Today’s post will take us considerably further back in time than most of my posts, to the Revolutionary War and my 7th-great-grandfather on my maternal side, Benjamin Woodruff (1744–1837). My impetus for writing this post is my recent discovery of a mystery that I’d like to solve someday, or at least learn more about.
In my last post, I spoke of my 3rd-great-grandfather Horace L. Scott, and his death from tuberculosis that he contracted while serving in the Union Army during the Civil War and participating in the Red River Campaign in Louisiana. Horace died at age 28 and left his wife, Caroline (Woodruff) Scott, a widow at the young age of 22. The Benjamin Woodruff of this post is the 2nd-great-grandfather (great-great-grandfather) of Caroline (see the chart below).
A couple of years ago, I was doing some work on my Woodruff line, using the Ancestry.com databases to learn what information I could find on Benjamin Woodruff. As he was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, I found a few Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) applications from his descendants who wished to use his Revolutionary War service to support their claims of being descended from an ancestor who actively supported the American Revolution.
I reviewed one of these applications and added it to my database of genealogical documents, but I didn’t read the application in its entirety until today. Here’s the application (SAR #17201) that caught my attention, submitted by Charles Marius Woodruff, an attorney from Detroit, Michigan, in 1904:
The application reads as a normal SAR application (who is the applicant’s Revolutionary War ancestor?, how is the applicant related to the ancestor?, what did the ancestor do to show active support for the Revolution?, what evidence supports these assertions?), until the very end of the application.
After detailing Benjamin Woodruff’s Revolutionary War service, the applicant makes the following statement (beginning at the bottom of page 5):
The above is from the records of the New Jersey State Adjutant General’s Office; My father and uncles, also my grandfather have told me many incidents of my greatgrandfather’s services and experiences as related to them by himself. Shortly before my great-grandfathers death in 1837 he applied for a pension (see New Jersey Adjutants letter herewith) from Washtenaw County, Mich. The facts concerning his birth (Nov. 26, 1744) and other data on second page of this application are taken from the family bible I have often seen in my grandfather’s house, and now in the possession of Mr. William Woodruff at Rockwood, Mich.; as is also the gun my great grandfather carried during all the Revolutionary war.
Wow—thank you for that bit of detail, Mr. Charles Marius Woodruff! According to Charles, as of 1904 there still existed a family bible documenting the birth of Benjamin Woodruff (although not necessarily contemporaneously), as well as the gun that Benjamin used while fighting the Revolutionary War.
By 1904, Benjamin’s gun had survived 121 years since the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783. Is it possible that it has survived another 109 years since 1904? Since the gun and bible had survived long enough to become revered and cherished family heirlooms, it’s not unrealistic to hope that they survived the last century. Of course, at any point over the course of the last century, the bible or the gun could have been destroyed, sold, lost, stolen, thrown away, forgotten, or some combination of these.
But Charles Woodruff was kind enough to leave some helpful clues, and I love a good mystery, so I’ll be looking into tracking the bible and gun down in the coming months and years. If you know anything that could help in this search, please let me know in the comments. I’ll post updates as the search progresses.