Abraham Woodward Biography

Abraham Woodward's Biography

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Abraham's Ancestry

Abraham Woodward's birth is recorded at Bradford Monthly Meeting in Chester County, Pennsylvania, as 4th month, 17th day, 1740. His parents were Quakers William and Eliza Marshall Woodward. Abraham was their third child and second son. Abraham's grandfather was Richard Woodward who was Elder of the Bradford Monthly Meeting in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Abraham Woodward's maternal grandparents were Abraham and Mary Hunt Marshall. Abraham was named for his grandfather, Abraham Marshall, who was a Quaker minister and also overseer of the Bradford Monthly Men's Meeting in Chester County.

Though there are no records of Abraham Woodward's childhood, we know some things about him that stemmed from the Quaker faith of his parents and grandparents. Abraham would have been well educated, both in his religious faith and in practical matters of reading and writing. Quaker children were encouraged at a very young age to keep a diary and daily record their thoughts and actions. Abraham would have been apprenticed sometime in his late teens to learn a trade. We know from his will that he was a cordwainer by trade. A cordwainer is a shoemaker who makes shoes of the finest leather. Probably in that day and time split pig skin would have been used.

We suspect that Abraham was exceedingly skilled in his trade. His maternal grandmother, Mary Hunt Marshall, was the daughter of James Hunt who had come to America as a widower with his two small daughters, Mary and Eliza Hunt. Mary Hunt Marshall's son, Humphrey Marshall, became a botanist and published the first book ever written on botany in America. He was Abraham Woodward's uncle. Mary's sister, Eliza Hunt , married William Bartram and their son , John Bartram, was the famous American botanist, and their grandson, William Bartram, son of John, was also a famous botanist and accomplished artist. They were Abraham Woodward's cousins. It is clear that genius came from the Hunt Sisters and that Abraham Woodward carried these genes as many descendants have been artistically inclined.

Abraham's Quaker Records in Chester County, Pennsylvania

From what we know of Abraham Woodward he was serious and pious but he was also capable of youthful indiscretion. On the 12th day of the 12th month 1760, Bradford Preparative Meeting informed the Monthly Meeting that "Alice Simcock accuseth Abraham Woodward with being the father of her bastard child and likewise complains of him for accomplishing his marriage with another woman by the assistance of a priest." These were very serious charges; Alice Simcock was a descendant of John Simcock, a trusted aid to William Penn, and neighbor of Abraham's grandfather Richard Woodward. Marriage by a priest was also a serious charge against a devout Quaker (see Quaker Marriages). At least part of the charges were certainly true as on the 10th day of the 8th month, 1760, Abraham Woodward and Hannah Thornbrough were married by Andrew Borell at Old Swede's Church south of Philadelphia on the Delaware River, bypassing all proper Quaker procedure!(the records are in Swedish and Hannah is listed as "Anna Tarnebery"). (See Hannah's page for a discussion of problems in identifying her parentage.)

Bradford Monthly Meeting appointed a committee composed of John Cope, James Trimble, Robert Miller and Thomas Coates to inquire into the truth of the charge against Abraham Woodward and to treat with him on those accounts and to report back to the meeting. This must have been a very painful experience for Abraham as his grandfather Richard Woodward had been Elder of the Bradford Monthly Meeting; his grandparents Abraham & Mary Marshall had been very active at Bradford, and only two years before an accusation had been brought before the meeting against Aaron Mendenhall, husband of Abraham's sister Mary Woodward Mendenhall, for committing adultery with the same Alice Simcock!

As was usual in such cases, the Committee arranged for a meeting between Abraham Woodward and Alice Simcock to hear both sides. Usually at such meetings the boy simply didn't show up, thus admitting his guilt. On 16th day, 1st month, 1761 at Bradford Monthly Meeting: "The Friends appeared reporting that they have had an opportunity to hear Abraham Woodward and Alice Simcock face to face and that she still continues to accuse him of being the father of her bastard child and that they, the committee, were unanimously of the opinion that he was guilty of having carnal knowledge of her, the said Alice, and likewise that they had treated with him concerning his outgoing in marriage and that he did not appear to them to be in a fit disposition to make suitable satisfaction for his transgression. Therefore John Coope and Jonathan Parke is appointed to treat further with him and if he should not appear in a fit disposition to make such satisfaction to draw testimony against him and produce it to next meeting." Third month, 13th day, 1761 among the miscellaneous papers of Bradford Monthly Meeting is a notation that Abraham Woodward was disowned on the accusation of being the father of Alice Simcock's child and marriage by a priest to another woman. Hannah Thornbrough Woodward was at that time just two months from delivering their first child Eli Woodward. The choice of the name Eli is telling. It was not the usual name honoring a close relative as would have been appropriate for their first born. In the Bible, Eli was a high priest of Israel and a judge; and as a judge he dealt too leniently with his sons Hophni & Phinchas when they behaved scandalously. Interesting choice of name considering their situation!

