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Thomas Jefferson Woodin. Of the lives that have been a real contribution to the upbuilding and development of Champaign County during a long period of years that of Thomas Jefferson Woodin deserves more than passing consideration. Mr. Woodin and his good wife live in one of the most beautiful and attractive homes in the St. Joseph community, their home combining the attractions of both the town and country and being located within the village limits.
Mr. Woodin was born in Vermilion County, Illinois, September 6, 1841, and his birthplace was the community known as Butler’s Point. He was the second in a family of four sons and one daughter born to Elmore and Rebecca (Springer) Woodin. His father was born in New York State and his mother in Ohio, and both of them came to Illinois with their parents when children. The father served as a soldier in the Black Hawk War.
Mr. Woodin had his early education in the district schools of Vermilion County. He was nineteen years of age when the war cloud arose and excitement ran high because the union of states was threatened. The bravest and best men in the country volunteered their services in that crisis, and in September, 1861, Thomas Jefferson Woodin left his father’s home and was one of thirty young men who enlisted at the village of St. Joseph. These recruits were sent to Chicago and joined a company under Captain McWilliams, known as the Chicago Legion. After some preparatory drilling they were sent to Cairo, Illinois, and from there to Corinth, on to Island No. 10, then back to Corinth, where they did guard duty, took part in several of the many campaigns through Tennessee and finally from Nashville moved to the great battleground at Stone River or Murfreesboro. Mr. Woodin and his comrades took an active part in that engagement, one of the severest battles of the war. While it was a hotly contested field it was a virtual victory to the Union troops, and after a long day of fighting the Federals lay down to rest, feeling that the day was won. The next day the telegraph wires carried the glad news of the victory all over the United States. From Stone River the regiment of which Mr. Woodin was a member marched through Tennessee into Georgia and he was on continuous duty in skirmishing and then came the great battle of Chickamauga. During the first day of that battle the Union troops were driven back to Chattanooga. Then on the following day there was a turn of the tide, when the Federals regained the lost ground and Chickamauga became another milestone in the progress of the Union armies through the South. For three months the troops lay in camp and then fought the battle of Missionary Ridge. Mr. Woodin in that battle saw the heaviest fighting of his entire military experience. The Southerners had seventy-two pieces of artillery and thought it impossible for the Union troops to dislodge them. During a brief rest at one point on Missionary Ridge Mr. Woodin had a view of the surrounding country which gave him a prospect of almost the entire battleground. From here he could survey and witness a solid mass of Union troops extending over a four mile front going into battle with the enemy. After Missionary Ridge Mr. Woodin accompanied the troops back to Knoxville, Tennessee, to reinforce Burnside, and after a march of one hundred and fifteen miles they drove Longstreet away and relieved that besieged point. On the 18th of June began the noted Atlanta campaign. Mr. Woodin participated in only part of that hundred days campaign, and at the battle of Mud Creek he was severely wounded, after his division had made a charge and captured the objective and made many prisoners. Taken to the field hospital, he was then sent to Nashville, then to Louisville and finally to Springfield, Illinois, where during the month of August he lay in the hospital suffering with a gangrened wound and with typhoid fever. By careful nursing and with the resource of a strong constitution he recovered from his wound, and he has always given much credit to Mrs. Gregory, his good and faithful nurse, to whom he feels he owes his life.
At the end of the war was the declaration of peace over North and South and Mr. Woodin was honorably discharged in June, 1865, and then returned home.
On March 5, 1878, he married Miss Carrie A. Hunt. Mrs. Woodin was born at Eden in Erie County, New York, October 30, 1854, and when only four years of age, in 1858, her parents came West by railroad to Illinois. She has a recollection of that early journey in her life. Her parents were Jonathan and Caroline (West) Hunt, her father a native of New Jersey and her mother of New York. Mrs. Woodin was only fourteen years of age when her mother passed away on August 25, 1868. She received her education in the district schools of Champaign County, where the Hunt family were among the early pioneers. She completed her studies in the Urbana High School and afterward became clerk in a store at St. Joseph, where she remained until her marriage. After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Woodin located in St. Joseph and Mr. Woodin continued his business as a stock buyer. They prospered, and one after another there came into their home three young sons, named Walter L., Earl B. and Ernest C. Realizing the advantages of an education, Mr. and Mrs. Woodin sent them to the local schools, the St. Joseph High School, and all of them completed the studies and came home proud possessors of diplomas. Earl continued his education in a business college at Marion, Indiana, two years, and took a scientific course at Dixon, Illinois. From there he entered the University of Illinois, having previously won the county scholarship, and he completed a six years’ course in four years, graduating as a civil engineer. In that profession he has already gained a most gratifying position. He worked for a time at Ambridge, Pennsylvania, later in Pittsburg, and is one of the competent men in his profession. He married Miss Grace Mast, of Urbana, Illinois, and has a little daughter, Gwendolyn.
The son Walter after graduating from the local schools took a place on his father’s farm and is now a practical and progressive farmer in Vermilion County. He married Grace Gibson, of St. Joseph, and they have three children, Agnes dying at the age of one year, and the two still in the home circle are Carl and Lucile.
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The son Ernest Woodin entered the University of Illinois, spending one year in the preparatory course, and for four years was a member of the military band. From college he went to Chicago, and starting on a salary of sixty dollars a month with the Gas & Coke Company has been steadily promoted until he now fills one of the high salaried positions with the company.
Mr. and Mrs. Woodin are attentive members of the Church of Christ at St. Joseph and are among its liberal supporters. They give their political allegiance to the Republican party, and Mrs. Woodin has for years been actively identified with the prohibition cause. She is a woman of unusual executive ability and has sought to exercise her influence always on the side of right. In 1897 Mr. Woodin erected a fine modern home south of St. Joseph on a forty acre tract of land, and adjoining their home is a grove of beautiful trees constituting a widely known park of twenty acres, with a fine water supply and one of the favorite spots for picnickers in this part of the county.
During the greater part of her life Mrs. Woodin has been afflicted with poor health. She has overcome that infirmity with a courageous spirit that has kept her constantly striving and has enabled her to rear and educate her boys and send them into the world well equipped for their duties.
Another member of the Woodin household must be’ mentioned. This is Mr. Woodin’s half sister, Sina B. Richardson. She came into his home at the age of sixteen, an orphan in poor health, and has ably assisted Mrs. Woodin in rearing the sons and did much to encourage them in every way while they were obtaining their educations and coming to manhood. She shared the joys and sorrows of the household, and is one of the most faithful women of Champaign County. Mr. and Mrs. Woodin have made ample provision in case she should survive them that her last days may be spent in comfort and peace. For a number of years she has had active charge of the beautiful park at the Woodin home. In order to encourage the building of the Interurban Railroad Mr. and Mrs. Woodin donated a part of their own land to the road, and their public spirit in this instance has been one of many cases in which they have worked for the betterment and uplift of the community.