Michael Woods [Sr.] of Blair Park

Transcribed from "Woods-McAfee Memorial" by Reverend Neander M. Woods, Louisville, Kentucky, circa 1905
In the old family-burial ground of Michael Woods, on the plantation which he owned and occupied for almost twenty-eight years in Albemarle County, Virginia, there is to be seen the grave in which Michael's body was laid to rest in the year 1762. Up to about the year 1861, this grave was marked by a rather rudely formed headstone, on which was an inscription showing that he was born in the year 1684 and died in 1762. Only a part of the headstone now remains, the upper portion having been broken off. Intelligent and trustworthy persons in the neighborhood have asserted that they have seen the stone and read the inscription before and after it was broken, and hence the date of Michael's birth and death, and the precise place of his burial may be considered as settled for all time. That he was born in the Emerald Isle; that he was the second child of a certain John Woods, who was the son of an English trooper in the Cromwellian army of invasion, by his wife, Elizabeth Worsop; that he was a man of family prior to his migration from IReland; and took with him, when he moved, his wife and several children; that he migrated to America in the year 1724; and that his first place of settlement in the New World was in the colony of Pennsylvania -- all of these details have already been stated to be substantially correct on the strength of authorities given in the first chapter of Part I of this volume. It is not claimed that each and all of the statements included in the foregoing sentence are true beyond all dispute, but that they seem to rest upon good evidence, and that nothing inconsistent with any one of them is known to this writer.

It is certainly known that the lady whom Michael Woods married, possibly nineteen years prior to his migration fo America, was named Mary Campbell. It has been asserted by trustworthy writers, and has long been currently believed by the descendants of Michael and Mary, that she was of the house of the Duke of Argyle, and belonged to the famous Scotch Clan Campbell. This fact, if we consider it as conclusively settled, would seem to indicate that Michael Woods may have gotten his wife in Scotland an, if this be true, then it would seem quite possible that the Woodses may have resided in Scotland prior to their being in Ireland, which some persons well qualified to judge have not hesitated to assert was the case. The Woodses may, indeed, have been pure English stock, but they may have migrated to SCotland before coming to IReland. And the writer confesses that there are several considerations which have tended to include his own mind to this supposition. The fact that the father of John Woods (and grandfather of Michael) was in Cromwell's army, which invaded Ireland about 1649, does not require us to conclude that the Woodses had not left England before that time, and had not resided in Sscotland. It would have been no difficult or unnatural thing for John Woods's father to have connected himself with Cromwell's army after it reached Ireland, if his sympathies were with the invaders, and he was then a citizen of that country.
Concerning the stay which Michael and his family made in Pennsylvania, we have but little certain knowledge. It seems to have been agreed by all who have written on this subject that the Woodses and Wallaces settled in Lancaster County of that colony. The writer, however, has been unable, after some correspondence with the clerks of several of the Pennsylvania counties, to find a single record to indicate that Michael Woods ever purchased or sold any land in what was, in 1724 to 1734, Lancaster County. He may have resided there, however, without caring to make any investment in real estate, for we know he did not remain there but ten years, and then migrated to Virginia. The date of this migration is fixed in the year 1734 by Foote, Waddell, Peyton, and Dr. Edgar Woods. And we happen to have a twofold explanation of this southward move of the Woodses and Wallaces. For one thing, by 1732, the original settlers of Pennsylvania, having grown jealous of the Scotch-Irish who had come into the colony by the thousands, and by their frugality, industry and skill, had grown prosperous, began to urge the Proprietary Government to enact restrictive measures aimed at these newcomers, and intended to harass them and discourage further additions of their kind to the population of the colony. Thus did the men who succeeded the liberty-loving and benevolent William Penn, repudiate the very principles which at the first had dominated the policy of that colony and rendered it attractive to the people of Ulster. The result of this ungenerous legislation no doubt, was that many of the Scotch-Irish settlers were rendered uncomfortable and made ready to improve, with alacrity, any favorable openings for bettering their condition. The shrewd governor of the colony of Virginia, Sir. William Gooch, was not slow to give special encouragement to settlers from PEnnsylvania. Himself a Scotchman, he well knew the sturdy character of the Scotch-Irish, and was only too glad to see the Great Valley and all the as-yet-unsettled regions on both sides of the Blue Ridge occupied by that industrious, brave and God-fearing race. He was glad, also, to have the hardy Germans make the backwoods of Virginia their home. The expansion of the colony by this means meant a body of settlers on the colonial frontier, which would serve as a most valuable protection against the Indians to the older settlements in the central and tidewater portions of the colony.

