Thomas Woodward

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Was the surveyor Thomas Woodward of Isle of Wight County, Virginia the same person as the Thomas Woodward who was Assay Master of the Mint in England in 1649?

by T.J. White, 4 Nov 2007

See also Some Questions Regarding the Parentage of, and Other Issues Relating to, Thomas Woodward, Esq.

That the Thomas Woodward of Virginia (the land-surveyor)1 was the same person as the Thomas Woodward who was Assay Master of the Mint2, is, I think, established beyond question by several facts:

Foremost among these is the reference to his elder son John (in England) petitioning Charles II in 1661 for his father's old post3, and then (four years later) the mention of the post as being "vacant by death of John Woodward and the absence of Thomas Woodward, his father, who if alive, is at some plantation on York River, in Virginia"4.   This area was in fact where Christopher Woodward then lived5 — not Thomas (who actually resided in Isle of Wight County).  But that fact does not lessen the force of the connection, I think; rather, it merely shows that the officials back in London only thought that Thomas Woodward was then residing in the York River area of Virginia.   Thomas Woodward of Virginia, in his 1677 will, implied that even he did not know if his son John was alive in England, or had produced any heirs6, indicating a serious lack of communication between them — probably of several years' duration.  Thus, it is absolutely no surprise that the government in London evidently had faulty and inaccurate information (probably through that same son John) about Thomas Woodward's whereabouts in 1665.   From the excellent colonial American documentation I have seen for this Thomas Woodward, I can surmise that he evidently profited quite well off his North American ventures7, and this would be ample reason to prevent him from ever desiring to return to London and regain his old post there.

John Bennett Boddie believed this Thomas Woodward to have been a cousin of some degree to both Col. Nathaniel Bacon and Col. Sir Philip Honywood8 (though he did not directly state his sources for such a belief). This possibility, in and of itself, offers no real support for answering our question at hand, though (if true), it will provide indirect, circumstantial evidence showing our Thomas Woodward to have been a man from a privileged background, and one likely to have been comfortable in the company of the political elite of English society. Further evidence for Thomas Woodward’s privileged position in society (at least colonial American society) has already been seen in Boddie’s Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight.9

And this leads us straight into a few final facts worth rehearsing, as we consider this question of the identities of the two Thomas Woodwards — here, and in England: Thomas Woodward’s political appointments in Virginia and Carolina included his serving variously as: clerk of Isle of Wight County, surveyor for Governor Berkeley (Virginia), secretary for the colony (Carolina), member of the Governor’s Council (Carolina), and (with Governor Drummond) a Commissioner in the dispute with Maryland and Virginia over tobacco planting.10   One final question: Boddie had earlier stated that Thomas Woodward had departed England by “about 1649”11 apparently arriving at this tentative date by comparison with the date on which Woodward was terminated from his post as Assay Master. Certainly, Thomas Woodward does not show up in Virginia until 1652, which is when he was first appointed as clerk of the county.12 Assuming he was appointed thusly fairly soon after his arrival in the colony, we would be left with a gap of about three years, during which time anything could have happened. The Journal of the House of Commons, Volume 6, under date of 13 February, 1650, may possibly help fill this gap: it shows either that (a) this Thomas Woodward was still residing in England, and had been appointed as Sheriff of Surrey (his radical and outspoken Royalist politics notwithstanding)13, or (b) there was then another person by this name, also active in British politics and civil service:

Resolved, upon the Question, by the Parliament, That Thomas Woodward Esquire be nominated and approved of to be High Sheriff of the County of Surrey for this present Year: And that the Lords Commissioners for the Great Seal of England do issue a Commission to him to be High Sheriff of the said County accordingly.14   Though this last question (as also the issue of Woodward’s possible relationship to Bacon and Honywood) may never be resolved to our satisfaction, I think the evidence is fairly certain that the two Thomas Woodwards mentioned in this article—the surveyor in colonial America, and the Assay Master of the Mint in London, England, are in fact one and the same person.


1 Several of Thomas Woodward Sr.’s land patents in Virginia and Carolina in the 1660s and 1670s are described in "Woodwards of Isle of Wight County, Virginia" by researcher J. Gary Woodward, at the following site:  

Addionally, Boddie mentioned this Thomas Woodward as official surveyor of Carolina Colony in his Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight, page 127:
Thomas Woodward, clerk of Isle of Wight County from 1652 to 1662, and heretofore mentioned as a fiery Royalist, was the surveyor for Governor Berkeley’s grants to these first colonists. The colony consisted of twenty-seven families and 447 servants. Woodward obtained three large grants for himself and his family. The total number of acres patented were approximately 29,000 and out of this Woodward surveyed 5,250 acres for himself, so he must have had faith in the colony. While in Carolina Woodward served as secretary for the colony, member of the Governor’s Council, and together with Governor Drummond, was Commissioner to treat with Maryland and Virginia for a cessation of tobacco planting.

