Other branches of our family tree


This branch of the Wooster family tree is presented in the following sections:

The Worcesters in England
The Worcester Coat of Arms
A family History Error
Edward Worcester b. ca 1550
William Worcester b. 1576
William Worcester b. 1595
Edward Wooster b. 1624
Timothy Wooster b. 1670
Edward Wooster b. 1702
Edward Wooster b. 1732
John Wooster b. 1774
John Edward Lacy Wooster b. 1809
John Wooster b. 1847
Lyell Wooster b. 1886
Elizabeth Wooster Singer b. 1921

The Worcesters in England

The American genealogy of the large and distinguished Worcester / Wooster family is well documented. As the spelling variation suggests, there are two major family lines in America, both with many branches but all with a common English ancestry.

American family histories of both lines trace their roots back to the beginning of the seventeenth century when three brothers emigrated from England. They were William, Thomas and Edward Worcester, late of Cheddington, Buckinghamshire County, England. It appears that William came first, settling in Massachusetts, soon joined by his younger brothers, Thomas and Edward. Thomas remained in Massachusetts with William, while Edward, for reasons yet unknown went on to Connecticut. In so doing, Edward changed his name to the phonetic spelling, Wooster, whereas the brothers in Massachusetts retained the English form, Worcester.[1]

The Worcester family is an ancient one, and the Welsh influence now seems indisputable.. The oldest version of the name identified to date is Wigera-ceastre, derived from the area of present Worcestershire County, England which was anciently called Wigera-ceastre-scyr.

The City of Worcester on the banks of the Severn River in western England is one of the most ancient towns in England. It is the site of a Roman fortified camp, established in the time of Julius Caesar. This camp, or Castrum was located close to the forest of Wyre, and was called Wyrecaestre, corrupted later into Worcester. In the year 673 the See of Worcester was founded by Primate Theodore.

One of the early family researchers, Dr. David Wooster of San Francisco published in 1885 his remarkable history, Woosters in America. His belief is that the family originated in Wales. Near the English border in Wales is the Wye Forest as well as the Wye River. The people there were anciently called "Wyster people," and the people living in the vicinity frequently took the name de Worcester whenever a surname was needed. He states further that,

"There were Worcesters in Wales in the Seventh Century. It is probable that the Worcester family became separated into two distinct families or clans at a remote date. Both are pronounced Wooster, with one spelled Worster and the other Worcester."

Before its final evolution to Worcester, many variants appear in the old records. The more ancient versions suggest their Welsh origins, Wyrecestre, Worstede and Worsted. The later variations probably differ more due to phonetic spelling rather than usage since all more or less retained the original sound, for example, Wircester, Woster, Worster, Woseyter, Wocester, Woceter and others. One key point, in any event, is that Wooster was never a very common name in the British Isles.

Prior to the early fourteenth century, it was customary for people to have a single name. As urban life became more complex, the use of surnames became a necessity in daily life. The nobility followed the custom of other European countries to add "de" (of or from) a place name after the given name. Thomas de Wyrecestre, for example, became Thomas of Worcester, which in later years became simply Thomas Worcester.

In any event, the conclusion is inescapable that this large family is an ancient one with all lines tracing back to a common English ancestry. In America, two families with the surname spelling variants, Worcester and Wooster are branches of that tree.

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The Worcester Coat of Arms

coat of arms The Worcesters were a noble family of early England. There was an Earl of Worcester, who was beheaded by order of Henry IV, and there was a Marquis of Worcester who was Lord of Raglan Castle, situated just over the English border in Wales during the reign of Charles II. The point here is simply to establish the notion, since the place of these men in the family is unknown.

The Coat of Arms of the Worcester family [2]in England is described as:

Arms "Argent"; a castle sable between eight torteaux (three at top, three at bottom and two on each side), Crest, a griffin, segreats; gules."

The motto, Pax Portior Bello, was probably added in later centuries. It translates roughly into "Peace Over War."

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A Family History Error

Anjou[3] traces the principal Worcester family line from the two wills of Hugh de Wyrecestre (1323) and Robert de Wyre-cestre (1333). It appears these men might have been brothers. Neither of their wills confirms any children by name, but three probable children who carried the family name forward were Thomas de Worstede, John de Worstede and Robert de Worsted.

In Anjou's work, the family of Robert is traced forward to the end of the seventeenth century in some detail. The lineage becomes uncertain at the point where William Worcester, born in 1602 is shown as a son of Peter Worcester.

At that point, Anjou makes the claim that this son is William, Vicar of Watford, father of the three sons who went to America. He was probably related, but there is no proof offered of the direct lineage. For one thing, Peter Worcester's line was a prominent family of merchants, with no known family member ever becoming a clergyman, whereas the "American William's" line provided members of the clergy generation after generation.

By then, the Worcesters were quite numerous in south central England, and the source of the error seems to have been confusion caused by the widespread practice of perpetuating a given name across multiple family lines and over generations. This can often be frustrating to researchers. The historical record is replete with William Worcesters, particularly in Buckinghamshire, and it is safe to assume most were probably related. Adding to the confusion, we found three Reverend William Worcesters who were contemporaries in Bucks County during the period in question.

Other early family researchers made the same assumptions, and as a result, many family histories published in the early 1900s claimed descendance from Rev. William, Vicar of Watford, Buckinghamshire, England.

