Monday, June 22, 2020

Captain Samuel Woods: Scot-Irish Presbyterian Frontiersman

One of my wife's ancestors was Captain Samuel Woods, a pioneer, soldier, and Presbyterian elder from the early days of our country. To be precise, Captain Woods is her great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather. A while ago I pieced together his story from various sources, mostly for the family. But I thought I would also share his story here as the story of one of the many lesser known individuals who labored to preserve our country's freedom and promote the growth of our church on the American frontier. 

One of the important records for Samuel Woods comes from the journal of Rev. Harvey Woods, son of John Woods, son of Samuel Woods[1]. He wrote that Samuel Woods came with his family from Ireland at the age of 8, and that he settled in North Carolina. There he married Margret Holmes and had several children. In 1780 or 1782 the family moved to Paint Lick, Kentucky. Samuel’s oldest son was killed by Indians during that time.

Neander Montgomery Woods, in his book, The Woods-McAfee Memorial, argues that Samuel Woods came from Virginia rather than North Carolina[2]. He notes that there was a Samuel Woods who lived in Rockbridge County, VA who sold his land in 1783. This Samuel Woods of Rockbridge County, VA was a son of Richard Woods and part of the larger family that Neander follows in that book. His arguments are that (1) in 1783 a Samuel Woods sold land in Virginia and a Samuel Woods gained land in Kentucky, (2) other extended family from Virginia had moved to Kentucky, and (3) similar family names are used. This claim is doubtful, as will be evident as we proceed. Our Samuel Woods is also sometimes confused with a Samuel Woods (1741-1820) who was the son of Samuel Woods (b. 1718)[3]. This Samuel Woods was born in VA or PA, lived in Rowen County, NC, married Elizabeth Patton, and settled in Georgia in 1793 with his brother William, receiving land for service in the war.[4] I mention these because accounts of Samuel Woods on the internet can sometimes conflate these figures. Yet, the advantage of this mistake is that Neander Woods gathers and records information about our Samuel Woods since Neander thinks he is related to Neander’s family.

For example, Neander mentions that the Madison County, KY records show that this Samuel Woods of Kentucky had a wife named Margaret. This fits with others like Rev. Harvey Woods who testify that Samuel’s wife’s name was Margaret Holmes. The Rowan County, North Carolina Marriage Records contain the record: “Samuel Woods to Margaret Holmes, Sept. 29, 1768. Margaret, daughter of John Holmes.”[5] This verifies Rev. Woods’ account and argues against Neander’s Rockbridge County theory. 

Another piece of the puzzle that verifies a North Carolina origin and adds a colorful stroke to the portrait, is that Lyman Draper records in King’s Mountain and Its Heroes that “Samuel Wood commanded a company at King’s Mountain…[and] removed to Lincoln County, Kentucky.”[6] Draper mentions him as one of the officers under Col. Joseph McDowell in the Burke County [NC] regiment. Paint Lick, KY was part of Lincoln County, KY until 1786 when it became part of Madison County.[7] Thus, Draper verifies that Samuel Woods lived in North Carolina, fought at King’s Mountain, and later moved to the area of Paint Lick, KY.

A pension record of John Dysart mentions that he served under Captain Samuel Woods and Colonel McDowell in 1779-1780, first driving the Tories out of the state, then at the battle of Cane Creek, and then at King’s Mountain.[8] This is also important because John would go on to marry one of the daughters of Samuel Woods of Paint Lick, KY,[9] hence provide another link between the Samuel Woods in North Carolina and in Kentucky. 
A list of North Carolinian officers of the War for Independence in NC Patriots 1775-1783: Their Own Words by J.D. Lewis says that Samuel Woods served from 1779 to 1782 and fought in Cane Creek, King’s Mountain, Cowpens, and Eutaw Springs.[10] It says that he was from what became Alexander County, NC (this area was Rowen County, NC in 1768 when Samuel was married and was Burke County during the war). It also says that he was born in 1735 in Albemarle County, VA. Unfortunately, even though this book has a large bibliography and is obviously well researched, it is not footnoted, so it is not clear from what source he gets this birth place and year. 
Thus far we have a picture of a Scot-Irish man who was either born in Ireland or in Virginia and who came to North Carolina in what is now Alexander County. There he married Margaret Holmes, and from there he enlisted and served in the Burke County regiment as captain from 1779 to 1782. Then he moved his family in 1782 to Paint Lick, Kentucky. There his oldest son was killed by Indians. 

Another source for Samuel Woods's life is a book by LeGrand M. Jones, Family Reminiscences (St. Louis, MO: C.R. Barnes Pub. Co., 1894). LeGrand’s wife was a great-granddaughter of Samuel and knew several of Samuel’s grandchildren. On pages 43-46, he records what he learned about Samuel Woods from Judge Gideon B. Black, a grandson of Samuel’s. His story fits with Rev. Woods’ account. He said that Samuel was the son of a Scotch-Irish immigrant and lived in North Carolina. There he married Margaret Holmes and later moved to Madison County, KY. When Samuel briefly returned to North Carolina to bring his youngest child who had been left behind, his oldest son was killed. “Some neighbor boys and his son Oliver were together; they heard what they took to be dogs barking, as if they had brought something to bay. They went in the direction of the barking. Indians in ambush fired upon them and killed Oliver; the others escaped. I suppose the Indians were imitating the barking of dogs to decoy the boys from the house.” At the time Paint Lick was a fort, about 26 miles from Fort Boonesborough (and about 8 miles from present day Berea, KY). It had been founded by William Miller in 1776. Violence from native tribes continued into the 1790s, as resident Jinney Adams was killed by Chief Thunder in 1791.[11] 

Samuel Woods acquired 350 acres of land on a branch of Paint Lick Creek from William Miller, and date of the survey of his land is dated May 3, 1783.[12] He also was a founding elder of Paint Lick Presbyterian Church in 1784, serving for at least fifteen years.[13] Rev. David Rice, the “father of Presbyterianism in Kentucky” helped organize the church, and Samuel Woods was “responsible for securing the appointment of David Rice as their minister for one Sunday in each month.”[14] Samuel Woods represented the church at a conference of Presbyterian ministers and elders at Cane Run Presbyterian Church in 1785 which led to the organization of the Presbytery of Transylvania.[15] Samuel Woods represented his church at the the first meeting of that presbytery in 1786, as well as in 1794 and 1797.[16] He is also one of the elders who signed the call for Rev. Cary H. Allen to the church in 1792.[17] The church would flourish and became at one point prior to 1860 the “largest congregation in Kentucky.”[18]

There were many others like Captain Woods coming to Kentucky. One pioneer woman of the time described her party by saying how they "rode upon horses, and upon other horses were placed the farming and cooking utensils, beds and bedding, wearing apparel, provisions, and last, but not least, the libraries, consisting of two Bibles, half a dozen Testaments, the Catechism, the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church, and the Psalms of David. Each man and boy carried his rifle and ammunition, and each woman her pistol."[19]

Samuel and Margaret’s youngest son, Oliver, was born in Madison County, KY on Oct. 15, 1784,[20] and one source identifies the place of birth as “Boone’s Station,” which was founded by Daniel Boone in 1779 about 30 miles north of Paint Lick.[21] Another possible Boone connection is that there is a “Samuel Woods” on the list of the men who fought at the Battle of Blue Licks, August 19, 1782.[22] It is difficult to prove that this is our Samuel Woods, but one source does refer to his “active interest…in the Indian wars.”[23]

In 1800, Samuel Woods moved to Williamson County, Tennessee, settling on Harpeth Lick.[24] Another source says that he came to Fort Nashville, TN, which is not far from Harpeth Lick.[25] Later he moved to Carroll County, Tennessee in the western part of the state in 1820 to live with his son Samuel until his death about 1825. Samuel Woods Jr. had a farm about where McLemoresville, Tennessee stands today.[26]

Regarding their children, Samuel and Margaret had eleven children:
“(a) Oliver, who was born about 1764, and was killed by Indians; 
(b) Martha, who married John Dyzart, by whom she had two sons and two daughters, one of the sons being named John; 
(c) Jane, who married John Herron, and by whom she had one daughter and three sons, the daughter marrying John Dyzart her cousin, and the sons being named John, William, and Frank, respectively; 
(d) Margaret, who married Thomas Black August 20, 1793, and by whom she had twelve children, the youngest of whom was Judge Gideon B. Black, born February 4, 1816; 
(e) John, who was born April 21, 1774, and died August 20, 1846; 
(f) Samuel, who married Ann Prevince; 
(g) David, who married a Miss McLaryo, by whom he had several sons who moved to Arkansas; 
(j) Daniel T., who married a Miss Reese, by whom he had several children, among whom was a son named Leroy, who was a distinguished Cumberland Presbyterian minister; 
[William Woods, born between Daniel and Oliver [27]], 
(k) Oliver, named for the first son of this name who was killed by Indians, as stated above; and
(l) Polly, (Mary) who married John Holmes, by whom she had several children, among whom were sons named John, William and Samuel, respectively.”[28]

1. The journal is quoted in Lucile Womack Bates, “Captain Samuel Woods of King’s Mountain” Pioneer, vol. 10, #2, April 1965 (Benton Co., Arkansas Historical Society). Rev. Woods was a Presbyterian pastor in Kentucky, mentioned in Robert Davidson, History of the Presbyterian Church in the State of Kentucky (Applewood Books, 2001), 356, 370.  
2.  Neander Montgomery Woods, The Woods-McAfee Memorial (Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal Job Printing Co., 1905), 83-86. 
5. North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015. provides a photocopy of the original document. 
6.  Lyman Draper, King’s Mountain and Its Heroes (Cincinnati: Peter G. Thomson Pub., 1881), 474.
8.  Pension Application of John Dysart S3315 f40NC. 
9.  Armstrong records that the John Dysart in NC married Capt. Woods’ daughter and ended up in TN, and Neander Woods records that Samuel’s daughter Martha married John Dyzart. Zella Armstrong, Some Tennessee Heroes of the Revolution (Genealogical Publishing Com, 1933), 41. Neander Montgomery Woods, The Woods-McAfee Memorial (Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal Job Printing Co., 1905), 85.
10.  J.D. Lewis, NC Patriots 1775-1783: Their Own Words, Volume 2, Part 2 (Little River, SC: J.D. Lewis, 2012), 1135-1136. (the same information can be found here: 
12.  Neander Montgomery Woods, The Woods-McAfee Memorial (Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal Job Printing Co., 1905), 148. It adjoined the lands of Brooks, Kennedy, Bett, McCormack, Miller, and McNeely. He is also listed in a real estate transaction in July of 1796 (Woods, 83).
13.   Ibid. See also the list of elders on the roadside marker: 
14.  “Paint Lick Presbyterian Church” Kentucky Historic Resources Inventory (1983). It cites as a source, Patches of Garrard County- Ed. by Lancaster Woman's Club by Mrs. Anna Burnside Brown. 
15.  William H. Averill, A History of the First Presbyterian Church, Frankfort, Kentucky (Frankfort, KY, Monfort, 1901), 15ff. See also Robert Davidson, History of the Presbyterian Church in the State of Kentucky (Applewood Books, 2001), 73. 
16.  Neander Montgomery Woods, The Woods-McAfee Memorial, 83.  
17.  Robert Davidson, History of the Presbyterian Church in the State of Kentucky (Applewood Books, 2001), 108. See this book for more information on the stories, events, and controversies among Presbyterians in Kentucky at the time.
18.  “Paint Lick Presbyterian Church” Kentucky Historic Resources Inventory (1983). This is possibly an overstatement, and probably refers to the largest Presbyterian congregation in Kentucky.
19. Quoted in Henry Alexander White, Southern Presbyterian Leaders (New York, 1911), 207. 
20.  The History of Appanoose County, Iowa (Western Historical Company, 1878), 603 (see here for link); and Barbara L Hughes, who cites an article from Lucile Womack Bates, in the Benton County Pioneer, p. 60. 
21.  The History of Appanoose County, Iowa (Western Historical Company, 1878), 603. Oliver is here mentioned in a bio of his daughter and her husband. 
22.  Neal Hammon, "Daniel Boone and the Defeat at Blue Licks” (Minneapolis: The Boone Society, 2005),
23.  History of Newton, Lawrence, Barry, and McDonald Counties, Missouri (Chicago: Goodspeed Pub., 1888), 1005. ( This bio of Samuel’s great-grandson follows the general narrative established thus far, but calls Samuel “John Woods.” Since everything else seems to match it is probably the same person but with the name wrong.
24.  Neander Montgomery Woods, The Woods-McAfee Memorial, 83. Carrol County Historical Book Committee, History of Carroll County, Tennessee, Volume 1 (Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company, 1986), 198. 
25.  History of Newton, Lawrence, Barry, and McDonald Counties, Missouri (Chicago: Goodspeed Pub., 1888), 1005. ( See note about this source in footnote 22 above. 
26.  Carrol County Historical Book Committee, History of Carroll County, Tennessee, Volume 1 (Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company, 1986), 198. See also, who appears to be quoting from “Captain Samuel Woods of King's Mountain” by Lucile Womack Bates in the Benton County, Arkansas Historical Society Magazine “Pioneer," published in Pea Ridge, Arkansas. Bentonville Public Library, Vol. 10#2, April 1965.
27. Ibid.
28. LeGrand M. Jones, Family Reminiscences (St. Louis, MO: C.R. Barnes Pub. Co., 1894), 44. Also in Neander Montgomery Woods, The Woods-McAfee Memorial (Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal Job Printing Co., 1905), 85-86.


Anonymous said...

Peter, What a delight to stumble upon your well written and sourced blog post on Captain Samuel Woods, truly a man of faith.
Samuel is my 5 G grandfather through two of his sons, Samuel 1776-1840 and Oliver 1784-1863.
Have you been to Paint Lick ? If not, check out the photos on my tree...

Peter Bringe said...


I have not been to Paint Lick, but I do hope to visit there soon. I've recently put together a history of his son Oliver and your comment encouraged me to post it here on the blog as well: (I posted it today).