Skip to main content

Woods Family Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Woods

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence, writings, documents, genealogical research notes and photographs relating to the Woods family, descendants of Henry Ruiter (originally Hendrick de Ruyter) of Canada.

Mainly correspondence, much of it to or from Frank H. Woods, Jr. relating to his quest for information about his ancestors in order to write a family history. The most interesting correspondents are early Woods family members whose letters were saved by Frank Woods's great-grandmother, Fanny Woods. Other major correspondents are Frederick Moffatt Woods, including some letters written when he served in the Civil War, and Frank H. Woods, Sr., whose letters were saved when he was courting his wife Nelle Cochrane in the 1890's. There are a few letters written by Fanny's brother Charles Ryland Woods, who was prospecting in Galena in 1842 and in California in the 1850's, and who was working a cotton plantation in Louisiana in 1864. There are also Civil War letters (1862-1863) written by Daniel Newton Clark, a member of Company B of the 15th Illinois Infantry who died at Natchez, Miss., in Sept. of 1863. Also in the collection are many poems (both manuscript and printed) of Fanny Woods, who published under the pen name "Liffie Locke," numerous articles and clippings relating to the lives and deaths of Frederick Moffatt and Frank Sr., a small amount of memorabilia, a box of family photographs and a wooden dispatch box.


  • Creation: approximately 1775-1975
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1820 - 1975



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Woods Family Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Woods Family Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biographies of Woods Family Members

This collection, assembled and preserved by Frank H. Woods Jr. for a proposed family history, includes information on the Woods family descendants of Henry Ruiter (1742-1819). The Woods Papers reflect the lives and activities of six generations of the family, and although many family members are represented, Fanny Woods, Frederick Moffatt Woods, Frank H. Woods Sr. and Frank H. Woods, Jr. predominate. Biographical notes on these individuals follow.

Henry Ruiter's life and genealogical line are fully described in a book by Rick J. Ashton entitled The Life of Henry Ruiter (1974). Born and raised in Albany County, New York, Ruiter declared himself a Loyalist during the Revolution and fled to Canada to fight with the British. For his services, he was granted acreage in Potton County, Lower Canada. Ruiter married twice and had fifteen children.

One of his daughters, Rebecca, married Jedediah Woods of Warwick, Massachusetts, and they settled in Boone County, Illinois, where their daughter Fanny was born in 1822. Fanny was a prolific poet and her works were frequently published in periodicals of the day. Fanny married Elias Spalding Woods of a distantly related Vermont family, and after his death, Marcus White. Fanny Woods White died in 1893.

Fanny had three sons, the eldest of whom was Frederick Moffatt Woods. Raised in Illinois, he served with the Elgin U.S. Light Artillery (also known as Renwick's Elgin Battery Light Artillery) during the Civil War. He was mustered in Sept. 4, 1864, and served in the Battle of Nashville. His battery traveled east through Knoxville and Wheeling to Washington, D.C. By May of 1865 Woods was in the USA General Hospital in Chester Pa., where he accepted a clerk's position. He was discharged June 13, 1865. Later in life he moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he became involved in agricultural matters and cattle breeding. When he died in 1928 he was survived by four sons, one of whom was Frank H. (Frank Henry) Woods, born in 1868.

Frank H. Woods spent his adult life in Lincoln, Nebraska. His first calling was as a lawyer, but he achieved fame as founder of the Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph Company. He was president and chairman of LT from 1904 to 1946, but was extensively involved in many other businesses in Lincoln, Chicago and Cleveland. Frank H. Woods, Sr. died in 1952.

His son, Frank H. (Frank Henry) Woods, Jr., was born in Lincoln in 1905, but after college he began a rigorous business life in Chicago and settled with his family in Lake Forest. In 1967 he wrote, "For the past two years I have been working on a family history made possible by a remarkable collection of letters and papers preserved by Fanny Woods during the period 1840 through 1882." Frank Woods Jr. corresponded with his relatives and various genealogical societies for most of his adult life, and the result was a manuscript entitled "Fanny" in which he chronicles not only Fanny Woods's life but the lives of other family members as well. Woods also did exclusive research for a biography of Henry Ruiter, which was completed by Rick J. Ashton in 1974. Frank H. Woods, Jr. died in 1980.


5.3 Linear Feet (7 boxes, 1 oversize box, and 1 record carton)


Correspondence, writings, documents, genealogical research notes and photographs relating to the Woods family, descendants of Henry Ruiter (originally Hendrick de Ruyter) of Canada. Collected and preserved by Frank H. Woods, Jr. of Illinois, to be used for a complete (unfinished) family history, most of the material concerns Frank H. Woods's great-grandmother, Fanny M. Woods, his grandfather Frederick Moffatt Woods, and his father, Frank H. Woods. Included is a large group of Fanny Woods's poetry and a rough draft of a lengthy genealogical work by Frank H. Woods, Jr. entitled "Fanny." Also, Civil War letters to and from Frederick Moffatt Woods, and a letter from William Jennings Bryan, and 1850's letters from the California mines by Fanny's brother, Charles Ryland Woods. Other family names included are Barnett, Cochrane, Eddy, Haecker, and Ruiter.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Woods Family Correspondence, 1835-1905
Box 1
Series 2: Fanny Woods White, 1843-1891
Boxes 1-2
Series 3: Frederick Moffatt Woods, 1864-1928
Boxes 2-3
Series 4: Frank H. Woods, Sr., 1890-1967
Boxes 3-4
Series 5: Frank H. Woods, Jr., 1820-1975
Boxes 4-6
Series 6: Woods Family Photographs, ca. 1850-1974
Box 7
Series 7: Oversize
Box 8
Series 8: Artifacts
Box 9

Collection Stack Location

1 36 6-7


Gift of Louise Brewer Woods (Mrs. Frank H. Woods Jr.), 1979.

Processed by

Virginia H. Smith, 2003.

Inventory of the Woods Family Papers, approximately 1775-1975, bulk 1820-1975
Virginia H. Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States