Jamestown Descendants: Who’s Who, Part 1

Introduction: In this article, Melissa Davenport Berry begins her series on descendants of the Jamestown settlers, focusing here on Dr. John Woodson, the surgeon for the Jamestowne Company. Melissa is a genealogist who has a blog, AnceStory Archives, and a Facebook group, New England Family Genealogy and History.

Today I begin my series “Who’s Who” of Jamestown (also Jamestowne) descendants. GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives have a treasure trove of newspaper articles and information on those who descend from the families of Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in the New World.

Photo: Stephen Tscharner Woodson from “Historical Genealogy of the Woodsons and Their Connections, Part 1.” H. M. Woodson, 1915.
Photo: Stephen Tscharner Woodson from “Historical Genealogy of the Woodsons and Their Connections, Part 1.” H. M. Woodson, 1915.

I found an obituary in the San Jose Mercury News for Stephen Tscharner Woodson (1823-1917), a descendant of Dr. John Woodson, the surgeon for the Jamestowne Company. Dr. Woodson came to Virginia in April 1619 on the ship George with Sir George Yeardly and settled on Flowerdew Hundred (aka Flower de Hundred, or Peirsey’s Hundred) on the south side of the James River. Dr. Woodson had two sons with his wife Sarah, and Stephen descends from his son Robert.

An obituary for Stephen Woodson, San Jose Mercury News newspaper article 30 September 1917
San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, California), 30 September 1917, page 21


  • Stephen Tscharner Woodson married Johanna Johnson
  • Joseph Royall Woodson and Miranda Aminda Woodson, daughter of Tscharner de Graffenried Woodson and Lucy Michaux; granddaughter of Miller Woodson and Mary Baker de Graffenried
  • Stephen Woodson and Mary Holman
  • Stephen Woodson and Lucy Farrar/Ferrar
  • Stephen Woodson and Elizabeth Branch (Jamestowne Christopher Branch)
  • John Woodson and Judith Ursula Tarleton
  • Robert Woodson and Elizabeth Ferris
  • John Woodson and Sarah Winston

According to Stephen’s obituary:

“Stephen T. Woodson, a pioneer of Santa Clara County [California], passed away September 27, [1917], at the home of his daughter, Mrs. F. A. Dulion, in Pala Alto. Mr. Woodson was born February 22, 1823, in Cumberland County, Virginia, and was nearly 95 years old at the time of his death. His ancestors were among the earliest settlers of Jamestown, Virginia. Mr. Woodson was a soldier during the war with Mexico and served his country faithfully. He took part in the battles of Monterey, Vera Cruz, and Sierra Gordo. He was honorably discharged from the army. He came to California by way of Panama in 1850. The love of adventure and the lure of gold drew him first to the mines; later he settled near Campbell and there in 1854, married Miss Johanna Johnson. Santa Clara County has been his home ever since.”

According to Woodson family history, Stephen spent much of his boyhood life at “Needham,” the home of his great aunt Sally Woodson Taylor in Cumberland County, Virginia.

Photo: western side of “Needham,” home of Sally Woodson Taylor and her husband Creed Taylor, located on State Route 45 north of Farmville in Cumberland County, Virginia. Stephen T. Woodson spent his early years here.
Photo: western side of “Needham,” home of Sally Woodson Taylor and her husband Creed Taylor, located on State Route 45 north of Farmville in Cumberland County, Virginia. Stephen T. Woodson spent his early years here. Credit: Nyttend; Wikimedia Commons.

Stephen was a man of unusual vitality and remarkable energy. As a mark of appreciation for his services in the Mexican War, the United States government gave him a pension of $20 per month.

Another descendant of Dr. John Woodson, George W. Bright, made headlines in 1984 when he was giving a lecture series on cultures past and present that included the topic “the art of scalping.” Bright, a professor at Midlands Technical College in Columbia, South Carolina, claimed to be the foremost authority on the ancient art of taking scalps. According to the next newspaper article:

“Bright got into scalps, he said, after discovering that one of his ancestors had his removed in the 1600s, and another relative perfected a method for growing it all back. The two with different interests in hair were 130 years apart.”

Scalping sort of ran in the family.

An article about George Bright, Knoxville News-Sentinel newspaper article 5 October 1984
Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tennessee), 5 October 1984, page 17

Of his ancestor Dr. John Woodson, Bright said:

“The Indians pulled a surprise raid [on 18 April 1644] and he [Woodson] didn’t make it. He was killed and scalped.”

But there is more to this hairy tale. Dr. John’s wife Sarah was left to defend her home and two sons: John, age 10; and Robert, age 12. A neighbor, Mr. Ligon, came to the house to help Sarah and they fought off the attackers. You can read more about this and the Woodson family at Jamestowne Society.

Sarah earned the reputation of a hardy pioneer lass and her boys became known as John “Tub” and “Potato Hole” Robert because, during the raid, Sarah hid John under a washtub and Robert got into the hole where potatoes were stored. Because these two boys survived, the Woodson family line was carried on.

Stay tuned for more on Jamestown descendants!

Note on the header image: a photo of the reenactment of the first landing on the 400th anniversary as part of the Jamestown 2007 commemoration. Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew Bookwalter.

28 thoughts on “Jamestown Descendants: Who’s Who, Part 1

  1. Melissa, I love this, fabulous about Jamestowne! Keep them coming, we love to hear about Jamestown and her people, so much history and interesting people that hundreds of thousands descend from.

