Samuel McCloud McKeever Wood

SAMUEL McCLOUD McKEEVER WOOD. Topeka, Kansas, has no more interesting personality among its citizens than Sam Wood, who still occupies the beautiful home he and his wife erected many years ago on the northeast corner of Tenth and Fillmore streets. This home is a landmark and spot of beauty in Topeka's residential district. Mr. and Mrs. Wood personally supervised the construction of the house and the planning of the grounds. The site occupies six lots and wide, shady parks facing both Tenth and Fillmore streets. There are beautiful trees and shrubbery, and the entire place has that mellowness which is associated with old and comfortable families. Mr. Wood resides in the home with his sister and niece, his wife, Mrs. Wood, having died several years ago.

Mr. Wood first became acquainted with Kansas and Kansas people during his service in the Union army. Though he was a member of an Illinois regiment, he often served in company with Kansas regiments. He was a boy of fifteen when he joined the Union army in 1861, in the Tenth Illinois Cavalry. This regiment was attached to a division of cavalry commanded by General Davidson, and was a part of the Seventh Army Corps. Nearly the whole years of his service was west of the Mississippi River. During that time the faces of Colonel Crawford, Major Plumb, General Pleasanton and other notable figures in Kansas all became familiar to this boy soldier, whose individual record was one of much intrepidity and exposure. Some of the most dangerous and hazardous duties of war as conducted fifty years ago fell to his lot. He was a messenger boy and dispatch bearer. The occupation of the dispatch bearer is now gone in modern military management, the place being taken by the telephone and other mechanical devices. But during the Civil war the dispatch bearer was one of the most indispensable members of a commanding officer's staff. His commanding officer often gave young Wood a written message and also a verbal copy so that in case of great danger he was to destroy the writing and in case he reached his destination deliver the message orally. He also served at the Third Brigade headquarters as orderly under Colonel Stuart, Colonel Glover and Colonel Caldwell, and district headquarters at Little Rock, Arkansas, under Gen. E. A. Carr, until the close of the war in 1865.

Samuel Wood was not the only member of his immediate family to serve in the Civil war. His father had also joined the army and died in a hospital somewhere in Kentucky. A close search was made for his burial place, but it was never discovered. Sam Wood's brother, James L. Wood (who died at his home, 1200 Quincy Street, Topeka, April 1, 1915), was also a veteran of the Civil war and became well known in Kansas. He served in many battles, being in the Thirteen Indiana Volunteer Infantry during the first of the war. He participated in the three days' fighting at Gettysburg, and was one of the most expert cavalrymen in the entire service. He was noted as a daring rider and possessed all other qualifications to make the cavalryman available for the most dangerous and important service. He was a member of the Second United States Cavalry, which was made up of selected men taken from the entire Potomac army. James Wood was chosen because of his proven record in service and his ability to go and perform any duty that might be assigned.

Samuel McCloud McKeever Wood was born in Fayette County, Ohio, in 1845. His father Layton J. Wood, who was born in Virginia in 181i, represented an old Virginia family which furnished soldiers to the American army during the Revolution. The Wood family had no kindly fellowship with the institution of slavery which flourished in the South, and their aversion to that institution caused them to remove to Ohio. Layton J. Wood was married about 1828 to Miss Mary A. Lydy, who was also born in Virginia, in the year 1814. Her parents also left Virginia because of their dislike to slavery. Layton T. Wood and wife had eight children and those who reached maturity were: Sally Mary, James Layton, Sarah G., Samuel M. and Flora C.

Not long after the close of the war (1869), and nearly forty-seven years ago, Sam Wood came to Kansas and took a government homestead not far from Burlingame, Kansas. In those days the country was open, the woods and prairies were filled with game, and hunting was one of the great sports. As soon as he had secured possession of his claim Mr. Wood prohibited hunters from coming on his land. This was not due to any especial animosity against the hunters; but he had a higher regard for the innocent wild game than he did for the sport which so rapidly decimated these specimens of our wild life. Thus the Wood farm became almost a natural game preserve. Many a deer, chased by hunters, would flee to his homestead, and some of them became so tame that they would lie about on his farm and even feed and lie down and chew their cud within forty rods of the house, and watch him work.

Mr. Wood came to Topeka in 1873, where he served as clerk in the post office for seven years, and in 1880 was elected register of deeds, in which office he served for four years. Then for many years Mr. Wood successfully engaged in the real estate business, taking up that as his chief line after retiring from office. In 1877 he married Miss Frances N. Gill. Her father was Judge D. B. Gill, of Clarksboro. New Jersey, her mother of a Revolution family in Connecticut. Very few women of Kansas were so much loved and revered as Mrs. Wood. She was well known in public life, was an ardent worker among the ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, was national president of that order and also president of the department of Kansas and president of the Lincoln Circle, and at one time filled the office of president of the State Federation of Women's Clubs.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed October, 1997.
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