George Lemuel Woods

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George Lemuel Woods
George Lemuel Woods portrait.jpg
Governor of Utah Territory
In office
Preceded byVernon H. Vaughan
Succeeded bySamuel Beach Axtell
3rd Governor of Oregon
In office
September 12, 1866 – September 14, 1870
Preceded byA. C. Gibbs
Succeeded byLa Fayette Grover
Personal details
Born(1832-07-30)July 30, 1832
Boone County, Missouri
DiedJanuary 7, 1890(1890-01-07) (aged 57)
Portland, Oregon
Political partyNational Union /
Spouse(s)Louisa A. McBride

George Lemuel Woods (July 30, 1832 – January 7, 1890) was an American lawyer, judge, and politician. A member of the Republican Party, Woods served as the third Governor of Oregon from 1866–1870. Failing to win renomination, Woods was then appointed Territorial Governor of Utah by President Ulysses S. Grant, serving in that position from 1871–1875.


Early years[edit]

George Lemuel Woods was born July 30, 1832 in Boone County, Missouri, the second of four boys born to Caleb Woods and the former Margaret McBride.[1] His ancestors came to North America from Scotland in the late 17th Century, settling first in Virginia before moving to the Kentucky frontier.[2] His father had moved to Missouri in 1808.[2]

In 1847, when George was just 15, his parents moved to the Oregon Territory.[3] In Oregon, the family settled in Yamhill County, George was educated in the public schools.[3]

In April 1852, Woods was married to Louisa A. McBride.[4] The couple would have two sons.[3] The young couple took a homestead on unimproved government land, which Woods cleared, fenced, and plowed.[5]

Unsatisfied with rural life, in 1856 Woods sold his property and enrolled at McMinnville College, where he studied law.[5] Working as a carpenter during the day and studying at night,[5] Woods purchased a small law library and was eventually admitted to the bar in 1858, setting up a private practice.[1] Woods proved capable at the task and gained recognition as a proficient attorney.[5]

Political career[edit]

In 1857, Woods organized Republican clubs in the state and was a noted speaker of the party.[3]

Woods was appointed a judge in Wasco County in 1863.[3] He was nominated as a presidential elector in March 1864 and was active in the campaign to re-elect Abraham Lincoln to the presidency, gaining a following as an eloquent and effective orator and stump speaker.[5] Woods toured the state as leading representative of the National Union Party (Republican-Pro-War Democrat coalition), debating the anti-war Democrat Aaron E. Wait, Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court.[5]

In 1865 he was appointed to serve on the Idaho Territory’s Supreme Court, but before his formal commission arrived he was nominated for governor by the Union Party.[6] Woods won election over his Democratic opponent, prominent attorney James L. Kelly, in a heated and intense campaign, becoming the third Governor of the state of Oregon.[6] His term began on September 12, 1866 and continued until September 14, 1870.[7]

An 1870 portrait of Woods by one who had heard him speak on numerous occasions characterized the "positive and magnetic" Governor as

"...tall, graceful, and commanding, with a handsome, cheerful face, which is set off by a full, flowing beard and manifesting the utmost mental activity.... His manner of speaking is rapid, but distinct and impressive, never using long or high-sounding words or indulging in any extravagance or impropriety or metaphor. He seems to depend on the natural forces of ideas rather than upon the sonorousness of words; and although never written, unless by some very swift reporter at the time of their delivery, his speeches would be considered well adapted to the most refined of lecture-rooms.... Perhaps no American orator is capable of a quicker or keener retort, but it is a cut from a rapier, rather than a stroke with a bludgeon."[8]

Woods' prowess as a public speaker placed him in demand for other candidates around the country, and he made campaign speaking tours on behalf of Republican candidates in California in 1867 — where he made 30 speeches in 35 nights — and the New England states of New Hampshire and Connecticut in 1868.[6]

Woods failed to win re-election but was immediately appointed by new Republican President Ulysses S. Grant as the Governor of Utah Territory in 1871.[1] Woods proved to be a critic of Mormon leader Brigham Young, and was not reappointed in 1875 at the conclusion of his term.[9]

Later life[edit]

After leaving the Utah governorship Woods moved to California, where he remained for ten years.[1] He then returned to Oregon in 1885, where he died on January 7, 1890. Woods was buried at River View Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d John B. Horner, Oregon: Her History, Her Great Men, Her Literature. J.K. Gill Co.: Portland, 1921; pp. 125, 153–154, 176.
  2. ^ a b Oscar T. Shuck, Representative and Leading Men of the Pacific. San Francisco: Bacon and Co., 1870; pg. 271.
  3. ^ a b c d e Howard M. Corning, Dictionary of Oregon History. Binfords & Mort Publishing, 1956.
  4. ^ Shuck, Representative and Leading Men of the Pacific, pp. 271-272.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Shuck, Representative and Leading Men of the Pacific, pg. 272.
  6. ^ a b c Shuck, Representative and Leading Men of the Pacific, pg. 273.
  7. ^ Oregon Blue Book: Elections Process and History
  8. ^ Shuck, Representative and Leading Men of the Pacific, pg. 274.
  9. ^ Hal Schindler, "The Territorial Governors," Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 7, 1996.
  10. ^ Lawrence Kestenbaum (ed.), "George Lemuel Woods (1832-1890),"

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Murphy, Miriam B. (1994), "Territorial Governors", in Powell, Allan Kent (ed.), Utah History Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, OCLC 30473917
  • Governor George L. Woods' Administration from the Oregon State Archives
  • Oregon State Library: George Lemuel Woods
Political offices
Preceded by
A. C. Gibbs
Governor of Oregon
Succeeded by
La Fayette Grover
Preceded by
Vernon H. Vaughan
Governor of Utah Territory
Succeeded by
Samuel Beach Axtell