In any event, more recent research has determined that the "American" Rev. William was a son of Edward Worcester of Cheddington, Bucks, England.

To confront the historical error, first consider University records. During that period, only University graduates in theology were offered the responsibilities of a vicarage. Oxford University rolls[4] lists:

WOCETOR, William (Worsiter or Wissiter). B.A. 12 April 1570. Vicar of Watford, Northants, 1574.

Rev. William spent his entire adult life with the church at Watford. The church records are intact, and the Latin text lists the baptismal records of his children:

          Richard Worcester   1580
          Timothy Worcester   1582
          Susannah Worcester  1584
          Katherina Worcester 1586
          Peter Worcester     1589
          Alicia Worcester    1591
          Maria Worcester     1593
          William Worcester   1595

The coincidence of the name William and the birth date of 1595 seems to have been too tempting to ignore by early researchers, leading to the (false) assumption that he was the English progenitor of the line. The assumption fails because it does not account for two brothers, Thomas and Edward. American family histories universally agree that the three came to America and founded new family lines. The identity of the correct William must recognize that constraint. This key point was ignored.

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Edward Worcester (abt. 1550 - ?)

(1) Unknown
(2) Elizabeth Alen

Research in England for a Worcester family of at least three brothers eventually led to the church records of All Saints Church, Hilleston, Cheddington, Buckinghamshire.[5] Considering that the church book is more than 300 years old, with deteriorated and missing pages, the data is remarkable for the information on the Worcester family.

It confirms that in the late sixteenth century, an Edward Worcester was living in Cheddington. The record clearly identifies Edward in lines 2 and 5: (m = marriage, c = christening)

m 1576 April 13 Edward Worcester & Elizabeth Alen
c 1576 April 20 William Worcester, sonne to Edward Worcester

From this record we can infer that in early April, 1576, Edward's first wife died, probably in childbirth. Edward immediately remarried on April 13th in the custom of the times when a widower was left with small children. A week later, his son, William was christened.

It appears, then, that Elizabeth Alen (Allen?) was Edward's second wife and the mother of his later children, and that the name of William's mother is unknown.

There follows a gap of about 30 years in the record. As a result, the later years of Edward and the early years of his son William are unknown.

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William Worcester (1576-1623)

Rebecca King (?-1661)

Fortunately, the family remained in Cheddington, for the same church transcript picks up the family of William, 37 years later, as follows (m = marriage, c = christening and b = buried):

   c 1613 Sep 12  Thomas, s of William Woceter
   c 1616 Dec 26  Mary, dau of William Worster
   c 1618 Mar 21  Rebecca Woster, dau of William Woster
   c 1621 Feb 4   Gorge, s of William Worster
   c 1623 Aug 5   Francis, son of William Worster & Rebecca
   b 1623 Nov 3   William Worster was buried
   b 1659 May 3   George Wooster was buried

The entries resuming with the year 1613 are a generation later, with important gaps in the transcript. William (1576) had at least seven children, five sons and two daughters. Five are identified in this record. This inference is made since he was 37 years old when Thomas was born, and the gaps in the church record masks the birth dates of his two other sons William and Edward. The christening date of son William is stated from other sources as being 5 October 1595.

The senior William's will (1623) clearly identifies William as his oldest son with four younger brothers. Dr. David Wooster's history dated 1886 says that Edward was born in 1622. Since the church record shows Frances born in 1623, we speculate the Edward must have followed in about 1624.

William's children were:

   William Worcester  1595-1662    m. (1) Sarah Brown
                                     (2) Rebecca Hall
   Thomas Worcester   1613-?
   Mary Worcester     1616-        m. Joseph Eaton
   Rebecca Worcester  1618-?
   George Worcester   1620-1659
   Francis Worcester  1623-1659
   Edward Worcester   (c)1624-1689 m. (1) Dorothy Langdon
                                      (2) Tabitha Tomlinson

The American Wooster line is traced through the second son, Edward, but we include here anecdotal side information on his older brother, William Worcester since the events of William's early life profoundly impacted Edward. The family was to be torn apart by problems revolving around William.

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William Worcester (1595-1662)

(1) Sarah Brown (1600-1650)
(2) Rebecca Hall (?-1695)

William attended Cambridge University where the alumni record contains this entry:

WOCETER or WORCESTER, WILLIAM. Matric. from St. Johns, Easter, 1620. Ordained deacon Dec. 22, 1622. Vicar of Olney, Bucks., 1624-1636.

He was 29 when he assumed his post at Olney. One old reference[6] puts it quaintly, William Worcester compounded for the first fruits of the vicarage of Olney on 26 July 1622 James I 1624.

The same record importantly mentions that one of his sureties (sponsors) was Peter Worcester of St. Edmunds, Lombard Street, London, merchant tailor. A surety lent his prestige (and usually some money) to help a young man obtain a good position (frequently this took the form of purchasing a commission in the military). That William went straight from university to a vicarage suggests again the influence and prominence of the large Worcester family, and the patronage of an influential man, most often a relative.

