Michael Woods, Jr. of Botetourt County, Virginia

Transcribed from "Woods-McAfee Memorial" by Reverend Neander M. Woods, Louisville, Kentucky, circa 1905
The third child of Michael Woods of Blair Park and his wife, Mary Campbell, was named for his father, Michael; and, as was shown on a previous page, was probably born in Ireland about the year 1708. We feel next to certain that he emigrated to America with his parents and kinsfolk in 1724, tarrying ten years in the colony of Pennsylvania, and then going with the Woodses and some of the Wallaces to Virginia in 1734. As he was a man of twenty-six when he settled in Virginia, and only a youth of sixteen when he left Ireland, we might suppose that he married his wife, Anne, in Pennsylvania. We have no way of knowing what his wife's surname was, as the only mention we have of her is in the deeds of her husband and in his last will, in all of which he calls her Anne. Hence the strain of which, she was a descendant must probably remain forever hidden from her descendants. Knowing what we do of the man she married, however, we may safely indulge the confident hope that she was a good Christian woman, and most probably a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian as was Michael, Jr. himself. General Micajah Woods thinks she was a cousin to Michael. We shall designate this member of the family as "Michael, Junior," because his father bore the name Michael and described him as Michael, Junior, in a letter or deed he executed in 1743. He is often referred to as Michael Woods of Botetourt, but his home was in Albemarle, at least thirty-five years, whilst in Botetourt he lived scarcely seven years. Besides, the name of "Michael, Junior" describes him with sufficient accuracy.

The first allusion to this son of Michael of Blair Park seems to be that which we find in the deed which his father executed to him, August 3, 1743, conveying to him 200 acres of the Hudson tract. In this deed the grantor signs himself as Michael Woods, Sr., and refers to the grantee as Michael Woods, Jr. At this time the father was 59 years old and the son was almost 36. Twelve years later (September 10, 1766), we find Michael, Jr. obtaining a Crown Grant for himself of 300 acres on Ivy Creek,m adjoining the 200 acres his father deeded him in 1743. Assuming that Michael Jr. made his home on this land for almost 25 years of his life (which is practically certain), he resided near Ivy Depot, and only about six miles distant from his father's homestead at Blair Park. The date of the removal of Michael, Jr. to Botetourt County cannot be certainly made out, but it was probably about the year 1769 or shortly thereafter. This is inferred from the known fact that in that year, Michael Jr. and Anne, his wife, deed to their son William the before-mentioned 300 acres of land, and in 1773 they conveyed another tract to one Thomas Berch. In 1769, Michael Jr. was only about 61 years of age, and his undertaking to make a new start in life in another part of the colony some distance away, and in a frontier region, showed that his reason for disposing of his lands in Albemarle was not that he was feeble and considered the end near. He is said to have been a large man, above six feet in height, and of unusual vigor of both his body and mind. His removal to Botetourt, therefore, may be set down as having occurred somewhere between 1769 and 1773, but the earlier of the two dates seems to be the most probable one. His father's death in 1762 had doubtless made him the more willing to leave the old neighborhood and his brothers -- Archibald, Andrew, and William -- are known to have moved from Albemarle about this same period. Land to the southward was quite as fertile as in Albemarle, and cheaper, and there was a spirit of enterprise and adventure abroad in the older parts of the colony at that time which caused many to turn their eyes towards the southwest with the view of making new investments in promising fields -- "of going West to grow up with the country" as we would say in our day.

The location which Michael Jr. chose for himself on James River in Botetourt County was one well-adapted to agricultural purposes, and was, besides, quite picturesque and interesting. The engraving giving a view of the river in front of the farm, which will be found in this volume, shows how it appears to one standing on the north bank of the river at Indian Rock, a station of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. At that point, the James sweeps around the farm in a graceful curve, forming an almost perfect letter U, one or two miles in extent, the opening of the semi-circle being towards the south. The north bank of the river here is crowned with bountiful hills, coming down close to the water's edge, whilst the farm, which is on the opposite side, consists mainly of very gentle undulating lowlands or meadow. Just here a little mountain stream, known as Jenning's Creek, puts into the river from the south. Its head springs being right a the northern base of the famous Peaks of Otter, a few miles south of the farm. Now and then, after heavy rains, when both river and creek are high, the swollen waters back up and overflow the low grounds, so as to make the place look like an island; and as a gentleman by the name of Shepherd Long owned the place after the death of Michael Jr., it came to be called "Shepherd Island Farm." It also had the name of "Hollow Ford Farm," suggested, no doubt, by some peculiarity of the ford of the James on the north line of the place.

