Biography - David Woodson

HON. DAVID MEADE WOODSON was born in the county of Jessamine, Kentucky, on the eighteenth day of May, 1806. He is the second of a family of nine children of Hon. Samuel H. and Ann R. Woodson. Samuel H. Woodson was a lawyer of eminence even among the distinguished men who then illustrated the bar of Kentucky. He was a law student of the celebrated George Nicholas, and was a cotemporary of Henry Clay, William T. Barry, William Logan, Jesse Bledsoe, Robert Wickliffe, John Rowan, and other remarkable men of Kentucky's brightest period. A gentleman of polished address, various acquirements, and great personal popularity, he repeatedly represented the county of Jessamine in the state legislature, and, in 1820, was elected from the Ashland (Henry Clay's old) district to congress. He died in 1827, aged about fifty years. He was a native of Albemarle county, Virginia, whence he was brought to Kentucky by his mother and stepfather (Col. Joseph Crocket, an officer of distinction in the war of the revolution) when he was seven years of age. On the first day of January, 1804, he married Ann R. Meade, daughter of Col. David Meade, who had settled, at a very early day, at a place about nine miles south of Lexington, in what is now the county of Jessamine. His mansion (Chaumier du Prairie) was long celebrated as the seat of elegant and hearty hospitality, while its master was renowned, even among the men of that time, for his polished and graceful manners, extensive reading, and refined taste. It was amid such scenes as these that the subject of this sketch was born and passed his early youth.

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His father being in opulent circumstances, his early taining was under the supervision of a private tutor. Samuel Wilson, an eminent educator of Kentucky, was among his earliest teachers. At a very early age he commenced the study of Latin and Greek, having spent some years at classical schools in the neighborhood of Lexington, and a short time at Transylvania University. He was, at the age of seventeen, placed under the tuition of the celebrate Jesse Bledsoe, then one of the professors of the law school of that institution, thus securing the advantage of daily intercourse with one of the acutest minds of the country. THe remainder of the term, devoted to preparation in the law, was spent in the office of his father. When not quite twenty-one years of age, he was admitted to the bar in Kentucky.
From 1827 to 1834 his time was employed in other business besides the practice of his profession. The death of his father, occurring in 1827, was an event which devolved upon the young lawyer and his brother the arduous and perplexing duty of settling up an extensive and complicated estate, while their widowed mother and seven minor children looked up to the two brothers as their natural protectors. These circumstances, and the new duties and responsibilities imposed on him, in a great measure withdrew the future jurist's attention from his profession for several years. In 1831, when but a few days past the age of eligibility required by the constitution, he was brought forward by zealous and partial friends to represent his native county in the state legislature. It was a peculiarly interesting period in the history of the state - a sort of local political crisis. The county had been largely democratic, but year after year the whigs had been gaining ground, until, at the time above mentioned, it was supposed that a strong whig candidate might complete the revolution. It was, therefore, a flattering tribute paid to Mr. Woodson's ability and high standing among his fellow-citizens, that he was chosen, at this juncture, as the standard-bearer of his party. His competitor was one of the most popular and estimable of the many prominent democrats of the county, selected, like his young opponent, with special reference to the crisis. A smal majority crowned the efforts of the whigs. Within a few days after taking his seat in the legislature (the youngest man in that body), he cast one of the votes that elected Henry Clay to the United States senate, an act to which, now that the illustrious statesman is dead, he can look back upon with pride and pleasure.
On the sixth of October, 1831, he married Miss Lucy McDowell, sister of Dr. McDowell, an eminent physician of St. Louis, and daughter of Major John McDowell, of Fayette county, Kentucky. During the autumn of the following year (1833) after the close of his term as representative, he visited Illinois for the first time, and having selected Carrollton as his future home, returned to Kentucky to complete arrangements to make a permanent settlement. Here he formed a law partnership with Charles D. Hodges, which existed for a period of fourteen years.
In the autumn of 1835, Mr. Woodson returned to Kentucky and spent another session in the law school of Transylvania University, then under the management of the Hon. George Robertson, Chief Justice of Kentucky. Having graduated with honor, he sought again the legal arean. The health of his wife becoming impaired, he made a tour with her to Kentucky, to visit the friends of her youth, and while there, in August, 1836, the companion of his earlier years, and the mother of his only son and child (John M. Woodson) breathed her last, amidst the familiar scenes of her own and her husband's childhood. In 1837 he was elected probate justice of Greene county, and, in 1838, was appointed by Gov. Duncan state's attorney of the first judicial district, to fill a vacancy, in teh session of 1838-1839. The legislature elected him state's attorney for said district, and he filled that office until 1840. In the fall of 1840 he was elected representative to the legislature from Greene county, as the Whig candidate. In 1847, he was elected a member of the convention to revise the constitution of Illinois, and in the succeeding year, 1848, judge of the first judicial circuit. Such was his popularity as judge that he was re-elected without opposition in 1855, and again in 1861, and declined a re-election in 1867. In 1848, on the resignation of Judge Lockwood, Gov. French appointed Judge Woodson to fill that vacancy in teh Supreme Courty, until another should be elected. In professional life models of industry are very rare, but in Judge Woodson there is an exception to the general rule. In body and mind he is active and energetic, full of hope and determination; he is firm, mild, conscientious, cautious, and true to his best convictions of duty. By nature and the strength and power of his intellect, he is among those who were born to wield a controlling influence in public and private affairs. He is truthful and honorable, his very contenance bearing the stamp of tru manhood; all the passions subject to the controlling influence of his mental and moral powers. He is a forcible speaker, using thoughts instead of words as weapons of power, or rather, clothing his thoughts in appropriate words, which do not conceal or weaken their force. His manner is marked by dignity, affability and earnestness. He is indefatigable in everything he undertakes to accomplish, and, as a politician, brings to bear a rare combination of ability, foresight, and judgment of human nature.
On the first of November, 1838, Judge Woodson was married to Miss Julia Kennett, daughter of Dixon Kennett, Esq., formerly of Kentucky. By that marriage they have one daughter, Fannie Woodson, now the wife of Hon. Henry C. Withers. In 1868 the judge was again elected a member of the legislature, and during the same session his son, Hon. John M. Woodson, was senator fom Macoupin county. The latter is now residing in St. Louis, and is among the rising lawyers of that city. At the writing of this, he is attorney for the St. L., N. W. & Kansas City Railroad. John M. Woodson was a member of the constitutional convention of 1862. In 1835 Judge Woodson first met Stephen A. Douglas, then state's attorney, and the same spring they went together to attend court in Calhoun county, and he has never yet missed attending court in that county, either as judge or attorney, since. Few, if any, attorneys of Illinois can present a like record in a county in which they do not reside. Success has attended his efforts, and he has become opulent in the practice of his profession. His honesty and purity of character are above question, and he is descended from one among the noblest families of Kentucky. It has been the peculiar fortune of Judge Woodson to preserve unsullied on his part the record of his ancestral lineage. He has met at the ba many of the most celebrated lawyers of Illinois, and has been interested in some of the most important cases that have shed lustre on the jurisprudence of the state.

Extracted 05 Jan 2017 by Norma Hass from Atlas Map of Greene County Illinois, 1873, pages 26 and 27.

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