned to Richmond and worked for a time in the telephone office before her marriage to William (Bill) Thomas Woodland. The Woodland clan was no strangers to her.  Bill’s sister, Zina, and her sister Elizabeth were good friends.   (In 1911, Zina would marry Lydia’s brother Ephraim).

Lydia and Bill were married on November 21, 1906 in the Logan Temple.  Their first home was in one of Bill's mother's front rooms.  They were living there at the birth of their first child, Philip, on Dec 8, 1907.  A year later they bought a home on First East on the lot connected to Grandma's pasture.  Jean William was born on Jan 21, 1911 and Shelah Margaret (named after Lydia’s mother and a character in a play she had recently seen), was born Oct 17, 1912.

By this time Bill had learned to be a carpenter.  This often meant working outside of Richmond. During those early years he helped build churches, stores, and barns in Richmond, Cove, Smithfield, Lewiston, Franklin and towns in southern Idaho. Lydia was often left alone with the children.  She used to bake and place her fresh pies, bread, and rolls in the windowsill to cool.   Her son Jean recalled:  “I can hear her cheery song coming from the kitchen.  And then her song was interrupted as she called that the sample was done.” 

Bill worked for a time on the main street in Richmond.  Lydia could see the shop from her kitchen window.  “Do you remember the flag we put in the window notifying Dad that dinner was ready in those days when he had a shop in Tink Thompson’s store?  It seemed like he would never get there but soon he came up through the pasture.”   Lydia would set the table when she could see him walking towards the house singing a tune.

During the summer, she always had a vegetable garden with lots of tomatoes. She was an excellent canner and cook.  Phil, Jean and Shelah recalled with fond memories their mother’s cooking. "Mother made the most delicious bread and cinnamon rolls. Many a day, we would come home from school with the house smelling of that delectable aroma of home-baked bread and rolls. There was always a marble slab on the counter in the kitchen of our home to be used for kneading and rolling out dough, and we can see the slab so clearly now with 8-10 dozen freshly baked cinnamon rolls stacked upon it UMM! They were good. “

Lydia had been raised in a strong, religious family and was faithful to her church as a wife and mother.  She always served in some capacity.  In Richmond, she was a teacher in the Relief Society and she served as a Stake Board Member of the Primary and MIA.  As such, she would go about making her visits to wards in Trenton, Newton, and Clarkston by horse and buggy. 

Richmond had an opera house where there were shows every week.  The Opera House was next door to the Woodland home.  It was the center of most social, athletic, theatrical, church, and political activities.  Lydia was a member of the local acting group. 

Even with a young family to care for, Lydia was busy with local and church activities.   She wrote:  “When Philip was six weeks, old, I began working in the MIA.  Drama practice with Phil lying on the bench many times until 2 am.  “Big events on a three-dollar treasury.”

“Chairman of the Richmond Club Banquet with Emma Burnham as helper.  We did a good job.  Took in most of the town leaders.  Our big job was to get donations for food.  Some squirmed because they were assessed a pound of sugar more than the other fellow.”

Jean remembered Lydia’s involvement in the arts.  While they lived in Richmond Lydia was always involved in the Ward shows or conferences the LDS Church held each year.  One year the group from Richmond traveled all the way to Salt Lake City to present their show.  Bill was out of town working and had taken Phil with him.  Jean remembers that the weather was rainy and wet and his mother was late returning home.  As he recalled it was the first time his mother hadn’t been at  home.  It was a very happy Jean when his mother finally returned.  “I can remember you going to Salt Lake for conference and how happy I was to see you coming through the gate upon your return.  You were always so jovial as you came in and the house seemed to take on a triumphal air of warmth and sunshine that was not present when you were away.”

During World War I there were many bouts of influenza in Richmond and most of the Woodland clan fell ill at one time or another.  Lydia was no exception and her health suffered.  With two active boys and Shelah running through the fields not far behind them, the family had its share of broken bones and other mishaps.  Around 1914 Bill Woodland fell from a scaffold, injuring his spine and ribs.  He was confined to his bed for nearly a year.  The small children helped their mother get through the difficult months of his recuperation, gathering eggs and picking vegetables.  Bill’s brothers Milton and Ephraim came by frequently to help out.

