ANNE HELENA WOODRUFF
Among Canada’s unknown and unlisted writers is Anne Helena Woodruff, a native of St. Davids, Ontario, author of three books for children, all published in the United States.
She was born on December 28, 1850, the daughter of William Henry Woodruff who was a descendant of Richard Woodruff, one of the brothers who built the first steam-operated grist mill in the Niagara Peninsula.
From a relative I learned that Anne Helena went to the old school in St. Davids, built on land donated by David Secord for whom the village is named. It was located east of the present building. It is believed that she went to High School but so far I have been unable to find out where. It could have been St. Catharines or Niagara Falls. Either place would have been possible as in those days a railway line ran close by.
Anne Helena spent a number of years on her father’s farm. The house in which she lived is still in good condition. Other red brick houses are to be found in St. Davids. I was told that in days past they were called “barley houses” so named because they were built from money received from the sale of barley during the American Civil War.
Little is known of her early life but we have several glimpses. A relative told me he remembered an uncle saying that Anne Helena used to send baskets of fruit on consignment to Toronto. The fruit was taken to the dock at Queenston where it was put on board the boat which ran often between the two places.
Although she had no children of her own, her books indicate that Anne Helena was a lover of children. She was affectionately called “Nannie" by her relatives and friends.
She was one of the founders of the First Presbyterian Church in St. Davids and was apparently the organist for a time. She was the first secretary of the women’s Missionary Auxiliary, formed in 1890 and edited the monthly budget.
In the fall of 189l Anne Helena left St. Davids to live with a married sister, Mrs. Ella Victoria Pew, in Chicago. It was while living in the United States that her books were published.
Before her departure the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church in St. Davids presented her with a Scroll. It reads as follows:
MISS NANNIE WOODRUFF
Having learned with much regret that you purpose soon to remove from our midst, we as a congregation could not let this opportunity pass without trying in some way to show our appreciation of your faithful services ever since the inception of this church.
Looking back ten years we can recall how encouraging your enthusiasm and energy were in undertaking to establish this congregation which through God’s blessing has met with such marked success. It is very gratifying to us to think that we did not have to part with your helpful work for the Master until a comfortable place of worship was erected and paid for.
As organist, as a worker In the Mission Band of Hope and Young People’s Society and as a teacher In the Sabbath School you have always given a ready response to any demand upon you for service.
We wish In this formal way to thank you for the devotion and self-sacrificing spirit you have always shown in every work that has as its aim the furthering of the Master's cause in this part of His vineyard.
Though called upon to suffer the loss of your counsel and help we feel assumed that when away from us we shall still have your sympathy and prayers. We trust that you may be spared to be a channel of blessing to others as you have been to us. Our sympathy and best wishes go with you and our united prayer is *The Lord bless thee••••••• and give thee peace.”
FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Signed on behalf of the congregation
St. Davids Wm. McLaren
Oct. 12, 1891 J. M. Crysler
A poem which Anne Helena wrote shows her devotion:
TEACH ME THY TRUTH
1. Teach me Thy truth, Thous Saviour of mankind,
The truth that maketh free;
The wondrous word
The people heard
Beside blue Galilee:
Of Love divine the mystery make clear.
That stooped to succor; give the hearing ear;
Teach me Thy truth.
2. Teach me Thy truth: of sorrow balm and cure;
From sin ad guilt release.
O still small voice,
Who hear, rejoice
In hope of perfect peace;
Bought by Thy travail sorrowful, and pain,
Should love so lavish be poured out in vain?
Teach me Thy truth.
3. Teach me Thy truth, O Heart and Home of Love:
Shall I behold once more----
Death's river crossed------
The Loved and Lost
Upon the other shore,
Sometime, somewhere safe, safe from death's alarms
And clasp them close within these aching arms?
Teach me Thy truth.
4. Teach me Thy truth- confusion pierce with light:
The darkling clouds that seem
Shall they at last
With heavenly radiance gleam?
And light me to these glorious realms afar,
The Home-land, where the "many mansions" are?
Teach me Thy truth.
We do not know when the books were written but the locale is definitely that of St. Davids. "Betty and Bob” was published in October, 1903 by Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York. It is a story of two children brought from an orphanage in Montreal to live with "Mr. and Mrs. Murray” of St. Davids. The neighbours were loud in their predictions that no good thing could come from asylum, but after a time Betty and Bob proved them wrong. In the meantime their life was not particularly happy. They were befriended by "Miss Marshall" who invited them to visit her father's farm. They enjoyed themselves so much that the visit was often repeated.
