Mary Adelia “Della” Anderson Woodward

Mary Adelia, daughter of Richard and Anna Anderson, was born April 29, 1846, in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana (created from St. Landry Parish in 1840). This area was a part of the territory known as the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Until that time, the population makeup had been French, Spaniards, French and Spanish Creoles, Africans and Appalousa (and other Indian tribes). The Andersons were among the many Americans from the South and other parts of the United States who migrated to the area, “marking the arrival of the first large English-speaking population and the introduction of the need for more general use of English.”

Mary Adelia was her parents’ fourth child and all were born in Louisiana. Her siblings were Susanne (Abt. 1839), Milton Victor (Abt. 1841) and Albert Berkley (March 31, 1843). She first appears on the 1850 United States Federal Census as “Adela.” Her father Richard gives his occupation as “Planter.” By 1850 there are two more sons – James Newton who was born May 30, 1847 and Richard, Jr. born in 1850. Only James appears on the census which means Richard was born after the census date.

Note: It is interesting to note that a Susanne Anderson is recorded on this census. I have not been able to document if she was, in fact, a child of John and Mary Adelia.

By the time of the 1860 United States Federal Census the Anderson family had moved to Lavaca County, Texas, where Richard was farming. All of their children except Susanne were living with them and working on the farm. This was the year before the onset of the Civil War so perhaps the community was beginning to hear rumblings of discontent. It is likely Adelia’s father was too old to enlist in the Confederate Army, but there is information that at least one brother, Albert, was enlisted.


Sometime in the early part of the 1860’s, Adelia (called Della) met John Southern Woodward. In such a small community their families were probably well acquainted. Even though John enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1862, he courted Della. We do not know the duration of the courtship, but they married June 29, 1864. Della was only 15 years old, but it seems that life demanded her to grow up quickly.

Marriage record for John Woodward and Mary A. Anderson.
Marriage record for John Woodward and Mary A. Anderson.

Della’s husband, John, was a farmer and cattleman, and I feel sure she was well acquainted with the duties of a farmer’s wife. Along with establishing a household, the young couple decided to start a family very early on. By the time of the 1870 United States Federal Census, the Woodward’s had two children, William “Willie” Oscar (January 1, 1866) and Kittie Blanche (1868). There is some indication that a child named Betty was born in 1869. However, since she is not on the 1880 census, she must have died.

In his book, The History of the Nance Hereford Ranch, Jim Kuhlman points out that information on the 1870 census shows that Della’s parents, Richard and Annie Anderson, live next to them. Richard’s occupation is shown as “School teacher.” The census record reveals that the Anderson’s real estate and property values had dropped considerably since the 1860 census. He felt this was due to the effects of the Civil War, and it is likely Richard had to supplement his income by teaching school. (Kuhlman, 60)

Another interesting note – Della’s brother, James Newton, married John Woodward’s sister, Karon, and they had eight children. In doing genealogy research I have found it was not uncommon in those days for brothers of one family to marry sisters of another family. This may have been more so in smaller communities where there were fewer “pickins.”

By the time the 1880 United States Federal Census was taken, John and Della had four more children – Lucinda “Lucy” Ann (December 13, 1869), Beulah (1872), John Southern, Jr. (1875) and Mary Della (1878). We know that another son named Albert Tally was born in late 1880 or 1881. Like his father, John had a large family.

Even though we have no record, family information indicates that Della died sometime in 1882 leaving John to raise several young children. We are not certain about the location of her burial. Her life ended too soon which gives us a hint of how difficult life was for women of that time. Medical care was limited so that even the most common illnesses or conditions could be deadly.

As with other women in my family history, there is little information about Mary Adelia except on census records. Unfortunately, she left no diaries or letters that give insight into her daily life. I have tried to get a better understanding by reading well researched accounts of women of that era, and from those stories I am led to believe that Della’s daily life was difficult. She married while still a child and had to grow up quickly. Her husband may have done fairly well in the cattle business but was often away on cattle drives. Also, if you read between the lines of family lore, he may have had a drinking problem. She was called on to care for the farm, household, and children whether John was at home or away. It was a “hard scrabble” existence. Her body gave out at an early age, but I imagine her to be a person of unflagging spirit. For that wonderful quality Della holds my sincere admiration.

Sources 1850 United States Federal Census [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. 1860 United States Federal Census [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. 1870 United States Federal Census [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. Texas Marriage Collection, 1814-1909 [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2005.

Kuhlman, Jim W., The History of the Nance Hereford Ranch, 1996.

Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, “Calcasieu Parish,”,_Louisiana

Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, “St. Landry Parish,”,_Louisiana

Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2011

Mary A. Anderson Pedigree Chart (click link) mary-a-anderson-pedigree-chart-scan0001