About William Woodward
William Woodward was born on March 8, 1768, to Elias Woodward and wife Lydia Cliff, on the family farm at Windham, Connecticut. He was well-educated for his day and became a surveyor. He married (1) Jane McGowan and (2) Abigail Cutter. There were several children from the second marriage but all died during infancy. He died in 1833 in Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio.
In 1791, William Woodward, came to Cincinnati because the area was in need of surveyors, his trained profession. He also farmed and was granted an acre of land near present-day Fountain Square. When he returned from fighting in campaigns against the American Indians in 1792, he married Jane McGowen but she died just thirteen months later. He married Abigail Cutter in 1803. She was nineteen years his junior. He built a home from planks of flat-boats as their starter home and in 1816 he built a brick house at the corner of Main and Webster (now 14th) Streets in front of the wooden home. The wooden home stood until the 1860's.
Abigail was only fifteen years old when she inherited money and land from her father, who had been killed by Indians. She was the daughter of Joseph Cutter, who had brought her to Cincinnati as an infant from Medford, Massachusetts. Her mother had died when Abigail was six months old. Her father had become rich and influential through fortunate investments in real estate and lived in a fine home on Seventh Street near Main. Mr. Cutter also had his out-lots, north of Twelfth Street, west of Central Parkway, near the present Music Hall, which he used to farm. There, one morning, he was surprised by Indians and carried off. The men of the town formed a searching party, but after three days in which they found only his shoe and a journey that took them as far as the Great Miami River, they had to return to town without him.
In 1796, William purchased 120 acres from his brother Levi and this land went from present-day 13th Street to Liberty and from Main to Broadway. William Woodward donated land for both the original Woodward College/High School and a free public school on Franklin Street (now Woodward), which became Peaslee School.
After William's death in 1833 and Abigail's death in 1852, the home was inherited by their niece, Abigail Foster Lewis, whose husband, Henry Lewis was the brother of William's friend. They lived in the home for some time and after her death, the home went her half-brother, Seth Foster, one of the founders of the Stearns and Foster, a prominent mattress company.
Seth Foster rented the home over the years to various tenants. It almost reached its 100th birthday, but in 1912, it was demolished to make way for the new motion picture theater which was named in William Woodward's honor. The theater opened in 1913, however it closed in 1933, possibly as a result of the Great Depression. In 1935, Andy Schain Auto, Inc. moved in and was in business at this location until some time in the 1940's. In 1990, the building was purchased by Greg Starnes, who already had an antique shop further south on Main Street. The theater was used as storage until 1995, when he opened it as a second location for his antiques. Last year, Greg Starnes closed his shop on Main Street and February, 2013 brought new owners. Now, in June, 2013, to celebrate the birthday of the Woodward Theater, the lights on the façade will once again shine as the theater is transformed into an entertainment venue.
On January 24, 1833, fifteen months to the day after the opening of the school, Mr. Woodward died. City Council in a Tribute of Respect inscribed in the minutes January 25, 1833, their sentiments of respect and admiration. The City Council attended William's funeral the next day. He was buried on his own property, on land that eventually became the property of the high school bearing his name. Mrs. Woodward died in 1852, surviving her husband by nineteen years, and was buried beside him. Students at Woodward High like to tell tales that Abigail haunts the school.
Links to additional material:
- http://www.diggingcincinnati.com/ -- Blog has many photos of the Woodward Theatre, built on the site of the original Woodward home in that part of Cincinnati known as "Over the Rhine."
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodward_High_School_(Cincinnati,_Ohio) -- includes reference to ghost stories.
- http://woodwardtrust.org/Biography.html - extensive biography of William Woodward
- Cases Decided in the Supreme Court of Ohio in Bank, Volume 9, publ. 1873, discusses a land transaction in the settlement of the estates of William Woodward and John Cutter.[available as Google e-book]