Alvin M. Woolson
Born in Erie County, Ohio on October 2, 1841, Alvin Mansfield Woolson was one of Toledo's most successful and respected citizens. Woolson's family is one of old American stock. His ancestor, Joseph Woolson came to America from Canterbury, England in 1630 and settled in Massachusetts. The Woolson family eventually came to northern Ohio where Alvin was born and raised.
Woolson received his early education in the noted "Country Schoolhouse on the Hill" and often found employment with printing presses and on the farms. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Woolson enlisted in the Union Army: Company M, First Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Heavy Artillery. He served between 1862 and 1865 achieving an impeccable record and a promotion to Sergeant-major.
At the conclusion of his military service, Woolson heeded the call west and found a job as an accountant with the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division. A year and a half later, Woolson returned to Ohio and became a merchant in both Berlin Heights and Wauseon. On October 12, 1870 he married Miss Frances D. Tillinghast and they had three children.
In 1875, the Woolsons moved to Toledo. Alvin wanted to start a coffee and spice company but lacked the necessary capital. Therefore, he started his own grocery business. In 1882, however, Woolson became interested in the C.C. Warren & Company, coffee roasters and spice dealers. They were experiencing financial difficulties. Woolson convinced fellow wholesale grocers to become stockholders under his management and bought out the C.C. Warren & Company. Pliny Watson, stockholder and grocer, suggested that the company be renamed the Woolson Spice Company. Its list of stockholders included many prominent Toledo names: Watson, Emerson, Ketcham, Secor, Berdan and Wood.
The Woolson Spice Company prospered, and becoming the second largest coffee company in the world. Woolson had virtually revolutionized coffee merchandising by roasting and grinding the beans. In 1897, Woolson sold the company to H.O. Havemeyers of New York City and retired a few months later.
Retirement, however, did not slow Alvin Woolson down. He traveled extensively. Woolson was also considered "one of Toledo's public-spirited citizens." He served as a director in the Second National Bank, the Northern National Bank and was a founder and director of the Union Savings Bank. Proud of his service during the war, Woolson was an active member of a number of societies such as the Society of Colonial Wars, the Grand Army of the Republic and the Toledo Soldier's Memorial Association. The Toledo Country Club, the Toledo Art Museum, and the Toledo Newsboys' Association also listed Woolson as a member. He organized the citizens committee that brought Libbey Glass to Toledo and suggested the development of the Chamber of Commerce.
Toledo felt a great loss in 1925 when Alvin Mansfield Woolson died.[John M. Killits, Toledo and Lucas County, Ohio 1623-1923, vol. 2 (Toledo: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1923), pp.513-516].
The Woolson family mausoleum
(Photography of Woodlawn Cemetery by Josef Schneider.)