Mary Truehart Woodfolk
Mary Truehart Woodfolk (August 11, 1883 - July 20, 1978) was a prominent Black inhabitant of Charlottesville during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Holsinger Studio Collection contains a portrait photograph of her with her infant daughter Mary. She is also the namesake of Woodfolk Drive.
Originally named Mary Madlyn Truehart, Woodfolk was born on August 11, 1883. She was the daughter of Sallie Kimbo and John Truehart of Albemarle County and grew up with who she described as six devoted brothers. Woodfolk also had a sister who died as a child in a tragic accident in which she was severely burned. In 1891, Woodfolk's parents purchased 3.26 acres from the miller Henry Hartman in the vicinity of the Ridge Street neighborhood, with the family subsequently moving into a two-story house they constructed on the land. In 1900, John Truehart conveyed half-acre parcels to his sons William and J.J. Truehart, with another half-acre being conveyed to his son Thomas Truehart in 1907.
Throughout her life, Woodfolk was an avid sports fan and had a keen interest in world affairs. She was also a member of Mount Zion First African Baptist Church with her family. She attended local public schools before eventually completing her education at Ardowe, Pennsylvania, where she met Ollie Thomas Woodfolk of Greene County. The two eventually married and moved to John Truehart's land in Charlottesville, where Ollie bought a piece of property and designed and built a house on it at 922 Raymond Road.
Family life in Charlottesville
Ollie (nicknamed "Ollie T." among the family's neighbors on Ridge Street) delivered prescriptions for Timberlake Drugs, hauled University of Virginias students' trunks from the train station to the dorms in his transfer truck, and served as a deacon at Mount Zion. The Woodfolks had a garden on their property and owned a horse to plow it. Ollie also raised pigs on the property and cured his own hams in a backyard shed. Woodfolk and her husband had nine children together.
Throughout her adulthood in Charlottesville, Woodfolk was heavily involved in the activities of Mount Zion, serving as an honorary member of the Missionary Circle and as a member of the Senior Choir. She also enrolled her children in Sunday School and the church choir, eventually even helping her daughters Lucille, Evelyn, Carrie, and Marion to organize their own quartet known as the "Woodfolk Family Singers." This group sang on the stage at Paramount Theater when it first opened.
Woodfolk and her husband were recorded by her children to have been very involved in their lives. During Christmas, the family had many gifts and cut their own tree from nearby. They made their own ornaments out of popcorn and berries and decorated their rooms with streamers. Described as an excellent cook, Woodfolk made hot yeast breads and spoon bread for her family during this time of year, even cooking for the Evergreen Tea Room which was run by Mary Hosmer on Evergreen Avenue (off of Park Street). On Easter, Woodfolk would make Easter bonnets for her daughters, decorating them with streamers and flowers. Throughout the year, the Woodfolk family would work together to accomplish household chores, with the daughters helping in dishwashing and cleaning while the sons helped in the garden, cared for the horses, and brought in wood for the stove.
Later life and death
Ollie died in 1925 at the age of 45 after what was reportedly a very happy marriage with Woodfolk. The latter acquired full rights to the property she lived on upon the death of her father in 1935.
Woodfolk herself eventually died in Charlottesville at 779 Raymond Road on July 20, 1978 at the age of 95, with her body being buried in Lincoln Cemetery. She was survived by five of her nine children as well as five grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and 10 great-great-grandchildren.
A portrait photograph of Woodfolk with her infant daughter Mary, taken by the photographer Rufus W. Holsinger in 1914, is on display in the “Visions of Progress: Portraits of Dignity, Style and Racial Uplift” exhibit, a presentation of Holsinger's photographs of members of Charlottesville's Black community in the early twentieth century that is being held in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library until June of 2023.
On September 13, 1980 an official dedication ceremony for Woodfolk Drive took place in tribute to Woodfolk (the namesake of the road). The following text is a transcription of Vice Mayor Elizabeth Gleason's dedication speech:
Members and friends of the Woodfolk family, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Morning.
It is with a very great deal of pleasure that I take part in this delightful ceremony this morning. Duties of City Council members are sometimes disagreeable or dull but those responsibilities are thankfully offset by ones such as this one today.
