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Saturday, April 15, 2017

WOODIN | Will Woodin's Oxford, Conn. Ancestors

William H[artman] ("Will") Woodin, FDR's first Treasury Secretary, was born in Berwick, Pa., but before his family settled in Pennsylvania they lived in Oxford, Conn.

His ancestor David Woodin left England because he did not conform to the Church of England. Being a dissenter was, for a time, a treasonous way of life.

The English dissenters with which the first Woodins identified appear to have been Congregationalists. Having first  tried settling in the Netherlands, the dissenters migrated in large numbers to New Haven.

Why New Haven Was a Magnet for Puritans

New Haven was founded in 1638 by John Davenport and some 500 other Puritans who left Boston to create a theocratic colony. Unfortunately there were lapses of discipline in Boston and immigrants to New England chose to go to a new colony that permitted only fellow dissenters. Called the New Haven Colony, it was originally independent of the Connecticut colony to the south.

The Congregational churches or meetinghouses in the United States broke more definitively with the Church of England than the Presbyterians, who were at times allied with the Anglicans. The distinctive feature of the Congregational Church is that each church runs its own affairs; there is no hierarchy. The Presbyterians, however, elect not only their elders but higher regional levels of church leaders—the American Constitution is modeled on the Presbyterian church organization, using some of the language of Free Masonry.

The Congregational churches led the migration to America and later the revolt by Oliver Cromwell and others against Charles I. In 1630, Puritans founded the first American Congregational Church in Watertown, Massachusetts, under the leadership of Sir Richard Saltonstall. They chose Rev. George Phillips from Norfolk County, England, as their first pastor.

Because of their emphasis on thinking for themselves, the Congregational churches put great emphasis on learning and founded some of the first colleges and universities in America, starting with Harvard in 1636 and then (as with Cambridge leaving Oxford) through dissent with Harvard thinking, Yale. Then they started Dartmouth, Williams, Bowdoin, Middlebury, and Amherst—and later, Beloit, Carleton, Grinnell, Oberlin, and Pomona. 
As Harvard was forming, in 1635, seven of the Watertown Puritans who came in 1630 left the Boston area and settled in Wethersfield, Connecticut, becoming the second church organized and located in Connecticut (the first being in Windsor, earlier in the same year). In 1641, the New Haven Colony, at Rev. John Davenport's suggestion, offered land to 28 Wethersfield families within New Haven and they became the First Congregational Church of Stamford, six years before Stamford itself formally existed. Rev. John Sherman served as first pastor in Wethersfield (1635-1641) and Rev. Richard Denton, originally from Halifax, England, served as first pastor of the church in Stamford (1641-1644). Out of the migration to New Haven would come the momentum to found Yale.

William Woodin Migrates from England before 1642

Records of the First Congregational Church in New Haven indicate that three Woodin generations lived in New Haven at least part of their lives. The first William Woodin arrived three years after New Haven was founded, in 1842. He married Sarah Clark, who may have been the reason he chose New Haven, because she seems to have had family in the Colony. She died in 1691, seven years after her husband. Almost surely he or she had family or business connections in New Haven. They were members of the growing Congregational church, which would found Yale University in 1701, ten years after Sarah died. 

The first two American generations of Woodins appear to have sought security and lived long lives. The two Woodins born in New Haven to William and Sarah Woodin lived to an average age of 70. Will Woodin's g4[gggg] grandfather, Benjamin Woodin (1670-1738), was born when his father was 29. Benjamin married Mary Wilmot and he lived to be 67. His wife was five years younger and lived four years longer.

Benjamin and Mary Woodin had a son William in 1718. He married Katherine Harrington and moved to Oxford, Conn., He lived to 73 and his wife to 80.

The Oxford Woodins

Oxford, Conn. is located midway between Waterbury and Bridgeport, nestled between the Naugatuck River to the east and the Housatonic River to the west. The two rivers create an opportunity for good farmland and woodlands. Oxford, Conn. has a sawmill that would have been an Oxford export and generated the raw materials for builders of homes and boats in the region. Today there are many Woodins living in Oxford, with first names Alvin (connected with the Trowbridge family), Donald, Heidi, Lisa, and Pin Dylan.

The two Oxford-born Woodin ancestors were adventurous. Both had shockingly short lives. One Woodin died at sea as a young man and his son died of an illness in the same year his wife died.

Milo Woodin was born in 1774 in Oxford but decided to make his career on the open seas as a whaler — a dangerous but exciting profession. He was successful, rising to become captain of his own whaling ship, an Ahab (but presumably nicer) of his day. He married someone named Lucy (her last name is not recorded anywhere). Sadly, he was lost at sea as a young man of 28, in 1803.

Five years before he died, in 1798, Milo had a son, Will Woodin's great-grandfather, David Charles Woodin. David was an architect, and the last of the Woodins born in 1798 in Connecticut.

Pennsylvania, Ho!

David Woodin most likely left Oxford, Conn. in search of work. Pennsylvania was well-suited for the industrial revolution that was under way in the early 19th century, with ample coal and iron and rivers to carry them on. He was married in 1819 to Sarah Hartman (1792-1825), who was born in Catawissa, Columbia County, Pa., six years before her husband. David died, like his father, a very young man, on October 21, 1825, just 27, a month after his wife. Sarah’s brother Casper Hartman and his son and daughter-in-law were felled by an illness called the “flux”. The same illness seems to have killed David Woodin and his wife. It is considered today to have been a form of dysentery caused by bacteria or a parasite.

David and Sarah's children were William Hartman Woodin — Will Woodin's grandfather and co-founder of the Jackson & Woodin foundry — and two younger siblings, Joseph B. Woodin, and a daughter whose name is lost. All three of them were orphaned in 1825, the eldest being just five years old and the daughter aged two. These toddlers appear to have been brought up by Sarah’s brother Casper Hartman, and his wife Deborah Carr. Casper was born in Catawissa in 1777, the son of a pioneer German immigrant, Johann Wilhelm Hartman (1748-1831) from Baden Baden, Germany and a Quaker, Frances Reemy, so that there may have been some Quaker influences in the home of David Woodin.