The Move to North Carolina

It was time for Abraham & Hannah Thornbrough Woodward to start a new life, as they were now shamed before their neighbors, and were missing the anchor of participating in worship in their own faith. The logical place for them to go was to North Carolina. A few Quakers had started migrating there before the start of the French and Indian War in 1755, and several of Hannah's Thornbrough relatives were already well established there. Abraham Woodward's cousin, the botanist John Bartram had written in 1756 that he had a mind to go to the Carolinas but that travel was too dangerous at that time. By 1762 the War was winding down and Bartram made plans to make his trip. A relative of Bartram's wife Ann Mendenhall, James Mendenhall, had already received a certificate permitting him to go to New Garden Meeting in North Carolina. This James Mendenhall was brother to Aaron Mendenhall, husband of Abraham's sister Mary Woodward. This seemed the perfect opportunity to make the trip and have a group to travel with through the potentially still dangerous areas of Virginia and North Carolina. And Abraham Woodward is found in the Colonial America census in Rowan County, North Carolina, in 1762. (For the route they took see information on the Great Wagon Road on the Pennsylvania Map Page. M. D. Monk has also posted many modern day photographs of the Shenandoah Valley on his Web Site along with descriptions of how they relate to the Great Wagon Road.)

Abraham & Hannah Thornbrough Woodward settled in the part of Rowan County that later became Guilford County (in 1770) and later still, Randolph County (in 1779). It is in Randolph County that their land records are found and that their son Eli Woodward died. Their next child Susanna Woodward was born in Rowan County on the 2nd day of the 9th month 1764. We have uncovered a rumor that there was a child William Woodward, born between Eli and Susannah, who drowned on the road from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. It is possible, as there is room for a child between Eli and Susannah, and since Abraham & Hannah Thornbrough Woodward were out of favor with the Quakers at the time, there would be no Quaker record of the child.

Peace is Made with the Quakers

The birth of his daughter in 1764 apparently encouraged Abraham Woodward to try to make his amends with the Quakers. He wrote the following apology for his conduct: "Dear Friends Under a consideration of the necesity of a regular conduct I could not be safey (satisfied?) until I could inform you of my sincere acknowledgement of my fault which I do with all my heart declare to have been a great deal of trouble to me since I left you but if you will favour me by receiving me into unity again as there is nothing I desire more. I hope my conduct for the futer shall be more satisfactory hopeing you will favour me with a certificate and send by Samuel Millikan. I recommend this acknowledgement to friends belonging to Bradford Monthly Meeting. /s/ Abraham Woodward". The Millikans were neighbors of the Woodwards in Rowan County, and Samuel's father William Millikan wrote a note to accompany Abraham's request: "These are to certifie to you that since Abraham Woodward hath come to live in our parts that he hath behaved himself orderly and we think more and more so, he perceiveing more of the nobility and substance of his education and profession and as such we recomend him Sept the 24th 1764 /s/William Millikan". Four other neighbors affixed their signatures to the note: John Mills, William Thornbrough, John Frazier, and James Davis. To see copies of these documents (Abraham) (Wm. Millikan). While the documents contain original signatures, the body of each seems to have been written by the same person and the handwriting matches more closely with William Millikan's signature than with Abraham's.

Samuel Millikan duly took the documents to Chester County, Pennsylvania, where Bradford Monthly Meeting records his arrival on the 9th month 29th day 1764. The Bradford Quakers did not find Abraham's apology sufficient and did not prepare the requested certificate (Quakers were required to specifically spell out their fault and apologize for it and Abraham's note did not do that.) There the matter stood for another year.

In the 10th month of 1765 Abraham Woodward himself went to Pennsylvania. Bradford Monthly Meeting records the receipt on the 18th day of 10th month 1765 of the following acknowledgement: "Whereas I Abraham Woodward was educated in the profession of the people called Quakers but not having so strict regard to the teachings of Greace in my own heart, as could have been desired, but gave way to my own liberty & inclanation, so far as to have carnal knowledge of one Alic Simcock & afterwards accomplished my marriage with another Woman by the assistance of a priest, therefore I acknowledge my faults & misconduct desiring that friends may pas it by & take me under their care to be in a membership again. /s/Abraham Woodward".