Governor Gooch was a somewhat zealous partisan of the Established Church, and had no special admiration for the religious views and practices of Presbyterians and other Desenters in the colony, but he was now more than willing to make concessions and hold out inducements to the Scotch-Irish and Germans of Pennsylvania. He offered fine lands to them upon liberal terms, and assured all new settlers of ample protection and welcome; provided they were law-abiding and willing to uphold the Act of Toleration. Whilst the Scotch-Irish never had much use for that tAct, despising in their souls the very idea that any decent, upright citizen should need to be "tolerated" instead of being left free to worship God as he saw best and not compelled to pay taxes to support a form of religion which he didn't approve, they were willing to accept the Governor's offer. So it came to pass that a vast tide of these brave people poured into the Great Valley and through the [indecipherable] Blue Ridge over to the fertile and charming region which lay at its eastern base. Governor Gooch was truly a shrewd statesman, but he built much wiser than he knew; for that new element which he thus helped to introduce into Virginia's life, ultimately effected a complete revolution in the whole spirt and character of her people and her laws. There were, indeed, some painful struggles, and no little friction as the years passed, but before the eighteenth century had run its course, the democratic ideas, which had their chief nursery in the Valley and Piedmont sections of Virginia, had come to dominate the whole of the State. The common cause which all Virginians had to make against the tyrannies of the Mother Country in the Revolutionary period brought them at least to see eye to eye, and to stand shoulder to shoulder; and then they emerged from that tremendous struggle, the old antagonisms had practically disappeared, and Virginians were one great people, living together in the most cordial friendship and mutual esteem. The bearing which these reflections have upon our narrative will be apparent as we proceed.

That famous range of the Appalachian system, called the Blue Ridge, enters Virginia from Maryland at Harper's Ferry on the Potomac, and extends clear across the State in a southwesterly direction, a distance of 250 miles, and passes on into North Carolina. On the western side of this range lies the Great Valley, which averages about thirty miles in width, and extends parallel to the parallel range of the Alleghanies on the west. On the east side of the Blue Ridge lies a tier of counties composing what is known as the Piedmont Region of Virginia -- the foot of the mountain country, as its name implies. It was this Piedmont Region which Michael Woods chose as his home in 1734, and so far as known, he was the first white man to settle in that part of the colony. It is usual to say that the romantic, not to say hilarious, expedition of Governor Spotswood in 1716, marks the beginning of the exploration of the Valley, though several earlier tours to portions of its area are contended for by various writers. The actual occupation of the Valley by permanent settlers, however, did not take place until 1732, about fourteen years after Governor Spotswood's famous Knights of the Golden Horseshoe had uncorked and merrily emptied the numerous brandy and champagne bottles on the banks of the lower Shenendoah. A man from PEnnsylvania named Joist Hite made, in 1732, what is generally considered the first permanent white settlement in the Valley about five miles south of where Winchester now stands. Hite had a warrant for 40,000 acres of land which John and Isaac Vanmeter had gotten from Governor Gooch only two years before, and he proceeded to offer inducements to enterprising men at the North to come down into the splendid Valley and erect homes.

The Piedmont Region, though closer to the older settlements of the colony, and lying on the eastern side of the mountains, was quite as slow in being settled as the Valley. Fiske tells us that in Spotswood's time, the very outposts of English civilization had not crept inland (westward), beyond the points at which the ocean tides ebbed and flowed. "A strip of forest fifty miles or more in breadth still intervened between the Virginia frontier and those blue peaks visible against the western sky." This same state of things seems to have continued almost up to the time at which Michael Woods settled at the eastern base of the Blue Ridge in, what is now, Albemarle County, Virginia, just at the gap which thereafter took his name. The western half of what is now Albemarle county seems to have had no settlers prior to the date at which Michael woods fixed his habitation at the eastern base of the Blue Ridge. On the western side of the mountain, in the Valley, probably the only settlement then in existence, as far south as that of Woods, was the one made two years before (1732) by John Lewis, near where Staunton now is. The territory now included in the county of Augusta was then a part of Orange county, and what is now Albemarle was then a part of Goochland. The frontier of the colony then extended along the eastern base of the Blue Ridge at least twenty miles back from it, and the whole of the Valley was virgin wilderness, with a single settler in the whole of the territory now included in the counties of Rockingham, Page, Augusta, Rockbridge, and beyond, and the little colony of Joist Hite near the site of Winchester, about eighty miles to the north.

