The Woods Family - Part 1

Dublin Core


The Woods Family - Part 1


For those of you that might find something familiar about these stories, my longtime co-author, Bob Grise, wrote an article on Archibald Woods some 12 years ago.

In case you have forgotten these strands of Madison’s early heritage, I present this exposition of a family tree, from a member of the family no less.

Clarence E. Woods was editor of the Richmond Climax when this story was originally published in January of 1900. It bears repeating 111 years later. There are still a number of people living in Madison county who are the descendents of families mentioned in this article.

“Jasper Castle, local historian and the primary source for this article, states that Diana Woods of Madison County was married to Harold Kirby — one time sheriff and of Madison County. (Another Harold Kirby was sheriff and then judge.executive in the 1970s and 1980s.) She now lives in Florida. and Jasper thinks her father was Clarence Woods, our editor and author of today’s tales.

“Diana’s daughter DeeDee is married to Randy Hankins. They live on Otter Creek in Madison County, about 100 yards from the old Wilderness Road. If they listen carefully on some spring morning they may hear old Archibald Woods Sr. passing by in his carriage.”

Quoting from Clarence E. Woods and John D. Goodloe’s original article: “Archibald Woods Sr. was a prominent lawyer of Madison County. He was the fourth son of Col. William Woods and Susan Wallace Woods of Virginia. He was born in what is now Albemarle County Virginia on the 27th of January 1749, and was married on the 5th of August, 1773, to Miss Mourning Shelton, a daughter of William Shelton and Lucy Harris.

“Lucy Harris was the daughter of Major Robert Harris and Mourning Green; and Robert Harris was the son of William Harris and Temperance Overton. William Harris was the only son of Robert Harris, an immigrant from Wales in the 1650s, who married the widow Rice.

“Temperance Overton was the daughter of William Overton and Mary Waters. William Overton was the son of Col. Overton, who commanded a brigade of “Ironsides” at Dunbar, under Oliver Cromwell, eventual Lord High Protector of England under the brief 17th century Commonwealth of England.

“In 1774, Archibald Woods, Sr. moved to Monroe County, Virginia, being then a resident of Montgomery County, Virginia. He entered the military service of the United States as a captain of Virginia Militia and at once set out from what is now Monroe County under a Col. Russell, on a march of some 200 miles to relieve Fort Watauga (in what is now East Tennessee).

“This expedition lasted about six weeks and the return march was hastened by an express (rider) bringing the intelligence that the Shawnee Indians had commenced hostilities.

“Upon reaching home, he found the local people forted, and he was placed in command of the fort and local defenses until spring. After this, except during intervals of inclement weather, he was almost constantly employed in the frontier defenses, first under Col. James Henderson, until after the surrender of Cornwallis in 1781. He then surrendered his commission as captain of Virginia militia at the Greenbriar County court.

“He first came to Kentucky in December 1781. He returned to Virginia in February 1782, and removed his family to Estill Station, Madison County, Virginia [now Kentucky] in the fall of that year. The next year, 1783, he made his first crop on Pumpkin Run, where he had contracted with Col. Estill for 400 acres of land, including a spring represented to be everlasting.

“But, when the spring went dry that year, the contract with Col. Estill was cancelled, and in January 1784 he bought land on Dreaming Creek, a few miles north of the present site of Richmond. Here he built Wood’s Fort and there lived from 25 or 26 years. The first land he bought in Madison county was described by him in a legal deposition as “1000 acres of as good land as any in the Estill station survey,” and the price he paid was a rifle gun.

“The original commission of Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia, appointing him, along with nine others, as ‘Gentlemen Justices of the Peace’ for Madison County Kentucky, to take effect August 1, 1785, is still (in 1900) in the possession of Judge William Chenault, of Richmond. The same document also appointed these same persons ‘Gentlemen Commissioners of Oyer and Terminer’ (from the French ‘to hear and decide’) with full jurisdiction to try and punish slaves for all penal and criminal offenses, including the infliction of capital punishment.”

At the Founding of Richmond

“Archibald Woods was still a magistrate in 1798 and as such voted for the removal of the county seat from Old Town (Milford) and presided at the court that established and named the town of Richmond and made it the county seat of Madison County. He was one of its first trustees and was appointed sheriff of Madison County on May 4, 1801.

“After extended land litigation in court [ong a pastime and passion of the residents of Madison County and Kentucky in general] for a quarter of a century, he was finally evicted from his home and land on Dreaming Creek, in a suit brought by one ‘Patrick.’

Being disgusted with the land laws of Kentucky that — on the basis of a technicality — took him from his home and the bulk of his estate in the sunset of his long life, he moved with his family in the fall of 1809 to Williamson County on Beans Creek in Middle Tennessee.

“It was here, on September 7, 1817, his wife Mourning Woods died at the age of 61 years and 8 months. On January 30, 1818. William married Dorcas Henderson and lived for a time in Franklin County, Tennessee. This marriage proved a very unhappy one, and a separation having occurred, he returned to Madison County in 1820.

“In January of 1833, being then a feeble old man of 84, being well nigh stripped of his property, he filed an application at Washington for a pension for his military services in the War of Independence and was promptly granted a pension of $480 per annum, to date from March 4, 1831. But for the affidavit of himself and the pension, no documentary proof could now be found of his military service except the Virginia military land warrant.

“He died on December 13, 1836, aged 87 years, 10 months and 17 days, at the residence of his son, Archibald Woods Jr. in Fort Estill, Madison County, Kentucky.”

According to the article published in 1900, “Archibald Woods Sr. was a fine specimen of the old Virginia gentleman. He maintained his carriages, horses and driver up until his death. He was a man of marked intelligence, great personal pride and dignity. The hospitality of is home was proverbial and his life, public and private, was pitched on the highest ideals of manhood and patriotism.”

More on the Woods family and Madison County history in our next column.

Again, thanks to Jasper Castle for this fascinating material about the early days of Madison’s heritage.


Dr. Fred Engle




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Dr. Fred Engle, “The Woods Family - Part 1,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed January 20, 2022,