Person:William Woods (75)

William Woods
Facts and Events
Name William Woods
Gender Male
Birth? Abt 1686 Ulster County, Ireland
Marriage to Unknown
Death[1] 27 Apr 1758 Augusta, Virginia, United StatesKilled in the Fort Upper Tract Massacre.
Probate? 16 Aug 1758 Augusta, Virginia, United StatesThomas Gragg, Samuel Semple, Moses Semple are mentioned.

William Woods was one of the Early Settlers of Augusta County, Virginia


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Currently (January 2011) the child list of John Woods and Elizabeth woods lists two separate sons named "William". These are Person:William Woods (7), and Person:William Woods (75). It seems likely that these are indeed two different persons, but one is not the son of John and Elizabeth. Work is needed to sort out which one belongs with this family.

Records of William Woods in Augusta County, VA

From Chalkley’s Augusta County Records:

  • Page 67.--22d August, 1754. John Bowyer's indemnifying bond to Archibald Alexander, with sureties James Lockhart, Andrew Hays, Wm. Woods. Alexander had given Bowyer power of attorney to act for him in signing deeds to the Borden lands. Teste: Francis Bealey (Beaty), Jas. Thomson, Daniel Harrison.
  • Page 28.--28th June, 1758. Peter Moser's estate settlement, by Michael Mallow, allowed 19th May, 1761--To Cathron Moser, Jno. Hopkins, Danl. Love, James McDole, Jno. Wright, Fardrick Kestor, Jacob Harper, Andrew Arewen, Powl Shaver, Eaform Love, Nickles Hofman, Edward McGary. (2nd vendue held 8th November, 1758?) To Alex. Miller, James McGill, Jno. McCoy. (3d vendue held 3d October, 1760.) Credit by Patterkole money received on Peter Moser's account. From Jno. Madison, from George Caplinger, from Henry Carr, from Captain Cartley (Keartley), Capt. Abraham Smith (patterole money), from Captain Smith, for provender; from Captain Smith, on account of Wm. Wood; from Jno. Hogleer; from Capt. Ephraim Love, for provender and paterrole (patrol) money; from Capt. Smith, patterole money. Paid Jacob Rolman, paid Daniel Smith for clorking, paid Fredk. Opp for schooling, paid Fredk. Easter for salt and store goods, paid Johnson Hill for weaving, paid John Hughes, paid Stephen Conrad, the blacksmith.

William Woods Killed by Indians in 1758

  • Morton, Oren Frederic. A history of Pendleton County, West Virginia. (Franklin, West Virginia: O.F. Morton, c1910), Page 43.S1
A most severe blow now befell the weak settlements of Pendleton. The defense of Fort Upper Tract was intrusted to Capt. James Dunlap, who had commanded a detachment in the Big Sandy Expedition. A band of French and Indians appeared in the valley, and on April 27, 1758, they captured and burned the fort and killed 22 persons, including Dunlap himself.*S1
The names of the slain were as follows: Captain John Dunlap, Josiah Wilson, John Hutchison, Thomas Caddon, Henry McCullom, John Wright, Thomas Smith, Robert McNulty, William Elliott, Ludwig Falck and wife, Adam Little, - - - Brock, John Ramsay, William Burk, - - -Rooney, William Woods; John McCulley, Thomas Searl, James Gill, John Gay, and one person unkown.S1

Estate Records of William Woods

  • Morton, Oren Frederic. History of Pendleton County, West Virginia (74302)S1
Thomas Gragg was probably born about 1715, in Northern Ireland. Thomas Gragg came from Ireland with his sons, Henry and William and was of Scotch ancestry.
Thomas Gragg's will, dated April 1773, Augusta County, Virginia, named his wife, Elizabeth and children: Ann, Mary and Elizabeth - sons Henry and William were not mentioned in the will. Thomas married Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel Semple. Thomas apparently died soon after the making of his will, as appraisers for the estate were appointed 17 August 1773. Mary, daughter of Thomas, was bound out to her brother, William in 1775. Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas, was bound out to her brother William in 1780. The first mention of Thomas in Augusta County, Virginia, court records, was 16 August 1758 - "Thomas Gregg's bond with Samuel Sample as administrator of William Woods estate." On 16 February 1764, Thomas bought 140 acres of land from Samuel Semple, on Dry Branch of Linville Creek. The area, in which the Thomas Gragg family lived, is about three miles north and west of Harrisonburg, Virginia.
The Gregg Family History Project Website
  1. Morton, Oren Frederic. A history of Pendleton County, West Virginia. (Franklin, West Virginia: O.F. Morton, 1910).