It was into this practically uninhabited wilderness that Michael Woods penetrated in the year 1734, there to live out the remaining days of his life. He was then fifty years of age, and had a large family of children -- not less than eleven, as will be shown further on -- all of whom but one seems to have accompanied him in this migration. Of course, we are obliged to assume -- though we have no positive evidence of the course pursued in this particular case -- that no sensible man would set out in that early day, upon a journey of more than two hundred miles from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to the wilds of Virginia, with a lot of women and children and household effects, unless he had previously made a tour of investigation to the region in which he proposed to settle, and made arrangements for the comfort and safety of his family. We may, therefore, feel pretty sure that several of the men of his family had visited Virginia some months in advance of the actual migration, fixed upon the exact location to be occupied, and perhaps erected a few rude cabins in the forest. The precise neighborhood selected we know with all reasonable certainty. It was in what is now Albemarle County (then Goochland), about fourteen miles west of the town of Charlottesville, and immediately at the foot of the Blue Ridge, at the gap which for several generations was called Woods's Gap, and is now known as Jarmon's Gap. The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway now traverses what was the plantation of Michael Woods, between the stations of Greenwood and Crozet. It is near the head branches of the stream called Lickinghold Creek, and in one of the most beautiful and desirable locations in Virginia. The reasons impelling Michael Woods to choose the eastern base of the Ridge for a home, instead of the Great Valley on its western side, we can only conjecture; but we can well believe that he felt it would be somewhat better shielded from Indian attacks on that side. John Lewis, the first settler in that portion of the Valley contiguous to the Woods settlement, had only been there two years; and whilst, as Waddell informs us, the Valley began to fill up rapidly soon after Lewis came, it is not likely that many families had settled in that vicinity by the time Michael Woods had made up his mind to migrate.

No move could be made, by any prudent man, into the Virginia wilderness without taking account of the Indians. Whilst it seems reasonably certain that about this time (1732-5) the whites and savages were not at war with each other, it is known that the Indians at the northwest were constantly at war with other tribes at the south, and bands of warriors were frequently passing to and fro along the Valley, and through Woods's Gap, bent on mischief to each other. These warlike parties of savages could not be depended upon to remain peaceable and harmless. They would steal any valuable they could lay hands on, and they were not at all averse to bloodshed, especially when meeting with parties of whites whom they greatly outnumbered. Of the Indian tribes whom the early settlers in the Valley had to deal with, Mr. Waddell writes entertainingly, making free quotations from Wither's "Border Warfare." From his account we learn that the Delaware of the north and the Catawbas of the south were at war with each other about the time John Lewis and Michael Woods moved down into Virginia, and that this circumstance retarded the settlement of the country by the whites. Waddell gives it as his opinion that all of the earliest settlers of the Valley came from Pennsylvania, and came up the Shenendoah Valley. Whilst there were no roads then in existence in the Valley, there were Indian and buffalo trails fairly well suited to pack horses. According to Peyton, the warpath travelled by the Indians on their hostile expeditions against each other crossed the Blue Ridge at Woods's Gap (Jarmon's) and Rockfish Gap, passed by the site of Staunton, and on down the Valley to the northward. It was directly on this warpath that Michael Woods made his settlement. There is now a road leading through Woods's Gap from Albemarle over to the Valley, which reaches the South Fork of the Shenendoah River at Doom's, a small station on the Norfolk & Western Railroad and there can scarcely be a doubt that this was the precise route which Michael Woods came in 1734. The old Wilderness Road, which ran from Philadelphia to the Potomac River and thence up the Valley to New River and on down through southwestern Virginia to Cumberland Gap and Kentucky, had, of course, not yet come into begin for more than a small part of the distance; but no doubt the same Indian and buffalo trails, which it mainly followed, had probably been already marked out for centuries. That road passed through Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Staunton, Virginia. The distances by that route form Lancaster to Woods's Gap was about 225 miles; and in traversing it with a miscellaneous company of women, children, cattle, and the usual array of household goods and supplies; the time occupied could hardly be less than two weeks or longer.

