Woodwards Came To Chattanooga With The Railroad

Tuesday, December 7, 2021 - by John Wilson

Richard Henry Woodward fought for the Confederacy under General Robert E. Lee's eldest son. Then he married a daughter of a fellow Virginia family, the Corbins, who had witnessed the Civil War battles and endured the siege from their Cameron Hill home.

The Woodwards were from England and were originally keepers of the forest (wards of the woods). R.H. Woodward grew up at Richmond, where he was born in 1845.  Though he was just 16, he enlisted to fight under George Washington Custis Lee. Custis Lee superintended the fortifications of Richmond, and he later was a colonel of the cavalry and an aide to Confederacy President Jefferson Davis.

R.H. Woodward left Richmond in 1870 and worked as a timber inspector for John C. Stanton, who headed the Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad and had grand schemes for the development of a section in the south part of town.  When Stanton went bust, that left a host of creditors empty handed and sent R.H. Woodward looking for another line of work. He decided to go into the lumber business in partnership with Robert Morrison.  Morrison and Woodward took over John C. Gillespie's old firm and operated a planing mill, lumber yard and sash, door and blind manufactory. Their building on Market Street was destroyed by fire in 1884, but they rebuilt on King Street at the rear of the East Tennessee freight depot (current Freight Depot). The lumber firm employed 70 workers and "did an extensive business.'' 

Afterwards, R.H. Woodward headed the Woodward Lumber Co. in collaboration with Samuel Blair, a capitalist from Ohio who invested in several Chattanooga ventures and settled here. R.H. Woodward retired from business in 1905.

He had married Louisa Emma Corbin, whose family returned to Cameron Hill after their trying war experiences.  The Woodwards built an elaborate two-story frame home on Oak Street at the corner of Douglas. Just east of their home, a university that developed from Grant University into the present University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was established in 1886. 

R.H. Woodward was an ardent Baptist and was a pillar of the First Baptist Church. He was a deacon for 47 years and was a leader in the erection of a new sanctuary not far from his home at Georgia Avenue and Oak. The church previously was across Georgia Avenue at the lot that was used for the County Courthouse.

R.H. Woodward died in 1917 and his wife passed away the following year.  They had three unmarried daughters - Bessie, Helen and Blanche. A fourth daughter, Marion Lee, married Albert Hayes Chapman, who was also a leading Baptist and was secretary-treasurer of the Walsh and Weidner Boiler Co. The Chapman home was at 317 High St. This two-story home later burned.  The Chapmans also had a summer home on Crandall Avenue on Lookout Mountain. In addition, they had a cottage on East Brow Road near the Maclellan residence.

The eldest Woodward son, Corbin Woodward, was assistant treasurer and credit manager of the Chattanooga Medicine Co. He was a director of the National Credit Men's Association and helped organize the National Office Men's Association. Corbin Woodward was a deacon at the First Baptist Church and taught the Alert Bible Class. He had just returned from church to the Woodward home on Oak Street when he suffered a heart attack and died in 1945.  His wife was Mary Kelly. They had two daughters, Elizabeth and Anne, as well as a son, Corbin Woodward Jr., who moved to the far West.

The second son of R.H. and Louisa Woodward, Richard H. Woodward Jr., trained as a lawyer, though he was better known as a storyteller and avid reader. A bachelor, he lived at the old Woodward home on Oak Street until about 1962. He later lived at the Ross Hotel, and he was at the Veterans Hospital in Nashville when he died in 1972.  He and his brother had both fought in World War I. Corbin Woodward was on active duty in France for 11 months as a first lieutenant with the famous Wildcat Divison - the 81st.

After R.H. Woodward Jr. moved out, the homeplace on Oak Street was sold. It was acquired by the Earl Campbell Clinic, which tore it down to make room for a parking lot.

The Chapman children included Llewellyn, Edward Corbin, Marion Elizabeth, William Simpson, Mary Louise and Robert. The latter daughter married William Looker Brown, and she lived  at Tullahoma.  Llewellyn Chapman was personnel director at Provident Life and Accident Insurance Co. He married Martha Shahan.  Corbin Chapman won an international reputation as a metallurgist at Combustion Engineering. He was director of its metallurgical research and development department. He married Sara Powell, whose father, Dr. W.F. Powell, was the longtime pastor of the First Baptist Church of Nashville and was known as the Chaplain of Nashville. Dr. Powell was pastor of the First Baptist Church here from 1913-1918.

The Corbin Chapmans lived on Lookout Mountain. Their son, Corbin Chapman Jr., lived at Birchwood. A daughter, Patricia Chapman, also remained here.  William Simpson Chapman married Ruth Elaine Pendley,whose father, J.J. Pendley, was a Baptist preacher at Gordon County, Ga. The W.S. Chapmans also lived on Lookout Mountain, residing at one time in the "Witch's Cabin.'' Then they lived in a house that was on the state line.Their front door was in Georgia and the back door in Tennessee. Ruth Pendley Chapman, who relocated to Signal Mountain, maintained the family's long ties with the First Baptist Church of Chattanooga.


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