William Woodward was born in 1768 near Plainfield, Connecticut. He was well educated and, in 1791, he moved to the settlement which is today Cincinnati.
After serving in General Anthony Wayne’s campaign against the Indians, he married Jane McGowen, who died about a year later. In 1803, he married Abigail Cutter, the daughter of Joseph Cutter, a successful businessman and farmer who was, “…one morning, surprised by Indians, and carried off.”
The Woodwards lived in a succession of houses near Main and Webster (now Fourteenth Street) in Cincinnati. When the several children that were born to them each died in infancy, the Woodwards took into their home no less than seven others whom they reared as their own.
William Woodward was significantly successful in most of his endeavors. He opened a very successful tannery at Liberty and Mansfield. His best investment and greatest interest, however, was in real estate, much of this being obtained through his marriage to Abigail.
In addition to his personal industry, he also devoted his time and energy to being a public servant and generous benefactor. He was a member of City Council for several years and was elected Coroner of Hamilton County. He was instrumental in the erection of the First Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, and is said to have given nearly $100,000 “for friends in need of financial assistance.”
Woodward credits the idea of providing education for the poor to his friend Thomas Hughes, a cobbler. When Hughes died in 1824, naming Woodward his executor, he left his property to support a school for destitute children. Two years later, probably after much thought and discussion with both his wife and Samuel Lewis, his friend and lawyer, Woodward's own educational plan began to take shape. The first Woodward High School opened on October 24, 1831.
William Woodward died on January 24, 1833.
His wife, Abigail, died in 1852.
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