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Sunday
Jun082014

Interview with Judge Daniel M. Woodruff (1788-1881) in March 1879

As appeared in the March 21, 1879, issue of the Brigeton Evening News.
(Orginally one long paragraph, edited for readability)

Interviewing an Old Citizen.

Having an afternoon of leisure, we made a call on the venerable Daniel M. Woodruff, now in his 91st year.

DW: “Take a seat, “said the Judge, “in the oldest chair we have in the house, a chair given me by my father, who died in February 1777.” […]

What is your present age if you please, we first enquired.

DW: “If I live until the first day of July next, I shall be ninety one years of age. I came to Bridgeton in 1793 or six year before the death of Gen. Washington, and I remember well, when a boy, and going to school where the Masonic building now stands, of going out with the rest of the school to witness a parade or mock funeral on Broad street in honor of the illustrious dead Washington. Bridgeton at the time, east of the creek, comprised but very few dwellings and those few of but little account. Where Davis’s hotel and Grosscup’s store now stand, were plain small buildings, and where Moore & Son have their shoe store was a one-story frame, then used by Daniel Seeley as a country store; these and one above where the Episcopal church now stands, and a few other unimportant structures comprised all of East Bridgeton.”

How about the bridge?

DW: “Oh well, we had a bridge and each end of it rested on log pilings and it was so low down that in time of high tide, the water washed entirely over it and the plank were fastened down to keep them from floating away, andd was so narrow that there was barely room for a wagon and a footman on the side.”

Then the bridge had no draw?

DW: “Well, yes, though not at first, but after a while we got one and a harry of a draw it was, “ he added, with characteristic emphasis, “ It was like a trap door opening on hinges. I remember once,” he continued, “a horse running away down the hill on Broad street, and the bridge was up at a pretty steep angle, and on the animal came and ran right up the draw and fell back on the wagon,”

Ah, that was a primitive affair, truly and the Judge enjoyed a quite a chuckle at the quaint imagery conjured up.

DW: “Do you know where the present Errickson property opposite the Lutheran church Friesburg, is?” He suddenly broke in, “well, I placed the last brick there was put on that chimney north, the very day I was twenty one and at precisely 12 m. I have also built and assisted in building many of the oldest structures in Bridgeton. The late Brewster property on South Laurel now owned by C Albertson was moved a long time since from Commerce st. on the site as before said of J. Moore & Son’s Shoe Store, and the chimney and cellar were put up by me. The old Robert Fithian house was built in 1792 and the house now occupied by Dr. Jones, in 1793, and I build the Ice house on which stands the small statue rescued from the foundered ship St. John. I also put up the Pearl street church and the Bank (Cumberland National Bank building) on Commerce street.

DW: “The day I finished the ice house spoken of I went right across to the court house and deposited my first vote and I have voted for nearly 70 years at this one polling place.”

And always unanimously, we put in.

DW: “Yes, always,” and then suddenly, in his energetic way, replied with a rattling no, no, no, “I was once fool enough to vote for James Buchanan, and have been sorry for it ever since.

You have held offices of this kind and another for a number of years?

DW: “Yes,” the Judge replied, and bringing a pack of papers from a drawer handed them over with the remark, “there is enough papers to ruin any man,” and sure enough the Judge produced more commissions and at a great variety, we believe, than Gen. Washington himself ever held. Freeholder for a number of years, Moderator for 15 years, Justice of the Peace for years, and Constable for ever so long. He also at one time, 1839, held commission from the Legislature of Judge of Common Pleas, signed by W. J. Pennington. 

(TO BE CONTINUED)

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