D. J. Woodlief, settler and soldier, was born near Petersburg, Virginia, in 1806, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth (Claiborne) Woodlief, and was reared in Greenville County, North Carolina. The family was Episcopalian. Woodlief moved to Washington County, Texas, in 1828 and settled in Lorenzo de Zavala's grant, receiving a half league of land. He also acquired property on Hidalgo Bluff, near the Falls of the Brazos, between Independence and Washington-on-the-Brazos, and with his brother Thomas C. was locally involved in real estate. Woodlief's log house has been restored and bears a historical marker. Woodlief fought at the battle of San Jacinto as a member of Henry W. Karnes's cavalry company, under the command of Mirabeau B. Lamar, and also was one of the Second Regiment Texas Volunteers Cavalry Company, better known as Sherman's raiders. He was wounded during the battle and carried to Vice President Zavala's home across the Brazos, where Nicholas D. Labadie tended the wounded. Woodlief commanded the Texian forces at Velasco after San Jacinto and on June 13, 1836, ordered Capt. William H. Patton to remove Mexican general Antonio López de Santa Anna from Velasco to Columbia (West Columbia) and thence to Washington, D.C. On August 13, 1836, Woodlief was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the Texan army. In 1838 President Lamar mentioned his name (together with Col. Edwin Morehouse) as a possible leader of a regiment of 500 volunteers to join Gen. José Antonio Mexia, a Federalist, who was planning an expedition against Mexican Centralist forces at Tampico. In 1839 Woodlief, as second in command of Karnes's cavalry regiment, participated in the Cherokee War in East Texas in which Chief Bowl was killed; Camp Woodlief was named in his honor. Woodlief served as a Texas Ranger and was a volunteer during the Mexican War. He married Harriet Jane Reynolds of Brazoria on August 10, 1836. They celebrated their wedding at Jane Long's famous inn. At the death of Allen C. Reynolds, Harriet's father, the bill for the wedding supper, with Jane Long's signature, was found in his probate file in the Washington County Courthouse in Brenham. The couple had two children. In 1838 Woodlief sold his property in Washington County and moved to Fort Bend County, where his wife died in November 1846. In 1849 Woodlief left his children with his brother Thomas C. and his wife, Amaryllis Roddy Woodlief, and followed the gold rush to California. There he served as a county judge and later as the state collector of the Foreign Miners Tax. The 1850 census in Calaveras County listed Woodlief as owner of a gold mine in the area. In 1854 Woodlief, described as well-educated, gentlemanly, and well-to-do, was involved in a duel with A. L. Kewen, a brother of E. J. D. Kewen, California attorney general. Woodlief had interfered in an argument between Kewen and another man, and Kewen hit him across the face. The men had the duel in the Oakland area, with a large crowd watching. On November 8, 1854, Woodlief was shot through the heart and died instantly. He was buried at Lone Mountain Cemetery (later renamed Laurel Hill Cemetery) in San Francisco on November 9, but his remains were later exhumed and reinterred at Cypress Lawn Cemetery in San Mateo County, California. Woodlief's brother Thomas became the guardian of D. J.'s two children and managed his brother's estate.
Daily Alta (San Francisco, California), November 9, 1854, November 18, 1854. Sam Houston Dixon and Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto (Houston: Anson Jones, 1932). Herbert Gambrell, Anson Jones: The Last President of Texas (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1948). New York Times, December 4, 1854. Gerald S. Pierce, Texas Under Arms: The Camps, Posts, Forts, and Military Towns of the Republic of Texas (Austin: Encino, 1969).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
La Quencis Gibbs Scott,
“Woodlief, Deveraux J.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed September 28, 2021,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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