Biography of Samuel McCloud McKeever Wood
Topeka, Kansas, had no more interesting personality among its citizens than Sam Wood, whe still coeupies the beautiful home he and his wife erected many years ago on the northeast corner of Tenth and Fillmore streets. This home is a landmark and spot of beauty in Topeka’s residential district. Mr. and Mrs. Wood personally supervised the eonstruction of the honse and the planning of the grounds. The site occupies six lots and wide, shady parks facing both Tenth and Fillmore streets. There are beautiful trees and shrubbery, and the entire place had that mellowness which is associated with old and comfortable families. Mr. Wood resdes in the home with his sister and niece, his wife, Mrs. Wood, having died several years ago.
Mr. Wood first became acquainted with Kansas and Kansas people during his service in the Union army. Though he was a member of an Illinois regiment, he often served in company with Kansas regiments. He was a boy of fifteen when he joined the Union army in 1861, in the Tenth Illinois Cavalry. This regiment was attached to a division of cavalry commanded by General Davidson, and was a part of the Seventh Army Corps. Nearly the whole years of his service was west of the Mississippi River. During that time the faces of Colonel Crawford, Major Plumb, General Pleasanton and other notable figures in Kansas all became familiar to this boy soldier, whose individual record was one of much intrepidity and exposure. Some of the most dangerous and hazardous duties of war as conducted fifty years ago fell to his lot. He was a messenger boy and dispatch bearer. The occupation of the dispatch bearer is now gone in modern military management, the place being taken by the telephone and other meehapical deviees. But during the Civil war the dispatch bearer was one of the most indispensable members of a commanding of ficer’s staff. His commanding officer often gavs young Wood a written message and also a verbal copy, so that in case of great danger he was to destroy the writing and in case he reached his destination deliver the message orally. He also served at the Third Brigade headquarters as orderly under Colonel Stuart, Colonel Glover and Colonel Caldwell, and district headquarters at Little Rock, Arkansas under Gen. E. A. Carr, until the close of the war in 1865.
Samuel Wood was not the only member of his immediate family to serve in the Civil war. His father had also joined the army and died in a hospital somewhere in Kentucky. A close search was made for his burial place, but it was never discovered. Sam Wood’s brother, James L. Wood (who died at his home, 1200 Quiney Street, Topeks, April 1, 1915), was also a veteran of the Civil war and became well known in Kansas. He served in many battles, being in the Thirteen Indiana Volunteer Infantry during the flrst of the war. He participated in the three days’ fighting at Gettysburg, and was one of the most expert cavalrymen in the entire service. He was noted as a daring rider and possessed all other qualifications to make the eavalryman available for the most dangerous and important service. He was a member of the Second United States Cavalry, which was made up of selelted men taken from the entire Potomae army. James Wood was chosen because of his proven record in service and his ability to go and perform any duty that might be assigned.
Samuel McCloud McKeever Wood was born in Fayette County, Ohio, in 1845. His father, Layton J. Wood, who was born in Virginiain 1811, represented an old Virginia family which furnished soldiers to the American army during the Revolution. The Wood family had no kindly fellowship with the institution of slavery which flourished in the South, and their aversion to that institution caused them to remove to Ohio. Layton J. Wood was married about 1828 to Miss Mary A. Lydy, who was also born in Virginia, in the year 1814. Her parents also left Virginia because of their dislike to slavery. Layton J. Wood and wife had eight children and those who reached maturity were: Sally Mary, James Layton, Sarah C., Samuel M. and Flora C.
Not long after the close of the war (1869), and nearly forty-seven years ago, Sam Wood came to Kansas and took a government homestead not far from Burlingame, Kansas. In those days the country was open, the woods and prairies were filled with game, and hunting was one of the great sports. As soon as he had secured possession of his claim Mr. Wood prohibited hunters from coming on his land. This was not due to any especial animosity against the hunters, but he had a higher rogard for the innocent wild game than he did for the sport which so rapidly decimated these specimens of our wild life. Thus the Wood farm became almost a natural game preserve. Many a deer, chased by hunters, would flee to his homestcad, and some of them became so tame that they would lie about on his farm and even feed and lie down and chew their cud within forty rods of the house, and watch him work.