Of the persons, chattels, etc. composing the little caravan of Michael Woods, we know something, but not a great deal. Still, the little we do know furnishes a basis for some most reasonable conjectures, which it can do us no harm to consider for a moment. From Foote and others we learn that Michael had with him on this memorable journey several sons and sons-in-law. Dr. Foote does not give the names of any of the part except that of Michael himself, and William Wallace, one of the sons-in-law. And he does not cite any authority for his assertions; but it is likely he knew, and had conversed with, some of old Michael's descendants in Albemarle, Augusta, or Rockbridge between 1840 and 1850, who preserved the traditions of the family. As we know what children Michael had, and have the means of knowing about when most of his children were born, and know whom they married, and have good reasons for believing that every one of his eleven children, except his oldest (Magdalen) migrated with him to Virginia, we can make a very fair guess as to the size and composition of the company which journeyed in 1734 from LAncaster, Pennsylvania to Goochland County, Virginia, and came to a halt at the foot of the Blue Ridge under the shadow of the gap which came to bear the Woods name.

First of all there were Michael and Mary, his wife. Then the three sons of Michael, whom Dr. Foote refers to were probably -- almost certainly -- William, who had married Susannah Wallace; Michael, Jr. whose wife was Anne; and John, who married Susanna Anderson. The number of sons-in-law who accompanied Michael in this migration could hardly have been three, as Dr. Foote suggests, but only two. One of these was William Wallace (mentioned by Dr. Foote) who had married Hannah Woods; and another, most probably, was Andrew Wallace, brother of William, who married Margaret Woods.

The only other daughter of Michael who was old enough to be married by 1734 was Magdalen, his eldest child, whose first husband was John McDowell, and many who have written about her have positively asserted or assumed that she came to America with her father and married John McDowell in Pennsylvania and was living in Virginia as early as 1736. But each and all of these assumptions as to Magdalen are proved by the court records in Orange County, Virginia to have been entirely mistaken. She married John McDowell in Great Britain and did not come to America till 1737. Of this we shall have more to say when considering the number of Michael's children, further on. Dr. Foote had probably adopted the current belief that Magdalen came to America in 1724 with her parents and he may have concluded, also, that she and her husband accompanied her father to Virginia in 1734, as they were known to have been in that colony shortly afterward.

In addition to the three married children in America, and Magdalen still in Ireland, Michael and Mary had three sons and two daughters ranging in age from about eighteen down to ten years, all of whom we may safely assume came with their parents, namely: Richard, Martha, Andrew, ARchibald, and Sarah. Then, as in this company there were five young married couples, we may further assume there were not less than seven or eight little folks, most of whom were less than two years old. Then there were, in all probability, several indentured servants belonging to members of the company. Thus, there must have been from twenty-five to thirty persons, young and old, in this migration. Then these families, besides a great variety of supplies and household goods, must have brought along a number of cattle, pigs, sheep and domestic fowls, not to mention the inevitable assemblage of dogs which could not be left behind. For the women and children and miscellaneous chattels of so considerable a company as that, a good many horses furnished with pack saddles would be required -- not less than fifteen or twenty -- the grand aggregate constituting a somewhat pretentious caravan. The able-bodied men and older boys would walk, and each had, we can be sure, his flintlock rifle, tomahawk, and hunting knife.

