Biography of John Henry Woodward

John Henry Woodward was born at Peach Orchard in the. town of Tompkins (now Hector), Schuyler County, New York, February 9, 1836, and is the eldest son of John Woodward, who, with his father’s family came to America from London, England, in 1824, settling on a large farm in what was then comparatively a wilderness on the banks of Seneca Lake, New York, where members of the family still reside.

Mr. Woodward received his primary education at the county district school. Later on he attended an academy at Peach Orchard under the management of John A. Gillette and was finally prepared for college at the Ithaca Academy, Ithaca, New York, having as classmates Eugene Schuyler, Wm. L. Bostwick, and others who have since become men of note. During his school days young Wood-ward was a leader in athletic and outdoor sports, and is still remembered by his schoolmates for his proficiency in feats requiring muscle and physical endurance. The rugged health he still enjoys, the elasticity of movement and splendid physical condition which now belie the years he has lived may be largely ascribed to his youthful love for physical exercise.

After completing his preparations for a collegiate course he commenced the study of law in the office of Douglas Boardman, since Judge of the Supreme Court of New York State. A year later he went to Elmira, New York, and there continued his legal studies with the firm of Diven, Hathaway & Woods, and in May, 1860, was admitted to the bar. In the following fall he opened an office at Watkins, New York, where he speedily acquired a good practice, but the progress of his professional life was soon interrupted. In the latter part of February, 1861, before the inauguration of President Lincoln, in anticipation of the troubles which followed, he assisted in the organization of a company of young men who were to be ready for any emergency. This company became the nucleus of the 23d Regiment N. Y. Infantry, and was known as Company “I.” The organization of the regiment in which Mr. Woodward materially assisted, both in connection with company ” I ” and other companies, was perfected at the time of President Lincoln’s first call for 75,000 volunteers. In company “I,” as in other companies, were men who had been at the West Point Military Academy, and they were naturally selected as officers of the company and regiment. The regiment entered the service of the United States under the command of Col. H. C. Hoffman, Mr. Woodward at the time being a private in company ” I.” He served in that capacity until August, 1861, when he received from President Lincoln a general staff appointment with the rank of captain, and was assigned for duty at Headquarters of the Army of the Potomac. On the movement of the Army of the Potomac to the Peninsular, early in the spring of 1862, he became connected with the general staff of the Army of the Rappahannock under the command of Gen. McDowell. He remained with Gen. McDowell until immediately after the battle of Yorktown when he was ordered to the Headquarters of the Army of the Potomac under Gen. McClellan at Yorktown, continuing at those Headquarters and at the supply posts of the army throughout the Peninsular campaign, ending with the battle of Malvern Hill, the final retreat at Harrison Lauding and the evacuation immediately before Gen. Pope’s unfortunate campaign.

During this period Captain Woodward was offered staff positions by corps commanders with increased rank, but so highly did Gen. McClellan value his services that he would not consent to the change. As proof of Gen. McClellan’s estimation of his soldierly qualities it need only be stated that in his report of the Peninsular campaign, he mentions Captain Woodward by name as one of the staff who had rendered efficient and valuable service in that trying and arduous campaign.

On the evacuation of Harrison’s Landing, Captain Woodward was appointed to superintend the shipments and all details of the evacuation. He continued on duty at the Headquarters of the Army of the Potomac during the brief but disastrous campaign of Gen. Pope; the hurried but thorough reorganization of the army by Gen. McClellan, rapid march and vigorous delivery of battle at South Mountain and Antietam, and until Gen. Grant assumed command of the ” armies operating against Richmond.” From the latter event until the close of the war he served with the general staff of that general’s command. In June, 1865, he was breveted major ” for faithful and meritorious services.”

After the grand review of the army in Washington at the close of the war, he resigned his commission and returned to Watkins, New York, where he resumed the practice of the law. Here he continued with marked success until the spring of 1871, when he came to Portland, where he has ever since resided. He at once took a prominent place among the practitioners at the Portland bar, a position he has not only most creditably sustained, but has gained a reputation for professional ability of a high order throughout the Pacific Northwest.

In the spring of 1874 he was a candidate before the State Republican Convention for Judge of the Supreme Court and lacked only one vote of a nomination. During the same year he was nominated by the Republican Convention for County Judge of Multnomah County, and was not only elected but ran far ahead of his ticket. He held the office of County Judge for four years, his discharge of the duties of the position being eminently satisfactory to the people, and notably so in reference to the reforms he effected in the management of county finances.

He is an ardent Republican in politics and has always voted with his party, notwithstanding his objection to some particular methods. By appointment of the United States Circuit Court he is now serving as one of the Commissioners of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Oregon and Chief Supervisor of Elections for the District of Oregon. With the exceptions named he has never been a candidate for public office, and never for a position not strictly in the line of his profession. His whole time and attention’ have been devoted to his profession, and the high degree of success he has attained has been the result of patient, persevering work and the possession and exercise of those manly qualities which inspire confidence and command respect.

He was married, February 23, 1863, to Miss Anna M. Whitaker, daughter of Lewis Whitaker, of Deckertown, New Jersey, having been granted a brief leave of absence from military duty at the time. Mr. Woodward and family are members of Trinity Episcopal Church.


Biography, History,

Harvey Whitefield Scott. History of Portland, Oregon: with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers. Portland, Oregon. D. Mason & Company, 1890.

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