GOVERNOR SILAS WOODSON
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From "The Woodsons and Their Connections", Volume 1, pages 103, 104, and 105, compiled and published by Henry Morton Woodson, 1915


(Wade Netherland, (5), Tucker Woodson, (4), Joseph Woodson (3), Robert Woodson (2), John Woodson, (1)


Silas Woodson, born May 18, 1819, near Barbourville, Knox county, KY, where he grew to manhood and received a good education. At a very early age he developed some fine traits of character. When only about sixteen years old, his father put him in charge of a lot of negroes, wagons, and teams and sent him to Virginia to bring back home some household goods and chattels. He made the trip through the mountain wilds of KY and Va, and executed his commission as well as any older person could have. Not long after this, his father died, and Silas took up the study of medicine, but soon became convinced of his unfitness for this profession, and turned his attention to the study of law and politics. About this time, James G. Blaine, a young man from the state of Maine came to Barbourville to teach school. While engaged in this occupation, he organized a debating club of which he, being the schoolmaster, was president. It is noteworthy that this little debating club in this obscure Kentucky village numbered among its members at that same time, four men who, later in life, took such prominent parts in the affairs of several states and the nation. James G. Blaine, president of the club became a statesman of national fame, was speaker of the house of representatives in the Congress, secretary of state, and in 1884, republican nominee for the presidency. Joseph Toole, a member of the club, afterwards became governor of Montana, Samuel Miller, an associate justice of the supreme court of the United States; and Silas Woodson closed his useful career as governor of the State of Missouri. Silas Woodson was married September 1842 to Mary Jane McRoberts, daughter of Andrew McRoberts. She was called Mary Jane for short. Her full name, as recorded in the family Bible, being, "Mary Jane, Molly Tolly, Beauty Skin, Cabbage Head, Slade Welling McRoberts." ( this bit if information is given by Miss Lorene Woodson.) She was born October 16, 1925. At the early age of 23, Silas Woodson, in 1842, represented his county of Knox in the Kentucky legislature. His wife died March 22, 1845, leaving one son, Miller Woodson. Her widowed husband was married second, on July 27, 1846, to Miss Olivia Adams, who was born November 16, 1828, and died in February, 1856, without issue. He was a member of the Kentucky constitutional convention in 1849 and the only member who advocated the gradual emancipation of slaves. In 1853-55 he again represented Knox county in the legislature, and in 1856 he moved to St. Joseph, Missouri, where he engaged in the general practice of law, being the senior member of the law firm of Woodson and Hughes; the junior member being Bela Hughes, representative in congress from the St. Joseph district. Between the years 1860 and 1870 he served several terms as judge of the circuit court of Buchanan county. On December 27, 1866, at Lexington, KY, he was married, third, to Miss Virginia Juliet Lard, daughter of Reverend Moses E. Lard, who next to Alexander Campbell was the foremost divine of the Christian Church in its early history. Virginia Juliet Lard was born May 23, 1846, near Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia). She received a thorough education at the best schools of the day and was little more than twenty years of age when she became the wife of Silas Woodson. She was indued with rare natural endowments, and unusual capabilities, making a most excellent helpmate to her husband and gracing his many honors an offices to the fullest satisfaction of his most exacting friends. In 1896 she followed her husband into the Catholic Church, of which she was a devout and faithful member during the rest of her life. She died January 25, 1907, in Kansas City, and was buried by the side of her husband in St. Joseph, Missouri. In 1870 the infamous Drake Constitution, under which Missouri had lived under almost feudal laws and penalties since the early sixties was abrogated. During that year B.Gratz Brown was elected governor as a "Liberal Republican, " and the "Test Oath" which had deprived many thousands of southern sympathizers of their franchises, became a thing of the past. During the Civial War, Silas Woodson had been a consistent 'Union Democrat,' and held a colonel's commission in the Federal army, although he never saw active service 'at the front.' During those troublous times, whether holding office or pleading cases before the courts, he was at all time on the side of what was just and right, lending his best abilities to the restoration of a constitution that would extend equal rights and privileges to northern and southern sympathizers alike; and took no small part in the events that led up to the ultimate abrogation of the "Drake Constitution." His reputation as a lawyer and judge of unusual ability and absolute integrity, had already made him a marked man over the entire state and when the democratic state convention met in 1872, he was unanimously and by acclamation chosen as chairman of the convention and although in no sense a candidate for the office, was unanimously and by acclamation nominated as the democratic candidate for the governorship; and in November of that year was elected---"Missouris's first Democratic Governor since the war"- by a majority so great as to certify the fact that many thousands of republican voters, knowing and trusting his ability and his integrity, had cast their ballots for him, notwithstanding their opposing partisan politics. He entered upon the duties of his office, January 1, 1873, serving to the end, December 31, 1874, with signal ability, greatly reducing the state debt which, during the war, had grown to fearful proportions; and at the same time reducing the tax levy, giving the state an administration characterized by rigid economy and strictest integrity. Retiing from the office on January 1, 1875, he returned to the practice of his profession in St. Joseph, with added lust accorded his name and character. Upon his return to St. Joseph, he organized the law firm of Woodson, Green and Burnes, which firm at once assumed a most prominent position in the general practice, but more particularly in the practice of criminal law; many of the more prominent of these cases being entrusted to this firm on account of Governor Woodsons's known sound knowledge of the theory and practice of law, and his superlative eloquence as a jury pleader. After some five years of successful practice, in 1880 he was elected judge of the circuit court for a four years term, to end January 1, 1885. By this time the practice before the Buchanan county circuit, had become so great as to necessitate division. The criminal business was separated from the civil, the 'Criminal Branch' of the circuit court being created in 1882, the terms of this court to be coincident with those of the civil branch. On his own choice, expressed to the then governor, he was appointed to the criminal bench to fill out the remaining two years of his term. At the next election in 1884 he was duly chosen to succeed himself, his nomination by the democratic county convention being made without opposition. In 1888, and again in 1892 he was elected to succeed himself, and in one of those elections the republicans further honored him by nominating no one to oppose him. Until April, 1895, he continued to administer the duties of his office with undiminished vigor and unfailing health; but during that month he sustained a cerebral hemorrhage which, for several days made his death seem imminent; but his wonderful constitution and his almost incredible vigor pulled him through to a partial recovery that enabled him to be up and about his home, although he was never afterwards able to resume his judicial duties. During the summer of 1895 he embraced the faith of the Roman Catholic Church, and in that faith he died October 9, 1896, ripe in years and full of honors, respected and mourned by all who knew him, and was buried in St. Joseph. For more than half a century hd had been a forceful influence in the affairs of all the communities in which he lived, lending his magnificent abilities to the furtherance of right and justice; to the passage and administration of constructive and remedial legislation. The constituents of more states than his native Kentucky, and his adopted state of Missouri, bear the impress of his genius, their peoples the happier for his having lived. The above sketch was written by Jefferson Carter Hosea who married Mary Alice Woodson, the eldest daughter of Silas Woodson.

Silas Woodson burial location:

Woodson, Silas b. 1819. d. 1896. Governor, 1873-1875. Mount Mora Cemetery, St. Joseph, Missouri, USA. Specific Interment Location: East side of Section L.

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