Laura Angeline Hoke, born 16 July 1862 in Bridgeton, St. Louis County, Missouri, was the second daughter born to George Washington Hoke and Elizabeth (Martin) Hoke. She was nearly three years old on 15 April 1865 when her baby brother, George Thomas Hoke, was born. At age six and a half, Laura was likely not prepared for the death of her mother, Elizabeth, on 10 February 1869 from tuberculosis (consumption). Her father then married Louise James and soon two additional children were born into the Hoke family. They were Eliz [sic] and William E. according to the 7 June 1870 census for Troy, Bedford Township, Lincoln County, Missouri, where her parents farmed.

Prior to Laura’s eleventh birthday, her father contracted cerebrospinal meningitis and died at Sisters Hospital in St. Louis on 1 June 1873. This left Louise a widow with five young children. It is likely that Laura and her siblings were farmed out to family and neighbors or perhaps placed in an orphanage. So far, no records have been found for Louise’s two children, Elizabeth and William. Two years later, stepmother Louise left for California and married John Troughton on Christmas Day 1875, in Tehama County.

By October 1876, Laura’s brother George was placed under the guardianship of their uncle Benjamin F. Hoke. Released from the guardianship in 1879, George found work with a farmer named Blackwell in St. Ferdinand Township in 1880. Laura herself was listed as a dressmaker residing at 2106 Wash St. in the St. Louis 1882 city directory.

When visiting California in 1883, Laura met John Arnold Woodward. Three years later, they married on 2 February 1886 in Red Bluff, Tehama County. John became a well-known butcher and western stock and sheep man. They lived on 11th street in San Jose, Ward 3, Santa Clara, California, in 1900 and then moved to Los Angeles. In April 1910, their family lived on 2901 Baldwin Street in Precinct 12 of Los Angeles with John’s occupation listed on the census as a merchant for wholesale beef. He was likely part owner of a meatpacking company called “Woodward & Bennett.”

Laura Hoke Woodward
Laura (Hoke) Woodward
Photo in the collection of Angie Martinez
Used with permission

Over the span of sixteen years, Laura and John had seven sons and one daughter born into their family. Her children were entrepreneurs and philanthropists. She was often called “Aunt Babe” by many extended family members.

Laura, a housewife, was only fifty years old when she developed peritonitis following a ruptured appendix, and her daughter Elizabeth stayed by her bedside. Laura succumbed to her illness on 19 July 1912 in Los Angeles and Elizabeth helped to raise her four younger brothers.

Laura’s death certificate stated her length of residence at 2901 Baldwin was nine years and that she had resided in California for twenty-nine years. She was buried with her husband at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

Written by Lena Seng
August 2022

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