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James B. Woollard Papers

Identifier: BC708

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, legal documents, orders, receipts, newspaper clippings and diaries. The early letters are mostly from James to his family, parents and friends and discuss his work on the circuit, family news, and his faith in God. One May 11, 1841 letter to James, gives an account of Aaron Todd, tried, convicted and hanged for the murder of Larken Scott. For some reason Todd’s body was exhumed and he had been decapitated and his heart cut out. He received many letters before and during his term in the legislature discussing political issues such as the Illinois Michigan Canal, the interest bill, taxes (“taxing the people to pay the state debt is out of the question”), and internal improvements. In addition to letters to his family, James writes letters to his children, individually. He received 2 letters from Sidney Breese regarding a road from Greenville to Hillsboro. He has letters from his sons while at McKendree and a copy of Francis’ oration given before the Philosophical Fraternity in 1853. There are several letters from family in Mississippi in the 1850’s discussing politics, state’s rights, the Know-Nothings and the Democrats. Also the Know-Nothings were having “the great American barbecue” in July 1855 for which the writer was in charge of music. The abolitionists “damn our nation to take our slaves away.” After the war began, Leander Woolard wrote two letters from Camp Davis to “cousin” regarding a mission ordered by General Bragg to sink boats in the channel opposite Fort Pickens. In 1864 there are five letters from him at Fort Johnston in Ohio to “Uncle” [James] and “Cousin” [Francis]. There is a letter from Governor Yates to Francis telling him how to proceed with getting his cousin released. There are many letters from James to his wife and to his children from the war. He very eloquently, writes about his return to his home and seeing his brother and all of the wonderful memories it brings. In Kentucky his regiment commander was involved in forming black troops and James writes of his talks with these former slaves and his thoughts and feelings about them. There are orders regarding his leave, his trips to pick up supplies and regarding his illness. He received several letters after the war from soldiers in the regiment. There is not as much correspondence after the war. He did receive a letter from John L. Beveridge asking for his support in the election. Diaries kept by James, intermittently from 1832-1864, give us more information about the life he led, his family and his beliefs. The appointment of Francis to Superintendent of Schools Wayne County signed by Beveridge. Francis also received letters from Senator John A. Logan, Richard Yates, Jr. and Charles Deneen. The patent and design for his poultry coop. In 1909 a graduate student at the University of Illinois wrote to Francis asking questions about Illinois during the Civil War, specifically about John A. Logan, fraudulent elections, and the attitudes toward slavery and secession. He responded with a nine page letter and a three page letter. He had lived in Lawrence County and White County during this time and relates anecdotes and memories of the time, some including violence between those with differing beliefs. There are news clippings regarding different members of the Woollard and Woolard family. The signatures on the letters change over time. Obituaries of Mary and James.


  • Created: 1774-1927
  • Other: Date acquired: 00/00/1946


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.


0.42 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Bond County, Illinois early settler, who farmed near Mulberry Grove, Illinois on land he bought with payment for his service in the Black Hawk War, traveled as Methodist circuit preacher, served in the Illinois House of Representatives, and was Chaplain for the Illinois 111th Volunteers from the time it was formed until illness forced his resignation late in 1864. James B. Woollard was born in South Carolina, where his grandfather, John, had settled when he came from England before the Revolutionary War. John’s brother settled in the northern colonies and their name was changed to Willard. James’ mother, Rebecca Fatheree Woollard, was the daughter of Major Fatheree who was killed in the Revolutionary War. Rebecca married Willoughby Woollard and they had five children. When James was six years old, he moved with his family to Tennessee. At the age of nineteen James was converted at a Methodist Camp meeting. In 1827 he married Mary McCurley, whom he had known since childhood, and two years later they moved to Illinois settling near Greenville. His and Mary’s parents both followed them to Illinois. His brother Churchill remained in Tennessee. His brother William settled in Missouri and Seth in Mississippi. In 1831 he was licensed by Peter Cartwright to preach at a camp meeting in Greenville. That same year he built the first house at what would become Mulberry Grove, Illinois. The next year he volunteered for the Black Hawk War and served as a trumpeter. When he returned with his pay of $48.00 he was able to add $2.00 to it and buy forty acres of farmland near Mulberry. He was also named the first postmaster of Mulberry. He preached the first sermon in Jerseyville and established the Methodist church in Shelbyville. He was a very popular and well liked preacher. In 1843 he won election to the House of Representatives and served 1844-1845, but did not seek reelection, finding politics not to his taste. When the Republican Party was formed he became a lifelong Republican. Mary and James had six children: Nancy, Eveline, Washington Wesley, Francis M., Mary and Margaret. Both of his sons attended McKendree College. During the Civil War, Wesley fought with the 26th Illinois Volunteers but Francis had a medical problem that kept him from the war. James was chosen by Brig. General James S. Martin to serve as chaplain with the 111th Volunteers. He filled this position from 1862 until December 1864 when he was so weakened by chronic diarrhea that he had to be discharged. While his regiment was in Tennessee, James was given leave to visit family and returned to the home he grew up in and saw his brother, Churchill, whom he had not seen for many years. This brother avowed allegiance to the Union, but James’ brother in Mississippi was a slave owner and his son, Leander Gay Woolard, fought for the Confederacy eventually being taken prisoner and held at Johnson’s Island for some time. Francis, then editor of the Carmi Times, worked to get him released. After the war James and Wesley returned to their farms. Francis, who had farmed, taught school, designed and owned the patent on a poultry coop, edited several newspapers and was appointed Superintendent of Schools in Wayne County, Illinois by Governor Beveridge in 1874. Mary died in 1883, one year after her son Wesley. James died four years later in 1887. They are buried next to each other in a Bond County Cemetery.

Arrangement Note

Materials are arranged by file type and organized chronologically thereunder.
Archon Finding Aid Title
Laurel Bowen and Connie Butts
Description rules
Other Unmapped
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collection Repository

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