HON. ASA W. WOODFORD
None of the prominent pioneer families of Virginia displayed to a greater degree the qualities of thrift, courtesy,
honor and stability of character than that represented by Colonel Woodford. The attributes noticeable in his own
career came to him as a heritage from a long line of patriotic ancestors. With just pride he claims kinship with
two of the most illustrious generals, Howe and Woodford, of the Revolutionary war. The history of these men is
in part a record of the conflict in which they bore so illustrious a part. For a considerable portion of the struggle
General Woodford commanded one of the ten brigades of the army south of the Hudson and his keen ability as commander
won the highest praise of the commander in chief of the army. Several generations later another prominent representative
of the family, Gen. Stuart S. Woodford, held the post of ambassador to Spain.
Notwithstanding the prominence of the family its members were not seekers of wealth nor financiers, and the earliest
recollections of Asa Wesley Woodford are associated with scenes of poverty and self denial. In a humble home two
miles west of Philippi, Barbour county, Va. (now W. Va.) he was born May 20, 1833, being a son of John Howe and
Nancy (Minear) Woodford, the latter a native of the Old Dominion. The Minear family came from France to America
during the colonial era and some of its members served gallantly in the struggle for independence. The only school
which Colonel Woodford ever attended was held in a log cabin on Pleasant creek. Through habits of close observation
and thorough self culture in later years he has acquired a fund of information not always possessed by graduates
of leading educational institutions. When seventeen years of age he was employed by a cattle drover and felt very
appreciative of his wages, which (to revert to an idiom of that period) consisted of "thirty five cents a
day and no dinner "
When the young cattle herder had proved his trustworthiness he was selected for the important task of assisting
to take a drove of stock to Philadelphia, a distance of four hundred and fifty miles. The trip was made during
the winter of 1849 and he walked both ways, the return journey being made in eleven days notwithstanding the handicap
of snow and mud. Twelve years later he traveled over the same road to Philadelphia and drove six hundred head of
his own cattle, which he had sold to the government for the commissariat department of the Union army. Not only
was he the first man to attempt to drive stock from his part of West Virginia to the eastern markets during the
Civil war, but he also continued to be one of the large dealers in stock and frequently supplied the government
with beef cattle. In his dealings with the north he was successful, but a different condition of affairs met him
in 1863, when the Confederate generals, Jones and Imbodeu, swept across West Virginia in their disastrous raids.
General Jones took from the James Pickens farm in Barbour county a herd of two hundred and fifty fat cattle belonging
to Colonel Woodford and these were slaughtered for the sustenance of the Confederate soldiers during the march
to Gettysburg, but the owner of the cattle received no pay except the Confederate money that proved absolutely
At the opening of the war Colonel Woodford favored the Union cause with all the ardor of his nature and he voted
against the ordinance of secession. With customary enthusiasm he quickly raised a regiment of soldiers in Ritchie
county, W. Va., all pledged to fight for the government. It was the understanding that he was to act as colonel
of the regiment, but he was superseded by N. Moses S. Hall, whereupon he gave up all thought of active service
and resumed the cattle business. After the war he voted the Democratic ticket. During 1868 he was elected to represent
Lewis county in the West Virginia legislature and in the session of 1869 he assisted in formulating the first code
of the new state. Twice he was elected sheriff of Lewis county, W. Va., and in 1882 he received the Democratic
nomination for senator in the tenth district, but at the polls he was defeated by Captain Coburn of Barbour county.
In 1892 he was a candidate before the Democratic convention for governor of West Virginia. During April of that
year he made a speech at Grafton before the Democratic mass convention and received the highest praise of William
J. Bryan, then a member of congress, who commended the address as that of a statesman in advance of his party on
financial questions. The views he then held became the leading plank in the national Democratic platform adopted
four years later.
Although a resident of Elsinore since 1904 and owning one of the most beautiful places in the locality, Colonel
Woodford retains extensive interests in West Virginia and still has a part of the old Barbour county homestead
where he was reared. His principal holdings are in Lewis county, where he owns a valuable estate of more than one
thousand acres on the Westfork river near Weston. One peculiarity of the farm is the presence of a natural gas
fire in the fields and it is a common sight to see his splendid herd of Hereford cattle gathered around the fire
to enjoy its warmth. Now, as always, the cattle represent the finest specimens of their breed. The farm has been
a center for the upbuilding of Herefords and its influence has been felt for good throughout the country. On several
occasions shipments were made from the farm to the markets of London and Liverpool, but the Colonel found the business
unprofitable owing to the sharp competition abroad and of recent years he has limited his sales to the United States.
In addition to other enterprises he erected a large flour mill at Weston several years ago and thus founded an
industry of great value to the subsequent progress of the community.
The marriage of Colonel Woodford took place in 1854 near Flemington. Taylor county, W. Va., and united him with
Miss Rebecca Collier, daughter of Rev. Jasper Cather, a pioneer minister of the Baptist denomination. Three children
were born of the union who still survive and there are also three deceased. Flora S., Clarkson J. and Bruce S.
Iris Columbia, who was born in 1855, resides in the city of Baltimore. Phoebe Jane, born in 1856, is living in
Warsaw, Ind. John Howe Woodford, born in 1864, is now located' near Elsinore where he owns a fine ranch of sixty
acres under cultivation to fruit and grain. The wife and mother passed away in 1885, firm in the faith of the Baptist
Church, of which she and the Colonel had been communicants from early life. Since 1864 the Colonel has been actively
identified with the Masonic Order. During later years he has traveled extensively and has visited the principal
cities of the United States as well as the old world, but he finds no climate more agreeable and no environment
more beautiful than that of Elsinore, the chosen home of the twilight of his successful career.
History of Riverside County, California
With a Biographical Review
History by Elmer Wallace Holmes
And other well known writers
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1912
Riverside County, CA
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