John Henry Woodard is my maternal grandfather and the ancestor for this 8th week. John was born on February 2, 1889 in Meriwether County Georgia to Wiley and Josephine (Martin) Woodard. He was the youngest child of this couple that married in 1868. They had nine children and by 1900 five were living in Odessadale, Georgia. Odessa Township is a small farm community that is five miles west of Lagrange Georgia. The Woodard family lived near the Meriwether Troup County Line and worked as tenant farmers.
It would have been easy to miss this small community when I visited Odessadale in 1990. Upon entrance to the area we found ourselves going back in time for this old area seems to have stood still from long ago. The evidence of farming could be seen in the open fields just beyond some of the houses. We stopped to ask a few children playing in the street whether they knew of any people named Woodard. Without hesitation they advised us that the Woodard section was just down the road. The road they directed us to was about one mile long before ending at a small trailer and an old two story seemly abandon shingled house with the upper window open and a lace curtain blowing out towards the empty field. An older man was in the yard where the trailer sat. We waved at him and he waved back. His features came in focus as he approached our car. It was startling how much he looked like the Woodard family members that I known all of my life. He introduced himself as Henry Woodard and I explained who I was telling him some basic family information that led me to Odessa. Henry was open and friendly advising me that his father was Henry Woodard Sr. He did not really know his father having grown up and living in Troup County (five miles away) most of his life. Henry shared that his aunt, Ida Strozier lived on the main road in Odessadale and knew more of the family history. After our short visit with Henry, we went to the main road and knocked on Ida Strozier's door. She was an older woman and later I learned she was ninety-two and her maiden name was McClendon. She was a little leery at first of this stranger. Yet as I shared what I knew about the Woodard family, she opened up about where the family lived, which Woodard’s where related and remembered my great grandparents, Josephine and Wiley, when they died and remembered my great grandaunt, Sylvia Martin and her husband Cornelius McClendon. Ida was a treasure chest of information, sharing information of where my grandfather, John Henry was born and information about his parents. Ida told me I didn’t look like a Woodard then looked at my sandaled feet and said my feet were not like the Woodard’s. I explained my feet were like my father’s. Finally, she looked at me and said there is something about your eyes that remind me of the Woodard’s (I do have eyes like my mom). Interesting enough when we met Henry, he had no shoes on and my husband said his feet look like my mother’s feet.
John Henry left this area with his first cousin, Sylvia and Cornelius’ son, Charlie McClendon and followed his sister, Hannah and her family to Sayre, Alabama. The male family members worked in the Alabama coalmines, followed the industry to West Virginia and on to Pennsylvania. John married Susie Mae Young in Jefferson County Alabama on July 19, 1913. Their first two children of eleven were born in Sayre, Alabama and the others were born in Fairmont, West Virginia. John Henry worked as a coalminer most of his adult life and supplemented his income by taking on a second job as a butcher. The results of working in the unhealthy environment of underground coalmines led to his death from black lung disease. He died six months before his last child my mother was born. John Henry and his cousin, Cornelius McClendon remained close all of his life. Cornelius was the informant on John’s death certificate in January 1932.
My grandfather’s story was shared by his children and gave me the first steps on my family history journey.