Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wake Wednesday - Merry Christmas from Raleigh c. 1907

So, I was casting about for a WW post with a holiday theme and happened on this quaint turn of the century Christmas postcard that was featured in the North Carolina Postcards section of the digital North Carolina Collection at UNC. 

This is a postcard that B. H. Woodell, of Raleigh, had personalized and printed to send to his friends and colleagues in December 1907. It is a very classic and formal card typical the ones I have seen from that time period. 

I am not familiar with Mr. Woodell and wondered what sort of footprint he left in Wake County for that time period. 

A Google search turned up several entries for him in an 1887 Raleigh City Directory housed at the NC Archives. This ad from the directory shows that he was a business man in downtown Raleigh at that time.  

There are several other mentions of Mr. Woodell in this directory. They document his dual occupations of shoe merchant and broker/commission merchant, and his membership in the Odd Fellows, a fraternal and benevolent society. His home address of 118 N. Dawson and business address of 230 Fayetteville Street indicates that Raleigh was truly a walk-able city back then. He could have walked the half mile trip in about 10 or 15 minutes.

The next hit on my Google search turned up several newspaper articles that documented his activities as Grand Secretary in the Odd Fellows, his travels, his visitors, and even an illness. He was active and well known in his community.

Another hit turned up a free ebook on Google books documenting the 1907 Annual Session of the Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows of North Carolina. Mr. Woodell was a busy man! I count more than twenty mentions of him in this book. (If you have ancestors from Wake who were Odd Fellows, you want to check out this free book.)

Next, my search pulled a hit at My Heritage that told me that his daughter Mary married into the Briggs family, also prominent at that time. 

I made all these discoveries about someone I am unfamiliar with, and I hadn't even touched Ancestry or FamilySearch yet. 

A quick search at Ancestry tells me that Mr. Woodell was born in August 1839. His full name was Burwell Henry Woodell. He married Emily Jane Buchanan in his home county of Chatham in 1868. They were living in Raleigh at least by 1871. They had six children, four of which were born here in Raleigh. They lived at various times on Blount Street and Person Street. B. H. died in Wayne County in 1919, but was buried in Raleigh at Oakwood Cemetery.

A biography Mr. Woodell's life can be found on Ancestry in "History of North Carolina, Vol. 5." It chronicles his early life in rural Chatham County, his military service in the Civil War, and his early entrepreneurial career in Raleigh. There is a very thorough and impressive accounting of his time and activities in the Odd Fellows. As the other sources hinted at, he was a very important man in this organization, not only for Raleigh, but for all of the state as well. From the text:
"Mr. Woodell has personally organized a large per cent of the Odd Fellow lodges in North Carolina, and his voice has been heard in almost every lodge room in the state. In 1885, when he was elected grand secretary, there were forty-two lodges in North Carolina, with 1,208 members. In June 1916, there were 240 lodges with more than 15,000 members, and a large part of this gain in membership may be directly attributed to his faithful and untiring efforts."
Mr. Woodell must have had many, many of those postcards printed up! I suspect the high esteem was mutual many times around.

For me, this exercise was certainly a lesson in being open to non traditional sources to fill in the gaps in your research. I will make every effort to"peek around the corners and under the rugs" for my next search.

Merry Christmas, Mr. B. H. Woodell.

Glad Holidays Tidings to all of our readers!

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