Wheel Vector

The Pioneering Wood Family

Members of the Wood family were active in the Sycamore and San Ramon Valleys for many years, from the time they arrived in the area. Charles (1830-1907) and Cynthia (1832-1918) Wood moved to the Sycamore Valley in 1862, after pursuing business enterprises and teaching in the Sierras. They established the Woodside Farm (later called Ranch); the headquarters still exists today. Born in Concord, Massachusetts, Charles emigrated to California in 1852. He was a miner and storekeeper. Cynthia Rice came from New York and was a teacher in Yuba City. Cynthia and Charles were married in 1857 and had four children: Louis, Elizabeth (Libby), Charles J. and Charlotte. They owned a large diversified ranch in Sycamore Valley, typical of the times, on which they grew hay and grain, planted orchards and grazed cattle and sheep. Charles was the first Worthy Master of Danville Grange No. 85 in 1873 was active in the Grange all his life. He was an elected Assemblyman (1975-6) and, in his later years, served as County Deputy Assessor. Charles Wood, well known for his speeches and promotion of good farming techniques and good citizenship, was a Grange Lecturer throughout the East Bay. Both he and Cynthia were charter members of the Grange in 1873. Charlotte Wood wrote a history of the Wood family and of Woodside Farm (she preferred to use Farm). One memorable event occurred in 1886 when her father Charles had gone to San Francisco and her brother, Louis, was returning from Davis with the grain header. A fire, started in San Ramon, burned their entire grain crop and all of their pasture. Libby and Lottie desperately soaked burlap grain sacks in the water troughs and hauled them to the field where the men tried to extinguish the flames by beating at them with the wet bags. Charlotte wrote about her father and brother: “Imagine how they felt. When they left the wheat and barley were waving in the morning breeze. When they returned three black hills met their gaze instead of the six-foot tall waving grain.” They expected 3000 sacks of grain and harvested only 30. There was no insurance. A surprise Donation Party was arranged by Grange friends; some brought wagon loads of wheat and barley for seed and others gave pasture and hay for the livestock. To their dying days, the generosity of those neighbors overwhelmed the Wood family. Without that help from friends, the Woodside Farm would have ended in 1886. It still exists today. His son Charles J. (1868-1949) was a Grange Master and a founder of the California Cattlemen’s Association. Daughter Libby (1859-1924 ) was Grange secretary and Worthy Master. Charles J. married Kate Howard (1866-1946), a teacher and the daughter of Nathaniel Howard from Green Valley. Howard and his brother built several of the earliest houses in the Valley, including the Osborn House and the Cohen (later Chrisman-Vecki) house. Charlotte Wood (1864-1961) was both a student and teacher at the Sycamore Grammar School. She taught there from 1890-1921. She joined the Grange at age 15 and was a member for over 75 years. She was also a poet and a chronicler of valley and Woodside Farm history. Charlotte Wood Middle School is named after her. In the 1920s several Wood family members were involved in promoting public access to Mt. Diablo State Park. George Wood (1901-1991) in particular attended meetings, led hikes on the mountain and helped survey land to facilitate the purchase by the state of California. The park was expanded and opened to the public in 1931. In 1951, to recognize Charlotte’s teaching career and her contributions to the community, a new grammar school in downtown Danville was named for her. The Charlotte Wood school later became a middle school. When it closed and a new middle school was built adjacent to Osage Station Park, it kept her name. Maevis Wood (1900-1980), married to Charlotte’s nephew George, was the first principal at Charlotte Wood and Montair Grammar Schools. George’s son Don (1934-2023) ran the Wood Ranch for many years and was a keen agricultural historian who worked on several exhibits at the Museum of the San Ramon Valley. He wrote an essay on valley agriculture modestly titled “Random Recollections of Things I’ve Seen or Been Told.” Sources Historic Record Co., History of Contra Costa County, 1926, pp. 514-515; F. J. Hunlaniski, The History of Contra Costa County, 1917, p. 514-515; Virgie V. Jones, Historical Persons and Places…In SRV, pp. 16-21; Munro-Fraser, History of Contra Costa County, 1882, pp. 143-144, 249-250, 253, 429, 443, 704-705; Charlotte Wood, Rambling Reminiscences of The Charles Wood Family and Their “Woodside Farm” Home, August 1951, p. 24; Don Wood, personal communication, 2001.