I found another interesting tidbit of history from my mom’s side of the family. My 1st cousin 5x removed, Orator Francis Woodward bought the Jello-O name and business from a neighbor for $450 in 1899! Though not the inventor of the product, he began producing Jell-O through his Genesee Pure Foods Company.
Back to the beginning though. Orator F. Woodward was the son of Abner T. Woodward and Phebe Lyman. Phebe was the sister of my 4x great-grandfather Levi Lyman. Levi’s daughter Mary married Andrew L. Moore, one of the Moore boys that moved west from New York in the 1860s.
Phebe Lyman was born on Sept. 1, 1820 in LeRoy, New York and married Abner T. Woodward on Nov. 18, 1843. Between 1845 and 1859, they had 4 sons and 2 daughters. Orator was born July 26, 1856 in Bergen, New York. His father, Abner, enlisted in the Civil War on Sept. 1, 1864. He was a private in the 8th New York Heavy Artillery, Company G. He was at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run and died at City Point, Virginia on January 24, 1865 of sickness. He was buried at the City Point National Cemetery.
In the 1870 census, Phebe was living in LeRoy with Orator, aged 14, and Clara, aged 10. Her brother Seth Lyman was living there as well. According to the 1875 New York State Census, they were living in a framed house valued at $1500 (Seth had died in 1871). In 1880, Phebe (54), Orator (23), Clara (20), and Clara’s husband, Thomas Larkin (20) were still living in LeRoy.
In 1882, Orator married Cora L. Talmage. They had six children: Ernest Leroy (b. Oct. 20, 1882), Orator Frank (b. May 26, 1884), Paul Wilbur (b. Dec. 31, 1886), Eleanore (b. Jun. 13, 1889), Donald (b. Dec. 20, 1893), and Helen (b. Jun. 19, 1899).
In the 1870s, he began inventing and manufacturing vaious remedies. In 1895 in LeRoy, Pearle B. Wait and his wife May created “Jell-O” by adding fruit syrups to gelatin. In 1899, he sold the formula and name to Orator for $450. He built up the business through very popular advertising campaigns. Unfortunately, Orator died on January 21, 1906. He had suffered a stroke the year before and, weeks before his death, had gone to Hot Springs, Arkansas for his health. His wife Cora became president of the Genesee Pure Foods Company. Their son Ernest succeeded her. Ernest had married Edith Hartwell in 1903. They had one son named Talmage Woodward.
There are lots of newspaper articles out there detailing the exploits of the Woodward family and the Jell-O company. In 2018, Allie Rowbottom published a memoir of her family titled Jell-O Girls: A Family History. Allie’s great-grandmother was Edith Hartwell’s sister.