History of Campbell County, Tennessee

Time Line


By Dallas Bogan

Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan.  This article was published in the LaFollette Press.

     At this time we shall review a short history of the Woodson family, not going into depth on the genealogy. 
     Dr. John Woodson, progenitor of the Woodson family in Campbell County, was born in Devonshire, England in 1586, and died at Fleur de Hundred, Virginia, some thirty miles above Jamestown, in what is now Prince George County, on April 19, 1644, he entered St. John's College, Oxford, on March 1, 1604. 
     On January 29, 1619, the ship "George" sailed from England, and the following April landed at Jamestown, Va.. This ship brought the new Governor, Sir George Yeardley, and about one hundred passengers, among whom were Dr. John Woodson of Dorsetshire, his wife Sarah Winston. Dr. Woodson and Sarah Winston were married in Devonshire, England.

     Dr. Woodson came as a surgeon to a company of soldiers sent over for the better protection of the colonists from the Indians. In 1612 a vessel landed at Jamestown, having on board about 20 Negro captives, who had been kidnapped along the African coast by the Dutch Skipper. Dr. Woodson bought six of them, who were registered in 1623 as part of his household at Fleur de Hundred. We shall now relate the story of Dr. Woodson and his wife, Sarah, as they entered the harbor of Jamestown, written by Josephine Rich. It goes as such:
      "It was a sunny April morning in 1619. Sarah and her husband, Dr. John Woodson, stood at the rail of the sailing ship, George, as it put into Jamestown harbor. It was the first glimpse of their new homeland.
     "John's arm tightened about his wife's waist as he stood bracing them both against the stiff breeze. Sarah squeezed his hand in answer. At the moment it was the only answer she could manage, for suddenly their adventure in the New World was upon them. 
     "On their three month voyage across the wintry Atlantic, their days and nights had been filled with constant talk of the settlement of Jamestown. But somehow all their talk had not prepared them for the sudden shock of the smallness of it. Jamestown was only a log stockade with plumes of black smoke curling up into the sky from the huts within its protection. Although they could see only one stockade there were ten other settlements behind similar stockade walls, 600 Englishmen in all. Now, for the first time, women were arriving.
     "This was the first time that the London Company had permitted women into the colony. And once they had accepted the importance of women to the new settlers they had gone to extremes about it, or so it seemed to Sarah. For the George carried some 60 women to be sold to the colonists as wives. The price was 120 pounds of tobacco, which was the cost of passage.
     "John Woodson had said that these women would make a difference to the new colonists. And he told Sarah not to wrinkle up her pretty nose at them, she'd be glad enough for their company once she'd sat beside her own lonely fireplace in her prim lace cuffs for a fortnight!
     "He said the women would tame the frontiersmen and put them into Sunday stiff collars and into church pews. They would want lace curtains for their windows and the best schools for their children. Trade would flourish. For profit was the reason for colonizing the new world. But Sarah thought the women looked anything but church going types!
     "Suddenly everybody was on deck. The anchor chains rattled down the anchor. Sail were struck. Sailors scrambled up the yardarms.
     "But it was less the rowdy frontiersmen who came out to the ship to greet their bartered brides than the Indians who rowed them out that held Sara's attention. 
     "They were truly red men and even more furious appearing than any drawings of Indians that had appeared in the British newspapers. Fascinated, Sarah stared down at the fierce, bared-to-the-waist savages in the canoe bobbing in the choppy water below. As if feeling her gaze on him, one of the Indians suddenly glared up at Sarah and she gave a panic-stricken gasp and buried her face in her husband's heavy overcoat. John patted her shoulder and laughed at her fears. He was later to learn that the Indians were not their friends, as he told Sarah, then, so assuringly.
     "As an incentive to colonize America, men received 100 acres of free land when they came to the new world, and that year of 1619, at the first House of Burgess session, Virginia passed a law that wives, too, would receive 100 acres of free land. So Sarah and John chose their 200 acres about 30 miles from Jamestown, across the James River at a place called Fleur de Hundred, now in Prince George County. John and Sarah and their six slaves registered there in 1623.