(In his research, Anjou raises an interesting possibility in the identification of a Peter Worcester, born 1580, son of William, 1541-?. Peter married, 1st, Elizabeth Roberts, and, 2nd, Dorothy Phips, having two children by Elizabeth and four by Dorothy. The children, born between 1601 and 1621, were contemporaries (and possibly cousins) of the children of William of Cheddington. It is tempting to say that Anjou's Peter may have been an uncle, and was in fact the Peter who sponsored young William to the Vicarage of Olney. If that fact can be established, then the link between the two American lines to the ancient English Worcester line can be drawn.)

Shortly after taking up the vicarage at Olney, William married Sarah Brown, daughter of Samuel Brown and Susannah Bates on 11 February 1628. They had four children during the Olney years, Samuel (1629), Susannah (1631), William (1632) and Sarah (1636).

The young preacher must have had a strong Puritanical streak in his character; a true Wooster reformer, as later generations would say. While he was Vicar of Olney, certain doctrines of the church were changed, including a relaxation of the rule requiring full dedication of Sunday to meditation and prayer. Reverend William refused to comply with the command of his superiors to read from the King's book to the congregation those portions which now permitted sports and recreations after service on the Lord's day. William would have none of that, and instead preached against this popular new rule. He must have been very stubborn about it, since he was dismissed from his post in 1636.

Other things may not have gone well for William, as well. His relationship with his father might well have been less than satisfactory leading to some estrangement.[7] The clue is the elder William's Will (see Edward, below). It has been the custom for centuries in England for the eldest son to inherit the family assets. This was the means by which family fortunes were kept intact. Instead, William received only ten Pounds, with the estate going to the two youngest brothers, George and Francis.

William left England for America with Sarah and their four children in 1640 or 1641. He settled in Massachusetts, becoming the first minister of the church in Salisbury.

William's children with Sarah Brown, all born in England, have been identified as:

   Samuel Worcester  1629-1680 m. Elizabeth Parratt
   Susanna Worcester 1631-?    m. Thomas Stacy
   William Worcester 1632-1683 m. (1) Constant ?
                               m. (2) Martha Cheney
   Sarah Worcester   1636-1641

His children born in Salisbury MA were:

   Sarah Worcester   1641-?
   Timothy Worcester 1642-1672  m. Susannah ?
   Moses Worcester   1643-?     m. Elizabeth Stark
   Sarah Worcester   1648-1649
   Elizabeth Wooster 1649-1649

Sarah died 23 April 1650. On 22 July 1650, William married Rebecca (Swayne) (Byley) HALL, born 1617.

William died in 1662[8]. Rebecca married again (her fourth), and she died 21 February 1695.

William's life in America was a success. His ministry in association with his brother, Thomas was long and well received by his flock. From this beginning he became the progenitor of the Worcester line in America.

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Edward Wooster (Abt 1624-1689)

(1) Dorothy Langdon
(2) Tabitha Tomlinson (?-1690)

Edward, the second son of William (and brother of Rev. William) was born in Cheddington, Bucks.

Nothing is known of his life as a youth in England. However, it is possible that, with his two brothers, William and Thomas, there were problems with the father. This conjecture comes from the will, which cuts off all three older sons in favor of the two youngest sons.

(To understand the impact of this, consider the custom in England for generations of holding family fortunes together. The process of inheritance provided for the eldest son to inherit all assets. The second son was provided with a commission in the military, with which he was expected to gain fame and fortune. The third son went into the clergy. To succeed there he first went to university to receive a degree in Theology, following which he could expect to eventually be posted to a vicarage. In those days, vicars were a part of the church hierarchy, where no thought was given to such things as vows of either poverty or chastity. In short, vicars often became landed gentry with large endowments of rents to build their fortune.)

So, it was highly unusual when their father, William of Cheddington died leaving a will dated 1623, with bequests, as follows:

  To Willyam Woster, myne elldest Sonne tenn poundes
  To my Sonne Thomas   £10
  To Edward my Sonne   £10

Further, each of the daughters was given 100 Pounds Sterling. William's wife, Rebecca was to have use of all property, goods and chattels during her lifetime. The other two younger sons, George and Francis, were to divide the entire estate including all lands and rents upon the death of their mother.

Cutting off the three sons likely contributed to their decision to emigrate to America. William departed sometime after 1636. Edward and Thomas followed in about 1641.

Edward's first years in America are unknown, but he likely came with his younger brother, Thomas. It appears they landed in Massachusetts, where William had found his calling. Thomas settled there as well and worked with William in his ministry throughout the rest of his life.

Edward moved to Connecticut shortly after his arrival, and changed the spelling of his name to Wooster. He was one of the first settlers of Milford, about 1642. On 24 October 1651, he obtained permission from the general court to settle in Paugasset on condition that he grow hops there. Edward, his brother-in-law, Thomas Langdon, and two other families were the first settlers there in 1654. The tiny community grew slowly, and in 1675 the town was renamed Derby, its present name.

Edward married (1) Dorothy Langdon in Milford, and they had five children born between 1652 and 1660. Dorothy died about 1662, and Edward married (2) Tabitha Tomlinson, by whom he had nine more children between 1666 and 1688.

