Thursday, February 17, 2011

Happy 129th Birthday, Daniel Peter Woodland (1882-1954)!

Nita Welch's father

Daniel was a missionary to Japan over a century ago, and was a gentle soul.  He reminds me of President Monson in some ways, frequently speaking at funerals and quoting poetry.  His favorite song was "Little Purple Pansies"--so sing it for him today!

Dan with his younger sisters
Born to pioneer parents and grandparents, Daniel was the eleventh of William and Laura's fourteen children.  He nearly died at birth, and later suffered health challenges with his lungs and eyes during his mission.  Daniel was raised on a ranch and attended a one-room schoolhouse, and later the Brigham Young College in Logan.  There he became friends with Blanche Hatch, who wrote him occasionally on his mission to Japan. 

Dan had an opportunity to defend the Church on the ship over to Japan, as the captain said that the mountains of Utah should be tipped on top of the "morons."  Dan bore a strong testimony; the captain backed down and treated him with respect for the rest of the voyage.  Americans were so rare in 1905 Tokyo that Idaho letters addressed to "Daniel Woodland, Tokyo, Japan" reached him.  One day he was delighted to find a Japanese sailor who spoke a little English, but the gospel discussion didn't last long as he soon discovered that the sailor's vocabulary was limited to salty language.  His mission journals include the interesting note that they performed acrobatic stunts after mission meetings.  Dan's father sadly passed away while he was gone.

Dan, Blanche, baby Hazel
Upon returning home, Dan and Blanche renewed their friendship and were married in a double wedding with Dan's sister and his mission companion.  The Woodlands had seven children, and mourned the death of beautiful six-month old baby Iza during the flu epidemic of 1918.  Their daughter Anna Laura served a mission to Czechoslovakia shortly after World War II. They had a number of sorrows as their children grew: one daughter became pregnant illegitimately and then died in childbirth, and one son became an alcoholic stemming from his World War II service.  A decade after Dan's death, another son was killed while on duty as a security guard.

In 1928, the Woodlands took a family trip by car to the Northwest, and later enjoyed trips to Canada,  California, Utah parks, New Mexico, and the New York World's Fair of 1940.  Dan ran a furniture store in Malad, Idaho, which also doubled as a mortuary; in the 18 years they lived there, Dan estimated that he spoke at 800 funerals.  Unfortunately, his store had invested heavily in phonographs at a time when radio was taking off, and with the crash of 1929, people wanted food, not furniture.  Dan had to auction off his inventory to pay creditors.  He was firmly opposed to debt and helped other families work out debt repayment plans. He also worked tirelessly in the community for better sewage arrangements and for public libraries.  

The Woodlands relocated to Logan, where Dan courageously started over at age 50 in the undertaking business.  There he also began his twenty-three years of service officiating in the Logan Temple.  Dan  served as a bishop, and once recorded a glorious vision of the Savior presenting him with the sacrament.

Dan wrote poetry, and here are some of his writings I particularly enjoyed: 

Woodland family 1949
"When we viewed 'Old Sherman' in Sequoia National Park in California, we felt for the first time the real meaning of time.  For if a tree could become a monarch in 4,000 years, what might man, made in the image of God, become with eternity to grow in. Since then I have been encouraged and my concern has been how to keep the spark of divinity alive rather than to worry about how fast we go.  So I wrote this poem:

Time, what a friend to thee,
Monarch of all trees.
Four thousand years. Oh! so long,
Yet thy scars hath made thee strong.

Man, what of thee?
What is thy destiny?
Made in God's own imagery,
Thy heritage: Eternity."

In the fifty plus years since Daniel died, I'm sure he's well on his way: his scars have made him strong, and he's towering high.  

And for his birthday, I would give him an e-reader, so he could carry many poetry books in his hand.  Plus a bouquet of purple pansies.


  1. I'd give him a video camera-- I sure would like to see those acrobatic stunts!

  2. Nice! I would give him a Prius so he could scoot around visiting families working out debt and then coming back to speak at their funerals. This Prius would have no radio though for I hear he loved to whistle and sing as he drove. My father told me that his father, Daniel, would have him along on some of those trips so he, David could drive the car, which was a real treat to a 14 year old. This was while Dan was the Bishop of the Logan 3rd Ward. Their lovely house can be seen at 275 W 1st N. Those long drives and talks with son David and later, never-ending prayers eventually paid off. David returned to his roots in faith and was sealed eternally to his family on April 3, 1969 in the Logan Temple where Dan had long served as an ordinance worker. We were all quite sure that Daniel was in the temple again that day, scarred, but smiling. I wonder if he wrote a second poem about that day?

  3. Dave, thanks for sharing those wonderful stories.
    I'm sure Grandpa Woodland was up there with a poem!

  4. From my mom's cousin, Catherine Huxford, you get a sense of what a great man Daniel was and the impact he had on many future generations by his humble example:

    "Daniel is my Grandfather Woodland who you have probably heard me talk about a lot. He was a great influence for good in my life.

    During my growing up years my parents were not active in the Church, but in his quiet way, Grandfather Woodland helped us keep in contact with the Church. For one thing, he made sure our records followed us wherever we went. Grandfather came to Malad to bless Dick and myself when we were babies. He also came to Spokane to bless Bob when he was a baby (in 1945 when travel was limited because of the war). He arranged for me to be baptized in the Logan River in August 1944 when we were briefly in the area due to Grandmother Davis's illness and death. He confirmed me a member of the Church as I sat on a brick fire pit beside the river that August day when I was eight. When I was a teenager he allowed me to copy his extensive genealogical records and type them using his wide carriage typewriter, then took me to Malad to visit people he knew who had records on my father's side of the family. He also arranged for me to have my patriarchal blessing while I was visiting in Logan one summer. Although we didn't get formal temple preparation classes in those days, I learned to love and respect the temple from Grandfather and Grandmother Woodland's example. Of course it was the Logan temple that I chose to be married in. Grandmother Woodland was our only guest that day, but I felt the presence and approval of Grandfather Woodland during the ceremony.

    Thank you, Anita, for reminding me that Grandfather Daniel's birthday is February 17th. It's good to know that others continue to honor this good man. "

  5. i loved reading this tribute by catherine!

  6. I'm pretty crazy about this whole idea of "gathering" our families through relating their stories. Have you seen his house in Logan?

    What a great man.... Can you see your brother David in him? It's a very familiar face.