     "They had lived first in Jamestown and had come safely through the Jamestown massacre of 1622, and after that John said there would be no further Indian trouble. In fact, they did live without Indian incident for several years at Fleur de Hundred. A son was born to them there in 1632 and another son in 1634.
     "The Woodson's, like all settlers, owned several guns. The doctor always carried a gun with him on his medical calls and frequently brought home game in his medical saddle bags. The gun that hung over the Woodson log cabin mantelpiece was seven feet six inches long, and had a bore large enough to admit a man's thumb. How anyone could lift it, much less fire it to kill, Sarah had no idea. But she was one day to learn!
     "The Woodson boys were eight and ten years old on that fateful April 18, 1644. And the boys might have been out in the tobacco fields working that morning, except for the visit of an itinerant shoemaker named Ligon, who was there for his yearly visit to measure the entire household for their year's supply of shoes. Sarah hoped that the doctor would return from his medical call before Ligon the shoemaker had to leave, for the doctor needed a new pair of riding boots.
     "The spring planting had taken the slaves into the fields so that Sarah and Ligon and the two boys were alone in the cabin when the Indians attacked.
     "The blood-curdling war whoops rang out and Sarah froze as she looked through the cabin window and saw the feather headdresses come pouring out of the woods. Automatically, Sarah dropped the heavy cross-bar on the cabin door. Ligon lifted the seven-foot gun down from the mantelpiece.
     "An arrow hit a window ledge. Sara bolted the inside shutters on the windows. At the half-story window above in the sleeping loft Ligon poised the giant gun on the window ledge, ready. A powder horn and extra balls lay within hand's reach, ready.
     "She must hide the boys, Sarah thought. But where? The potato bin hole beneath the cabin floor! It was half-empty and tar-kettle dark! It ought to be safe! She lifted the trap door and told one frightened boy to jump, and not to utter a sound.
     "There was an empty wash tub in the corner of the built-in shed. Eight-year-old Robert might be able to squeeze inside it. He wasn't very big. Sarah told him to squat on the floor. She upturned the wash tub over the boy and then hurried to the hearth to build up the fire under the cooking kettle hanging from the fireplace crane. The kettle held the family's supper soup. She added water to fill it to the top and pushed it over the hottest coals. If one of the demon Indians tried to come down the chimney she had a scalding bath ready.
     "Looking through a chink in the window shutter Sarah counted nine savages in the howling mob about the cabin. Suddenly her husband appeared, riding out of the forest with his gun ready to fire. Sarah saw him before the Indians did. She let out a cry and then held her breath as she watched. 
     "Before the doctor could shoot, one of the Indians turned and saw him. He aimed and shot his arrow. It struck the doctor and his gunfire went astray. He fell from his horse and several of the Indians rushed at him waving their battle axes. Sarah covered her eyes.
     "Ligon's rifle kept cracking. He had gotten three Indians. Sarah watched them fall. Ligon killed five Indians before Sarah heard the noise in the chimney.
     "They had killed her husband. She was ready to die defending the lives of her sons!
     "Sarah stood to one side of the hearth with her hand on the kettle. The water scalding, the coals red hot. the Indian came down feet first. Sarah tipped the kettle and gave it to him in full force. He screeched in agony and lay writhing on the floor.
     "There was more noise up the chimney. Another one was coming down. Sarah grabbed the heavy iron roasting spit. She raised it above her head, holding it with both hands.
     "As the second Indian stooped to come out of the chimney, Sarah brought her weapon down on his head. It sounded like a pumpkin splitting. He fell heavily to the floor, killed instantly.
     "She looked up from the bloody bodies to see Ligon unbolting the cabin door. 
     "'I'm going to fetch the doctor's body,'" he told her. 'The red devils are finished.'
     "Sarah counted seven dead Indians in the clearing. The heavy Woodson rifle had served them well.
     "Although John Woodson had been killed by the Indians, his sons lived to carry on the Woodson name. today, some 300 years later, it is a proud family tradition among theWoodson descendants to be known as either the potato hole Woodsons or the wash tub Woodsons." 

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