Mr. Wood came to Topeka in 1873, where he served as clerk in the post office for seven years, and in 1880 was elected register of deeds, in which office he served for four years. Then for many years Mr. Wood successfully engaged in the real estate business, taking up that as his chief line after retiring from office. In 1877 he married Miss Francees N. Gill. Her father was Judge D. B. Gill, of Clarksboro, New Jersey, her mother of a Revolution family in Connectient. Very few women of Kansas were so much loved and revered as Mrs. Wood. She was well known in public life, was an ardent worker among the ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, was national president of that order and also president of the department of Kansas and president of the Lincoln Circle, and at one time filled the office of oresident of the State Federation of Women’s Clabs.
Adoniram Judson Whitford.A special place in ranks of the pioneer business men of Kansas should be accorded the late Adoniram Judson Whitford of Manhattan. For over forty years he sold hardware in that city. When he opened his first stock of goods the Civil war was raging over the country. He begau on a modest seale, in proportion to his individual resources, and also to the needs and demands of the town and surrounding country. He prospered and expanded his enterprise even as Manhattan expanded as a city and the surrounding country took upon itself advanced features of progress.
He was one of the very early settlers of Kansas Territory, and Mrs. Whitford, his widow who survives him, is one of the few living Kansas women whose recollections go back to the period soon after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska hill in the early ’50s.
The late Mr. Whitford was born at Watertown, Jefferson County, New York, April 12, 1835, and died at his home in Manhattan December 19, 1910. He had lived three-quarters of a century, and two-thirds of this time had been spent in Kansas. He was a yonng man of about twenty-one when he came to the territory in 1856. For a time he lived at Topeka and there learned the trade of tinsmith. He was also a homesteader, hut afterward sold his land, and with the proceeds, together with his other savings, aggregating not more than $1,500, he invested in his first stock of hardware. He opened his place of business at Manhattan in the early part of 1862. His capital for business was more than the money invested in his original stock. He had judgment, perseverance, industry and above all a thorough integrity of character which caused men to conflde in him and to trust him through all the years as a reliable merchant and business man. It is not strange therefore that as a result of his long career he had accumulated a handsome estate, including buslness property in Manhattan and tho handsome home which he erected at the corner of Fifth and Leavenworth streets. A few years before his death he sold the hardware business and planned to enjoy complete rest and freedom from business activities. This well earned pest was not for long, since his death occurred within a few years. The late Mr. Whitford was a republican voter, but in no wise a politician. He led an exemplary life, and what he did and what he stood for should not easily depart from the memory of living Kansans.
On December 3, 1862, the same year he entered the hardware business at Manhattan, he married Miss Jennie Nichols. Mrs. Whitford, who is now in her seventy-fifth year and still resided at Manhattan, was born in Crawford County, Pennsylvanis, September 26, 1842. When she was twelve years of age she accompanied her father, O. C. Niehols, to Kansas. The Nichols family located near Topeka, and sinee then Mrs. Whitford had been a witness of the varied web of events which have transformed a territory into one of the greatest states of the Union. Mr. and Mrs. Whitford had enjoyed their ideal married companionship for forty-eight years. They had long worshiped together as members of the Congregational Church.
Their children were: Walter Scott, who is a traveling salesman living at Kansas City; Elffle May, who died in childbood; Minnie May, now Mrs. Alexander, a widow living with her mother; Jessamine, who lives in Council Bluffs, Iowa; Harry Nichols, who was gradusted from the Kansas State Agricultural College in 1890, and is now head of the tropical forestry department at Harvard College; and Casso O., a merehant in California.