Edward's children were:

   Elizabeth Wooster 1652-1676 m. Ebenezer Johnson
   Mary Wooster      1654-?
   Thomas Wooster    1656-1713 m. Phebe Tomlinson
   Edward Wooster    1658-?
   David Wooster     1660-?    m. Mary Lobdell
   Henry Wooster     1666-1691
   Ruth Wooster      1668-1691 m. Samuel Bowers
   Timothy Wooster   1670-?    m. Anna Perry
   Abraham Wooster   1672-1743 m. Mary Walker
   Hannah Wooster    1675-1743 m. William Washburn
   Sylvester Wooster 1678-1712 m. Susannah ?
   Tabitha Wooster   1679-?    m. John Walker
   Jonas Wooster     1681-?    m. Jane Nichols
   Ebenezer Wooster  1688-1765 m. Margaret Sawtelle

Edward died in 1689, followed by Tabitha in 1690. His will mentions only three children by name "and my other children," but court records indicate that twelve children shared in his estate.

Edward thus became the progenitor of the Woosters in America. And it has been a large family, indeed. Among his children he had six sons, and 33 grandsons to carry on the family name.

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Timothy Wooster (1670-?)

Anna Perry (1678-?)

Timothy Wooster Sr. was one of the principal citizens of Derby, living on the farmlands inherited from his father. In 1716 and again in 1726, he was chosen Selectman, being called in the record "Sergeant."

On 15 August 1693, Timothy bought a tract of land for 20 Pounds from a group of Indians, headed by one with the unusual name of Manquash Chesh-Con-Ug.

Timothy and his brothers Thomas, David and Henry are on a list of settlers who took the freeman's oath for the town of Derby before 1708.

Timothy married Anna Perry about 1698. They had ten children:

  Timothy Wooster  1699-?
  Tabitha Wooster  1701-?    m. Anthony Wisebury
  Edward Wooster   1702-1732 m. Elizabeth Watkins
  Ann Wooster      1703-1748 m. Daniel Hawkins
  Samuel Wooster   1706-?
  Damaris Wooster  1708-?    m. Eleazer Hawkins
  Henry Wooster    1710-?
  Arthur Wooster   1713-1796 m. Sarah Baldwin
  Eleazar Wooster  1715-1807
  Peter Wooster    ?-1760    m. Martha Smith

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Edward Wooster (1702-1732)

Elizabeth Watkins (1702-1738)

Edward, son of Timothy, was born in Derby 17 Sep 1702. He died in 1732 at age 30, the same year his only son was born.

He married at Stratford, 7 Feb 1723, Elizabeth Watkins. She was born Aug 1702. She was a daughter of Joseph Watkins. She married, secondly Thomas Harvey of Fairfield CT and died 2 Mar 1738.

Edward and Elizabeth had three children:

   Naomi Wooster  1724-1773 m. John Bassett
   Grace Wooster  1726-?
   Edward Wooster 1732-1812 m. Sarah Judd

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Edward Wooster (1732-1812)

Sarah Judd (1746-1807)

Edward was born in Derby CT in April 1732, the year his father died. On 20 Feb 1750, described as "a minor of Stratford," he chose Captain Joseph Wooster as his guardian.[9] Joseph was a cousin, the son of Abraham and grandson of Edward, the progenitor.

Edward lived in Stratford until sometime after 1750. Breaking the Wooster tradition of remaining in the Derby area, Edward left Connecicutt and moved to Albany NY. Several of his sons moved away, as well, dates unknown. Son Edward lived in York, Canada, and son, Reuben went to South Carolina. Edward's sons, John and William died in or near Albany NY.

Edward Wooster served in the French and Indian War. He was a private in 1756, a Sergeant of Col. Wooster's Company in 1757, a Sergeant in Captain Woodruff's militia, and in 1758 he was Sergeant Major under Colonel Wooster. In March 1760 he was appointed Ensign. In many records of the period, he is referred to as "Ensign Edward."

Edward attained the rank of Captain in the King's service in the years before the Revolution, but he did not serve with either side during the war.

Edward married Sarah Judd, daughter of Rev. Reuben Judd, a Presbyterian minister. Two of his children, Hezekiah Calvin and John became Methodist preachers.

At the close of the Revolution, Edward, Sarah and seven children moved to Albany, New York. An eighth child was born there.

Edward died in Albany County, New York 28 Nov 1812. Sarah died 6 January 1807. The reference, Woosters in America by Dr. David Wooster states they lie in "the family burying ground on the old homestead in Albany County, New York." Considering that book was published in 1885, it is unlikely the spot will ever be found.

Edward and Sarah's children were:

   Edward Wooster     1761-1808
   Reuben Wooster     1766-1795
   David Wooster      1767-1813  m. Lydia Stuart
   Sarah Wooster      1768-1855  m. Samuel Gavett
   Hezekiah Wooster   1771-1798
   John Wooster       1774-1825  m. Sallie Wright
   William Wooster    1775-1831
   Clarintha Wooster  1777-?     m. John Hagaman

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John Wooster (1774-1825)

Sallie Wright (1785-1869)

Little is known of the life of John Wooster except that he was a minister in the Methodist church. He was born in Derby CT and died in the town of Jasper, Steuben County, New York.

John taught school when a young man, but soon entered the ministry by way of serving as a circuit preacher for the ME church.

In 1806, he married Sallie Wright. She was the eldest daughter of George Wright, a Revolutionary pensioner of East Bloomfield, New York. Their family of ten children became a large family line in its own right; he had at least 30 grandchildren.