The distance, as remarked above, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Woods's Gap was 225 miles, and as such a body could not average more than fifteen miles a day, the journey probably consumed about two weeks or longer. From Lancaster down tot he Potomac -- fully one half of the distance -- we would expect a pretty fair road for horses. When the company had once gotten into the Great Valley, the outposts of civilization were reached and from thence on to their destination, a sharp lookout for ?Indians was needful to be maintained. Before reaching the western base of the Blue Ridge, opposite the gap soon to be known as Woods's, the depression in the mountains just in front became visible. At a distance of three to five miles to the west and northwest, one easily recognizes the gap today. The gap crest is 2,400 feet above sea level, whilst the ridge crest is, on the one side, 3,100 feet and on the other, 3,000. The ascent from the South Fork of the Shenendoah at Doom's Station covers only about three miles, but the rise is 1,200 feet to the crest of the gap where the road passes through. Up this ascent the caravan slowly crept, following the old Indian warpath, and when the top was reached, the scene to the south and southeast which met their gaze must have been enchanting, if these practical people were blessed at all with the aesthetic sense. A lovelier, more impressive view, it would be difficult to find anywhere in the world. Dr. Edgar Woods of Charlottesville, Virginia, in this valuable "History of Albemarle County" has given some interesting letters written by a Major Anbury, a British officer who was captured at Burgoyne's surrender in the fall of 1777, and who was confined for a couple of years in a prison camp at Charlottesville. It having been deemed prudent by the Americans to remove the British prisoners over into the Valley and up to Winchester, this Major Anbury, who was evidently a gentleman of culture, wrote to his friends in England on account of the trip from Charlottesville through Woods's Gap to Winchester.

In this letter, dated at Winchester November 20, 1780, he says: "We crossed the Pignut Ridge, or more properly the Blue Mountains at Woods's Gap, and though considerably loftier than those we crossed in Connecticut, we did not meet with so many difficulties; in short, you scarcely perceive, till you are upon the summit, that you are gaining in eminence, much less one that is of such prodigious height, owing to the judicious manner that the inhabitants have made the road, which by its windings renders the ascent extremely crazy. After travelling near a mile through a thick wood before you gain the summit of these mountains, when you reach the top, you are suddenly surprised with an unbounded prospect that strikes you with amazement. At the foot of the mountain runs a very beautiful river; beyond it is a very extensive plain, interspersed with a variety of objects to render the scene still more beautiful; and about fifty miles distant are the lofty Alleghany Mountains, whose tops are buried in the skies."

These, let it be noted, are the impressions of a captive British soldier in the fall of 1780 -- forty-six years after the Woodses and Wallaces reached the place -- he being on his way to Winchester, some eighty miles to the north. Of course this gentleman was not describing the view towards which Michael Woods was now advancing, but the scenery is very charming in both directions.
It is no wonder Michael Woods was pleased with the charming country which lay spread out before him when he stood in the gap and looked toward the south and southeast. It is, of course, lovelier today than it was in 1734, as the whole region is under cultivation, and farm houses and villages greet the eye in every direction. Just here Michael Woods spent the remaining twenty-eight years of his life, and here, in his own private burial ground, his dust has reposed since 1762, besides that of his wife and some of his children and children's children.

The extremely exposed position occupied by the Woodses and Wallaces at the base of the Blue Ridge from the time of their settlement there in 1734 until the close of the French and Indian Wars in 1763 -- a period of nearly thirty years -- must be borne in mind in order to understand aright the conditions in the midst of which they lived. In all those years, they were a frontier region, and constantly in danger of Indian outrages. Whilst, as stated above, the Indians were not formally and avowedly at war with the whites for most of this period, but only with each other, yet they were constantly passing to and fro through the country, and now and then committed the most terrible deeds of blood. For instance, in December 1742, only about eight years after Michael Woods settled at Woods's Gap, a band of Pawnees from north on the Ohio invaded the Valley, and John McDowell, the son-in-law of Michael Woods, with eight of his companions, was killed by them on the James River near Balcony Falls, in what is now Rockbridge County where the North river enters the James.

In 1755 -- Sunday, July 8 -- the very day before Braddock's defeat in Pennsylvania, occurred the noted massacre at Drapers Meadows on New River, in what is now Montgomery County, Virginia. The next day -- July 9, 1755 -- the defeat of the British and Virginians by the French and Indians at Fort Duquesne and the death of General Braddock, their commander, soon sent a thrill of horror all through Virginia and especially through the sparsely settled region in which the Woodses and Wallaces then lived.

Thackery, in "The Virginians," quoted by Waddell, gives a graphic description of the speed with which the news of this fearful disaster reached all parts of the colony, and of the terror which seemed then to seize every one. Of the 300 Virginia militia in the battle, ninety per cent were killed, only thirty escaping alive. The consternation of the inhabitants throughout the exposed regions near and west of the Blue Ridge was such as we can scarcely understand in these days of peace.

