How do you want to be a part of the future? By creating a useful invention? By leaving a philanthropic or family legacy? Perhaps an artistic creation? All the things we can think of to extend the memories of ourselves may have a different context, but individuals and families living 100 years ago also wanted to be a part of the future.
The Woods Family has had a range of interests and abilities that put them in the position to help shape the future. Let’s take a look at a few of the family’s different businesses and concerns.
In 1889, using their collective knowledge of law, land, and livestock, Colonel F.M. Woods and three of his four sons, Mark W., George J., and Frank H. Woods started the firm of Woods Brothers. Beginning with land and real estate development in Lincoln, they broadened their activities to nurture close contact within prominent financial and investment circles.
By the mid- and late-1920s, Woods Brothers had diversified to form Woods Investment Company; Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph Company; Standard Timber Company; and Woods Brothers’ Silo and Manufacturing Company. Planning was underway to engage in inland waterway development all around the country that would provide riverbank mitigation and bridge building work.
The list continues. Other Woods Brothers interests included the Lincoln Traction Company that ran the city’s trolleys; major holdings in Illinois’ O’Gara Coal Company; department stores; dry goods manufacturing; securities and insurance; and construction. They went into the ranching business, and they were leading breeders and dealers of purebred draft horses. They manufactured aircraft.
They were into so many interesting and diverse business activities, it is not surprising to find exotic bits of American history like this from historian Jim McKee, writing in the Lincoln Journal Star: “On March 3, 1931 the [Woods Brothers] corporation submitted a bid of $58.6 million to build Hoover Dam but was bested by a six-corporation combination whose bid of $48,890,955 was said to be only $4,200 more than the government calculated as the actual cost of construction.”
Although it was critical to the development of the city of Lincoln, their ambition and success came to help define so much more. Theirs are a series of fascinating stories that reach into the recent past of the United States and its development, as well. Their stories can remind us that a combination of vision, hard work, tenacity, and a dose of good timing can culminate not only a family legacy, they can come together to help shape the future.