The Bradford Quakers accepted this specific apology. The following certificate was prepared: "From our Monthly Meeting of Bradford held at Bradford the 18th 10th Month 1765 To the Monthly Meeting of New Garden in North Carolina Dear Friends, Whereas application was made to us by ye bearer hereof Abraham Woodward for a certificate in order to be joined to your meeting, these may therefore certifie that the necessary care hath been taken concerning him, and we do not find but that his outward affairs are settled to satisfaction, and that he hath made sattisfaction for his misconduct whilst amongst us, and we look upon him to be a Member of our Christian Society as such therefore we recommend him to your Christian care and oversith desiring his growth and prosperity in the best things, and subscribe ourselves. Your Friends Signed in and on behalf of our meeting by-- William Woodward, John Coope, Evan Jones, James Trimble, Richard Barnard, Humphry Marshall, James Kenny, Richard Baker, Jonathan Parke, Caleb Kirk, Joel Baily, Samuel Fisher, James Marshall, Samuel Coope, Eleanor Worth, William Cooper, Richard Buffington, Isaac Coates, Nathan Coope". Many of the people who signed the certificate were Abraham's relatives including the first signer, William Woodward, his own father.

Abraham Woodward presented his certificate at New Garden Monthly Meeting in Rowan County, North Carolina, on 30th day 11th month 1765. Because of this record, some genealogies have given the Woodwards' arrival date in North Carolina as 1765 but it is clear from the sequence of events and Abraham's presence in the 1762 census that they arrived much earlier. This is the only record for Abraham Woodward at the New Garden Monthly Meeting.

Abraham and Hannah Thornbrough Woodward attended Center Meeting ten miles south of Greensboro in present day Guilford County, and when a Monthly Meeting was established at Center in 1773 their children's births were recorded there. The marriages of daughter Susanna Woodward and son William Woodward are also recorded at Center.

We know from estate records that their son Eli Woodward died in Randolph County in 1785. All these bits taken together help to pin down the exact location of the family as the county boundaries changed around them. Unfortunately, the meeting minutes for the time period they lived there are missing so we know little more about their lives as Quakers in North Carolina.

There is an interesting snippet of history sent to us by Mark Davis about the arrest of Abraham Woodward in 1776 in Guilford County and posted on our Revolutionary War page. It tells us that he kept his strong Quaker beliefs to the extent that he refused to have his property inventoried in order to be taxed to help pay for the war.

Land Purchase in North Carolina

We are not sure how happy Abraham and Hannah Thornbrough Woodward were in Randolph County. It was nearly 18 years after their arrival before they purchased land. Since Abraham was a cordwainer he probably made his living from shoemaking and did not have a great interest in farming. We do not know why they finally decided to obtain land in 1788; perhaps it was their Quaker upbringing that made them feel they needed land for their children so they would remain nearby and in the Quaker faith. Abraham Woodward received a North Carolina Land Grant for 150 acres on the 11th of May in 1788, "lying and being in our County of Randolph on Mountain fork Carraway waters." This simply meant the land lay in the Carraway Mountain drainage area and the land description tells us nothing of the actual location. On the 16th of January in 1788 Abraham Woodward had purchased 120 acres, also in the area of Mountain fork Carraway waters, from Benjamin Rush and Benjamin Millikan. Detailed descriptions of these parcels can be seen on our land page.

A curious story goes with the purchase from Rush and Millikan. Benjamin Rush and Benjamin Millikan were administering the estate of Crafford Rush, father and father-in-law of the two, and were selling the land as part of the estate settlement. Benjamin Millikan was son of William Millikan who had helped Abraham Woodward make peace with the Quakers. We have already discussed the closeness of these two families. A descendant of Benjamin Rush, Nixon Iredell Rush, would marry Fairy Belle Woodward, a descendant of Abraham Woodward 11/12/1902 in Haviland, Kansas. A very curious coincidence until one studies migration patterns in the 19th century; then it becomes understandable (to a degree). This is one of the reasons we are making up a migrations page - to help understand how people moved. It is sometimes a help in doing research and locating ancestors. To continue the coincidence, Nadine Holder, Abraham Woodward descendant, recently met Harold Rush, Rush/Woodward descendant, and they both live in Arizona!

Generally, Abraham Woodward seemed to take no part in the political life of his abodes, but in 1788 he signed a petition to the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina along with many of his neighbors. It reads in part "we once more renew our request...and add that part of Guilford to Randolph which we think we justly claim and which will be attended with many fold conveniences to your petitioners--" It is a little hard to understand the language but apparently the petitioners wished an additional part of Guilford County added to Randolph County. There is an explanatory note to the petition stating that, according to the 1768 tax lists of Rowan County, the people signing the petition apparently lived in the Tax/Militia districts of William Spurgeon and William Millikan in the area of southern Guilford and northern Randolph Counties on Polecat Creek, Russell's Creek and Caraway Creek. Because Abraham's land description mentions Caraway waters, we assume he lived on Caraway Creek. We have not been able to locate it on a map, but it appears to be part of the drainage of the Caraway Mountains in northern Randolph County.

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