Many settlers left their homes and fled, some even going down into North Carolina. The reason was that everybody fully expected that the Indians, emboldened by their notable victory, would in a few days or weeks, at most, overrun the more exposed settlements, and murder the inhabitants and destroy everything they might be unable to carry away.

Now, Michael Woods and his children were at this critical moment living in one of the most insecure localities in the colony, immediately on that very warpath from the northwest which the savages would be expected to travel on their mission of blood and destruction. What sorrow, consternation and dread filled the hearts of the men and women of whom we now write, we can only imagine, for they have left us only the briefest records to inform us of their fearful experiences; but we know that the Woodses, Wallaces, McDowells, Lapsleys, etc. were there with their wives, their helpless little children and all their worldly possessions, and were in sore peril and distress, such as but few of their descendants have ever known. Michael Woods, therefore, spent the whole of the twenty-eight years which he lived in Virginia in the midst of the hardships and strenuous conditions of a frontier life, and in all our estimates of them we must keep in mind if we would understand what manner of folk our ancestors were.Whether Michael Woods purchased any land in Virginia at the time he migrated thither, we now have no means of determining; but Dr. Edgar Woods, who has given this question much careful study, seems to have concluded that Michael's first investment in Goochland County (now Albemarle) was made in 1737, three years after he settled in that region. Certain it is as official records show, Michael received three Crown Grants aggregating 1337 acres that year from King George II. The original patent for one of them, which is dated 4 June 1737 -- fourth year of George II -- and signed by Sir William Gooch, the then Lieutenant Governor of the "Colony and Dominion of Virginia" is now in the possession of Hon. Micajah Woods of Charlottesville, Virginia, and a copy of the same is in the hands of the writer.

This 400-acre tract lay on Lickinghole Creek and Mechums River. That same year, he bought a tract of 2,000 acres on Ivy Creek, not far from one Charles Hudson, which said Hudson had patented in 1735. Michael's son Archibald and his son-in-law William Wallace procured patents for Crown Grants the same year that Michael did, for about the same number of acres each, and in the same neighborhood. Archibald had probably just reached his majority, having been born, as is supposed, in 1716. It is also asserted -- upon what authority we know not -- that on that day Michael received other grants of land aggregating 6,674 acres, and that three of his sons received grants of about 5,400 acres. Land was ridiculously cheap in that part of the country at that early pioneer period, the colonial authorities being only too glad to have sturdy settlers occupy the frontier and bear the brunt of developing the country in the face of the tremendous difficulties necessary to be encountered. Brawn, brain and nerve counted for more than cash at that particular time, and in that particular part of the colony; and it is very probably that our ancestors of that period had more of the former than of the last-named commodity. No other theory can we explain for their willingness to settle and live in that part of the world. By frugality and industry, however, they bettered their conditions, and some of the children of Michael seem to have accumulated a considerable amount of property before passing away.

WE do not know whether or not Michael woods ever gave his main farm or plantation any distinctive name, but it had at least two names since his death. In his will, dated in 1761, he makes no reference to his old home place whatever. The only land referred to in that document was a certain tract of 680 acres lying on Ivy Creek, which stream was, at its nearest point, six or seven miles to the east of the place on which Michael resided. It seems nearly certain that he had conveyed his home place, or at least that portion of it on which stood his dwelling house, to his son William, years before he died. Michael was seventy-eight years old at the time of his death, and had probably been a widower for at least nineteen years; for in numerous conveyances he executed in 1743, his wife's name does not appear. But we know that William Woods sold part of the old place to one Thomas Adams about 1773 and that Adams, in making his will in 1788, left it to a Judge Blair, and spoke of it as "Mountain Plains". That was evidently the name the plantation had long been known by. After Judge blair came into possession of it, however, it came to be called "Blair Park," a name it holds to this day. And because there were so many Woodses named Michael, in honor of the head of the family, one of who was his own son, in order to distinguish the old patriarch from all the other Michaels, he came to be known by all as "Michael Woods of Blair Park."
The comparatively level stretch of country included within its plantation, and lying just at the foot of the Blue Ridge, and in close proximity to several considerable outlying peaks, made the name of Mountain Plains very appropriate, and it is to be regretted that this historic and suggestive appellation was ever dropped.