John died in 1825 at age 51, the same year his 10th child, David, was born. He was buried in the village of Jasper.

Sallie died in Adrian, Michigan in 1869, 45 years after the death of John.

Their children were:

   Caroline Wooster         1807-?     m. William Kidder
   John Edward Lacy Wooster 1809-1884  m. (1) Betsey ?
                                          (2) Abigail Fowler
   Harriett Wooster         1811-?
   Amanda Wooster           1813-1839  m. Marsden Herrick
   Sarah Wooster            1815-?     m. Frederick Bolls
   George Wooster           1817-?
   Ralph Wooster            1819-?     m. Sally Mack
   Nancy Wooster            1821-?     m. Moriss Todd
   James Wooster            1823-?
   David Wooster            1825-?     m. Frances Stattuck

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John Edward Lacy Wooster (1809-1884)

(1) Betsy ? (1814-1837)
(2) Abigail Fowler (1811-1892)

John Edward Lacy Wooster was born in West Avon NY on 19 Feb 1809. His youngest brother, David Wooster, was born the year their father died, 1825. He is the David Wooster who subsequently became a doctor, lived in San Francisco, and later wrote the book Woosters in America.

In 1805, the Territory of Michigan was opened for settlement, and by the Spring of 1827 the first settlers were farming land in the southeastern part of the territory, now Hillsdale. In those years, this was "out west", and the lure of new land was irresistible.

Before 1837, John Edward, his first wife Betsy, their daughter, Flora, and his newly widowed mother Sallie Wright Wooster left Jasper, Steuben County, New York where his father had died. They came to Adrian, Michigan. Sallie remained there for the rest of her life.

In the land records of 12 July 1837, it is recorded that "John E. L. Wooster of the Township of Barre, County of Orleans, New York" purchased Section 22 SW quarter of section 6 of Wheatland Township, Michigan. On 29 June same year, he purchased section 27, west half of the SW quarter, adding to his farm.

He married, first, Betsy (surname unknown) and had one daughter, Flora Wooster. Betsy died in 1837 at age 26, a few months after the birth of Flora. Betsy and Flora are both buried in the Wooster family plot in Church's Corners cemetery near Hillsdale.

In 1841, on Valentine's Day, John Edward married, second, Abigail Fowler. He was 32, and she was two years younger.

These families must have known each other and come from New York State together. She and her brother, Anson Fowler must have been very close because tracing them through census after census in Hillsdale, the two families always lived next door to each other. The Fowlers were especially numerous in Hillsdale, three Fowler brothers opening a store there in 1830. Abigail's father, William Fowler, took out patents on in all 240 acres of land between 1834 and 1838. Anson also filed for a patent on 40 acres of land.

John and Abigail had five children:

   Maria Wooster   1842-?
   Charles Wooster 1843-1877  m. Helen Hitchcock
   Homer Wooster   1845-1892
   John Wooster    1847-1921  m. Florence Howard
   Marilla Wooster 1852-?

John Edward joined the Free Will Baptist church in 1838, and was a deacon in the Locust Corners church (Pittsford) twenty-four years.

John believed strongly in the value of an education. Records show Hillsdale College founded in 1844 by "a group of Free-Will Baptist ministers and laymen." Abigail and John Edward, married three years then, may have been part of that group. They sent all their children there, except for Flora, John's child by his first marriage. This was most unusual for the time. In his will, he gave $10,000 to the church.

John Wooster, his son and the family lawyer, was named executor for the estate of John Edward Lacey Wooster. In his accounts the notation, "$12 ticket from Dowagiac to Hillsdale and back" is mentioned several times. Petition for Letters of Administration for the estate were filed 13 January 1885. The heirs were named as:

      Abigail Wooster, widow
and his children:
      Flora Wood, of Manton, Wexford Cty., Michigan
      Charles Wooster, of Silver Creek, Nebr.
      Homer Wooster, of Selma, Calif.
      John Wooster, of Dowagiac, Mich.
      Marilla C. Wooster, of Jacksonville, Ill.

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John Edward Wooster (1847-1921)

Florence Howard (1853-1920)

John Wooster was born in Hillsdale County, Michigan in 1847.

As a young man, he taught school as a means to an end, and graduated from Hillsdale College in 1873.

John "read law" for two years in Kalamazoo, Michigan in the office of his uncle Samuel Mills Fowler who was known as "the Sage of Kalamazoo." He was admitted to the bar of Kalamazoo County December 30, 1875. The next year, he opened an office in Constantine, but not finding that location favorable to a young lawyer, moved in a few months to Dowagiac. Whether he did this because Dowagiac seemed a more promising location or whether it was because he wanted to be located near to Florence Howard we don't know. But they were married in 1876 when he was 29 years old.

He was admitted to practice in the United States District and Circuit Courts in the fall of 1878. In 1889, he was elected City Attorney of Dowagiac, serving four terms.[10]

In those days, being a lawyer in a small town was not overly rewarding. He was always worried about money, and the responsibility of supporting a family of six children weighed heavily upon him.

What he loved was rural life. On Sundays Florence liked to go to church, but he would take his horse and drive out to some fertile acres north of the city where he had gardening projects. They always had a cow and a garden and chickens. My father remembers skimming cream from the pans of milk. And there was the family story of Lyell strangling a cat which a neighbor brought over because it had been killing their chickens!