    Page 43

    A most severe blow now befell the weak settlements of Pendleton. The defense of Fort Upper Tract was intrusted to Capt. James Dunlap, who had commanded a detachment in the Big Sandy Expedition. A band of French and Indians appeared in the valley, and on April 27, 1758, they captured and burned the fort and killed 22 persons, including Dunlap himself.*

    * The names of the slain were as follows: Captain John Dunlap, Josiah Wilson, John Hutchison, Thomas Caddon, Henry McCullom, John Wright, Thomas Smith, Robert McNulty, William Elliott, Ludwig Falck and wife, Adam Little, - - - Brock, John Ramsay, William Burk, - - -Rooney, William Woods; John McCulley, Thomas Searl, James Gill, John Gay, and one person unkown.

    Page 167, Gragg, Scotch-Irish, before 1792, Reed's Creek.

    Page 208, Gragg, Thomas (____ ____)-left a minor daughter, Mary and appears to have had these sons:
    1. Henry
    2. William (Mary ____)-d. Jan. 24, 1795.
    3. Samuel (Ann Black)-m. 1785?

    A daughter of William was killed by the Indians in 1781 (see Page 64,65). Elizabeth (Peter Cassell-m. 1794) was a daughter of Henry.

    The family seems afterward to have moved to the South Fork above Sugar Grove. J. Robert and Amby Gragg of that district are present representatives of the family...

    Page 64, 65 - In 1781 took place what seems the last Indian raid into this county. A party of redskins, led by Tim Dahmer, a white renegade, came by the Seneca trail to the house of William Gragg, who lived on the highland a mile east of Onego. Dahmer had lived with the Graggs, and held a grudge against a daughter of the family. Gragg was away from the house getting a supply of firewood, and seeing Indians at the house he kept out of danger. His mother, a feeble old lady, and with whom Dahmer had been on good terms, was taken out into the yard in her chair. The wife was also unharmed, but the daughter was scalped and the house set on fire, after which the renegade and his helpers made a prudent retreat. The girl was taken up the river, probably to the house of Philip Harper, but died of her injuries.

  2.   Sawyer, Wilna Powell. James Lewis French: His Ancestors and Descendants with Allied Lines. (FamilySearch, 1973)
    Pages 20 & 21.
  3.   RootsWeb
    [1], 30 Nov 2014.

    It is widely published, on various internet genealogies and even in a recently released digital "historical" novel , that members of the William Woods family were taken captive during the massacre at Seybert's fort in 1758. Steven J. Zuraff, who has done extensive research on the subject, has given me permission to share the key points of his research which disprove the presence of any Woods at the massacre.

    The problem appears to have originated with an article by Bill M. Woods, which is titled somewhat misleadingly, The Fort Upper Tract (West) Virginia Massacre, April 27, 1758, in which the author actually only briefly addresses the topic of the massacre at Fort Upper Tract. Much of the short article is background information for the area of the South Branch of the Potomac during the French and Indian war and the remainder is, according to the author, an historical account of his ancestors, William Woods and Martha Drake Woods, and their children. He asserts that his ancestor, William Woods, was killed at the Fort Upper Tract massacre and, the following day, the same William Woods' wife and two of his daughters, Magdalen and Sally, were taken captive at the Fort Seybert massacre while their other children were located elsewhere.

    Although the article is otherwise heavily sourced, the portion containing the material on the family is devoid of citation during the time frame of the massacres. It appears that the author was either unaware - or, ignored - the evidence which shows the William Woods, whose probate was opened in August, 1758, was a resident of the Linville Creek area in the Shenandoah Valley. The author indicates that the Woods family was likely "non-land-holders or squatters which Morton suggests were in the [South Branch] area". It has been demonstrated that Morton, in his History of Pendleton County, mis- identified legitimate settlers of substance and who had land contracts as squatters. Extensive research in the land, probate records, and other early Augusta County records yields no evidence of the presence of the Woods family in the South Branch or South Fork basins during the French and Indian War.

    Bill Woods indicated that William Woods was "definitely identified as a member of Captain Abraham Smith's militia" and, from that, it seems he assumed that all members of Captain Smith's company were from the greater South Branch basin. That simply is incorrect. While it's true that men from the greater South Branch basin were part of Smith's company in this time frame, the majority of the men in Smith's company were located east of Brock's Gap and included those in the Linville Creek area. Both of the administrators of Woods' estate, Thomas Gregg and Samuel Semple, resided in the Linville Creek area at this time. Bill Woods seemed to believe that Gregg lived on the South Branch in 1758.

    Bill Woods also indicated that "William [Woods'] family according to scanty documentation and family tradition was at Fort Seybert" when, in fact, the tradition placed them in the extreme southern end of Augusta county:

    "We are able to trace the lineage of Governor Smith to his maternal grandfather, who lived in Bottetourt [sic - Botetourt] county, Virginia, and whose name was Woods. Mr. - Woods and an older brother were there killed by Indians, who burned his house and carried his wife and two daughters into captivity, from which the wife and one daughter, 'Sally,' were redeemed by the exertions of some French traders after a captivity of two years. The other daughter, about ten years of age, was "Magdalen Woods." This little girl made a very favorable impression upon her Indian captors by bravely looking one in the face, who drew his knife across her head, pretending to be about to take her scalp. During her captivity she was sent with a squaw to a house in the white settlements for some corn, and was there recaptured, dressed in boy's clothes as a disguise, and called "Little Jack." . . .from Life and times of Henry Smith: the first American Governor of Texas by John Henry Brown, 1887, p!

    Botetourt County was formed from Augusta County in 1770 so events prior to then would more accurately be described as having occurred in Augusta County. This may have bearing on another unsourced statement of fact in the Woods' article that "All [the children of William Woods and Martha Drake Woods] are identified as having been born in Augusta County." Persons born before 1770, like the Woods children, if born in what became Botetourt County would be properly described as having been born in Augusta County. Researchers not familiar with the changing county borders often err as to the actual location of specific events.

    It seems the first mention of the family in the context of the South Branch was not until 1947 when a question was asked in a family publication:

    "From an account I have of the Magdalene Woods, an early captive of the Indians in Virginia, and later wife of Rev. James Smith, she and her husband settled at an early day at Smith's Station, now called Bryantsville. They are both said to have been buried there."

    "From the account I have, Magdalene's father was said to have been slain by Indians in Virginia at the time she, her mother and her sister Sally were captured. Since her father was a William Woods, is it not possible that he was the William Woods slain by Indians in 1758 at South Branch, Virginia?" . . . from Wood-Woods Exchange, Volume 1, Issue 4, Katie-Prince Ward Esker, 1947, pg. 83.

    Somehow, between 1947 and 1970 when this article was published, the question of whether William Woods, who was killed by Indians and who had members of his family taken captive, lived on the South Branch rather than in the portion of Augusta County which was later Botetourt County, became a fact. We should expect that the author would have taken special care to cite the source for the shift of location but he did not do so.

    Bill Woods' placement of members of the family, at the time of the massacres, is glossed over in the article and defies logic. Keeping in mind that the massacres occurred in late April when men from Fort Seybert were forced, from dire need of supplies, to leave their families with insufficient protection, it seems inconceivable that Martha Drake Woods and two of her daughters, aged 14 and 6, would be allowed to stay at Fort Seybert when the evidence is that the family did not reside in the South Branch basin but was established at Linville Creek. Even laboring under the author's misguided assumption that the Woods family had been in residence in the South Branch basin, it's difficult to understand why he would think that, with William Woods away from home for a prolonged period at a time when more Indian raids were expected, Mrs. Woods would remain with only two daughters in a place short of supplies while five other children, including at least one son of militia age down t!
    o a child aged 4 years old, would be elsewhere.

    That brings us to the absolute absence of mention of the remaining members of the family in the various records - especially probate - in which we should expect to see them. While there are numerous contemporaneous mentions of many of the other victims and captives of the massacre at Seybert's fort, there are none for the Woods' family. There are no guardian bonds or, alternately indentures, for the minor children. No marriage records are cited for the older children in this part of Augusta Co.

    Bill Woods indicated that the children of William Woods and Martha Drake Woods were Nancy, the eldest, Michael b. 1742, Magdalen - age 14 years in 1758 - so b. ca 1744, Samuel b. 1748, Archibald b. 1750, Sarah aka Sally - age 6 years old in 1758 - so b. ca 1752, and Strangman aka Strongman b. 1754. No explanation is given for why a son of militia age is not on Captain Smith's lists (nor why there is a John Woods on those lists - or, how he might be related). While another William Woods is mentioned in the context of Linville Creek in 1765 in Chalkley's Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish in Virginia, Bill Woods does not mention him at all. Other genealogies place a William as the eldest son of William and Martha Drake Woods but why then is he not on Captain Smith's militia lists if the family was in this area in 1758?

    When the items on the appraisal of William Woods' estate are examined, it must be said that the probate does not appear to be for a man with a large family - possibly not even for a man who was married. There was only one adult horse and one saddle. The other items give no clue as to a wife or children. With an estate as impoverished as that of Woods', there would be no way for his widow, when she returned from captivity, to provide for herself let alone the children. Her remarriage would have been an absolute necessity. Her minor children would already have been put in the custody of the vestry and quickly indentured.

    With no mention of even one of the specific family members, named by Bill Woods, in the Augusta County records in this area and, with who and what is mentioned being inconsistent with his construction of the family, it must be concluded that he erred in his findings as to their location.

    It is a disservice to the Woods' family history as well as to the history of the victims of the Fort Seybert massacre to have this error perpetuated.