The first church of any faith, except that of the English Established Church, in Goochland County, belonged to Presbyterians, and was created on or close to Michael Woods's place and owed its existence mainly to Woodses and Wallaces. This church was called the Mountain Plains Church, in honor of Michael Woods; and though the Presbyterians finally became scarce in that vicinity in after years as to induce them to sell their use of worship to a sister denomination of Christians (the Baptists), the name of Mountain Plains still adheres to it, thereby affording another reason why Michael's old home place should never have been called by another name than that which connected it so appropriately with the first man that ever came into that neighborhood to make a home.

Another change of names, fully as regrettable as this, is here suggested to the writer's mind and that is the one which was made in the name of the gap in the Blue Ridge which looks down upon the spot where Michael Woods lived and which was for so many years knows as Woods's Gap. In all the earlier published volumes, this was the recognized name for that mountain pass. In 1757, ,the Virginia Colonial Assembly designated it in that way. If ever there as s a spot which had an appropriate name, it was that gap, when called for Michael Woods. He was not only the first white man that settled anywhere within twenty miles of it, but he made his home right by it for twenty-eight years; and above all, he was as worthy a citizen as ever resided in that part of the land, and reared there one of the most reputable families the county has ever produced. But this small honor, the State of Virginia has allowed him to be deprived of. About eighty or ninety years ago, one Thomas JArmon purchased land on the crest of the Blue Ridge at that pass, and from that time on the name of Woods has become displaced by that of Jarmon, and now all the maps have it "Jarmon's Gap." To be sure, it is not a vital matter or worth any contention, and yet it does seem hardly the handsome thing for Virginia to lend her countenance to a change so needless, and one which takes from one or her worthiest pioneers the only public recognition he never had in the records of a colony and State to which he gave so many gallant defenders during the French and Indian Wars and the Revolution. It is modestly suggested that it would not be amiss in the Virginia Legislature, at some time in the not distant future, to indulge in a little "poetic justice" by ordaining that said pass be hereafter recognized, in all the official acts of the State thereto relating, by its ancient and proper designation: "Woods's Gap." The worthy gentleman whose name became attached to this beautiful mountain pass -- Mr. Jarmon -- could hardly oppose the change to the original designation, for his own beloved daughter, Miss Mary, showed a special liking for the name of Woods by marrying one of old Michael's grandsons.

The religious beliefs and denominational preferences of the Woodses were, as we have good reasons for believing, Presbyterian, in the main. That Michael woods and his wife, Mary Campbell, and the Wallaces, and the McDowells, and Lapsleys were Scotch Presbyterian, there seems to be no cause for doubt. Some members of the next generation, however, became ardent Baptists. As the generations have come and gone since 1750, and intermarriages with members of various other faiths have occurred, the solidity of the Presbyterians "line" has been very considerably broken, and yet it is probably true that more of the descendants of the families name above can still be found in the Presbyterian fold than in any other one denomination of Christians.

The religious privileges of the settlers at Woods's Gap were probably never very abundant at any period in the eighteenth century; they were painfully meagre for the first ten or fifteen years of the Mountain Plains settlement. It is not likely there was anywhere within a reasonable distance of Woods's Gap a regular church of any kind prior to the year 1740. It was about that year, or a little later, that Presbyterian churches began to be organized throughout the Valley, and in the year 1745, the first steps were taken by the inhabitants of Woods's Gap to secure a regular minister of the Gospel. A travelling evangelist had occasionally passed that way, but no church had been organized, and no stated public religious meetings had been held. The good people had, indeed, brought with them their Bibles and Psalm books and Catechisms and a few devotional volumes, and family religion was regularly maintained, we may feel sure; but there was, for many years in the wilderness, a sad dearth of public ordinances of Religion. It was truly a life of privation those "backwoods inhabitants" were obliged to live, and the struggle they had to maintain with the forces of nature in the as yet unsubdued wilderness, coupled with constant exposure to Indian depredations, of necessity dulled very greatly their sense of spiritual things, and tended to make them careless about purely religious concerns. But their previous training in godly homes in Ireland and Scotland could not be wholly obliterated and those hard conditions with which they had to deal must have often made them feel their need of help other than human, so that the fires on their family altars and in their hearts never quite died out.

