Undertaker-San Jose

 Bio-Pen Pictures 1888

            William L. Woodrow, of the firm of Trueman & Woodrow, undertakers, No. 117 South First Street, San Jose, has been a resident of the Pacific Coast for the past twenty-six years, and for the past eighteen years has been the leading undertaker in California outside of San Francisco.  A native of Pembroke, Genesee County, New York, where he was born July 5, 1835, his parents removed when he was six years old to Churchville, Monroe County, where the family lived four years.  There his mother died on January 6, 1844, and is buried in Churchville Cemetery.  In 1845 the family removed to Spencerport in the same county, near the city of Rochester.  Soon after they removed to Spencerport the subject of this sketch went to live with an old farmer named Lemuel Brown, a friend of his father.  On this farm he remained four years, attending school in the winter months, and aiding in the general work as far as he could in the summer.  Here he acquired  those habits of industry and attention to the duties of life which, coupled with the precept and example inculcated by that old Christian gentleman, have done much to make his private life and business career so marked a success.  At the age of fifteen years he returned to Spencerport, soon after which the family removed to Lee County, Iowa.  Here his father purchased a farm, which the subject of this sketch took charge of, the knowledge he had gained in New York State enabling him to manage it practically, which he did until 1856.  Until the age of nineteen years, Mr. Woodrow always attended school during the winter months, acquiring all the elements of a public-school education.

            On December 9, 1856, at the age of twenty-one years, he was married to Miss Margaret E. Wilcoxson, of Clay Grove, Iowa, daughter of Berry Wilcoxson, one of the oldest and most respectable residents of that part of the country.  Mr. Wilcoxson owned one of the finest farms and the largest orchards in that section, being especially devoted to his orchard. 

            Mr. Woodrow after his marriage conducted a farm on his own account until 1862.  He then started across the plains, taking his wife and two children in ox wagons.  Leaving the Missouri River May 22, he reached California four months later, the Rev. D. E. Bushnell being a member of the train.  His first experience in mining was in Butte County, on the Yuba River north of Marysville.  After devoting four years to mining and dealing in mining property in Butte County, California, and in Humboldt and Virginia City, Nevada, with varying fortunes, he came to Santa Clara County in impaired health in November, 1866.  Here he engaged in farming at Berryessa for two years, his family residing in San Jose.  This occupation not being congenial, he purchased, in 1871, a half interest in the undertaking business with his present partner, Marcus Trueman, in which they have continued since that time.

            His two elder daughters, born in Iowa, are Jennie L., wife of William H. Flagg, of San Francisco, and Mollie F., wife of Charles J. Hirsch, also of San Francisco.  Since coming to the Pacific slope three children have been born to them:  Charles W., at Humboldt, Nevada; George B. and Grace E., at San Jose.  George B. died in 1877, at San Jose, aged five years and three months.  Mr. Woodrow’s first wife died January 2, 1882.  In 1883 he was married to Miss Emma H. Kellner, daughter of Rev. Augustus Kellner, Pastor of the First German Methodist Episcopal Church of San Francisco, which church he established in 1853, and of which he was pastor until his death, some years later.  Mrs. Woodrow was born August 1, 1858. She was for twelve years the organist of the German Methodist Episcopal Church of San Jose.  They have had one child, Hazel Augusta, who died in March, 1888, aged one year.  Mr. Woodrow’s parents were Benjamin and Mary F. (Sprague) Woodrow, the former a native of England, and the latter of New York.  His father, now eighty-one years old (1888), is interested with his son, J. M. Woodrow, in the Jasper County National Bank, of Newton, Iowa, of which J. M. is President.

            The subject of this sketch owns some valuable orchard property in the neighborhood of San Jose, and an elegant home on Third Street, between St. James and Julian Streets.  He is a member of Friendship Lodge, No. 210, F. & A. M.; of San Jose Lodge, No. 34, I. O. O. F., and of Enterprise Lodge, No. 17, A. O. U. W.  He is also President of the State Funeral Directors’ Association.  He is now holding the office for the second term, having been re-elected May 14, ’88.  He has been a member of and actively connected with the Methodist Episcopal Church of San Jose for the past twenty-two years, and has been one of the stewards of the church for twenty-one years, and also Treasurer of the church for a time.  The very marked success which has attended Mr. Woodrow in his undertaking business is due to the gentle and sympathetic care with which he attends personally to its details.  Until that sad hour has arrived when it becomes necessary to prepare the treasured forms of our loved one for their last long rest, few can appreciate how necessary are the services of one skillful and experienced to lift the burden of direction from those bereaved, and administer tenderly and understandingly the last sad rites to the beloved dead.  Then we require the aid of the experienced and careful undertaker.  Mr. Woodrow is all that a funeral director should be, combining thorough knowledge with excellent taste and a delicacy of refinement.  Those who have had occasion to employ him professionally during the past eighteen years, understand and appreciate the superior manner in which he has always performed the last sad offices of his profession.

Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H. S. Foote.- Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888.
Pg. 265-266
Transcribed by Kathy Sedler
Proofread by Betty Vickroy


To acceptably perform the duties of a funeral director rquires more than mere experience.  To eneter the hosue of death, where sorrow prevails to the exclusion of all else, and there perform the last kindly offices, requires that he who perfrorms the duty shall be possessed of a gentle, sympathetic nature, one who knows what sorrow means to those who mourn, and who is capable fo helping to assuage gief.  Until the sad hour has come, few can appreciate how necessary are the services of one who is experienced to lift the burden of direction and administer tenderly and understandingly the last sad rites.  For tweny-five years past W. L. Woodrow has performed the duties of funeral director in this community ahd has proven to be possessed of the qualities of mind and hear necessary to acceptably serve in that capacity.  those ho had had occaszion to employ Mr. Woodrow can bear witness to the superior manner in which he has always performed every duty connected with his business. His parlor at 117 South First street are models of taste and elegance and are complete in every detail.  His goods are of the best, his hearses are of the finest and his servies conscientiously rendered.  Mr. Woodrow is a member of and an ex- President of the State Funeral Directos' Association.
Sunshine, Fruit and Flowers- 1896
Santa Clara County and its Resources- Souvenir of The San Jose Mercury
transcribed by Cdf

 see additional bio- from Sawyers


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