Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy 210th Birthday, Celia Steepleford Woodland (1801-1888)!

Unita Welch's great-grandmother

Poor Celia!  Her mother and three children died in the Missouri mobbing, so no wonder she looks so dismayed.
John & Celia Woodland

Celia was born to a ferry operator of English and French descent (the family name was Stapleforte a generation earlier).  Celia met her husband, widower John Woodland who was twenty-five years her senior, while she was by the river picking berries to dye clothes.  John and Celia married when she was seventeen, and her sister Polly married John’s brother William.  The Woodlands had nine children by the time they joined the Church and moved to a beautiful property in Missouri, which her husband had seen in a dream.  They were persecuted by mobs in Missouri, and were able to escape in a wagon to Adam-Ondi-Ahman.  There they lived in a wagon with only some quilts spread over bushes for shelter.   

They were driven from their home in the winter of 1838-1839, and two of Celia’s children had measles and died from the resulting exposure; then her teenage son James was killed by the mob as he tried to procure a wagon to leave.  John prophetically said to Celia as James left, “Mother, come here and take a look at your boy, for this is the last time you will see him alive.”  Celia was pregnant and gave birth only five days after the mob burned down their house.  Her mother died five days after that, and this was a difficult time for the family.  The family was unable to get lumber for her coffin due to the mob, so they buried her in a clothes box, which wasn’t long enough, and her feet stuck out six inches “which was a trial they never forgot.”

Her granddaughter noted that, “During all these hardships, the Woodlands kept the first commandment to multiply and replenish the earth.” Celia continued to birth children, all of whom survived, for a grand total of fourteen.  Their daughter, son-in-law, and son William West preceded them west to establish a home and plant some crops in Utah.  The Woodland family settled in Willard.  John and Celia traveled fifty miles by ox team to receive their endowments in Salt Lake in 1856. 

Celia’s grandson Daniel Woodland recalled, “My grandmother in her last days seemed to live back over those terrible days of Missouri and Illinois and at times fancied the mob was again at her door.  Then the fear was gone and that beautiful face would brighten and she thanked God for deliverance.”  Celia was said to be a woman of strong character and had a pleasing personality, with a testimony ever fresh and positive.  After such a hard life, that is a beautiful tribute.  

I would give her a new portrait sitting!


  1. Agreed! Or a makeover or something: my siblings and I often refer to Celia and John as "the dead people," not because they actually are dead, but because they look pretty lifeless and wasted away.

  2. I wonder if she knows how many descendants she has! She is my GGGG Grandmother!

  3. Oh blessed Celia! Thanks for enduring!

    Thanks for clarifying the mob story so I can share a more accurate depiction now.