Clarinda Howard, John's mother-in-law, had come to live with them in her later years, and he was very good to her. Earlier she hadn't had a very high regard for him, perhaps because he didn't care for going to church, but after he helped take care of her she changed her mind, feeling no one could make her quite as comfortable as John.

John and Florence had six children:

   Howard Wooster   1877-1970  m. Lurah Clark
   Edward Wooster   1879-1937  m. Mabel ?
   Ethel Wooster 1882-1965  m. Ray Deming
   Fred Wooster     1884-1956
   Lyell Wooster    1886-1967  m. Nita Kibler
   Helen Wooster    1893-1911

Florence Howard Wooster died in 1920. John was said to be devastated by Florence's death following his daughter, Helen's drowning in 1911. Fourteen months later he fell ill and died in 1921 at age 74.

In the meantime, Florence had inherited the estate of her father, Leverett Clark Howard who died in 1903. Upon her death intestate, the court appointed her son, Lyell Wooster as Administrator on behalf of the family. In 1922, the estate was closed. After payment of all debts, the residue was $19.92 cash plus the farm. Each of the siblings received $3.98 and a one-fifth undivided interest on the farm. Four siblings, Howard, Fred, Edward and Ethel later signed over by quit claim their interest to Lyell. The farm was rented to various families, and was finally sold out of the Wooster family in 1944.

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Lyell John Wooster (1886-1967)

Nita Kibler (1889-1971)

Lyell John Wooster, born in 1886 was the fifth child and youngest son of John and Florence.

About 1895 he remembered they dug up the middle of Orchard Street for the installation of gas lights. How thrilled he was when told by his parents that they would have them too! What a change it was for everyone to go from the near-twilight of kerosene lamps and candles to the glory of gaslights.

The family valued education, and encouraged him every way they could. In those days, high school was strictly college preparatory. Algebra and geometry and two years of Latin were required, and you knew that material well or you weren't promoted. After high school graduation Lyell went to work in a factory that manufactured a metal planting tool. Lyell worked at a drill press for two years, saving his money and living at home, determined to go to college. The day soon came for him to take the train for the University at Ann Arbor.

Lyell and Nita had known each other for several years and had a courtship that was both romantic and somewhat adventurous.[11] They were married in Lewiston, Idaho, in 1910.

The story of their life together after 1910 when they returned to Michigan from Idaho is told by their daughter, Elizabeth:

They returned to Michigan, where Lyell heard that a school teacher was needed in a tiny rural community, Whit (now called LaGrange). It was a typical one-room school. The salary was so low they didn't see how they could ever live on it. Then Nita thought of living over the school and saving rent, since that space was vacant. Lyell had doubts, but Nita was sure. And when their rugs were down and a stove set up and a curtain drawn around their bed, he saw she was right.

They loved it. Lyell was a good teacher, and his work was appreciated by the children's parents. Nita would keep the first graders busy with art projects because she felt sorry for them since they had so much time to wait around until they could go home with an older sibling. No school busses then!

The school board was so grateful that they voted $12, a princely sum then, for her to buy whatever art supplies she wished.

But after a year or two they wanted a better home. Nita's uncle, Bob Phillips was leaving as teller of the bank in Three Oaks, Michigan and Lyell got that job because he heard about it first. They loved this, because the teller was the only employee; he ran the bank. It was owned by Charles Heddon who would later become very important to the Wooster family.

The only place they could find to live was a huge old three story house three blocks from the bank. The rent was low; no one wanted to live in the house because it was so big. Lyell and Nita just closed off the two upper floors and spread out the little furniture they had downstairs.

They loved banking because in bad weather sometimes no one would come in all day. They'd bring their lunch and books to read. The bank examiner came regularly, but as there was never anything wrong that didn't bother them. On Saturdays when all the farmers were in town and things were busy, they'd open up the other window and Nita would help out as teller too.

The bank became too successful. Mr. Warren, of Warren Featherbone Company "owned" Three Oaks, and he decided that his bank had to be the only bank in town. So he bought the bank from Charles Heddon and promptly closed it. Lyell was now out of a job.

By this time Nita's father, Joe Kibler had started a building and lumber company in Cassopolis. He built them a bungalow in Cass and a lake cottage at Camp Cozy, a nearby lake. And so the Kibler-Wooster Lumber Company was born.

Lyell and Nita and her parents all enjoyed living in Cass, which was a friendly town. The only trouble was they soon found the lumber company could not make enough money to support two families.

When Joe and Lizzie went on their life-time planned trip to Hot Springs, Joe paid all the bills just before he left. He thought this would help. Within 24 hours the bank called to tell Lyell the account was over-drawn. And more checks were still out! Lyell had to go out and collect all the overdue bills to keep them solvent. This may have been the beginning of the end. They never said.

So with the money they got from selling the lumber company, and four gallons of real maple syrup and four 20-pound smoked hams, the four of them decided their next venture would be the hotel business. So they bought the Dixie Hotel in Dowagiac. The building is still standing; it was old then; even older now. The hotel is on a side street facing the Dowagiac railroad station. The side of the hotel fronted the tracks of the Michigan Central railroad. Needless to say, it was quite difficult to get any rest at night with freight trains roaring through town in both directions screaming their whistles for the several crossings!

