About two months ago, I stopped out at the Cemetery of the Highlands to visit the grave of Colonel Jesse Woodhull, my 1st cousin 9x removed, and was really just there to check on the headstones of his family following our winter weather. But while I was standing there, I had a “conversation” with Jesse that included telling him that he was going to help me tell the story of his life, and that of his brother, Ebenezer Woodhull. If you’re not a long time reader of my blog, I have been the sole caretaker of Ebenezer’s grave yard in Blooming Grove for many years now as it was all but abandoned since 1881. (You can read more about that here if you’d like.)
Whether you call it serendipity, convenient timing… whatever YOU call it… I am a firm believer that Jesse somehow heard me and lent me his help because on March 22, I received an email from the Chester Town Historian, Clifton Patrick, and we began talking about the Jayne family who originally sold the property in 1774 to the Woodhulls that the cemetery now sits on. My 7th grandfather, Nathaniel Jayne, sold the land to Ebenezer Woodhull – he was an uncle to Ebenezer and Jesse. Clifton emailed me a list of documents and clippings that were held there in their archives and I quite literally began hyperventilating staring at the picture of Colonel Jesse Woodhull and that of his homestead that I had read so much about in regards to Claudius Smith “stalking” him. My heart just was thumping away and I could hear the blood rushing through my ears. I had been told awhile ago that any pictures of Jesse or Ebenezer likely had perished during a fire and that documenting the Orange County Woodhulls would be terribly hard to do. (which made it all the more appealing of a project)
So anyways… I sat there quite blissfully dumbfounded for some time because I felt that surely, Jesse had heard me and helped me. Since discovering the Woodhulls, I have had the great fortune of meeting and coming across some of the most wonderful, helpful, and knowledgeable people out there in regards to history, and more specifically, Orange County’s history, of which my Woodhulls made a lasting imprint on. I’ve always felt there was a “helping hand” when it came to my research for the Woodhulls. Everything I’ve come across and everyone I’ve met has come along just right when I needed them, and Clifton Patrick was no exception.
I met Clifton at the Chester Town Hall and he pulled out a box just chock full of clippings, articles, and even mementos from various Woodhulls throughout the years. The collection was so interesting – a book of poems given from a Woodhull grand-daughter to a friend, a massive amount of receipts kept by Jesse Woodhull (a grandson) of items he’d purchase for his farm and home and on and on. I need to go back and go through the box again when we have more time but it was fabulous getting to sit down with Clifton who researched the Woodhulls on his own after being confused by the multiple “Jesse Woodhulls” that were around.
Anyways, with Clifton’s permission, I am sharing the picture of Colonel Jesse Woodhull and the drawing of his home that no longer stands. The old homestead was torn down and replaced the Stone House that was built by his grandson, Jesse Woodhull and his wife Mary Sears, that is still standing today. The drawings came via Mary Holden Overton (daughter of John Overton and Mary Caldwell Woodhull), or her daughter Mary Ann Merriam Koontz, and were found in the attic of the stone house. As far as I’m aware, this is the only picture of Colonel Jesse that exists. If I’m wrong, I’d love to talk to someone who has additional info or photos to share with other Woodhull relatives/researchers. The photograph of the Stone House comes via Mary Merriam’s niece, Carolyn.
As for me, this was just another gentle nudge that it’s time for me to take my MASSIVE compilation of Woodhull materials and finally writing something “official” on them. I’m so ever grateful to Clifton Patrick for opening up the Chester Historical Society archives for me and for giving me permission to share these genealogical and historical gems with you.