George Woodward

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Question: What occupation did George Woodward, who was in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company, have that proved to be helpful in the early days in Utah.

Answer: George Woodward was born on September 9, 1817, in Cream Ridge, Monmouth, New Jersey, to George Woodward and Jemima A Shinn.

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George became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a young man, and moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. Here he met and married Thomazine Downing on August 14, 1842. George was a bricklayer, so he was busy building homes in Nauvoo and helping on the temple.

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When the Saints were driven out of Nauvoo in 1846, George and Thomazine moved to Winter Quarters. Here George, age 29, was asked to be a member of Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company headed to the Salt Lake Valley. They made it to the Valley on July 24, 1847. While George was gone from Winter Quarters, his brother, William Woodward, died in November 1846 at Winter Quarters. He was 37 years of age.

In August 1847, George headed back to Winter Quarters, but on the way met his wife coming in the Daniel Spencer/Perrigrine Sessions Company, so he turned around and returned to the Salt Lake Valley with his wife. They arrived back in the Valley the end of September 1847. There are no children listed for George and Thomazine.

In March 1857, George married Mary Ann Wallace in Salt Lake City. Mary Ann had immigrate to the Valley with her father, Neversen Grant Wallace, in the Abraham O. Smoot Company. There is one daughter listed for them, but she died at age one, in August 1872, after they had moved to St. George, Utah.

George moved to St. George in the summer of 1872. For the next several years, George was busy establishing his home there and helping this community to grow. From the Washington County Historical Society site, we learn that George played an important role in the building of the Elementary School, which was named after him.

“During the 1870 and 1880s, overflow from the regular schools spilled into buildings such as the basement of the Tabernacle (three rooms), the upper floor in the old courthouse, the Gardener's Club, the building on First North built by J. W. Nixon for his tin shop, and others. By the 1890s, it became clear that something had to be done to expand the schools.

George Woodward - Man on Right side sitting on the Hearst

George Woodward - Man on Right side sitting on the Hearst

“In 1888, the St. George Stake established an academy that met in the basement of the Tabernacle. Plans were made for building a proper school building in the northwest corner of the Tabernacle block and a quantity of volcanic stone was actually quarried for the foundation. The building campaign stalled in 1890, however, and in 1893 the academy closed.

“The provision of free public schools supported by a county tax, passed by the state legislature in 1890, had led both teachers and cash-starved parents to desert the Stake Academy. But the broader financial base afforded by the possibility of a mill levy opened new possibilities for a public school. In April of 1897, meetings were held to decide what to do. It was decided that a new central school building would be constructed on the northwest corner of the public square. In 1898, the citizens approved a twenty mill levy (2% tax, the maximum allowed by law) to finance a brick school building. Stone was ultimately chosen for its permanence, however, and obtained from the same quarry that had supplied the building of the Tabernacle. The volcanic stone cut for the unbuilt Academy was used for the foundation.

“The city granted the site and construction began in 1898. By the end of the year, $7,000 had been spent putting in the foundation. They found the ground had to be tamped and filled with small lava rock to provide a suitable foundation for such a large building. The foundation was built with the black volcanic rock that had been cut some years before, when plans were laid for the construction of a stake academy. Each year, a new tax was levied and the work slowly went forward.

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“The Woodward School was finished and opened its doors in September of 1901. It was named after George Woodward, a childless resident, who had served as chairman of the school board during the construction. He also donated a substantial sum of money ($3,000) for the hardware and glass. Then he bought the heating plant and the school's first piano.

“The school was a real change from the previous schools. There was a lot more space, the classrooms had blackboards on three walls, they had radiator heat rather than pot-bellied stoves that were either too hot or too cold, and there were real notebooks rather than heavy breakable slates.”

There was also a building called the Woodward School Gym and Industrial Arts Building. This building may have been used for the Saint George Musical Theater before it was torn down.

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George died at age 86 on September 9, 1903 in Saint George, and is buried in the Saint George Cemetery.

Source: Washington County Historical Society; FamilySearch.org; FindAGrave.com