GILBERT WOODRUFF.
The subject of this sketch was born Nov. 30, 1817, at Watertown, N, Y., and is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Woodruff. During his boyhood days he attended public school during
the winter terms and worked on his father's farm during the summer. Having completed the common branches then taught in the public schools, he engaged, while still young, in the
grocery business with a small capital, in his native city. At the end of six months he sold out his stock and opened a large store, which he conducted most successfully for two and a half years. By prudent and economical management during this time he had increased his capital so that he was enabled to invest considerable sums in real
estate, and this business soon assumed large proportions.While engaged in the real estate businessbe built many important siructures, among which was the Washington Hall block in Watertown.
In 1857, he closed out his business in the east and removed to Dubuque, Iowa, where he spent a year looking after his financial interests. While engaged in the real estate business
in Watertown, he loaned considerable money to parties in Wisconsin and Iowa, and had also Invested in lands in both states. Mr. Woodruff came to Rockford in 1858, and during the first three years was engaged in the real estate business, exchanging his Wisconsin and Iowa lands for property in Rockford and vicinity. During this time he became possessed of forty farms in
Winnebago and Ogle counties, which he afterward exchanged for city property. Rockford owes much of its prosperity, beauty and progress to the enterprise and devoted public spirit of
such men as Mr. Woodruff has proved himself to be. He has ever taken a lively interest in all progressive improvements for the betterment and welfare of the city, and acceptably served
as its mayor from 1873 to 1875. Woodruff's addition to the city will become an honorable monument to the family. He has seen the place grow from an humble village to the magnificent
proportions of a beautiful city and has personally aided, by his influence and a liberal use of his money, in securing the location of manufacturing and industrial institutions in Rockford until it is conceded to be one of the most important manufacturing centers west of Chicago. He was one of the originators of the Rockford National Bank and was elected its
president in 1871, which office he has successfully administered continuously since. He was one of the founders of the Forest City Insurance Company in 1873 and acted as its president for
many years. In 1875 he organized the Forest City Furniture Company of which he is still president, and this has become one of the largest industries in the city. To him is due a great share of the credit for the development and wonderful growth of the busy business thoroughfare known as Seventh street. He was among the first to erect business buildings in that section, had firm faith in the future of the street and has expended much money in business blocks along it, adding greatly to its beauty and stability. He can rightly be termed the Father of Seventh street, and its marvelous growth has always been to him a matter of special pride and satisfaction. He also built two of the finest business blocks on West State street, one of which is the
Rockford National Bank building and the other the Woodruff block, just across the street. To him can also be given much of the credit for the excellent street railway system enjoyed
by Rockford today. He invested heavily in the property when it was far from a paying proposition, assisted in bringing about a reorganization and consolidation of the two city lines, together
with the interurbans, with the result that the service has been perfected, the lines extended, and it is today one of the best investments in the west. He was one of the organizers and a
heavy stockholder in the Insurance Company of the State of Illinois, of Rockford, and was ever willing to back his faith in its future with his money. Time showed his wisdom and the
company is now on a solid, paying basis.

Mr. Woodruff is an active member of the First Congregational Church of Rockford. He is one of the trustees of Rockford College, which ranks high among the educational institutions of the west. He is a staunch republican. Socially he leads a quiet, unostentatious life and is always accessible to the most humble of his fellow citizens. He has bestowed with a liberal
hand and an unselfish spirit in all cases of necessity and distress when called upon for aid. In his business career and through life he has maintained a reputation of the highest integrity and most scrupulous honesty and among the long list of Rockford's honored citizens there are none more highly honored and esteemed than is Mr. Woodruff, the quiet citizen.

Mr. Woodruff was married to Miss Nancy Fay in 1840, and seven children were born to them, four of whom are still living, they being Mrs. Sarah W. Parmele. Volney D. Woodruff,
Mrs. Duncan H. Ferguson and William F. Woodruff. Mrs. Woodruff died in 1875, and in 1879 Mr Woodruff was married to Mrs. Augusta Todd and they now reside at the old homestead
on South Third street.

 

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