Wilford C. Wood
Wilford C. Wood collected everything he could obtain connected to the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. and the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For over fifty years he bought land and historical artifacts long before most people realized they would be worth preserving.
Wood was born on May 22, 1893, in Woods Cross, Utah, and from 1915 to 1918 served a mission to the Northern States for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where he developed a deep love for the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Wood knew about the attempts of his mission president, German E. Ellsworth, to acquire the Hill Cumorah. In June 1907, Ellsworth had accompanied Elder George Albert Smith to Palmyra, New York, to purchase the Sacred Grove and the Smith home. There he had an opportunity to visit the Sacred Grove and Hill Cumorah several times. Ellsworth also had a deep love for the Book of Mormon and a testimony of the power of its message.
After his mission, Wood chose the fur business for his livelihood. The business often required him to drive across the country to New York and he always took the opportunity to stop at various Church historical sites on these trips. He also became friends with Willard Bean and his wife Rebecca who lived in the Joseph Smith Sr. frame house in Palmyra for almost twenty-five years. Acquiring and preserving historic property and artifacts became Wood’s passion and he was generous in using his own money to fund his purchases. He either sold the land and artifacts at or below his costs to the Church when funds were available, or the family donated them to the Church after he passed way. He opened the Wilford C. Wood Museum in Bountiful, Utah, to allow people to see the other items he had collected. Church president David O. McKay dedicated it in 1961. His family continues to run the museum.
Wood’s daughter Mary remembers, “Sometimes it took him years to be able to buy a piece of land or an item he felt was important. He would keep working on it until finally things worked out so people were willing to sell.” He was an able negotiator. His grandson Wilford Cannon remembers, “Sometimes he would go into an antique store, and he would pick up just little stuff, and then he would put a pile of things on the counter and say, ‘How much for all of this?’ And somewhere in there would be a first-edition copy of the Book of Mormon or something valuable.
. . . Since he was stopping by regularly, he didn’t want them to know what he was interested in and jack up the price.”
Among his acquisitions:
- Death masks of Joseph and Hyrum Smith
- Original uncut sheets of the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon
- Salt Lake Tabernacle pulpits
- Original Tabernacle organ pipes
- Liberty Jail
- Times and Seasons building
- 38 acres of Adam-ondi-Ahman
- Most of the temple block in Nauvoo, Illinois
- John Taylor home in Nauvoo, Illinois
- Erastus Snow property in Nauvoo, Illinois
- Joseph and Emma Smith home site in Harmony, Pennsylvania
- Isaac and Elizabeth Hale property in Harmony, Pennsylvania
- Martin Harris farm property in Palmyra, New York
- John Johnson home and farm property in Hiram, Ohio
- The Newel K. Whitney Store in Kirtland, Ohio
- The Aaronic Priesthood restoration site in Harmony, Pennsylvania
Wood served for several years on the board of Utah Trails and Landmarks Association and on the Church's historical committee. He and his wife, Lillian, lived in the same house in Bountiful, Utah, their entire married life. They were the parents of two daughters. He died on January 17, 1968.