Phil remembered that when he was a small boy he traveled with his mother on the train to Ogden and back.  Lydia had been suffering poor health because several of her teeth were infected, so she had gone to Ogden to see a dentist.  When she found out what it would cost to have them fixed, she decided to have them all pulled.  Phil remembers she was in such pain all the way there but once the teeth were gone, she was in as much pain all the way back home.  She replaced her teeth with wooden ones, which she kept for many years.  It was a long time before Phil saw his mother smile again because she was ashamed of the effect of a smile with her wooden teeth.  He also remembers her great joy when she was finally able to afford a “real” set of false teeth many years later.

In 1923 the family left Richmond and moved to Salt Lake City where work was more plentiful year around. Lydia's life was not an easy one but she always faced each misfortune with courage and the determination to make life better for her family.

Bill had rented a house in Salt Lake City.  Lydia's reaction when she saw the house 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 they bought a house just through the block at 252 Almond Street.  It became their home for many years.

During the early years in Salt Lake, Lydia again found work outside the home to assist in the family expenses so the children could have adequate clothing and funds for their schooling. She 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 Lydia and Bill were finally out of debt. 


210 North State Street

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.  Bill added on to the two-story house, which is in what has been designated the Capitol Hill Historic District since 1984.  (It is known as the Ellerbeck Home.)  To go in the front entrance, one had to go up a flight of stair that cut through the steep hillside.  The front of the property was cut off and faced with a high stone wall that made it impossible to see the house from the sidewalk.   The lot went through the block to East Capitol Street where a long driveway bordered by a much shorter stone wall led to the back entrance.  Just across the street the steep hillside dropped off to Canyon Road that passed through Memory Grove.  A long flight of steep stairs not far from the Woodland driveway led down to the street far below—an exciting and dizzying drop that lured the Woodland grandchildren to climb down and explore the park.

Bill also remodeled the home to make a separate one-bedroom apartment on the ground floor where Jean and his wife LaNore lived for a time in the late 1940s.

Lydia inherited her father’s head for finances.  Through her frugality and business sense, she was able to always provide for the family.  She and her husband were proud people, always taking care of their own obligations. They always made their payments on time or ahead.  Both Bill and Lydia were devoted to their children and gave them the gift knowing how to work hard.  Lydia wrote in a letter to Jean in 1943, “I used to feel sorry sometimes when things did not go so well as we expected but after all we have always come out on top eventually, that is after a fashion… I do think we have come out rather well considering all the hurdles we have had to jump.”  They taught their children to be frugal and to use money wisely.  When Shelah was a student at the “U,” she worked at Keeley’s, a café in downtown Salt Lake, to earn some money to help pay for college expenses.  When her daughter’s meager earning weren’t enough,  Lydia borrowed $50 on Bill’s life insurance so that Shelah could have a new dress and some necessary things for school.

As their children grew and left the family home, Lydia and Bill loaned each of them money to help them get a “start.”   Phil and Dorothy Penrose had married in 1935. Bill and Lydia loaned them money to buy their home in 1938, helped Shelah buy a car in 1948, and loaned Jean $1,000 to buy his home in March 1948.  Each debt was paid back in full. 

Lydia had come from an educated family and she encouraged the education of her children.  The Adamsons were taught to think for them selves and Lydia was no exception.  From early childhood, music was an accepted and enjoyable facet of both her life and Bill’s.   They bought a player piano that delighted her grandchildren.  Her home was the center of educational pursuits, work opportunities, church activity, social gatherings, and holiday observances. 

In later years Lydia made Christmas a special event for the family in their State Street home by having brunch served buffet style in the dining room for the family, relatives and friends to enjoy anytime during the morning or early afternoon. She was still renowned as very good cook and all that she served was delicious as well as nutritious whether it was a pot of beans, which was the usual washday meal, or the very best roast one could buy.  Lydia’s home was always open to her immediate and extended family.  There were many times when her brother’s, sister’s, niece’s and nephews, and in-laws found comfort and sanctuary in her home as they traveled and stayed with her in Salt Lake.

Lydia was very active socially.  She and Bill belonged to the ”Richmond Club” – a group of couples, like themselves, who had come to Salt Lake from Richmond to have a better life.  Bill and Lydia enjoyed these gatherings.  They played Monte Carlo Whist and shared potluck dinners. Lydia also belonged to the “Mothers Club” that held it’s meeting at the “U” (Shelah had graduated.)  Lydia also enjoyed the women’s activities that the members of the Richmond Club held monthly.  When it was her turn to entertain, she always had such a delicious luncheon and set a pretty table. They were enjoyable afternoons for her.