It proved to be a financial disaster for them.

They didn't know the hotel business, so they didn't know how to administer the people who worked for them. Crates of oranges would simply disappear. Nita would come into the kitchen and find the stove covered with steaks being cooked for the dishwasher and everyone else on duty--while the dining room was empty!

But Nita was finally pregnant, and that meant the world to both of them. She had just recovered from a miscarriage, and all their hopes were upon this baby's being born and being healthy. Joseph John Wooster--my brother Jack--was born there in 1916. He was truly treated like a little prince. Everyone was so excited to have had a birth in the hotel, and every last person who worked there made a trip in to see the new baby.

Joe was night man at the desk, and Lyell was day man. As months went on, all four of them wished for a way out of this business arrangement. It wasn't enough for Lizzie to make the best maple mousse anyone had ever tasted, stiff with real whipped cream. A brisk local trade in Sunday dinners and a regular supply of salesmen coming through town wasn't going to be enough to pay the bills.

One day, Charles Heddon happened to be in town between trains and brought his wife, Alice, over to the hotel for a meal. He remembered Lyell from the bank and knew he was "a good man." They talked together, and Lyell explained his need for a new position. It happened to coincide with Charles Heddon's realization that the way his fishing tackle business was growing he really needed a man there to run the office. He had been doing it himself in between all his other ventures.

Charles soon hired Lyell. At last, he finally had a permanent job at a good salary. They sold the Dixie Hotel as quickly as they could.

If World War I had gone on longer, Lyell would have been called up, since he was about 33 at the time. Fortunately for them, the war ended before that happened.

Now that Lyell's employment was secure, their next adventure was buying a house. It was on Indiana Avenue, and had been built during the Civil War. It was said to have been a copy of a home in Connecticut that had been a real "showplace." A Mr. Ross had built it; he was a hardware merchant in Dowagiac's early days, and had used only the very best in his home.

The property Lyell and Nita bought from Minnie Ross consisted of three lots on which stood the main home and a large house next door to it. They sold off the house next door immediately, which helped a lot in reducing their mortgage. That left the main structure on two lots. The address is 210 Indiana Avenue, and the home was thenceforth affectionately known simply as "210". And 210 was a vast structure, an old farm house, as my parents described it. They later had Rossie's back wing separated from the main structure and moved to the back of their corner lot. It was remodeled into a modern "bungalow."

The bungalow, now 412 West High Street gained quite a reputation as the "cutest little house in town." There was always a waiting list for renters. During World War II when I lived with my parents it became the dream of all three of us--and of Gene too--that we would live there when he came back from the war. And this all came to pass, but that's getting ahead of the story.

Looking back over the abstracts of the 210 property (ownership then was documented through copies of all recorded deeds, known as an abstract; before title insurance was available). In their early 1920's, it is amazing to read how every year showed a loan taken out on 210 to pay the year's taxes. By the next year the loan would have been paid off, but then the cycle would repeat itself all over again. And co-signing the loan were always Joe and Lizzie Kibler. How tight money was then!

All four of them were thrilled with the palatial house. I can understand how my grandmother wanted to be there all the time. And as I remember my grandfather, he was always either painting on the house or working on it or reading to me.

They never said much about it, but part of the property they had to buy from Minnie to acquire the house were five cheap little houses "down the hill." I never knew exactly where they were located, but I think they were at the lower end of High Street. At first they couldn't sell them, and one by one they fixed them up and rented them. My father used to say that whenever it rained at night and woke him up he'd hear the rain on the roof and think of all the roofs he owned and hope none of them were leaking.

My brother Jack was about two when they moved into 210. And I was born about three years later in the house where the confinement room was made by moving my parent's bedroom furniture downstairs into the front parlor, with its 14 feet ceilings and its glazed tile fireplace and mirrored mantle, and there I was born on the day before Thanksgiving.

Lyell and Nita had two children:

   Joseph John Wooster 1916-1964  m. (1) Roberta Ulrich
        		          m. (2) Ann McCulloch
			          m. (3) Joyce English
   Elizabeth Wooster   1921-      m. Eugene Singer

Although Lyell may have worried over owning so many roofs, he and Nita seemed to think real estate was the best investment. When I was five they bought their first cottage at the lake. This was a venture consisting of a lot at Indian Lake--five miles from Dowagiac. They had a chance to buy a schoolhouse that was being dismantled and could be delivered to them on a truck. Nita somehow managed to plan how all those partitions could be fit together to make a cottage.

It was a really attractive building when finished, having two downstairs bedrooms and kitchen and bathroom built on the back, a really large dining and living room, a brick fireplace, and a stairway going up inside and opening onto an upstairs bedroom across the front. And a stage in the living room! We used to put on plays, and have such fun.

But for Lyell and Nita it was the beginning of buying lake cottages already built and renting them or reselling them. They did a lot of that. Too numerous to remember all of them. Over the years, these ventures all yielded small profits.

And for many years they owned the old Leverett Clark Howard place--the farm in Wayne township. They had a series of renters in there, each worse than the last, and never felt they had money to invest in improving it. For one thing, the sandy soil needed a really good farmer who knew how to prevent the "blowholes" that developed and what kind of crops to plant. Finally when I was in high school they got a German couple who agreed to plant pines and make it a Christmas tree farm. They also raised turkeys, and she worked at the Heddon plant so they had some cash coming in. They made a go of it and were finally able to buy the place.

