Brandy helped fuel Woodsfield development

A KEG of brandy helped Archibald Woods, one of Woodsfield’s founders, to get things done.

Woods drew attention this week when Woodsfield Village Council gave permission to the Monroe County Historical Society to borrow Woods’ portrait from the mayor’s office to see about restoring and repairing it for the village’s Bicentennial in early July.

The keg of brandy, however, apparently was the center of attention in early 1800s when Woods wanted the main street in what became Woodsfield cleared of trees.

Ohio History Central, which tells of Woodsfield’s founding in 1814, reports that, according to legend, Woods purchased the brandy, “offering drinks to any man who would help clear the street. Reportedly, after a single afternoon of work, the street was clean of trees.”

Possibly, some other men may have helped to pay for the brandy since Woods was not alone in platting the town named for him.

“Monroe County, Ohio: A History” by Theresa A. Maienknecht and Stanley B. Maienknecht, notes that Woodsfield was platted in 1812 by Woods of Wheeling, Va., George Paul of St. Clairsville, Levi Barber of Marietta and Judge Benjamin Ruggles of St. Clairsville. Ruggles later served in the U.S. Senate.

The Maienknechts reported that Woods owned much of the land that became Woodsfield.

Woodsfield, however, wasn’t Woods’ only interest. His papers, which are in a special collection in the Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Va., reveal information about many other subjects such as banking, cholera, the Cumberland Road, land speculation, pioneer life near Wheeling and in Kentucky and Indiana as well as the formation of and early days in Belmont and Monroe counties, including the founding of Woodsfield.

The Northwest Territory, American Indians, family life, marriage and courtship, the Virginia militia during peacetime and in the War of 1812, Ohio politics, the sale of slaves and the Whiskey Rebellion are among other subjects covered.

Woods promoted the building of the Cumberland Road, also known as the National Road, which went through Wheeling into Belmont County.

He briefly served in the Revolutionary War and became a colonel of the Virginia Militia before resigning in 1816.

Woods, who was born Nov. 14, 1764, was the youngest man in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1787. A Federalist, he was a member of the Virginia Convention of 1788.

He was president and a director of the Northwestern Bank of Virginia and owned a flour mill, traded whiskey and leased out land. During the Panic of 1837, the bank was “saved by his ability and care,” according to The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography.

A land speculator in the military warrant land in the Northwest Territory, he bought public land in Ohio and Indiana in addition to having extensive holdings in what later became West Virginia.

He died Oct. 26, 1846, and is buried in Stone Church Cemetery, Elm Grove, the same cemetery which includes the graves of Moses and Lydia Shepherd (later Cruger), who worked with U.S. Sen. Henry Clay to have the National Road go through Wheeling.

Ohio History Central reports Woodsfield grew slowly with the population going from 157 in 1830 to 262 in 1840. The 1880 census showed 861 residents in the town.

Woodsfield, however, had tremendous growth in people during the last decades of the 1880s. “This was principally due to the discovery of oil, natural gas and coal in the surrounding area,” according to Ohio History Central. “This boom period ended by the early 1900s, and most Woodsfield residents returned to businesses that provided materials to Monroe County’s farmers.”

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