During the nineteenth century, St. Paul’s vestry included many members who worked in finance or who owned large businesses. I have told the story of vestrymen Edward Barton Wesley and George Jones, two of the three men who organized the New York Times in 1851. But among our congregation during the three decades after the Civil War was another pair of partners, long-time members of the vestry with a particular distinction. Their company, then known as Woodward & Hill, is still in business today.
Nathaniel Wright started the firm in 1819, producing carriage hardware. In the early 1850s. Wright took on two young clerks, and by 1854 William W. Hill and John Woodward, Jr. (both then still in their early 20s) had become Wright’s partners under the name Nathaniel Wright & Company. When Wright died in 1860, Hill and Woodward formed a partnership as Woodward & Hill, continuing in the manufacture of carriage hardware and trimmings.
William W. Hill and Jane Woodward (the sister of his partner) were married at St. Paul’s in 1855 and both were confirmed in this church in 1860. The couple’s three children were baptized here in 1860 and 1862. William was a member of our vestry from 1869 until his death in 1888. Hill was also an avid naturalist, who made a significant contribution to that field by collecting and identifying moths and butterflies in Albany’s Pine Bush as well as in the Adirondacks. I will have more to say about Hill’s avocation in a later post.
John Woodward’s family also had a long connection with this parish. His parents, John Woodward, Sr. and Harriet Hill Woodward, had both been communicants since 1858. Woodward himself became a communicant in 1865, was on the vestry from 1866 until 1891 and then served as warden from 1891 until his death in 1895. The partners in Woodward & Hill, then, were a part of St. Paul’s lay leadership for a total of almost 45 years.
After Hill’s death in 1888, Woodward continued this business, still called Woodward & Hill, in partnership with his son Walter M. Woodward and William W. Hill’s son, Erastus D. Hill. The younger Hill retired about 1894, and since 1902 the firm has been known as The Woodward Company. You might enjoy this photo of the company’s parade float from the early 20th century.
Still known as the Woodward Company, the firm now has its offices in Colonie. Carriage hardware having gone the way of the buggy whip, they long ago gave up that line of business, and moved into the manufacture of a wide variety of fasteners. In 2019, the Woodward Company will celebrate 200 years in business, making it arguably the oldest continuously operating business in this city.