Document. Archibald Wood, youngest member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1788



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Original Source: Virginia Magazine of History and Bibliography 4(June):459-461. 1897. Colonel Archibald Woods—The Youngest Member Of The Convention Of 1788, And Its Last Survivor. [Author identified only as "A.E.S."]
Intermediate Source:Google Books


Person:Michael Woods (1)


Colonel Archibald Woods—The Youngest Member Of The Convention Of 1788, And Its Last Survivor.

The records of history must be made by patient gathering of facts from various sources, and each gleaner gives from his best knowledge at the time, and desires accuracy before all things. It is with full recognition of this spirit in the authors of two valuable papers, that two corrections are suggested.

Mr. R. S. Thomas, in this Magazine, Vol. III, No. 2, page 198, mentions James Johnson, captain in the Revolution, who died August 16, 1845, as the last survivor of the Virginia Convention to ratify the Constitution, 1788.

Colonel Archibald Woods, a member of that body, lived a year and a half longer, until October 26, 1846, and it is stated by his grandson, the Rev. Edgar Woods, of Charlottesville, Va., that he always believed himself to be the youngest member.

A monograph upon Judge Archibald Stuart, of Staunton, in the University of Virginia Alumni Bulletin, mentions that Judge Stuart was the youngest member. But he was born in 1757, and Colonel Woods not until November 14, 1764; the latter was therefore seven years younger, and not yet twenty-four when he took his seat.

Archibald Woods was born in Albemarle county, Va., and his parents moved to Botetourt in 1766. Andrew Woods, his father, had been educated for the ministry, but ill-health prevented his preaching. He was an elder in the Presbyterian church, and on the formation of Botetourt county, was, with certain kinsmen, made one of the first "Gentlemen Justices of the King's Peace" (Hening, George III), his older brother, Colonel Richard Woods, being High Sheriff. He married Martha Poage (Poague), daughter of Robert Poage, one of the first "Gentlemen Justices of the King's Peace" (George II), when Augusta county was formed, 1738. Martha Woods was a woman of great ability, noble piety and unusual culture for a woman of her day. Many of her letters, in clear, legible writing and actually good spelling (!), have been preserved.

Andrew Woods was the son of Michael Woods and Mary Campbell, [1] his wife, who first crossed the Blue Ridge in 1734, and settled near Woods' Gap, named for him, where he soon after owned 2,000 acres. With their children they founded the first Presbyterian church in that region, and one of the first in Virginia, ten years before the Presbytery of Hanover began. They were exiles "for faith and freedom," first from Scotland and then from Ulster.

Archibald was only eleven years old when the war began, and his brave Scottish blood was impatient to go, as scores of his kinsmen volunteered—Woods', Poages, McDowells, Lapsleys, Shepherds, Lamberts, Reids, Wallaces. But his good mother refused till January, 1781, when he was sixteen at last. Then in that terrible winter, when Washington declared that if all else should fail, his last hope lay in the staunch and strenuous race to which Archie Woods belonged, his mother commended her youngest born son to the God of his fathers, and let him go. He was made sergeant in the company of Captain John Cartwell, to his great delight.

They marched away, their horses floundering through snow and mire, to North Carolina, where, under Colonel Otho H. Williams, they were matched against the trained troops of Tarleton and Cornwallis. and saw hard service. Then, transferred to General Wayne's command in Virginia, under Lafayette, they were present at the curious engagement at Jamestown in July. Later they were under General William Campbell.

The same fatal illness, bred of miasma, which took away General Campbell, nearly cut off the young sergeant. Nearly dead, he was carried home to his mother, who " long despaired of his life." In this way, though suffering for his country, he missed the surrender at Yorktown, a life-long regret.

After a journey on horseback to Kentucky for his health, he removed to Ohio county, Va., and in 1787, when only twenty-two, was sent to the House of Delegates. The next year he was the youngest of the great Convention.

A magistrate from 1782, for long years he was the presiding justice of the court, until his death in 1846. December 5, 1809, he received commission as colonel of the 4th Virginia Regiment, roth Brigade, 3d Division. In 1815 he led his regiment under orders to report at Norfolk, but after reaching Cheat River, received tidings that the danger was past, and they were discharged.

His activity in all public affairs was great. One of the founders of the Northwestern Bank of Virginia, famous in the panic of 1837 as one of the few banks in the country which did not suspend specie payment, "saved by his ability and care;" he was its President until his death.

He had a voluminous correspondence with the chief men of the day, and left hundreds of letters from them, and careful copies of his own answers; now a valuable store. By patent and purchase he acquired a large landed estate, and is said to have owned 60,000 acres. A group of gentlemen on the street in Wheeling one day were discussing the moon and whether it was inhabited. One was very positive. "I am sure it is not, or Colonel Archie here would have a quarter section!"

Like the men of his race, he was very tall and of a spare, commanding figure. One who knew him said: "His face was strong and calm, his eyes dark and bright; his hair brown, worn in quaint fashion, brushed straight back from his face, and tied with a ribbon behind. His portrait, painted for the bank, never did him justice; the one at Woodsland, his own home, is better."

Resigning his colonelcy in 1816, he says that for nearly forty years he had been in "actual military service for his country." He married his first cousin, Anne Poage, a great beauty (described as still beautiful in extreme old age), daughter of Thomas, son of Robert before mentioned, and of Agnes McClanahan, his wife. She was daughter to Robert McClanahan, High Sheriff of Augusta till 1759 and Court Commissioner; and to Sarah Breckinridge, his wife, daughter to Alexander Brackenridge, who "came over" in 1728, and to Virginia in 1738.

Colonel Woods' grandson, the Hon. Joseph J. Woods, of Wheeling, has been Speaker of the House of Delegates and State Senator, and he had the distinction of being the only Democrat elected from his district since the civil war. Another grandson, Judge James Paull, was on the Supreme Bench of the State until his death. Several descendants are in the ministry, and three are missionaries in China.

A. E. S.
Pantops, Va., February 17, 1897.