Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Ancestry Odyssey, Part One by Greg Dziawer

The Wood family headstone.

Sticks and Stones

Ed Wood, Sr. with his wife, Lillian.
We traveled to the Poughkeepsie of Ed Wood, Jr.'s youth here and there in recent Ed Wood Wednesdays, and this week we're going back even further in time, to Edward Davis Wood Sr.'s adolescence. Welcome to the first Wood Ancestry Odyssey. 

Though he moved to the city of Poughkeepsie, married, raised a family and remained there for the rest of his life, Ed's dad grew up out in the sticks. The 1905 New York State Census finds Ed Sr. aged 10, living with father Byron and mother Emily and six (of seven) siblings. Although not far from from Poughkeepsie, in the city of Marbletown just 25 miles northwest across the Hudson River in Ulster County, it was all lush country, lowland farms and upland forests. Situated on the eastern edge of the Catskills, the town was given its name owing to being built on large limestone deposits. 

The Dutch arrived there in the late 1630s, and by the 1660s the town was being settled. Its original inhabitants, the Esopus Indians, moved west and joined the Delaware tribes. Marbletown briefly served as State Capitol during the Revolutionary War, after Kingston burned. It grew to a population of nearly 5,000 by the beginning of the 20th Century. With over 5,500 inhabitants today, it has grown little since, and still remains predominantly Caucasian. When Byron and Emily Wood were raising their children, it was an agricultural/industrial town. These days, it's an idyllic getaway, fetching steep prices for its old stone houses. Julia Roberts sold her estate there for $1.5 million in 2009. 

The Wood siblings were Luella (the oldest, born in 1882 and living to 1981), Ransom, Mary, Anna/Annie, Edward, Gertrude, Ruth and Granvill (the youngest, just over 6 mos. old at the time of the 1905 Census). Luella had moved out by 1905, but the other siblings remained at home, living in the small hamlet of Kripplebush (one of numerous hamlets that comprise Marbletown), now on the National Register of Historic Places. Kripplebush is along the southern edge of Marbletown, Main St (now Route 209, the oldest road in the United States) running along its eastern edge, intersected by Kripplebush Road. 

The Census Record lists the family at Main St, and Byron's occupation as a flag quarryman. Flag is a designation of a type of rock (sheerbate flags, for example). He had grown up in Marbletown, first working as a stone cutter. Oldest son Rance, 17 years old in 1905, was already a farm worker, like the majority of men in Marbletown. He was a lifelong resident of Kripplebush. Ed Sr was in school.

Byron Wood (1853-1925) was Ed Wood's paternal grandfather. May he rest in peace.

Byron, too, would end up a farm worker, into his late sixties and still in Marbletown. Eddie Jr would not have remembered his grandfather, who passed away in early 1925 (in his early seventies like his son Ed Sr, generally a younger age than the hearty Wood siblings), when Ed Jr was still an infant. His grandmother Emily lived until 1940. Most of Ed Sr's siblings, as he did, left Ulster County. But the Wood siblings would eventually and finally return to Marbletown (with Ed Jr's mother Lillian), to the family burial plot in Stone Ridge. One of the hamlets in Marbletown, adjacent to Kripplebush and with Route 209 running right through it, Stone Ridge is home to Fairview Cemetery. Ed Jr's father, per his headstone, was a wartime soldier like his son. His 1917 draft registration card still has him living in Kripplebush at the age of 26, working as a Bell Hop. And Byron and Emily are therewith him at Fairview, reunited with most of their children. 

But the story does not die with them. We'll go even further back into Ed's roots, going back generations in New York. We'll go back to Marbletown, and on a farm there, we'll meet Ed's paternal great-grandfather Josiah and his wife Charlotte, right here at Ed Wood Wednesdays.

NOTE: Some fascinating bonus images related to this week's article have been posted to the Ed Wood Wednesdays Tumblr: