Biography of Henry H. Woodward

HENRY H. WOODWARD. – The life of a pioneer of any country is a hard one. But the pioneer of the Pacific coast had really more to contend with than his early brother of any other state east or west of the great Mother of Waters. His daily life was not only one of almost unendurable hardship and privation, with the eternal gnawings of want; but it was also beset with imminent danger; and he was in continued dread of death from the poisoned arrow of the red man, or his more fortunate fellow who used a gun. The pioneer of this coast held himself in ever readiness to go to the front, at a moment’s call, to assist in the subjugation of the various bands of Indians who held retreats in the mountain fastnesses which chain and interchain the country on every side, and who were continually swooping down upon the little handful of settlers in every section, and ofttimes massacring them before the news of their arrival could be sent form house to house.

Taking a complete history of all the tribes that ever inhabited this continent, as far as we have any knowledge, the tribes which roamed the Pacific coast at will for untold ages, were the most treacherous, brutal, savage and warlike, perhaps because they were virtually cut off from the rest of the world; and, while the march of civilization was gradually pressing its way westward, and their kindred tribes in the more eastern states were being treated with and placed under control, they were as wild as the more primitive bands which preceded them centuries before. Then they firmly believed this country was their undisputed own. Indeed, it had never before been disputed; and generations had been born, and had lived and passed away, in lone possession. To them it was the greatest mark of injustice, intrusion and outrage to see the white man within the limits of their domain; and, like the owners of all other firesides, with them it was to do or die. They defended the right of their broad home with the same zeal, fervor and ferocity with which the humblest among us would defend his little cottage home and cheery fireside against the destroying element of his all.

But the bravery, valor and undaunted spirit of those who came before to hew and prepare the way for those to come after shall not be forgotten. The history of their lives, trials and dangers will be written upon the tablets of the living, that all may read and know just what it took to make this country one of the grandest the sun ever shone upon.

Among those who came to the coast in an early day, and who passed through the many trying vicissitudes of pioneer life, is Mr. H.H. Woodward, the subject of this biography. he first saw the light of day on December 30, 1826, at Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. His parents were highly respected, and enjoyed the lives of good livers, as his father was a master plumber and conducted an extensive business for himself. J.H. Abraham gave Mr. Woodward a commercial education, he having sustained the loss of his parents at the early age of thirteen.

Having a natural inclination for a seafaring life, he was entered as an apprentice to William Tindall, a shipowner in London, to become a mariner, with whom he remained fully five years, giving entire satisfaction both as an apprentice and as a finished master of his business. Afterwards he was appointed master of his business. Afterwards he was appointed third mate of the Persia. That was before his term of indenture had expired, which shows the confidence which was reposed in his youthful ability. Later he made five voyages in the ship to Ceylon, East India. Afterwards he shipped in the Pearl, which was also owned by Mr. Tindall, on a voyage to the South Sea Islands. That was in 1849. The vessel was chartered by some Frenchmen to sail to San Francisco, where it arrived in December of that year. It was there seized by the United States authorities for being a British vessel carrying a foreign cargo. The captain did not know that it was necessary for Congress to ratify the new treaty. But that treaty settled all disputes, and gave the hands leave of absence ashore, at will. Mr. Woodward preferred to go ashore, and being tired of the high seas, found employment on the steamer McKim, which plied between Sacramento and San Francisco. He remained until the spring of 1850, when he turned his attention to mining, casting his first luck on the Yuba river. In the fall of that year he gave up the hunt for gold as a lost mission, and returned to San Francisco, from which place he started for the Umpqua river, Oregon, in the Minerva with Captain Toney, which they entered November 27, 1850.

In the spring of 1851 he established what is now known as Smith’s ferry, on the main Umpqua. He disposed of the ferry the following winter, and engaged in the packing business to the Southern mines, also to Randolph, Coos county, which he followed for three years.