The Pond In The Marshy Meadow was published in 1906 by The Saalfield Publishing Company, New York, Akron, Chicago. We have been able to find some comments on this one: "A book to open the eyes of children. An ordinary pond in an ordinary field, belonging to an ordinary farmer furnishes the objects for lessons of observation and the author is guide and teacher.
A book with plenty of entertainment in it and considerable instruction put so pleasantly as to be entertaining too."
New York Times 772 N24, 06
“Has the indefinable touch which will comment it to the minds of children but the little folks to whom it is dedicated will have to share their pleasure with everyone who can remember brooks and pasture-lands, and all the sweet, lazy experience of childhood in the country."
Outlook 84: 532 0 27.06
Three Boys and a Girl was published in 1906 by Jennings and Graham-Cincinnati. Eaton and Maine, New York. "Growing up on a Farm" I think could have been an alternative title.
It is the story of a boy who longs to own a camera. His father thought it was not only a waste of money but a "criminal" waste of time. He told Arthur that if he wanted the camera he would have to earn the money to buy it. Arthur decides to do so by raising chickens. He has adventures with a weasel, raccoon and a man of the village who steals the chickens in order to buy liquor. All obstacles are eventually overcome and Arthur is able to purchase a camera. His enthusiasm is so great that he wins awards, arousing the jealousy and enmity of another boy in the community.
Page 11: "For a long time Arthur Vance had been longing to own a camera; not a toy affair, such as was possessed by some of his young companions but a real good article, with a first-class lens and accompanying paraphernalia, and up-to-date in every respect. Such a camera would cost a considerable sum of money; more than his father seemed willing to expend upon what he considered a use-less fad", and an almost "Criminal waste of time."
From Chicago Miss Woodruff went to Muskegon, Michigan, then back to Canada. She and her sister made their home in Niagara Falls, Ontario, where Anne Helena died on August 28, 1938. She is buried in the Woodruff plot in the cemetery beside the United Church in St. Davids.
The three books can be found at Brock University. They are the only three listed by the Library of Congress in Washington.
Anne Helena was nearly forty-one when she left the area and then after some years she returned to Canada. Surely she should be considered among Canada's talented writers.
MRS. ELLA V. W. PEW
Ella Victoria Woodruff Pew, wife of the late Oliver Pew , and daughter of W. H. Woodruff and Mary Secord, descendants of old pioneer families of this district, died at her home l078 Fifth Avenue yesterday. Born in St. Davids eighty-one years ago, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Woodruff pioneer settlers there, the deceased lady resided for many years in the district, and moved to Chicago where she made her home for some time. She was a member of the Anglican Church.
Surviving are one sister, Anne H. Woodruff at home; nieces and nephews, Mrs. C. W. Anderson, this city, Mrs. Charles A. Saunders, St. Davids; W.A. Woodruff, Arch and Fred Woodruff, of St. Davids; Miss Lena Woodruff, Winona; Mrs. Marion Ward, Toronto, Victor Jones, Essex, and Mrs. Wilfred Sears, this city, also the Packard family of Barringtonn, Rhode Island.
Services will be held at the Morse and Son Chapel on Friday afternoon at two o'clock and interment will be made at the convenience of the family.
The Niagara Falls Review, March 17, 1938
Anne H. Woodruff, daughter of the late William Henry Woodruff and Mary D. Secord, pioneer residents of St. Davids, died at her late home, 1078 Fifth Avenue, yesterday in her eighty-eighth year. For forty years Miss Woodruff resided in Chicago and Muskegon, prior to coming to this city.
She is survived by the following nieces and nephews. Miss Helen Woodruff of Wyona, Mrs. Charles W. Anderson, this city; Mrs. Charles Saunders, St. Davids, Mrs. Marion Ward, Toronto, Victor James of Essex, William, Arch and Fred Woodruff of St. Davids and the Packard of New Hampshire. A sister E. Victoria Pew, predeceased her last March.
Funeral services will be held from the Morse and Son Chapel on Wednesday afternoon at two o'clock.
The Niagara Falls Review, August 29, 1938