WOODMAN, ELIJAH CROCKER, businessman and Patriot; b. 22 Sept. 1797 in Buxton (Maine), son of Edmund Woodman and Lydia Crocker; m. February 1819 Apphia Elden of Buxton, and they had three sons and four daughters; d. 13 June 1847 near the Juan Fernández Islands.
The son of sixth-generation Americans, Elijah Crocker Woodman worked as a farmer, lumberman, and stone mason before moving in 1830 to Upper Canada. He built a sawmill on Big Otter Creek near Dereham Forge (Tillsonburg), an area rich in timber. Two years later he was joined there by his wife and family, and by 1836 he had entered into partnership with Reuben W. Lamb. As a result of the economic depression of 1836, Woodman’s timber business collapsed and he moved to London, Upper Canada. Possibly because of his business failure and his likely religious interests as a Universalist in social reform, he was drawn to radical developments in Upper Canadian politics.
Woodman took no part in William Lyon Mackenzie*’s abortive uprising near Toronto in December 1837 or in that led by Charles Duncombe* in the southwest part of the province. He did, however, on his own later admission, assist the rebels imprisoned at London by arranging witnesses for their trials and by attending to their needs in prison. Arrested in June 1838 on the charge of passing knives and files to them, he spent the summer in jail, evidently without being tried. After his release, by the end of August, he crossed over to the United States, where he became a member of the Hunters’ Lodge, a combination of American and Canadian Patriots pledged to liberating Canada from British oppression.
In early December he accompanied the Patriot force which left Detroit on the Champlain to invade Upper Canada at Windsor. He claimed at his subsequent trial that the steamer was to have sailed to Black River, Mich., where he had business to transact, but that he was “forced off’ with the invaders near Windsor. He apparently took some part in the ensuing skirmish [see John Prince*] but escaped. On 5 December he was arrested on the road to Chatham.
Woodman was taken to prison at London and was brought before judge advocate Henry Sherwood* at a court martial in January. Though he pleaded not guilty, he confided to his diary that he had prayed to be shot rather than hanged, for the sake of his family. He was convicted of “piratical invasion” and, after being sentenced to death, was ordered instead to be transported to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). In early April he and other prisoners were taken by wagon to Toronto, a trip he graphically described in his diary. Six weeks later they were moved to Fort Henry at Kingston. In September the group was shipped to Quebec, where prisoners from both Upper and Lower Canada were put aboard the transport Buffalo. To Woodman the four-month journey to Van Diemen’s Land was uneventful and, on the whole, a welcome change from his prison experience of the past nine months.
On arriving at Hobart Town (Hobart) on 12 Feb. 1840, the Lower Canadian prisoners sailed on to Sydney; Woodman, Daniel D. Heustis, and the other prisoners from Upper Canada were sent to the Sandy Bay road station, near Hobart Town, to work on the roads. Discipline, particularly in the first weeks, was extremely severe. Woodman, the least complaining of the Patriot diarists, found the system far more “rigid” than he had expected, yet his cheerfulness and fortitude were commended by a fellow diarist, Linus Wilson Miller*. Woodman was one of the group that was moved in June to Lovely Banks station, where conditions were even worse. It was there, after two years of penal servitude, that he received his ticket of leave and obtained employment as a carpenter and millwright at Mona Vale, the estate of William Kermode north of Hobart Town. In February 1844 Kermode supported Woodman’s application for a conditional pardon. This was never granted, but on 23 July 1845 he received a free pardon, which allowed him to return home if he had the means to do so. But his health was bad, he was nearly 50 years of age, and he was almost destitute. Long a freemason, he received some financial support from the masonic lodge in Hobart Town. It was not until 2 March 1847 that, having found enough money for his homeward journey, he sailed in the Young Eagle, a whaler bound for the United States via Cape Horn. Stricken with tuberculosis, he weakened progressively during the journey and died off the Juan Fernández Islands on 13 June. He was buried at sea in sight of the South American coast two days later.
The Young Eagle was wrecked soon after, but a number of Woodman’s diaries and papers were salvaged and returned, in due course, to his family near London. A daughter, Emeline, had married Elijah Leonard*; their son Frank Elton Leonard assembled these and other Woodman documents and had many copied.
Guillet, Lives and times of Patriots. Fred Landon, An exile from Canada to Van Diemen’s Land; being the story of Elijah Woodman, transported overseas for participation in the Upper Canada troubles of 1837–38 (Toronto, 1960). M. G. Milne, “North American political prisoners: the rebellions of 1837–8 in Upper and Lower Canada, and the transportation of American, French-Canadian and Anglo-Canadian prisoners to Van Diemen’s Land and New South Wales” (ba thesis, Univ. of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, 1965).