The Peaks of Otter, eight miles to the south; the marvelous Natural Bridge only seven miles to the northeast; and the grand water gap of the James at Balcony Falls twelve miles below, constitute a combination of attractions not often equalled in any part of the land. In Michael's day, none of the noises and commotions of our modern life disturbed the peaceful valley in which he resided; but now either bank of the noble James boasts a great trunk line -- the Chesapeake & Ohio on one side, and the Norfolk & Western on the other -- and the whistle of the locomotive and the roar of trains are constantly waking the echoes in the grand mountains and charming fields of that beautiful region. The farm consisted of about 400 acres when Michael owned it, and it now belongs to a Mr. Starkey Robinson, in whose hospitable home the writer was kindly entertained int the summer of 1895, whilst in the neighborhood making observations and researches preparatory to the publication of this work. The present dwelling -- a comfortable brick house -- stands, as Mr. Robinson stated, on the exact site of the old Woods homestead of one hundred and thirty years ago. A few hundred yards to the east of the house is the private burial grounds of the farm, covering a little knoll. The only graves there in 1895, marked with headstones having inscriptions of which we can scarcely doubt, were of recent date, but there were many unmarked sunken graves in one of which must lie the body of Michael Woods, Jr. who has been sleeping there since 1777. In the morning of the "day without clouds," when the last trumpet echoes through these hills, the angels will known where to find the dust of those they seek.

After Michael's death, this farm, as his will provided, became the property of his son, David, and in 1779 he sold it to his brother-in-law, William Campbell, for three thousand five hundred pounds. A man by the name of Shepherd afterwards owned it, and he may have been the Dalertus Shepherd who married one of Michael's daughters. About thirty-three years ago, Mr. Starkey Robinson, the present owner, came into possession of it. The exact location fo this farm is indicated on the "Map of the Parting of the Ways" to be found in this volume. In 1769, the year Michael seems to have purchased this place, that region was yet a frontier settlement, and exposed to the depredations of Indians from the northwest. The savages continued to annoy the settlers in that part of the country well on down to the close of the eighteenth century. Indeed, southwestern Virginia and what is now the state of West Virginia, were exposed to troubles of this character longer than even Kentucky was. It must have been, therefore, no small comfort to Michael that his brother Andrew lived only about twelve or fourteen miles southwest of his home, and his brother Archibald still farther down in that direction on Catawba Creek. His brother William was also down below him somewhere in Fincastle County; and the McAfees, one of whose daughters became the second wife of his son David in after years, were also residing on Catawba Creek. All of these families were near enough to him for purposes of social intercourse, and also of mutual assistance in times of danger. Michael was, beyond all reasonable doubt, a devout Scotch-Irish Presbyterian; and as both Falling Spring and High Bridge (Presbyterian) Churches were in existence all the years he lived on JAmes River -- the one being sixteen miles distant and th other only eight miles -- it is extremely likely that he and his family held their memberships in one of them, and probably attended quite often. The four Bibles and four Catechisms and one copy of the Confession of Faith, listed by his executors after his death as among his personal effects, as well as the devout preface to his will, indicate pretty clearly that his was a home in which religion had a large place. It was not thirty miles from this home on the James to that "nest" of Woodses, McDowells, Lapsleys, Campbells, Bowyers, etc. up in Rockbridge County, and there are indications that he kept in close touch with these relatives and connections to his old life. And when he comes, a few months before his end, to write his last will, he names, as one of his executors of his estate, "my loving friend, John Bowyer, Esq.", the man who was the third husband of his own sister, Magdalen.