So we find that, in 1745, John Woods, one of old Michael's favorite sons, was sent to Donegal Presbytery, away up in Pennsylvania, to process a call for the ministerial services of a Rev. John Hindman on behalf of the churches of Mountain Plains and Rockfish. This effort was not successful, however, but it was renewed two years later. In 1747, a call, signed by fifty-seven persons, was sent on to a Rev. Samuel Black to become the pastor of the scattered sheep of Christ's fold at Mountain Plains and Ivy Creek. This gentleman accepted the call, and was the first Presbyterian minister that ever resided in Albemarle County. He was there by 1751, and remained about twenty years, though he probably did not serve the people at Woods's Gap very long, as the records of Hanover Presbytery for 1755 show that a petition was then before it from the people of that section asking for preacher. In March, 1756, in response to that request, the famous Samuel Davies spent a few days preaching for them. He had a regular charge in Hanover County, and could only pay them a brief visit. But as the years passed the opportunities for the stated services of regular ministers increased. During the last third of the eighteenth century, the Presbytery of Hanover met in that region of Albemarle at least a dozen times and by the year 1800, the rural districts of that part of Virginia were fairly well supplied with Gospel privileges. But the first quarter of a century which the Woodses and Wallaces spent in Virginia were years of spiritual destitution, as well as physical hardship.

(The next few pages deal with the will of Michael Woods, Sr.)

Of the funeral exercises held over the remains of Michael Woods, we have no record. We only know that his family burial ground was situated about three to five-hundred yards south of his dwelling, and there he was laid to rest. His beloved wife, Mary Campbell, had probably been dead about twenty years, as her name does not appear in deeds he executed in 1743. In conveying to his won William a tract of 294 acres many years before his death, which included the old homestead and the family burial ground, Michael expressly reserved to himself and heirs forever the right to enter and care for said burial ground, and prohibited any and all persons from cultivating or disturbing the same. In 1895, the date at which the photo was taken of this little "God's Acre," which was used in producing the engraving herewith given, there was a rail fence around the spot, and the entire enclosure was thickly met with cherry trees. Michael's grave is still visible, and is located in the extreme northwestern corner of th plot, but the rude head and foot stones which were originally set there have fallen down, and the portion of the stone which contained the inscription was broken off about 1860, and its whereabouts are no longer known. The neglected and ragged condition of this burial ground, in which many of the Woodses were interred, is a reproach to their descendants. The living representatives owe it to their ancestors and to themselves to atone for this neglect by enclosing that plot with a neat and substantial iron fence and erecting a marble shaft in honor of those yet sleeping there. If each one of the now living descendants of Michael Woods would contribute one dollar, this good work could easily be accomplished.

Attention is called here to the peculiar manner in which Michael signed his name -- he always wrote a small letter "m" between Michael and Woods, and a little below the line, as though it were the initial of a middle name. We do not understand it.

Before proceeding to give some account of the children of Michael Woods and Mary Campbell, his wife, it is incumbent on us to settle how many children there were, and what names they bore. This is needful because most of those persons who have undertaken to write about Michael Woods have gone upon the supposition that the six children mentioned by him in his will were the only ones he had. As soon as the present writer began gathering material for this volume, this question confronted him, and he saw it had to be settled in one way or another in order to be able to give a satisfactory account of the numerous branches of Woodses claiming kinship with Michael of Blair Park. After making a pretty thorough investigation of the subject, and consulting every available source of information, he has reached the positive conclusion that Michael of Blair Park had a number of children in addition to the six mentioned in the will. They had at least eleven children, which is five more than are named in his will, and it shall be ours now to prove.

In the first place, a family of ten or a dozen children in those brave old days was not considered an especially large one. It is not unheard of even in our own time. The writer is himself the youngest of an even dozen children, all having the same father and mother. Certain it is that a family of only six children was, a hundred years ago, considered a small one.

(The net eight pages are used in proving that the eleven children of Michael and Mary did exist and proof in affidavits proving the same are given in considerable number.)