And Joe and Lizzie owned a farm that also had tenant farmers on it and needed supervision. That one was eventually sold during the war when a government program enabled the son of the tenants to buy the farm for $10,000--a top price. My grandmother was glad to get the place off her hands--so were my parents.

Every weekend seemed to be taken up with going to look at some one of Lyell and Nita's properties to check on something to see what needed to be done. It was a lot of responsibility for them. If they weren't doing that, they were working in the yard. And as I got older, trips to South Bend took up more and more weekends. They would go there to shop. Eventually, these trips turned into outings that would include dinner and a movie.

During the 30s and 40s, movies in Dowagiac filled an increasing amount of Lyell and Nita's time. They went every time the bill changed. It seems as if they spent little time at home, but I remember many evenings sitting on the floor playing with my paper dolls while Lyell read to Nita.

Their interest in real estate continued unabated. They bought a small farm on the outskirts of Dowagiac at the beginning of World War II, and after Tracy and I joined them they moved out there--with Lizzie--for the summer. We had a garden, chickens, ducks. I bought a cow, we had milk and cream all summer, and I had two hives of bees. It was supposed to help the war effort; we did raise a lot of food and gave most of it away, but how much did we help overall?

Years later, they bought a house that was experimental technology and intended to revolutionize home construction. It was a prefabricated all-steel structure called the "Lustron". It came on a truck in a thousand parts and a crew assembled the complete house in three days. It was it set up on the back of their corner lot. For a number of years they rented it, but finally moved into it themselves and sold the Heddon house. The house, of course, is still there and still looks exactly as it did the day it was erected fifty years ago. So I guess the idea was valid after all. I always did wonder, however, how you hung pictures on steel walls!

Over these years they built an exemplary life in the community. Lyell was never one to seek power and adulation; he knew politics but never sought public office. Yet he was always there when Dowagiac needed him.

Take the Rotary Club, for example. They sponsored the Ducks, a softball team of Polish boys who had been getting into trouble until the Rotary Club intervened. The one who actually did the job with an enormous amount of time was Lyell. He showed the boys he cared, and that was what they needed. Outside his family, the Ducks were probably what he was most proud of. They became fine young men; one-by-one they went off to WWII. All but one came back.

He served on the school board for years and in 1946 was one of the community leaders in the drive to finance a new hospital for the town. Whatever Dowagiac needed he wanted for it.

After Lyell retired, they sold their Dowagiac properties and moved to California to be closer to us and to live in a place where they could enjoy the milder climate.

This was a permanent move. They never talked much about that decision. They were both over 70 years old. Not only was the physical move a lot of work, but they left all their roots behind them. The amount of stress had to be enormous. We were glad to have them nearby, of course, but Gene and I often talked about the price they had to pay and if it was really worth it.

They settled in Glendora, finding a comfortable home with an extra large lot surrounded by a redwood fence. There were orange and lemon and avocado trees, and Lyell put in a rose garden and began growing all the things he'd always wanted to try.

Lyell and Nita were perfect grandparents, and the children loved them dearly. They enjoyed all of them tremendously, and loved to have them visit.

Both of them died in Glendora, their lives completely intertwined. Nita had a paralyzing stroke in 1967 and was hospitalized and then had to go into a convalescent home. Within six weeks, Lyell was dead from cancer. The cancer hadn't even been diagnosed, but the stress of her illness escalated it. Nita lived for four more years in the convalescent.

Both of them were returned to Dowagiac with burial in Riverside Cemetery. This was what Lyell chose for himself, so we knew it was what he would want for Nita. The significant thing is that neither of them wanted to live without the other, and that's how it turned out.

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Elizabeth Wooster (1921- )

Eugene Singer (1921 -)

Information on this family can be found in the SINGER section of this history.

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Updated 4-22-03


[1] Return to text.Their descendants followed the pattern generally, but there were exceptions. In William's will, for instance, he refers to a Woster among his family. Similarly, a few descendants of Edward went back to the English Worcester version.

[2] Return to text.The Worcester family coat of arms is described in Burke's General Armory, 1884, page 1136 under the surname Worster.

[3] Return to text.Anjou, Gustav; The Worcester Family 1345-1625. LDS book ID 929.273, A1, 557 and LDS microfilm ID 2908504 Item 8.

[4] Return to text.Alumni Oxonienses, The Members of the University of Oxford, 1500-1714, The Matriculation Register of the University.

[5] Return to text.LDS Library film # 451,779

[6] Return to text."History of Cowper and Olney" by Thomas Wright, London, 1893.

[7] Return to text.One may speculate that a possible cause of a rift could be the dismissal from the vicarage at Olney.

[8] Return to text.One anecdote I found in one of the earliest references claims that the congregation thought so much of William that upon his death he was buried right next to the church wall with his grave covered with a large rock slab to protect it from marauding wolves.

[9] Return to text.Fairfield CT probate records, vol.4, page 179.

[10] Return to text."History of Cass County," page 282.

[11] Return to text.This is covered in the narrative for Nita Kibler in the KIBLER section of this book.