Biography of William Woodward

One of the pioneer settlers of Franklin, Oneida county, Idaho, and a farmer of the above state, William Woodward, was born on the 4th of January, 1833, in Bushey, Hertfordshire, England. He received a common-school education in his native village. In 1845 he removed to Watford, and there he heard Mormonism by a blacksmith, Richard B. Margetts, and he was baptized June 21, 1848. He soon became anxious to join his coreligionists in Salt Lake valley, then in upper California.

In January 1850, Mr. Woodward sailed from Liverpool, England, on the ship Argo, Captain Mills, with four hundred Latter Day Saints, arriving at New Orleans, March 8, after an ocean passage of eight weeks. With other emigrants Mr. Woodward wended his way to St. Louis, on the steamboat Glencoe: from there proceeded to Council Bluffs, where he arrived on April 9, and on the 13th of April he went to work for Orson Hyde, at six dollars per month. He lived with Mr. Hyde for over a year and then drove team to Salt Lake City, in Captain Horner’s company. They were some three months on the way. On the plains in that early day, 1851, thousands of buffalo were encountered on the way, and sometimes in the distance they appeared like a forest of timber; twenty thousand were passed in one day. The Platte valley and the hills on both sides of the river were covered with them. When Fort Laramie was passed, the scenery changed. Mountains appeared, and beautiful streams of pure water were wending their way to larger streams, the Sweetwater river, Green river, Harris Fork, Smith’s Fork, Black’s Fork, Bear and Weber rivers and other streams. Buffalo robes at that early day could be bought for three dollars and fifty cents, dressed, ready for use, and they were an excellent piece of bedding.

He arrived in Salt Lake City the latter part of September of that year, and a few days later he was working for R. T. Burton, In January 1852, he attended the University of Deseret, then in a primitive state. Orson Spencer was principal, and chancellor, also a teacher, and W. W. Phelps was his assistant. In attending this schoolbooks were scarce, and Mr. Woodward stood guard over Mexicans and Indians for the money to buy him a McGuffy’s Fifth. Reader. He had a grammar, and an arithmetic; he borrowed a slate, and a friend made him a tin slate-pencil holder. Thus equipped, he plodded on in his studies. During winter he read the book of Mormon through for the first time. In April he went to work for Heber C. Kimball.

After his arrival in Salt Lake City, Mr. Woodward was anxious to see Brigham Young and other prominent Mormon leaders; to say that he was delighted with them, and their preaching, is hardly expressing the feelings he entertained toward these men. He availed himself of every opportunity to hear them preach, and was always pleased to be in their company. For nobility of character, for great motives to benefit mankind, for kindness to the Mormon people, these leaders were, in Mr. Woodward’s eyes, par excellence. The leading men, besides Brigham Young, were Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, and in the summer of 1852 Charles C. Rich, John Taylor, Erastus Snow, Franklin D. Richards, and Lorenzo Snow arrived in Salt Lake City. At a conference held August 28 and 29, missionaries were called to different parts of the world, and Mr. Woodward was called to go to England, where he arrived January 4, 1853. He arrived in London a short time after this, and labored as a missionary for more than a year in that metropolis. He spent the rest of his time in England in Kent and Dorsetshire conferences, and in April 1856, he again crossed the sea, with seven hundred Latter Day Saints, who were presided over by Dan Jones. He arrived in Boston, left the good ship “S. Curling,” and started for Iowa City, where he arrived on June 2.

The year 1856 was memorable in Mormon emigration. Five handcart companies crossed the plains Mr. Woodward was attached to the fourth company, and was captain of the third hundred. In the Sweetwater valley snow fell, and hardships were endured by the people till they arrived in Salt Lake valley. Relief trains with supplies of food and clothing were sent to the rescue of the emigrants, and Brigham Young was foremost in starting these expeditions. After Mr. Woodward’s arrival in Salt Lake City after an absence of four years and nearly two months he went to work at anything he could find to do, finally teaching school and “boarding around.”

He was first married in 1857 and is the father of twenty-two children, eight boys and fourteen girls, and thirteen children are still living. Mr. Woodward came to Franklin April 14, 1860, with a few others, and they were the first real settlers of Idaho. They built the first schoolhouse in the state, and labored diligently to make homes, building their houses in a square fort, for protection against Indians, who were numerous at that time.

Mr. Woodward has been a lifelong Democrat in politics; has been postmaster, justice of the peace, city councilor, and once was elected to the legislature, but was not seated through two of his party selling out to the opposition. Mr. Woodward is a farmer, raises some one hundred tons of hay yearly, and in 1898 raised over three thousand bushels of grain. He lives on his farm of ninety acres, has other lands in this state and in Utah, keeps cows and other domestic animals, and might be said to be fairly prosperous. He is a devoted Mormon and a lover of the Declaration of Independence and the constitution of the United States; is strictly a temperance man, does not use strong drinks, or tobacco, nor use tea or coffee. He believes in honest government for the people, and is a full believer that all men should worship God as they please, without molestation. He is a president of the eighteenth quorum of Seventies in the church, and a full believer in the divine mission of Joseph Smith as a prophet.

On his farm he has been greatly assisted by his family, who are models of industry and thrift.



Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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