Date Original



This collection contains a journal, correspondence, deeds, promissory notes, invoices, receipts, and miscellaneous papers from Woodruff's 1819-1882 career as a land agent. It does not include business papers related to his ownership of the Arkansas Gazette.

Biographical/Historical Note

William E. Woodruff, Sr., newspaper publisher, land agent, businessman, and elected official, was one of Arkansas's earliest and most influential pioneers. He first settled in Arkansas Territory in 1819, and spent the remaining sixty-six years of his life in his adopted state, greatly shaping and contributing to its politics, culture, and economy. Born in Bellport, New York (part of Suffolk County), on December 24, 1795, Woodruff was the first child of Nathanial and Hannah Clarke Woodruff. At the age of 18, he began a printing apprenticeship with Alden Spooner, a noted New York printer who published the Suffolk Gazette and the Long Island Star. When the War of 1812 broke out during Woodruff's apprenticeship, he enlisted in the reserve corps. At one point in the battle, he helped defend the city of New York from heavy artillery. After his apprenticeship ended in 1816, Woodruff briefly worked for a New York publisher, but then decided to seek new opportunities on the western frontier. He and a companion bought a canoe and floated down the Ohio River, first to Louisville, Kentucky, and then to Franklin, Tennessee, where Woodruff worked as a journeyman printer. In 1819, he decided to move to the newly formed Arkansas Territory and start a newspaper. He bought a small printing press and made the three-month journey by horseback and canoe, landing at Arkansas Post on October 30, 1819. He published the first issue of the Arkansas Gazette on November 20, 1819. When the territorial capitol moved to Little Rock in November 1821, Woodruff followed with his press. The first issue of the Little Rock-based Gazette was published on December 29, 1821. Woodruff formed his land agency in 1823, and its success brought him more wealth than the newspaper business ever did. He also sold books, stationers’ supplies, garden seeds, and family medicines out of his print shop, and owned a ferry and a steamboat, which he called The Little Rock. In Little Rock, Woodruff met Jane Eliza Mills, the daughter of Abraham Mills. They married on November 14, 1827, and had eleven children, four sons and seven daughters. Woodruff established the state’s first circulating library in 1826 and also held a variety of elected offices in city and state government. His outspoken newspaper editorials, along with his lifelong friendships with powerful politicians like Chester Ashley, cemented his influential position within the hierarchy of the young state's residents. Woodruff sold and repurchased the Arkansas Gazette several times. When he wasn't able to repurchase it in 1846, he founded a new paper, the Arkansas Democrat. A few years later, when the Gazette was again available for purchase, he bought it and merged the two papers into the Arkansas State Gazette and Democrat. He permanently retired from newspaper publishing in 1883 and died five years later, on June 19, 1885.

Physical Description

Document, 8.5" x 11"

Geographical Area






Resource Type



William E. Woodruff Sr. business papers, MS.000382


Arkansas State Archives

Contributing Entity

Arkansas State Archives

Recommended Citation

William E. Woodruff Sr. business papers, Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.


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United States History