"Be it resolved by the Council of the City of Charlottesville, Virginia, that a certain unnamed street or road lying southeast of Baylor’s Lane, adjacent to parcels 50 through 65 on City Real Property Tax Map 26, shall henceforth be known and designated as Woodfolk Drive, in honor of Mrs. Mary Truehart Woodfolk, a long-time citizen of Charlottesville and resident of that area of the City; and
Be it further resolved that the Clerk of the Council is directed to send a certified copy of this resolution to the Clerk of the Circuit Court for recordation in the street closing book."
The Mayor of the City asked me, as Vice-Mayor, if I could be present September 13, a time selected as most suitable to the Woodfolk family, to dedicate this newly named street, and I told him I would be most honored. I read back over the Council Resolution and thought how little that really told me. I wanted to find out something more about Mrs. Mary Truehart Woodfolk; after all, having a City street named for you is a mighty high honor, and I wanted to know why they had chosen Mrs. Woodfolk.
I found out from her daughter, Mrs. Marion Woodfolk, that Mrs. Woodfolk was born August 11, 1883, in Charlottesville, the daughter of Sallie and John Truehart; that she had attended local public schools and completed her education at Ardowe, Pennsylvania, that she had married local T. Woodfolk Sr. and was the mother of nine children, five of whom survive today. I learned that Mrs. Woodfolk was a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church, an honorary member of the Missionary Circle, and a member of the Senior Choir.
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to have lunch and chat some more with another of Mrs. Woodfolk’s daughters, Mrs. Lucille Jones. She told me about her living brothers and sisters, Theodore Woodfolk and Annie Actie who have retired; Marion Woodfolk at the University Alumni Association office; and Ollie Woodfolk at Lawyer’s Research. We had an enjoyable time talking about mutual friends at the Cedars Nursing Home where she works. She told me that her mother had one sister who died as a child in a tragic accident in which she was dreadfully burned. Mrs. Jones said her mother often spoke of how she missed that precious sister but also of how lucky she was to have had six devoted brothers.
I learned that Mrs. Woodfolk had married Ollie T. Woodfolk Sr. and after a very happy marriage had been widowed at the age of forty-two. Mr. Woodfolk, a devoted father, was forty-five at the time of his death.
Mrs. Jones also told me that there were five grandchildren, fourteen great-grandchildren, and ten great-great-grandchildren! My what a tremendous legacy! I don’t know how many of you are here but I hope you all are and that those who are here will be certain to tell all of your cousins who might not have been able to come all about this important occasion.
As Mrs. Jones talked on about her mother, I began to feel as if I had really known her. I loved hearing about Mrs. Woodfolk’s devotion to her church, Mount Zion. She knew how valuable it was to bring up her family “in the knowledge and love of God.” I laughed as I heard about her being a real sports fan and delighted to learn of her interest in world affairs. Mrs. Mary Truehart Woodfolk was a person who loved her family, her church, her community, and her world. She was truly alive in the best sense of the word and didn’t want to miss anything for almost ninety-five years.
To the family of Mrs. Woodfolk I say, “Be proud.” You have a glorious heritage. To belong to a family wherein each person loves and cares for the other is the greatest gift on this earth. This is the way we learn to care for others outside our family, too. I read very recently an article in the paper about the exceptional kindness shown a very ill seven-year-old patient at the University Hospital by a man named Woody Woodfolk, and I just knew that he had to be related to this family.
Another inheritance you have is a good name and the responsibility to keep it that way.
I am indeed pleased, proud, and honored on behalf of the City Council of Charlottesville to designate this street as Woodfolk Drive.
- Web. 922 Raymond Road Historic Survey, Virginia Department of Historic Resources, 06/15/1997
- Web. Woodfolk, Mary, Jefferson's University - The Early Life Project, 1819-1870, 01/02/2020
- Web. Ridge Street Oral History Project: A Supplement to the Survey of the Ridge Street Historic District and Proposal for Local Designation, Preservation Piedmont for the City of Charlottesville Department of Community Planning, 1995