Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

More About Anthony Wolf of Wolfs Lane Fame Who Built the Wolf Homestead that Once Stood in Pelhamville

Yesterday I posted a brief article about the Anthony Wolf homestead that once stood in Pelhamville just north of Third Street between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue.  See Wed., Aug. 26, 2015:  Stories About The Old Wolf Homestead in Pelhamville, Told by J. Gardiner Minard.  That article prompted so many emails and private messages asking for more information about Anthony Wolf after whom today's Wolfs Lane is named that I decided to put together a quick article on the subject for today's posting.  

"Anthony Wolf" is the Anglicized version of the name of the man who was born as John Anthony Woolf.  That, of course, begs the question of why today's Wolfs Lane is not named "Woolfs Lane."

We know much about J. Anthony Woolf and his wife, Sarah, because the couple were among the first Mormons in the country to flee persecution and trek across the wilds of North America to arrive in today's Salt Lake City.  They were among the first Mormons to make that trek and to establish the settlement that became the center of the Latter Day Saints movement founded by Joseph Smith.  

John Anthony Woolf was born July 31, 1805 in Westchester County, New York.  He was the eighth child of John Anthony Woolf (b. 1761; d. 1829 and also known as "Anthony") and Phoebe Weeks (b. 1765; d. ?, sometimes "Phebe").  John Anthony Woolf Sr. was a naturalized American citizen who arrived in America for service among the German troops who fought for Great Britain during the Revolutionary War.  After the war, John Anthony Woolf Sr. became an extensive landowner and a farmer in Westchester County.  

Although little is known about John Anthony Woolf's early years, in addition to learning to farm he also was taught a trade.  He became a skilled shoemaker who served the "well-to-do in the city of New York."  At the age of 26, on April 30, 1831, he married Sarah Ann DeVoe of Westchester County, a daughter of John DeVoe Jr. (b. 1778; d. 1864) and Sarah Weeks (b. 1781; d. 1864), both of Pelham, New York.  

John Anthony Woolf After Whom Today's
Wolfs Lane in the Town of Pelham is Named.
NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

Sarah Ann DeVoe Woolf, Wife of John
Anthony Woolf After Whom Today's
Wolfs Lane in the Town of Pelham is Named.
NOTE:  Click Image To Enlarge.

It is not known with certainty when John Anthony Woolf and Sarah Ann DeVoe Woolf moved to Pelham.  Nor is it known when they built their house that became known as the Wolf Homestead.  Genealogical information regarding the birth of their children, however, indicate that the couple lived in Pelham at least as early as 1832.  It seems likely that at least shortly before the birth of their first child, Absalom, on February 4, 1832 at Pelham, the couple was ensconced in the newly-constructed Wolf Homestead.  

Wolf Homestead in an Undated Photograph.
Photograph Courtesy of The Office of The Historian
of the Town of Pelham. NOTE: Click Image to Enlarge.

It is hard to imagine today what it was like when the couple first built and moved into the Wolf Homestead.  It was, in effect, in the middle of nowhere.  The railroad had not yet been built through Pelham.  That came in 1851.  No streets had yet been laid out anywhere in today's Village of Pelham or today's Pelham Heights.  Indeed, the closest roadway was the winding dirt road known as the Old Boston Post Road (today's Colonial Avenue).  There were no other residences or structures in the area that became Pelhamville.  

There was, however, a winding dirt path that extended from the Boston Turnpike (today's Boston Post Road) and ran parallel to and inland from the Hutchinson River.  The path was ancient; it was carved by local Native Americans well before Thomas Pell acquired the region from local Native Americans.  As John Anthony Woolf traversed that little pathway back and forth over the years, it became today's Wolfs Lane and a portion of today's Fifth Avenue extending from the Boston Turnpike to the Wolf farmhouse.  

A map published in 1853, two years after the coming of the railroad and shortly after some roads had been laid out and residences built as part of the efforts to develop and sell lots in Pelhamville, shows the Wolf Homestead.  In the detail from the map that appears immediately below, the Wolf Homestead is the structure depicted between the letters "M" and "V" in the word "PELHAMVILLE."

Detail from 1853 Map Showing Pelhamville.
Source: M. Dripps & R. F. O. Conner, Southern
Part of West-Chester County N. Y. (1853).

John Anthony Woolf in An Undated Photograph.
Caption:  "Born July 31, 1805.  Came to Utah
Oct. 6, 1847, Edward Hunter Company.  Pres. of
Seventies.  Bishop's Counselor, Farmer and Stockraiser."
Source:  Esshom, Frank, PIONEERS AND PROMINENT
UT:  Utah Pioneers Book Publishing Co., 1913).

