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Peter Woodland
Hudson River Tunnel Worker
The Bayview-New York Bay Cemetery
321 Garfield Avenue

Monument to Peter Woodland
in The Bayview-New York Bay Cemetery
Garfield and Chapel Avenues
Photograph circa 1910

Courtesy, Jersey City Free Public Library

Monument to Peter Woodland
in The Bayview-New York Bay Cemetery
Garfield and Chapel Avenues

Photo: C. Karnoutsos 2013


 

On October 26, 2013, the Order of Knights of Pythias of New York rededicated the monument to Peter Woodland, a Hudson River Tunnel worker, buried in Bayview-New York Bay Cemetery at Garfield and Chapel Avenues. A Pythian, Woodland saved the lives of eight men with whom he was working 60 feet below the Hudson River. He had noticed gushing water from a break through the brick tunnel and guided them to the safety of the air chamber and closed the door. Woodland stayed behind in the compartment with nineteen other workers. Water and silt rose to drown Woodland and nineteen other trapped "sandhogs," as these miners were called, in what was referred to as a "blowout" (escaping air) from the opening. He died while saving the lives of his fellow workers.

In 1871, Col. DeWitt C. Haskins, president of the Hudson Tunnel Railroad Company, attempted the construction of a Hudson River tunnel, later known as the "Tubes" constructed by the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad. The tragic event on July 21, 1880, temporarily disbanded the project. Peter Woodland, superintendent of operations, was working on the tunnel in a pressurized compartment when the grand archway of the working shaft at the foot of 15th Street, Jersey City, (Pier No. 9) collapsed at approximate 4:30 a.m.

Partially restored monument near the cemetery office building.

Photo: C. Karnoutsos 2013

The Knights of Pythias raised funds for the burial and monument for Woodland. A statue of Woodland stood atop the engraved stone that reads: "Erected by the Order of Knights of Pythias in memory of Brother Peter Woodland, of Hector Lodge No. 49, of Philadelphia, Pa., who was killed at the disaster at the Hudson River Tunnel, Wednesday, July 21, 1880, aged 32 years. He sacrificed his life that others might live." Woodland lived at 158 Pavonia Avenue and left behind a wife and daughter.

The tunnel was later completed by William Gibbs McAdoo in 1908 and opened as the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad. Popularly known as the Hudson Tubes for many years, the railroad and train tunnels were acquired by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 1962 and the line later became known as the PATH transportation system.

Over the years the memorial was subject to vandalism and neglect. In 2009 a group of New York Pythians organized the Woodland Monument Refurbishment Fund for the memorial's restoration. They raised money from donations and the sale of commemorative coins. In the first phase of the renovation, the monument was remounted on a concrete platform. In the next phase, the restored statue of Woodland will be placed on the platform next to the monument to avert further damage.

Woodland's heroism is also memorialized by the Massachusetts Knights of Pythias in Lynn, MA, with the naming of the Peter Woodland Lodge #72,

References:

"Causes of the Tunnel Disaster. New York Times. 30 September 1880.

Grundy, J. Owen. The History of Jersey City. Jersey City, NJ: Progress Printing Co., Inc., 1976.
"Twenty Men Buried Alive: Caving In of the Hudson River Tunnel." New York Times. 22 July 1880.

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By: Carmela Karnoutsos
Project Administrator: Patrick Shalhoub