  2. Please help me to understand how Dr. Woodson, who came to Virginia in 1619, is one “of the earliest settlers of James Towne.” The same James Towne where the first settlers arrived between May 1607- Oct 1609.
    Thank you. I am interested in knowing so I can best clarify if my ancestors can also be called earliest settlers or not.

    1. Elaine,
      Thanks. I came across some records that noted Sarah was a Winston and came from a Quaker background. I will post those to your comment soon. I have been looking through Quaker records in England, which are being updated everyday, as there is an ongoing project there. Is this your line? It is also noted that the Woodson’s were Quakers.

  3. Hi, I am a member of the Jamestowne Society through Dr. John Woodson. The genealogist Mr. Hart III did not accept Sarah’s last name, Winston. The official listing is just Sarah.

    1. Debbie, I came across some records that noted Sarah was a Winston and came from a Quaker background. I will post those to your comment soon. I understand that once a line application is completed the Jamestowne Society does not update/alter the lineage even after new discoveries. Is that correct? I am very interested in early Quaker settlers and I will continue to dig. Thanks for the feedback.

  4. This is so cool! I’m a descendant of Lucy Farrar! Can’t wait to read in greater detail!

  5. I enjoyed your article and look forward to seeing your updates on Sarah. I am a Tub Woodson descendant on my mother’s side and am greatly interested in learning more about where my ancestors came from. Ancestors on my father’s side settled in New England, so I just looked at your FB group and will enjoy your blog, too. Thank you!

    1. Thank you Carla! I so appreciate it. I am looking forward to exploring more Jamestown stories to write. You will enjoy my New England Group on FB; it is very active and helpful. Stay tuned!

  6. I’m a descendant of Thomas Cheatham (born 1644 in Deane, Lancashire, England, died 1 Aug. 1726 in Henrico, Colony of Virginia, USA). Called the Ancient, he was one of the first settlers in Virginia. You can find him listed in: Early Virginia Families along the James River: Their Deep Roots and Tangled Branches, Vol. I. Genealogies of Virginia Families from the William and Mary College Quarterly, Vol. V. Thompson-Yates, Seventeenth Century Colonial Ancestors, Vol. I. Virginia Genealogical Society Quarterly, Branchiana: Being a partial account of the Branch family in Virginia and Descendants of Thomas Cheatham of Chesterfield County, Virginia, by Lucille Cheatham Moseley.

  7. Melissa,
    I am interested in the Sarah Winston Quaker connection. I proved Jane Larcome Tucker Pleasants into the Early Quakers, and now trying to decide which line I will come into Jamestown on, Woodson, Cary, Jordan, Ellyson. I would rather do a new line…

  8. I am new to all this info. Wondered if you have any on the Easley family. Henri from France to Robert. Would like to know what ship he came in and any info you might have. Thanks.

  9. Wondering… Sir Thomas Gates was an important member. I have a record of William and Arthur Swayne buying shares in Virginia Company from him, but I don’t see them listed.

  10. Don’t feel bad, back in the early 1980s I tried to get into the Jamestowne Society and sent them the citations from the footnotes of Purse and Persons, and their in-house genealogist turned me down for sending the source material rather than using the book. They did not want the primary documentation only the secondary one. At least they are not as bad as FFV where they want your social standing before admittance. Good, Bad, or Ugly, no one can control what their ancestors did in life. Back then I did not need a $75 piece of paper to tell me where I came from. Great article on Dr. John Woodson, graduate of St. John’s College, Oxford, 1 March 1604. On the Council in 1619 in VA and also listed as an early purchaser of Negroes in 1620 and one of the first to register them as property in 1623. I as well found Sarah his wife to be from Isaac Winston, the Quaker from Essex, England, and from: 1. Dr. John 1586-1644; 2. Robert 1634-1707; 3. Benjamin 1666-1723; 4. Elizabeth 1716-1794, who married James Daniel; 5. Woodson Daniel, late of Wake Co., N.C. 1736-1791; 6. James 1765-1853; 7. Dorinda 1810-1893, married Milton Watts Akin; 8. Mary Anne Elizabeth Akin 1829-1903, married Alexander Hamiter Dunn; 9. Frederick Clement Dunn 1861-1894; 10. Albert James Dunn 1886-1981; 11. Guye Randell Dunn 1929-1993; 12. Myself.

  11. I enjoyed your article on the Woodsons. I will always wonder who that “Mr. Ligon” was who was involved in the attack of 1644. My 8th great-grandfather Lt. Col. Thomas Ligon was a neighbor who arrived in 1640. The reference refers to a “Mr.” One would think the second cousin of the governor would be better known. I had the enjoyment of holding that musket that Mr. Ligon used in that raid. Plenty heavy though a part of the barrel had been removed.

  12. Is there information regarding a Christian Woodson, daughter of John Woodson (1655) and Mary Tucker (1640), who married Thomas Hodges about 1704 and had a son Edmund Hodges?

  13. Hi,
    I enjoyed your article very much! Where would we be today if not for those brave people who risked their lives to settle where they could live free from oppression?

    The Woodsons lived near my Clarke and Ellis lines in Henrico County. John Clarke and David Ellis are my ancestors, proven by DNA match. They came to Jamestown on the “Mary Margaret” in 1608. While not a member of the Jamestown Society, I am interested in it and wondered if DNA matches could be used where no paper documentation survived.

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