After graduating from the University of Utah with a B.S. in Physical Education, Shelah taught for six years.  In the school year of 1941-2 she left Utah to work on earning a master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin.  Lydia must have missed her daughter, and how terrified she must have been to have her so far away on December 7, 1941 the U. S. entered World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  The following June Lydia traveled by train to Madison, Wisconsin to see her youngest child receive a Master of Science degree.  Just after she returned home, her younger son drafted into the army.  Jean had married LaNore Woolf on December 11, 1940.   He served in the Army Signal Corps in Europe until the end of the War.  (See the biography of Jean William Woodland.) After one year in Salt Lake, Shelah returned to Superior, Wisconsin, to teach at the State Teachers’ College.  She returned to Utah to teach in the Phys Ed department at the U of U in 1944.  Phil, a little older and with two young daughters, was not drafted. 

The life-long pain Bill had suffered as a result of his back injury finally became too much for him, so he retired in 1948.  Out of debt, with a home and enough to live on the rest of their lives, Bill and Lydia expected to spend this time of their lives with friends and family, and watching their grandchildren grow.   This was not to be.  Not long afterwards, Bill’s condition deteriorated and he became partially paralyzed.  He died at age 67 on April 13, 1950.

In her later years, Lydia was a faithful member of the Capitol Hill Ward Relief Society and she always studied her lesson each week so she could participate in the discussion for she was anxious to keep her mind alert and to continue learning. Each month she did her visiting teaching with her partner.   She couldn’t always see the “lady of the house” across the street, but if not, she always left the monthly “message” with the elderly black servant who usually answered the door.

Shelah continued to live at home with her mother until she married Art Wilford on July 7, 1952.  In January, 1955, the church called Shelah and Art (who had been born in Norway and came to live in the U.S. after the War) to serve as missionaries in the Swedish Mission, so once again Lydia said a farewell to her daughter.


For many years Lydia had hoped to return to her homeland.  In the summer of 1955 that dream became reality.  She sold the home at 210 State St and moved into a nearby apartment.  She was now 76 years old.  She carefully figured out how much money she would need if she lived for another ten years.  She concluded that she indeed had enough so she spent some of her savings on a trip to Sweden.

On May 11, 1955 Lydia sailed for Sweden on the M.S. Stockholm. Shelah and Art met the ship as it arrived in Copenhagen. Denmark.  Lydia spent two weeks with them in Hhsingborg before traveling to Stockholm to spend most of her time with her cousin, Edward Holmes, a retired sea captain, who lived not far from Stockholm.  During her stay in Sweden she visited her place of birth, spent time with cousins who still lived in the area, and researched her family’s genealogy. She spent her last two weeks in Sweden with Art and Shelah in Fagersta, which was a small, clean town in the central part of Sweden.

Lydia enjoyed this part of her stay most of all. Each day she would go downtown, which was within walking distance of the chapel where Art and Shelah stayed, and enjoy herself in the shops, speaking Swedish to the shopkeepers and doing a little missionary work herself, telling her story to the people she met.

While in Sweden, Lydia lost a considerable amount of weight and was not too well. However, she contributed this to the change of food and living conditions. Shelah write to Phil and Jean telling them that their Mother had lost weight so not to be surprised when they saw her--the lovely new clothes that she had purchased especially for the trip hung loosely on her.

Lydia had the wish to live a few years longer so she could complete more of her genealogy but this wish went unfulfilled.  The trip home from Sweden on ship and train was a difficult journey for her and she became very ill shortly afterward.  She was diagnosed with cancer, and after two operations and much suffering, she passed away in the L.D.S. Hospital on Feb. 21, 1956.

Lydia and her children were always close.  She was not a person who showed her affections easily.  She demonstrated her love and devotion through her service to her family and friends. She saved all the letters Jean had written while he was gone from the family during WWII as well as the letters Shelah had written her over the years.

Perhaps Shelah knew her mother best.  They were so close, always confiding in each other. After her mother’s death Shelah wrote, “She has been the most wonderful Mother to me, always ready to sacrifice her comfort for mine.” Lydia was remembered by her family as a woman with a sweet disposition and a word of kindness to offer at all times. 


Lydia’s story comes from the following sources: her own notes and letters, biographies (and notes) written by Adrienne Woodland Buckley, Philip Woodland, Jean Woodland, and Shelah Woodland Wilford, “Funeral Held for Margaret Adamson” (newspaper report) with additions and editing by Susan Woodland Howard.

October 28, 2005



Jump to Chapters

Big Events on a Three-Dollar Budget

210 North State Street

Shelah's Education

Lydia Visits Her Homeland

Sources of this

Her Vital Records

Her Descendents