In 1841, John Anthony Woolf and his wife joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Sarah was baptized by James G. Devine on May 20, 1841.  Anthony was baptized two months later by C. Wesley Wardle on July 20, 1841.  Anthony soon became president of the church branch in New Rochelle.  According to one biographer:

"John and Sarah Ann both possessed a deep religious feeling, and investigated the beliefs of the different denominations. In the year 1834, 2 Mormon Elders visited the locality in which they lived and after hearing them preach, Sarah Ann joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was baptized 20 May 1841 by James G. Devine, John Anthony often praised her for having seen the light about a year before he did. Sarah Ann never tired of telling how she had met the Elders and how thankful she was that they had found her. John was baptized by C. Wesley Wardle on July 20, 1841, and in 1842 he was made President of the branch of New Rochelle, New York. During the time they lived in New York they had six children as follows: Absalom, Sarah Ann, James, Hannah Eliza, Isaac, and John Anthony II."

In 1843, John and Sarah packed up their family, joined with other members of their Church and moved to Nauvoo, Illinois, traveling by canal boat, river steamboat and wagon to get there.  The group traveled to Nauvoo to join with Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement.  They purchased a farm near Smith's home.  According to another biographer who has studied the couple's lives:

"The Woolf Family arrived in Nauvoo in the spring of 1843. 'Nauvoo the Beautiful,' or 'Nauvoo, the City of the Saints' was the home of the prophet Joseph Smith; it was already the largest city in Illinois and rapidly growing–a city where righteousness was to abound, and the blessings of the Lord were to be made manifest in abundance. Missionaries were going out and missionaries were returning. Saints were arriving from England and from the Eastern States. The temple was under construction, and new organizations were being formed as needed to perform the functions of a rapidly-growing church and a rapidly-growing city. There was much for the Woolf family to do. A temporary home must be found, a farm purchased and cultivated, new contacts and acquaintances made, and church work done. All this fortunately left little time for John and Sarah Ann to brook over the dear friends and scenes of childhood they had left far behind or to nurse the deep hurt in their hearts over the estrangement that had sprung up between them and their beloved close relatives on the occasion of their joining the church of their choice. 

The spring of 1843 found Nauvoo in perhaps its most enjoyable era. The efforts of the Missourians to harass the Saints in Illinois had borne little fruit, and the Illinois persecutions had not yet matured. John Anthony purchased a lovely farm 2 miles east of the city, thus preserving the pattern of a rural home, but near a city where its commercial and cultural advantages could be obtained. What pleased John and Sarah even more was the fact that their farm adjoined that of the Prophet Joseph, with whom they became intimately acquainted and whose humanity, simplicity, and intelligence as a friend seemed wholly compatible with his profile as a prophet."

Within a short time, the so-called "Illinois Persecution" of the Mormons began.  "The Prophet," Joseph Smith, was murdered in Illinois on June 27, 1844.  The persecuted Mormons, including J. Anthony Woolf and Sarah Ann DeVoe Woolf, began fleeing Nauvoo and trekked across the continent.  The couple, traveling with the Edmund Hunter Company, arrived in Salt Lake City on October 6, 1847.  

According to another biographer of the couple:

"John built an adobe house in the old fort to house his family, and assisted others with their building. They survived the winter by eating the oxen that had pulled their belongings across the plains. They remained in Salt Lake 5 years, after which time they were called by Brigham Young to help settle Iron Co. In the early spring of 1852, John Anthony left for Iron County, where he planted crops and built a house. Due to pests and other adverse conditions, he harvested only 44 bushels of grain. Nevertheless, he returned to Salt Lake for his family in the autumn. At an early encampment on the Jordan River on the return journey with his family, thieves drove away their cattle. So much time was lost in finding and retrieving them that is was impossible to reach Iron Co. Before the winter storms, so John built a house for the winter on the Provo River. But now Indian trouble broke out; Indians stole most of the cattle and sheep. On advice from others, John moved his family to Nephi, returning only to tear down his house, which the Indians were using as a cover from which to shoot at passerby. 

John Anthony built a new home for his family within the fort in Nephi and lived there during the years 1856-60 inclusive. Indian troubles and drought sapped their strength and discounted their efforts. In 1855 John was set apart as a Pres. Of the 19 Quorum of Seventies. While the family was hard-pressed materially, they were blessed spiritually and enjoyed unity and good health. In March 1858, their youngest child, Wallace, was born; he was their 12 . th Because the family was now so large and the material rewards of their labor insufficient to maintain their family (because of Indian trouble, drought, and pests), they moved North in 1861 to Cache Valley, settling in the community which became known as Hyde Park, named after its first bishop and leading citizen, William Hyde. There was virgin land here, a plentiful water supply, and while there were some Indian problems, they were less consuming of the settlers’ time 

John Anthony and Sara Ann started all over again, as they had done so many times before, to build a home for themselves and their children. It was now just 20 years since they had joined the Church in New York. They were 20 years older and 20 years wiser, poorer in goods of this earth but blessed with a family of healthy, able and obedient children. Herein was their treasure. Because of the children, the Lord had not let them labor those 20 years in vain. 