In the spring of 1854, Mr. Woodward took a claim under the Donation act, on the south fork of the Coquille river, in Coos county, Oregon. A treaty soon followed with the Upper Coquille tribe of Indians; and our subject was engaged by General Joel Palmer to collect them for the purpose of negotiating a treaty between them and the government, which he did to the General’s great aid. He not only did that, but also was instrumental in inducing the tribe to go to Port Orford, under the escort of Agent Benjamin Wright, who was killed in the fall of 1855 in the massacre at Rogue river. Many of the Indians were very superstitious; and some of them could not be induced to place themselves under the protection of the government. They remained very hostile, under the Chief Washington, who was the instigator in all of the “cussedness” in that locality.

At the breaking out of the Rogue river war, all the settlers in Mr. Woodward’s locality had left for safer retreats. Having no protection, he also thought it best to leave; so he enlisted as a private in Company I, Second Regiment of Oregon Mounted Volunteers, under Captain W.W. Chapman. Our subject served his full three months, that being the time for which he had enlisted. The Indians were still in the mountain fastnesses; and, the settlements being without protection, he re-enlisted in the company as second sergeant until May 14, 1856, when he was honorably discharged from the military service of the territory of Oregon.

The hardships and perils which Mr. Woodward underwent in that short time on the frontier as a soldier would fill a volume. When peace was restored he returned to his farm on the Coquille. The Indians had taken everything from the place that was loose at both ends; and that which they found fast they had destroyed. Our subject was financially embarrassed when he returned to his farm. In fact, he lacked three cents of having any kind of change. His only possessions consisted of the horse which he owned before the war, and which served him faithfully all through the service, a rifle, hunting knife, saddle, bridle and two blankets. But he though of the many who did not own as much as he did; and, consoling himself with the fact that there were many others in the same fix, he went to work, and was soon “on his feet” again. With this start he again commenced packing, and farming on his Donation claim in Coos county.

In 1867 he disposed of his claim and other property, and removed to Roseburg, Douglas county, Oregon, and engaged as a book canvasser for A.L. Bancroft & Co., of San Francisco, in whose employ he remained several years. For him canvassing was not profitable, as he was sadly deficient in that essential to success in that line, – cheek. He quit canvassing and engaged as warehouseman with Marks & Co., of Roseburg, in whose employ he remained until 1884, when he left for a voyage to visit the scenes of his childhood and an only sister. In July, 1875, he returned to Roseburg. During his trip abroad, Mr. Woodward wrote and published a small volume of poems, consisting of two hundred and eight pages, a few copies of which he brought to Oregon. On his return to Roseburg, he found that positions were not plentiful, and he again entered the employ of Bancroft & Co. He remained with that firm for several years, when he again entered the service of Marks & Co. as warehouseman, and remained until 1886, when he left that firm’s employ to reside on a small property he had in Roseburg, where he continues to live.

Mr. Woodward has managed, by the close practice of economy and frugality, to save enough out of the buffetings of business to keep him in comfort the balance of his life. “Lyrics of the Umpqua” is the title of his last volume of poems; and a ready home market brings him a well-rounded income alone. The work was published by the Alden book concern of New York City, and is a very neat piece of typographical work. The work is dedicated to the “Pioneers and Veterans of the Northwest Coast of the United States of America,” and consists of some two hundred pages.

Mr. Woodward served the county of Coos as supervisor of a road district in1863. A year prior he taught a district school one term in the same county. In 1857 he acted as judge of election in Johnson’s precinct. He also served as justice of the peace two terms, one by appointment under Judge S.S. Mann, and the other by election in 1886-87. In 1880 he had the honor of being appointed one of the enumerators of the census of the United States, his labors in that capacity being concentrated in Douglas county.

Mr. Woodward is now in the afternoon of life, with the morn well spent; and he has nothing to look back to with regret. During all of these years, he never found it meet to take unto himself a companion for life. He never saw that woman with whom he ever had the least desire to join his destiny; so he has led a life of signal unity. He is now waiting for the setting of his day’s sun, when he will close his eyes to the scenes of this world with the profound comfort of a life well spent, and the unwavering consolation of having done his full duty on every occasion where time with its changes has called him.


History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

Search Military Records - Fold3

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top