Woodruff family collection, 1779-1966
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Brief Description:

The Woodruff Collection primarily documents the personal life and professional career of George Catlin Woodruff, who not only practiced law for several decades in Litchfield but also served as Litchfield's postmaster and held elected positions both locally and in the United States Congress.  

His law career is extensively represented in his business correspondence with clients concerning suits in progress and with other law professionals; his law school notebooks; and his own notes on pending lawsuits.  These papers document the education and routine work of a lawyer in this period, as well as the networks among lawyers in New England and their relationships with judges, courts, and other members of the judicial system. 

The collection also illuminates the central position of the postal service in the early republic through letters sent to Woodruff in his capacity as postmaster of Litchfield.  These include not only correspondence with other postmasters concerning mail schedules and misdirected letters, but also correspondence from individuals from other towns seeking information about Litchfield inhabitants, reporting suspicious activities, and asking for assistance in publicizing their own careers.

Additionally, Woodruff's extensive personal correspondence with his family sheds light on his personal life, especially in letters to and from his brothers Lewis B. Woodruff, a lawyer in New York, and Reuben M. Woodruff, a physician.  These letters record their efforts to establish and develop their careers, their travels along the east coast and the southern United States, and family and social news.  Moreover, the collection includes Woodruff's personal papers, which trace his interest in genealogical research, the history of Litchfield, and his autobiographical efforts.

The collection follows Woodruff's political career through newspaper clippings and his own handwritten records of local and national election results, as well as documents his other business ventures, including investments in railroads, canals, and banks, and his involvement in the Litchfield Mutual Fire Insurance Company.  By extension, these papers reveal political processes and economic developments during this time period.

Also present in this collection are the papers of numerous Woodruff relatives, as well as those of other prominent and lesser-known Litchfield families.  For example, the collection documents the extensive land transactions executed by Woodruff's father, Morris Woodruff, especially in partnership with Simeon Harrison; the law career of his son George M. Woodruff; and his grandson James P. Woodruff's law and political careers.    The collection also includes many personal and business papers from members of the Seymour and Wolcott families, as well as from the family of Henry E. Gates, who served as a physician during the Civil War, and from Grant Wickwire, a prosperous Litchfield farmer.

Held at:
Litchfield Historical Society
7 South Street, P.O. Box 385
Litchfield, CT 6759
Phone: 860-567-4501
Fax: 860-567-3565
Email: archivist [at] litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org
Created by: Woodruff, George C. (George Catlin) (1805-1885), Seymour, Lucy Morris (Woodruff) (1807-1894), Woodruff, George M. (George Morris) (1836-1930), Woodruff, Henrietta Sophronia (Seymour) (1806-1892), Woodruff, James Parsons (1868-1931), Woodruff, Lewis B. (Lewis Bartholomew) (1809-1875), Woodruff, Morris (1777-1840), Woodruff, Reuben M. (Reuben Morris) (1811-1849)
Volume: 21.5 Boxes
Acquired: 03/23/1953. Additions include gifts from George M. Woodruff (1922); Mrs. James P. Woodruff (1952, 1953, and 1956); Mrs. John M. Ellis and Miss Isabell Woodruff (1957);  Lillian (Woodruff) Ellis (1978); Julie Hallaway (1984); estate of Agatha Ryan (1986);  Malcolm and Carol Bramley (2005); and Yale University Sterling Library (2010).

The collection is arranged in 8 series:

I. George C. Woodruff correspondence

II. Other correspondence

III. Legal papers

IV. Business papers

V. Financial papers

VI. Family papers

VII. Newspaper clippings

VIII. Miscellany

Biographical Note for Woodruff, George C. (George Catlin) (1805-1885) :

George Catlin Woodruff (1805-1885) was born in Litchfield, CT in 1805.  He graduated from Yale College in 1825, after which he studied law with James Gould at the Litchfield Law SChool.  In 1827 he was admitted to the bar and began practice in Litchfield.  He also served as postmaster of Litchfield from 1832 to 1846.  Afterwards, he became involved in local and national politics, becoming a member of the State House of Representatives in 1851, 1866, and 1874, and elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-seventh Congress (1861-1863). 

In 1829, he married Henrietta Sophronia (Seymour) Woodruff, the sister of Origen S. Seymour, who married Woodruff's sister Lucy.  They had two children: George and Henrietta.  George C. Woodruff died in Litchfield, CT in 1885.

Subject Index
Collecting of accounts--United States
Connecticut--Politics and government
Epidemics--New York (State)--New York
Land titles--Connecticut
Law--United States--Study and teaching
Litchfield (Conn.) - History
Litchfield Law School
Medicine--United States--History--18th century
Real property
Reeve, Tapping, 1744-1823
Southern States--History--1775-1865
Speculation--United States
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783
United States--Politics and government--1775-1783.
United States--Politics and government--1783-1865
United States--Politics and government--1865-1933
United States--Social life and customs--1783-1865
Genres/Forms of Material
Account books
Autograph albums
Greeting cards
Languages of Materials
English [eng]
Acquisition Notes: Mrs. James P. Woodruff  Donated
Other Formats: Transcriptions are available for some documents.
Related Materials:

Seymour family papers, 1777-1923, Litchfield Historical Society

Brooklyn Historical Society, Brooklyn, NY

Rutherford B. Hayes Library, Fremont, OH

PreferredCitation: Woodruff family collection, 1953-02-2-8, Litchfield Historical Society, Helga J. Ingraham Memorial Library, P.O. Box 385, 7 South Street, Litchfield, Connecticut, 06759.