Farming requires back-breaking labor even on a cultivated farm. It is much more difficult on a new farm where sagebrush has to be removed, fences built to keep the owner’s cattle in and stray cattle out, ditches surveyed and excavated, head gates installed, the land plowed, leveled, cultivated, seeded and irrigated. A farm house has to be built, corrals made, barns and sheds erected and a garden plot prepared and seeded. John and Sarah Ann, with their children, some of whom were now old enough and experienced enough to help, faced this colossal task with courage and with as much vigor as their age would permit. Within a few years, they had another home, a flowing well, barns, pens and pastures, horses and cattle. John introduced a new breed of horses into the community known as the Woolf Stock, a medium-sized horse of great strength and good action what was ideal as an all purpose horse on western farms and ranches. 

The family was expert and ingenious in making the most of what could be raised on the land or be had in the local area. They made soap and lye from wood ashes, molasses from red beets; they carded and spun wool, and from the yarn made knitted clothing and stockings. From cow and horse hides they made ropes, bridles, harnesses, and, of course, shoes. John was a reliable source of shoes wherever he lived. His granddaughter, Orilla, tells of having many times held a candle for him at night after a hard day’s work while he cut miniature wooden pegs foir tacking on the soles of shoes. They made preserves and jam from berries, from small fruits, and even from vegetables. They maintained a good vegetable cellar and made a smokehouse, where they could smoke dry meats. By their ingenuity and labor they always seemed to manage to have some food on hand. The needy were never turned away empty-handed. Their house was a beehive of activity and a gathering place for their children and their children’s friends. 

John was spared to enjoy his new home for 20 years. He died 7 Nov. 1881 at 76 years–50 years after his marriage, and 40 years after joining the church. Sarah Ann lived to age oif 90. She passed away 19 March 1905."

Grave Site with Head Stones of Sarah Ann DeVoe Woolf
and John Anthony Woolf Located in Hyde Park Cemetery,
Cache County, Utah, Plot at Section 3, Row 6, Position 3.
Photograph by Linda Ames, 2009.  Source:  FindAGrave.com.

Much has been written about J. Anthony Woolf and Sarah Ann DeVoe Woolf, after whom today's Wolfs Lane in Pelham is named.  Below is a transcription of a brief biography of J. Anthony Woolf as well as links to additional resources regarding the couple.

*          *          *          *          *

"WOOLF, JOHN ANTHONY (son of John Anthony Woolf and Phoebe Weeks of Westchester County, N.Y.).  Born July 31, 1805.  Came to Utah Oct. 6, 1847, Edward Hunter company.  

Married Sarah Ann Devoe 1831 in Westchester county, N. Y. (daughter of John Devoe and Sarah Weeks of Pelham, Westchester county).  She was born April 10, 1814 and came to Utah with husband.  Their children:  Absalom, m. Harriet Wood, m. Lucy Hamitlon; Sarah Ann, m. Homer Brown; James, m. Malinda Bradley, m. Emma Hurren; Hannah Eliza, m Homer Brown; Isaac, m. Ellen M. Hyde, m. Melissa Ashcraft; John Anthony, m. Mary Lucretia Hyde, m. Celia Ann Hatch; Andrew; William Henry, died; Phoebe Elizabeth, m. William Gibson; Harriet, m. William Gibson; Homer, m. Lolla Bates; Wallace, died.  Family resided Salt Lake City, Mona, Nephi and Hyde Park, Utah.

Married Mary Ann Atkins in 1872, Salt Lake City (daughter of William Atkins and Lucy Heert), who was born Dec. 20 1815, Hockley, Essex, Eng.  Came to Utah Sept. 26, 1862, James Wareham company.

Member 49th quorum seventies; counselor to Bishop William Hyde of Hyde Park; president of branch in New Rochelle, N. Y., in 1842; ordained president 49th quorum of seventies of Nephi 1855.  Justice of peace Hyde Park, Utah.  Farmer and stockraiser.  Died Nov. 7, 1881, Hyde Park."

Source:  Esshom, Frank, PIONEERS AND PROMINENT MEN OF UTAH COMPRISING PHOTOGRAPHS - GENEALOGIES - BIOGRAPHIESp. 96 (Salt Lake City, UT:  Utah Pioneers Book Publishing Co., 1913).

For additional reading, see:

Woolf Family History:  John Anthony Woolf Jr. and Sarah Ann DeVoe (visited Aug. 26, 2015).

FindAGrave.com - John Anthony Woolf, I (visited Aug. 26, 2015).

FindAGrave.com - Ann Devoe Woolf (visited Aug. 26, 2015).

WOOLF JOHN ANTHONY 1805-1881 MS 7028 Church Historical Department - Brigham Young University (visited Aug. 26, 2015).

Biography of JOHN ANTHONY WOOLF JR. Typed by Kathleen J. Woolf Oct. 2002 - Brigham Young University (visited Aug. 26, 2015).

Order a Copy of "Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak." 

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