2 House of Commons Journal Volume 6, online at: URL: Woodward.

“Fees and Diets of the Officers and Ministers of the Mint, to be borne by the Keepers of the Liberties of England, by Authority of Parliament; and to be paid by the Warden, in Manner and Form hereafter expressed; and until the Parliament of England shall otherwise ordain.

John St. John:-First, To the Wardens of the Mint, for the Time being, for their Fee, by the Year100--
Walter Grime:-To the Wardens Clerk, by the Year20--
Henry Cogan:-To the Comptroller of the Mint, for the Time being, by the Year66134
Peter Fenton:-To his Clerk, for his Fee, by the Year1368
Andrew Palmer, Tho. Woodward:-To the Assay Masters of the Mint, for the Time being, for their Fee, by the Year66134

From: House of Commons Journal Volume 6: 6 July 1649, Journal of the House of Commons: volume 6: 1648-1651 (1802), pp. 251-254. Date accessed: 04 November 2007. [emphasis supplied]

3 Boddie (op.cit., page 108): “Thomas Woodward, Assay Master of the Mint, had also fled from England to Isle of Wight County about 1649. His story is told in a petition of his son John to Charles II, upon his restoration, as follows: ‘November 1661, Petition of John, son of Thomas Woodward, to the king: to be put into possession of the house and office of Assay Master of the Mint, held by his father until the late troubles, when John Bradshaw, the so-called President of the Council of State, on the 23rd of October, 1649, dismissed him for refusing obedience to the usurper’s power and put in Samuel Bartlett. On this his father repaired to Virginia with a public declaration never to see England again till His Majesty’s return; is forthwith sending him the joyful news, and wishes to keep the office until his [father’s] return, or if he be dead, to have a grant of it himself.” …

4 “Woodwards of Isle of Wight County, Virginia” (op.cit.).

5 op.cit.

6 As J. Gary Woodward writes, "The will of Thomas Woodward was dated October 5, 1677 and proven October 9, 1677, in Isle of Wight Co., Virginia. He named his wife-Katherine; daughters-Katherine, Elizabeth, Mary, Rachel, and Philarite; sons- Thomas and John; and provided: 'if my Sonn John hath left any Children in England I do give them Two full pounds apiece.' [Will Book No.2, 1666-1719, p.165] & [Blanche Adams Chapman. Wills and Administrations of Isle of Wight Co., Virginia, 1647-1800. p.17]". (In "Woodwards of Isle of Wight County, Virginia", op.cit.)

7 ”Woodwards of Isle of Wight County, Virginia” (op.cit.)

8 John Bennett Boddie: Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight, "The Coming of the Cavaliers", page 107, which states (in part):   "Sir Philip Honeywood had some relatives then living in Isle of Wight County. They were Thomas Woodward, formerly Assay Master of the Mint to Charles I, and Colonel Nathaniel Bacon. Colonel Bacon was the son of the Reverend James Bacon and Martha Woodward, and a grandson of Elizabeth Honeywood who lived to be ninety-two years of age and was noted for her charitable bequests. ..."   Though Boddie never directly stated as much (to my knowledge), he apparently based this belief in the following marriage contract involving both Bacon and Woodward:   "Major George Fawdon, Burgess from Isle of Wight in 1653, married a step-daughter of Colonel Bacon's. Major Fawdon deeded 1,500 acres of land to "Mistress Ann Smith", whom he intended to make his wife, October 30, 1654. After the marriage ceremony, he and his wife Ann, made an agreement in which they obligated themselves never to alienate the land "without the consent and approbation of our father-in-law, Nathaniel Bacon, and our mother Ann, his wife, with our brother William Smith." One of the witnesses to this agreement was Thomas Woodward. ..." [op.cit., page 108]   Now, I agree that simply witnessing a contract (even a marriage contract) does not automatically make one a relation!  Boddie's belief aside, then, other evidence to support the idea that Woodward was related to Bacon and Honywood must be sought after.

Boddie mentioned several references for these Woodwards: a Woodward pedigree in Familiae Minorum Gentium, IV, page 1300, Keith’s Ancestry of Benjamin Harrison, and [Tyler’s?] Quarterly, II, page 216 et seq.

9 page 127.

10 ibid.

11 op. cit., page 108

12 op.cit., page 127

13 Much later, in Virginia, a member of the House of Burgesses (one James Pyland) was actually expelled (by the by-then Puritan-dominated body) for aiding and “abetting Thomas Woodward” in his “mutinous and rebellious declaration” against Parliament. (Boddie, op.cit., page 108.) If Thomas Woodward had the same attitude toward the Puritans in the 1640s that he later did in the 1650s and 60s, then it is no wonder he was dismissed from his post as Assay-Master by the Puritan-controlled Parliament.

14 From: House of Commons Journal Volume 6: 13 February 1650, Journal of the House of Commons: volume 6: 1648-1651 (1802), pp. 363-365.

URL: Woodward. Date accessed: 04 November 2007.

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