Michael Woods, Jr. wrote his will May 29, 1776 -- just as the Revolutionary storm was beginning to rage -- and it was proved in court on March 11, 1777. The original document is on file now in the clerk's office at Fincastle, Botetourt County, Virginia and through the courtesy of the obliging clerk, Mr. Matheny, the writer was allowed to have it photographed expressly for this work. A faithful facsimile of the will, made from the photograph thus obtained, will be found in this volume. He made his son David his heir, and one of the two executors of the will; and Col. John Bowyer, his brother-in-law, was made the other executor. His wife, Anne, was living at the time, and is mentioned by name. It is known that she joined her sons David and Samuel, a few years later, in their migration to Kentucky, where she died not long after their removal. Three men signed as witnesses to the will, to wit: John Legan, George Dougherty, and Charles Lambert [handwritten note on manuscript readds: father of Anne Lambert Woods, Mrs. Michael Woods, Jr.] Of the first two, this writer knows nothing whatsoever; concerning Charles Lambert, General Micajah Woods expresses the opinion, based on facts known to him, that the family to which this gentleman belonged was in some way closely related to the Woodses; and he thinks that a man of this name married either a sister or a daughter of Michael, Jr. It is hardly possible that Michael had a sister who married a Lambert. But he left two young lady daughters, Anne and Sarah, one of whom may have married this Mr. Lambert. General Lambert, once Mayor of Richmond, was, as General Woods believes, a descendant of one of the near kinswomen of Michael Jr. -- a sister or a daughter. The Charles Lambert, above mentioned, was evidently closely connected with him in some way, for prior to 1770, he was witness to various legal documents for Woodses in Albemarle County. It would, therefore, seem that he came to Botetourt County about the same time that Michael himself did, and it may be that he married either Anne or Sarah, one of the younger daughters of Michael.

Michael Woods, Jr. must have failed in health very rapidly, and from some other cause than old age, after settling in Botetourt. If he had not been in very robust health in 1769 -- the date of his selling out in Albemarle preparatory to moving to Botetourt -- he would hardly have gone down into the then frontier portion of the colony, pone hundred miles distant form his old home, to begin life anew. It is only six or seven years subsequent to that migration that we find him writing his will, in which he speaks of himself as "weak in body," and he was then only sixty-eight years old, and died only about nine months thereafter. His father had lived to be seventy-eight, and his sister Magdalen, who was born a couple of years before himself, outlived him about a third of century. Our impressions of these Woodses is that they were, as a rule, an unusually hardy and vigorous race of people who attained to a great age. Hence we infer that Michael Jr. must have experienced some sudden and unlooked for shock to his bodily health which took him off at least ten years before the time he and his friends would have anticipated, when he took leave of Albemarle. But if we may fairly draw inferences form the language men employed in making their last wills, it is reasonably certain that Michael Jr. was not at all weak in his faith, however feeble he may have been in body. The preamble of that document reads as follows:

"In the name of God, Amen. I, Michael Woods, of the County of Botetourt, in Virginia, being weak of body, but of perfect mind and memory, blessed by God, and calling to mind ye mortality of my body, and that it is appointed for all men once to die, do, this twenty-ninth day of May, one-thousand seven-hundred and seventy-six, make this my last will and testament, viz: I give my soul into the hands of Almighty God, who gave it me, beseeching his gracious acceptance thereof, nothing doubting but I shall receive it again at ye General Resurrection by the mighty power of God. My body I recommend to the earth from whence it was taken, to be buried in a Christian-like and decent manner, etc., etc."

As for his worldly property, he was comfortably fixed, and left a good estate for a man who had, no doubt, previously made provision for eight or nine children.

Men often used such pious phrases in drawing up their wills merely as a matter of form, but the man who dictated that preamble was, beyond all doubt, one who lived a truly devout life, and died in the faith of Jesus Christ. His descendants ought to know these things concerning him. The meagre outline of his life which remains for us, leaves him almost wholly hidden from our gaze amidst the shadows of a somewhat remote past; but it should be a comfort, also an inspiration, for us that th clearest light which falls upon his career illumines the most important phase of his character, and gives to us the reasonable assurance that he has a place in the Kingdom of Glory above where we also may hope, after a season, to meet him and share the joy and peace which have been his for one hundred and twenty-seven years.

In his will, Michael Jr. makes express mention of eleven children, and there is every reason for believing that he had no other children living at that time. There are some reasons, however, for supposing that he may have had two or three others who died in early life. An interesting question is: are we to accept the order in which Michael mentions his children in his will as indication of the order in which they were actually born? Of course, we are obliged to answer this question not without some hesitation. Perhaps in most cases, men, in having their wills drawn up, do mention their children with due regard to the matter of seniority, beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest. But it is a fact that there is no important reason for so doing. The will would be just as complete and valid, and the intentions of the testator just as clear, no matter what order he followed in naming the heirs; the only really important point is that all the heirs, to whom he wishes to make specific bequests, shall be mentioned somewhere in the will, and the position of each be clearly indicated. This question would not have been raised by the writer but for the fact that, if we adopt the order of the names given in Michael's will as being the exact order of seniority for all the children, we raise some very serious difficulties which cannot be explained away.

There are many important details in regard to all his children about which we possess no important information whatever; in fact, we know scarcely anything at all about most of them beyond the bare fact that they once lived. But fortunately there are a few dates and facts which are known with certainty, and these enable us to know some other things; and when these are duly considered, we believe it will be apparent that Michael mentioned several of his children without regard to seniority.

First, we know with certainty, that Samuel was born in 1738; and if his sisters, Jane and Susannah, were born before he was, and were the first born of all the eleven children, as one would infer form Michael's will -- to which supposition we know of no objection -- then we may fix the probably date of the marriage of Michael and Anne as about 1734 -- the very year the Woodses and Wallaces moved to Virginia. As Michael was leaving Pennsylvania that year, it would have been the most natural thing in the world, if he had a sweetheart there, to want to have her go along and share his fortunes in the new home in the colony of Virginia. That Michael and Anne did marry in about 1734, we feel confident. That he was then about twenty-six, and she about seventeen, or a little past, we have good reasons for believing.

Secondly, we know that Magdalen, who married William Campbell, was born in 1755; and in that year her mother was about thirty-eight years old, if our estimates above given are sound. But Michael makes Magdalen sixth in his list and mentions five other children after her. It is extremely probable, when all the circumstances of the case are weighed, that if five children were born of Anne after the year 1755, the last of the five was born not less than ten or twelve years after Magdalen was. This would mean that Anne was a woman forty-eight to fifty years old when her last child was born. We do not hesitate to say that we think it extremely unlikely that there were five children born to Michael and his wife after 1755.

Thirdly, we find that among the children mentioned in the will after Magdalen, is David. As Magdalen, we know,m was born in 1755, then if David came after her, we must fix the year 1757 as about the year of his birth; and, as his father died early in 1777, David was not yet ten years old when the bereavement fell upon the house. Now, this son David is expressly named by Michael Sr. as one of his executors and his heir -- a boy who was scarcely nine years old the day the will was penned. The absurdity of such a thing is only too apparent. David was surely born at least fifteen years before Magdalen was, though in the will he is named after her. He must have been a man at least twenty-five years of age, and of good promise as a capable business man, for his father to have put upon his shoulders such grave responsibilities. That this child, at least, could not have been named by Michael according to his priority seems certain.
Looking at the list in the will, we find four unmarried daughters: Martha, Sarah, Anne, and MArgaret, all of whom are mentioned together at the end of the list. This does not mean that all four of them were born subsequent to MAgdalen's birth. Anne and Margaret were, for Michael expressly says they were his youngest children. We are confident that Martha and Sarah were older than Magdalen. Just why they are mentioned after her we cannot positively affirm, but we suggest that their father just located the four single daughters in one place at the foot of the list without any specific reasons, except, that single daughters would not be so apt to be as prominently in mind when writing a will as the married ones with whom he had already had business transactions connected with settling upon them portions of his estate. The scheme which we have formulated, and which, whilst not claiming to be correct in all respects, rests upon reasonable deductions from known facts.

Jane was, beyond reasonable doubt, the first born of the eleven children of Michael Woods, Jr. and his wife, Anne. She was, in all probability, born in Goochland County (now Albemarle), Virginia about the year 1735, the year after the Woodses settled in that colony. She married a Mr. Buster. His Christian name, some have said, was John. Of her and her husband and family we know nothing beyond the fact, stated to the writer by General Micajah Woods, that Mr.. Charles Buster, recently Clerk of Greenbriar, Virginia County Court, was a descendant of theirs. Dr. Edgar Woods, in his "History of Albemarle County" (p. 158), tells a good deal of the buster family.

(This history, by Dr. Neander M. Woods, goes on in detail on the other children of Michael Jr. and his descendants. We will not go into that at this time. Later writers on Woods history state that the wife of Michael Woods Jr. was Anne Lambert, and that she was a daughter of the Charles Lambert mentioned in the above history. Other histories have also verified the fact that Janes Woods married William Buster, not John. The said John Buster married Elizabeth Woods. William and Jane Buster raised a family of nine children. William died in Wythe County, Virginia in 1795. No date, as yet, found for the death of Janes Woods Buster.)