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JOHN AND SARAH WOODSON
of Flowerdew Hundred, Virginia

Ancestor to my wife and my two daughters

Flowerdew Hundred was one of earliest English settlements in North America. The original grant was from 1618, eleven years after the settlement of Jamestown. Flowerdew Hundred was located thirty miles up the James River on the south bank in what later became Prince George County.

John and Sarah Woodson were among the original settlers at Flowerdew Hundred. They arrived in Virginia on April 19, 1619 on the ship George. They accompanied George Yeardley, the newly arriving Governor and Captain General of Virginia, who had been given the one thousand acre grant that he named Flowerdew Hundred. John Woodson had studied at Oxford and was a doctor.

Wahunsenacawh, also known as Chief Powhatan, the father of Pocahontas, had just passed away in 1618. His younger brother, Opechancanough, assumed power. He was sixty-four years old and well known as a great warrior and leader. He was far less interested in diplomacy. Openchancanough had captured John Smith, only to have his brother prevent the execution of the Englishman. The main village of the Powhatan Confederacy, which encompassed all of Tidewater Virginia, was at the falls of the James River (present-day Richmond), not far up the James River from Flowerdew Hundred.

On the morning of Friday, March 22, 1622, Opechancanough led the Powhatan Confederacy in a series of coordinated attacks on English settlements along the James River. They killed nearly a third of the settlers in Virginia. Six of those were at Flowerdew Hundred. The settlement survived, primarily because of a sturdy stockade built for defensive purposes. The colony retaliated and killed hundreds of natives.

Abraham Piersey purchased Flowerdew Hundred in 1624 and renamed the settlement Piersy’s Hundred. The settlement grew and prospered.

John and Sarah had two sons, John, born in 1632, and Robert, born in 1634. In 1644, it had been twenty-two years since Opechancanough’s uprising. And the chief, however fierce, was ninety years old.

Dr. John Woodson was out seeing a patient on April 18, 1644 when Opechancanough launched his second uprising to wipeout the English settlement. A Powhatan raiding party came across the good doctor and killed him. Sarah Woodson was at home with her two young sons. The slaves were off, working in the field. Robert Ligon, the local schoolmaster, came to Sarah’s aid as the Powhatans approached Piersy’s Hundred. They dropped the heavy crossbars over the door and windows and prepared for the attack. Blood-curdling shrieks and war whoops filled the air. Sarah lifted the trap door and shoved young Robert down into the half-filled potato cellar. She raised the overturned tub and pushed little John underneath. Sarah took down the family musket from above the fireplace. It was an eight-foot long muzzle- loading matchlock fowling piece. She and Ligon climbed up into the sleeping loft and opened the small window. She loaded while Ligon fired shot after shot into the group of hostiles advancing on the cabin. Amidst the chaos of combat, Sarah heard a noise coming from the roof. She climbed down, dragged some bedding to the fireplace and threw it onto the coals. The resulting smoke overcame two attackers, who fell down the chimney. Sarah crushed them with an iron fireplace tool. With nine dead, the attackers finally withdrew.

Robert and John lived to marry and raise his own families and carry forward the family legacy. The family passed on the story over the years and maintained the Woodson musket. The piece now is on permanent exhibit in the Virginia State Museum in Richmond.

That was the final effort of the local native people to end European settlement. By this time, the English were much more numerous and stronger. Opechancanough died while a prisoner of the English.

John and Sarah Woodson’s great-great-great granddaughter Abigail Terrell married Captain William Henry Durrett in Caroline County, Virginia in 1770. Their great grandson, Henry Campbell Durrett, served as a cavalry officer in the Union Army (see Civil War Veterans section of this website).