Thomas H. Woolley
Conspicuous among the men who have contributed to the material progress of Washington township and added character and stability to the social and moral life of the community is the gentleman whose career is briefly sketched in the following lines.
Thomas H. Woolley, a successful agriculturist and enterprising man of affairs, was born in the village of Flat Rock, Shelby, Indiana, July 9, 1843, and is the son of William Henry and Amanda (Drake) Woolley, whose families were among the early settlers of what is now Washington township. Thomas Woolley, the subject's grandfather, was born in the month of March, 1794, in England, but in 1805, when nine years old, was brought to America by his parents, who settled in Cincinnati, later moving to Shelby county, Indiana. On May 21, 1818, Thomas Woolley married Mary B. Craven, who bore him children as follows: William Henry, Charlotte, Mary, Elizabeth, James, Louise, Charles, Martha A. and Jane, the majority of whom grew to mature age and reared families of their own. After the death of the mother of the above named children, Mr. Woolley married on May 31, 1849, Catherine Wilcie, whom he also outlived, the latter union being without issue. Thomas Woolley came to Shelby county prior to the year 1818 and entered land in Washington township, to which he added from time to time, until he became one of the largest real estate owners in this part of the country. He platted the village of Flat Rock, which was first called Woolley Station, and was the first business man of the place. For a number of years he kept a general store and did a thriving trade, in connection with which he also purchased hogs on quite an extensive scale, which he drove to Cincinnati, the nearest market place. He was enterprising and progressive, took the lead in developing the resources of the part of the country in which he settled and in due time accumulated a large fortune in land and other property and became one of the prominent men of the county. A Methodist in religion he contributed liberally to his own and other churches, assisted in promoting all enterprises for the advancement of the community and the welfare of his fellow citizens and at the time of his death, enjoyed the honor of being the oldest Mason in the state of Indiana. He departed this life July 30, 1873, in Indianapolis, where he had been living for some time with his daughter, Mrs. Free.
William H. Woolley, the subject's father, was born in Washington township, Shelby county, April 25, 1819, and grew to maturity among the stirring scenes of pioneer times. In the year 1840 he married Amanda Drake, whose people were also among the early settlers of Shelby county, but after a brief but mutually happy experience of three years' wedded, Mr. Woolley was called from earthly scenes, dying on the 20th day of August, 1843, when his son, Thomas H., was an infant. Mrs. Woolley subsequently remarried and went to Illinois to live, where the subject remained until ten years of age, during which time he was unable to attend school or receive any kind of mental training whatever. Returning to Shelby county at the expiration of the period indicated, he entered the home of his grandfather, with whom he lived until the breaking out of the Civil war, when he responded to the President's call for volunteers by enlisting in August, 1861, in Company D, Thirty-third Regiment, Indiana Infantry, which was mustered in at Indianapolis and which saw its first active service in Kentucky. Mr. Woolley was first under fire at Wild Cat, that state, and later he accompanied his command through its varied experiences of campaign and battle, until the capture of the regiment at Franklin, Tennessee, he with a few of his comrades being fortunate enough to escape falling into the hands of the enemy. Shortly after this he was assigned to duty in the heavy artillery, with which he served until the exchange of his regiment one year later, when he rejoined his company and continued with the same until honorably discharged on the 19th day of September, 1864. Mr. Woolley's three years of military service were filled to repletion with duty faithfully and uncomplainingly performed, and he retired from the army with a record of which any soldier might feel proud. Among the more active scenes in which he participated was the Atlanta campaign and the several bloody battles which preceded the fall of that noted Confederate stronghold, in addition to which he also took part in many other engagements, to say nothing of the long marches and varied experiences which test the soldier's endurance and worth fully as much as meeting the enemy on the field of conflict. He passed through his period of service without receiving a wound or spending a day in the hospital, in fact, he has never been sick enough, in the army or at home, to warrant medical treatment, and thus far in life, no physicians have ever been able to number him among their patients. Returning to Shelby county, after receiving his discharge, Mr. Woolley remained a year with his grandfather, but feeling the need of an education, he entered Hartsville College at the end of that time, and, during the nine months ensuing, applied himself very closely to his studies. He learned to write a fair hand while in the service, besides making some progress in other branches, and appreciating the value of time, he let no moment go to wast after becoming a student, with the result that his advancement was rapid, and on leaving the above institution, he was far ahead of many who were blessed with opportunities he never dreamed of possessing. Selecting agriculture for his life work, Mr. Woolley applied himself diligently to the same, and in the course of a few years was in good circumstances with encouraging prospects for future success. Without following in detail his series of advancement in material things, suffice it to state that his progress has been commendable, being at this time the owner of seven hundred and sixty acres of fine land in Washington township, worth one hundred dollars per acre, besides valuable personal property, which runs his fortune to considerably in excess of seventy-six thousand dollars, splendid showing, indeed, for one who began life with a capital of only fifteen hundred dollars, left to him by his grandfather.
Mr. Woolley is a Republican in politics, notwithstanding which he was three times elected Trustee in a township strongly Democratic, and so ably and faithfully id he serve his constituents that he now could have any office within their power to bestow. During his incumbency, Washington had the lowest levy of any township in the county, and when he retired from office all public improvements were in first class order and every dollar of indebtedness paid.
Mr. Woolley was married March 15, 1874, to Mrs. Nettie Cochran (nee Chambers), widow of the late Benjamin Cochran, of Washington township, by whom she had one son, Wilson Cochran, now a well known resident of Shelby county. Mr. and Mrs. Woolley are highly esteemed and have many friends wherever they are known. Their place of residence, a quarter of a mile east of Flat Rock, is one of the most beautiful and attractive rural homes in Shelby county, the dwelling being a fine brick edifice, with all the modern improvements and conveniences, nothing having been spared to make it answer the purposes for which intended and to gratify the refined tastes of the occupants. Mr. Woolley has been identified with various public enterprises from time to time, the only one with which he is now connected being the Flat Rock Telephone Company, of which he is treasurer and a heavy stockholder.
From Chadwick's History of Shelby County, Indiana by Edward H. Chadwick, B.A., assisted by well known local talent, B.F. Bowen & Co, Publishers: Indianapolis, IN, 1909, pages 793-95
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