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Mountain Men
 Frederic Remington - 1890

Tazewell Woody
Australian Gold Prospector in 1856 and Yellowstone River Trapper in 1875
 

        Tazewell (Taswell, Tazwell) Woody, one of the younger brothers of Sparrell, was born in 1832. Somewhat amazingly, he is one of the main characters mentioned in the recollections of Theodore Roosevelt entitled "In Cowboy-Land" This article (image at the bottom of this page) was published May, 1893 in The Century, a popular magazine of the period. Roosevelt recounts a story told to him by his guide and "friend" Tazewell Woody. Tazewell's adventure took place in the spring of 1875 when he and two friends were trapping on the Yellowstone River. However, before Tazewell found his way to the Yellowstone River, he was a prospector in the gold-fields of New South Wales where the discovery of gold in 1851 ignited the first of many Australian gold rushes. Here, on June 14, 1856, he was involved in a serious incident for which he was sentenced to two years at hard labor in the Darlinghurst Gaol. We do not know if Tazewell served his full sentence, but he was recorded in the 1860 Tulare County, California census. On September 27, 1856, The Sydney Morning Herald published the article on the right. The Meroo River is about 150 miles northwest of Sydney, just west of the town of Mudgee. Our thanks go to Ray Debnam of Australia, who brought this article to our attention. Ray's great-great-grandfather was Thomas Deadman, the victim mentioned in the article.
         We will probably never know exactly how Roosevelt and Tazewell Woody became friends, but it is known that Roosevelt engaged hunting guides in Bozeman, Montana in 1886. It would seem that Tazewell became a mountain man, hunter, trapper, army scout, guide and woodcutter after leaving his brother Sparrell in California sometime after 1860. On his way to Montana from California, Tazewell seems to have passed through Washington Territory. In another of his many articles, Roosevelt retells a Tazewell Woody bear story that occurred "at one of the Puget Sound ports". However, the first post-1860 primary reference to Tazewell that we have found is in the 1870 Bozeman, Montana census. Here he was enumerated as a woodcutter living next to infamous Col. Eugene Baker and his troops at Fort Ellis. Fort Ellis had been established in 1867 in response to almost continual strife between aggressive settlers and Indians intent on protecting their homelands. Although the abovementioned Roosevelt article does not give the names of Woody's companions or the exact date and location of the Yellowstone River incident, other articles name Harris/Lew Hubble and Charley Cocke as the trappers, June 24, 1875 as the date and Beauvais Creek as the location. This creek is about fifteen miles west of the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn where, on June 25/26 1876, General George Custer and his command were virtually annihilated by a combined force of Sioux and Cheyenne. We do not think it is a coincidence that Beauvais Creek is about four miles from Woody Creek, both being tributaries of the Bighorn River. Near the headwaters of Woody and Beauvais Creeks stands Woody Mountain. Beauvais Creek, Woody Creek, Woody Mountain and the battle site are now on the Crow Indian Reservation.
        We have not been able to locate Tazewell in the 1880 census; however, Michael L. Collins, one of the many biographers of Theodore Roosevelt, writes that "In September 1891, Roosevelt returned to western Wyoming....in pursuit of the noble elk....  Roosevelt hired as his guide a tall, quite mountaineer named Tazewell Woody". A former California prospector and army scout, "old Woody" was likeable, witty, according to Roosevelt, representative of "a true type of fast-vanishing race of game hunters and Indian fighters". A large area encompassing the headwaters of the Yellowstone River was designated the world's first national park in 1872. In 1897 and 1898, the Department of the Interior, recorded an ageing Taswell Woody as a registered guide for Yellowstone National Park. In the summer of 1897, the noted author and wildlife artist, Ernest Seton Thompson, aka Ernest Thompson Seton, visited Yellowstone to sketch wildlife, especially the large grizzlies that frequented the garbage dump. Here he also sketched Tazewell Woody (left) and the other guides that stayed at the hotel and frequented the hotel bar of "Uncle" John Yancey at Pleasant Valley. Seton described Woody as "a forty-niner and a favorite scout in the Yellowstone region". (Click here for a photo of Tazewell, his sister Sarah & some of their family) The image on the right is Seaton's description of Tazewell in another article published in November, 1897. This is the only other mention of of Tazewell's Australian trip that we have found. Tazewell returned to Missouri before the 1900 census and in the 1910 Morgan County, Missouri census, he was recorded as married for the first time when he was about seventy-three. Tazewell Woody died in 1916 and is buried with his wife Martha Clay Woody in a very small Morgan County cemetery overlooking the Lake of the Ozarks.
         
        Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) was a man of many talents. On his way to becoming the 29th President of the United States in 1901, he gained national attention for his leadership of the Rough Riders in the 1898 Spanish American War. He was born into a moderately wealthy New York family and graduated from Harvard. He entered Columbia Law School in 1880, but his political ambitions led to his election to the New York State Assembly at age 23. After the death of his 1st wife and mother on the same day, Roosevelt moved from New York to the North Dakota Badlands in 1883. Although he lived in the Badlands for only two years, he returned many times to hunt. In the west, he became a rancher and an avid hunter. This experience probably led to his later leadership in the conservation movement. His association with the people on the frontier seems to have profoundly altered his view of the factors that he used to evaluate human worthiness. Historians have commented that Roosevelt learned to value character and accomplishments and to place less emphasis on wealth, social standing and formal education.
        Another of Roosevelt's interests was historical writing. Although his first book was The Naval War of 1812, published in 1882, much of his literary work was based on his experiences in the Badlands and the surrounding area. "I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota", said Roosevelt. After his return to New York, Roosevelt wrote many articles and books about his experiences in the west. He seemed especially fond of recounting the stories that he was told by the cowboys, guides and mountain men with whom he had worked and hunted. He did not hesitate to repeat the same stories many times in his many publications and stories about Tazewell Woody were among his favorites. His choice of subjects was likely influenced by Easterner's never ending fascination with western culture and characters. Whatever his motivation, his literature sold well and further enhanced his reputation. The demand for first hand accounts of the wild west must have been monumental, since other writers and editors often repeated Roosevelt's stories in their own publications. Other big game hunters, turned authors, described their hunts with Woody. In the July-December, 1891 issue of Scribner's Magazine, Archibald Rogers, also a friend of Roosevelt, recounts an undated hunting trip in northwest Wyoming. "Here, to, I find my trusty friend and companion of all my hunting trips, Tazwell Woody, a grizzled veteran of the mountains, who once long ago claimed Missouri as his home". He also writes about Woody's favorite horse "old Rock". Even Tazewell's horse made good copy.
           

Excerpt from "In Cowboy-Land" by Theodore Roosevelt
Published in The Century, Vol. XLVI, No. 1, May 1893
Published on the Web by Cornell University Library - Making of America


 

Bibliography

Anderson, H. Allen. "Ernest Thompson Seton in Yellowstone Park", Montana: the Magazine of Western History, Vol. 34, No. 2, (Spring 1984), Montana Historical Society
"Bathurst Circuit Court", The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney Australia, Sep 27, 1856 (Online: National Library of Australia - Australia Trove Digitised Newspapers)
"Battles not in History",  Kansas City Star, August 22, 1918 (Online: Genealogy Bank)
Carver, Inez Louisa & Smith, Hannah L. Biggs. Life and Genealogy of Henry Woody, self published, Berkeley, California, 1927
Collins, Michael L. That Damned Cowboy: Theodore Roosevelt and the American West, Peter Lang Publications, New York, 1939 (Online: Questia)
Conrad, Bonnie Morris. "Hopewell Cemetery, Versailles, Morgan Co., MO", e-mail to author, sent November 11, 2009
Murray, Robert A. The Bozeman Trail: Highway to History, Pruett Publishing Co., Boulder, Colorado, 1988 (Online: Google Books)
Rogers, Archibald. "Hunting American Big Game", Scribner's Magazine, Vol. X, July-December, 1891 (Online: Cornell University Library - Making of America)
Roosevelt, Theodore. "Hunting the Grizzly", The Scrap Book, Vol. 1, The Frank A. Munsey Co., Publishers, New York, March-August 1906 (Online: Google Books)
Roosevelt, Theodore. "In Cowboy-Land", The Century Magazine, Vol. XLVI, No. 1, May 1893 (Online: Cornell University Library - Making of America)
Smith, Phyllis. Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley, Globe Pequot Press, 1996 (Online: Google Books)
Thompson, Ernest Seton. "Elkland III -  Old-Timers", Recreation, Vol. VII, No. 5,  G. O. Shields, editor, New York, November 1897
"Yellowstone National Park - List of Registered Guides", Annual Reports of the Department of Interior for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1898. Miscellaneous Reports, December 5, 1898 (Online: Genealogy Bank)
 

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Revised Jan 14, 2014