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My 10th great grandparents John and Sarah Woodson sailed to Virginia in April of 1619 on the ship George.  John Woodson was the surgeon to the Jamestowne Company. They would have landed near the Jamestowne Fort. However, the population by that time was expanding beyond the fort. So John and Sarah settled in one of the newer James River Plantations, Flowerdew Hundred, which is upriver from Jamestown. A hundred was historically a division of a shire or county. Flowerdew Hundred was named after the Flowerdew family.

John Woodson, the Doctor

Many refer to John Woodson as Doctor; however, he was not a trained physician. According to the website A History of Medicine, as it refers to medicine in the 17th century: “In an age before anesthetics, surgery is inevitably a limited branch of medicine. It is also considered a rather lowly craft, despised by doctors whose reputation is based on their knowledge of the approved authorities rather than clinical skills. Surgeons are linked with barbers, who also require sharp instruments to practice their trade.”

From a website about Colonial Doctors: “Very few medical advances had been made by colonial times. Medicines were made from herbs, roots, tree bark, plants and occasionally even animal parts. Bleeding a patient was a common practice and was believed to remove harmful toxins from the body. Aches and pains were treated with a hot poultice, and a cold cloth was one of the best remedies available for a fever. Headaches could be treated by smoking cottonweed boiled in lye in a pipe, or with vinegar of roses. Other remedies proved more effective and are still used in medications today. Calamine was used for skin irritation, and chalk was used for heartburn.”

From Patrick Napier, Colonial Surgeon: “During the early colonial times, many doctors came to Virginia with the prospects of being able to practice medicine freely, with virtually no restrictions.  They provided an important service to the colonists…Dr. Patrick Napier was not the only colonial surgeon that was present in Jamestown during this time, but along with the 5-6 other physicians they are noted for helping to keep the colony alive and practicing the first bits of medicine in the New World.”

Abraham Piersey purchased the Flowerdew Plantation in 1624 and renamed it Piersey’s Hundred. John and Sarah are on the 1624 Muster, where 60 people were recorded as living there.

John Woodson survived the Indian massacre of 1622. However, when Powhatan ordered a second massacre throughout the Virginia and Maryland region,  John Woodson was killed during that Indian uprising on April 18, 1644. Over 500 English were killed during that attack.

The story passed down through generations states that John’s wife Sarah, along with a man named Ligon, fought off and killed three Indians in her home with a long rifle. That rifle, having had many changes to it over it’s history, is housed in the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond, Virginia.

The Woodson rifle at the Virginia Historical Society. Photo taken by me in 2008
The Woodson rifle at the Virginia Historical Society. Photo taken by me in 2008
Plaque next the rifle, which tells the story of the rifle.
Plaque next the rifle, which tells the story of the rifle.
From the book Jamestown Narratives by Edward Wright Haile
From the book Jamestown Narratives by Edward Wright Haile

There are numerous websites that have information on John Woodson. They are listed at the end of this page.

Flowerdew Hundred

In 1981, David Harrison II, then owner of Flowerdew Hundred, created the Flowerdew Hundred Foundation. The Foundation operated a museum and conducted tours of the plantation and reconstructed windmill until 2007. After Harrison’s death the museum closed in October 2007, the reconstructed windmill was dismantled, and the plantation was sold. The University of Virginia houses the collections from Flowerdew Hundred. A Time magazine 1972 article entitled America’s King Tut tells us that a stone foundation of a manor house was discovered at the plantation in 1971.

I had the good fortune to visit the Flowerdew Hundred Museum in December 2006 before it closed. The docent of our tour told us that the house, (photo below), was likely the home of John and Sarah Woodson because he would have been the most prominent person at Flowerdew. You can see what remains of the brick foundation of that house in the photo below.

I’m so glad I was able to visit there before it closed. It’s such a shame that it has been lost to history, never to open again. I’ve enclosed photos from our trip to Flowerdew Hundred…



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Here are some websites that have information on John Woodson:

John Woodson of  Flowerdew Plantation, Virginia:

John Woodson:

Biography of Dr. John Woodson:

Roots and all — A Genealogy Blog:

The Woodson Family:

Descendants of Dr. John Woodson:

Historical Genealogy of the Woodsons and Their Connections:

Dr. John Woodson Facebook page:

John Woodson (1585-1644) and Sarah Winston Woodson (1590-1660) – One Survived a Massacre, the Other Didn’t:

Dr. John & Sarah (LNU) Woodson:

The yDNA Woodson project:

Flowerdew Hundred Archaeological Collection Facebook page:

Archaeology at Flowerdew Hundred: