Collection ID: MS 1157

Collection context


Wood family
1809-1934, bulk 1839-1868
Chiefly the letters of William Cowper Wood to his parents written from Washington, D.C. and Joliet, Illinois. Also included is a ledger (1809-1837) kept by his father, Joseph Wood, a judge in New Haven, Connecticut, miscellaneous family letters, and genealogical materials.
0.75 Linear Feet


Acquisition information:
Gift of Mrs. F. C. Porter, 1906; and Norton E. Wood, 1943.
Rules or conventions:
translation missing: en.enumerations.resource_finding_aid_description_rules.Finding aid created in accordance with Manuscripts and Archives Processing Manual
Scope and Content:

The Wood Family Papers consist largely of letters of William Cowper Wood (1821-1889) to his parents. He lived in Washington, D.C., from 1840 to 1841, traveled on business for several years, and then settled in Joliet, Illinois, in 1845. Other family correspondence is also included in the collection, as is a ledger of Joseph Wood, father of William C. Wood, and a small amount of genealogical material.

The bulk of these papers was donated to Yale University in 1943 by Norton Ellsworth Wood; the ledger and several other items were donated in 1906 by Mrs. Frank C. Porter.

Biographical / Historical:

Joseph Wood, the second son of David Wood, a pious farmer of Stanwich Parish, in the northern part of Greenwich, Connecticut, and grandson of Joseph Wood, of Huntington, Long Island, and Greenwich, was born on March 24, 1779. His mother was Sarah, daughter of Simon Ingersoll, of Greenwich.

He studied law with Judge Charles Chauncey, of New Haven, and on his admission to the bar in 1803 settled in Stamford, Connecticut, where he continued to practice until 1826. He was Clerk of the Stamford Probate Court from 1814 to 1816, and Judge of that Court from 1816 to 1819; and was one of the Representatives of the town in the General Assembly in 1821 and 1822.

From 1826 to 1837 he resided in Bridgeport, and then for four years in New York City, where he established a periodical devoted to agriculture.

In 1841 he removed to New Haven, and there spent the remainder of his life.

He was Judge of the New Haven County Court for two years (1844-46), in which office he showed conspicuously the true qualities of a jurist. He was also elected City Clerk for six years, 1844-49.

His death occurred in New Haven with tragic suddenness, from ossification of the arteries, on November 13, 1856, in his 78th year. He was a member of a circle of retired clergymen and laymen, who were in the habit of meeting weekly in President Day's study; and on the day of his death he was present at such a meeting and had taken part in the discussion of the morning, when he fell lifeless. A brief pamphlet, entitled Memoranda respecting the late Hon. Joseph Wood, was published soon after (New Haven, 11 pp.).

His religious character was unquestioned, and he served as a deacon in the First Church in New Haven from 1848 to his death. During his later years he gave much time to the study of the Scriptures and the investigation of questions of theology.

He married, on May 10, 1809, Frances, second daughter of Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth, of Windsor, and sister of his classmate. She died in New Haven, on March 14, 1868, in her 82d year.

Of their five children, one son was graduated here in 1833. The elder daughter married the Rev. Sylvester Cowles (Hamilton Coll. 1828); and the younger married Professor Chester S. Lyman (Yale 1837).

Judge Wood collected materials for the life of his distinguished father-in-law, which have been made use of by later hands.

(Taken from Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College, Vol. V, by Franklin Bowditch Dexter).

For charts outlining the genealogical relations of the Wood family, please consult theGenealogical Charts.


Sterling Memorial Library
Yale Campus
New Haven, CT, USA
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