Descendants of Thomas Woolsey (1719-1794)

Descendants of Thomas Woolsey (1719-1794)

REV. THOMAS WOOLSEY, (RICHARD5, THOMAS4, GEORGE "JORIS"3, GEORGE SR2, WILLIAM WOLSEY1) was born November 1719 in NY - Bedford, Westchester, and died Bet. February 26, 1794 in VA - Washington County (later Smythe County). He married abt 1739 in New York, to (1) ELIZABETH WATERS, daughter of ANTHONY WATERS of Jamaica, Long Island, the mother of all his children, and SARAH PIERCE in NY - Bedford, Westchester, and died February 26, 1794 in VA - Marian, Washington County (later Smythe County).

Rev. Thomas Woolsey and wife Sarah Pierce Woolsey are buried in Saint Clair Bottom Cemetery aka River Bend Cemetery, Smythe County, VA.

The Reverend Thomas Woolsey, who lived in the Holston Mills area and died in 1794, was remembered on his tombstone as "A Pioneer Baptist Preacher." In 1777 a Primitive Baptist log church was built at Sinclair's Bottom on the site of the present church. The Reverend Thomas Woolsey, who lived in the Holston Mills area and died in 1794 was active in the area as he was remembered on his tombstone as "A Pioneer Baptist Preacher" (Wilson 1932:129). He established a Baptist meeting house c. 1771 at Riverside on the South Fork of the Holston River. This may have been the first church in what would become Smyth County.

Education in this frontier land was the private responsibility of the family. The wealthier families usually employed private tutors, as did the Campbells at Royal Oak, William Campbell at Seven Mile Ford, and the Prestons at Saltville. Oftentimes, ministers also taught either in private homes or opened small private schools of their own. The Reverend Thomas Woolsey, a Baptist minister in the South Fork area, probably ran a school in a log building that was later known as the Blankenbeckler schoolhouse. (Wilson 1932:153) Education in Smyth County preceded the establishment of the governmental entity. Before the county was formed in 1832, schools were held under the guidance of private tutors in the homes of those who could afford them (Sayers1982: 201). The first recorded school was held at the Royal Oak by an Irishman named Turner Lane until 1786 when he left to teach in Abingdon (Wilson 1932: 151). Another privately-tutored school was held at the home of Colonel Arthur Campbell, guardian of Sarah Buchanan Campbell who was the daughter of "Madam Russell" (Wilson 151). Community schools followed home schooling and were usually taught by local preachers. One of those preachers was Reverend Thomas Woolsey who held a school on his South Fork area property in a log building called the Blankenbeckler schoolhouse (Wilson 1932: 153).

Military: Revolutionary War-Battle Kings Mountain

Occupation: Rev - Baptis, NY & Washington Co., VA
Religion: Baptist

Steven Alsip of Corbin, KY
Wilford W. Whitaker, Murray, UT
Etta Cooper, Tulsa, OK
Tennessee State Library and Archives
Family of George Wood Woolsey and Sarah Nelson by Hester Woolsey Brewer
Patricia G. Hall, Scottsboro, Al.

"Family of George Wood Woolsey and Sarah Nelson" by Hester Woolsey Brewer, 1939:

Rev. Thomas Woolsey was born at Bedford, a town of quaint old buildings and cemeteries, located in Westchester County, NY, where it was it is thought he married his wife, Sarah, as she is designated in her husbands will. The supposition has been made that the surname was Pierce, the only reason for this supposition being that John Pierce and wife Sarah were associated with Rev. Thomas in buying and selling various tracts of land.

From Bedford Rev. Thomas removed to Ulster County, NY, and lived at Marlborough, New Paltz, or perhaps both for a short time each. About 1770 he removed to the beautiful valley of the Holston River in Washington County, Va., and settled in that region twenty-eight years before Henry Clay looked over the territory for a home before going on into Kentucky for settlement.

Rev. Thomas Woolsey must have been endowed with the spirit of adventure, or the great religious zeal which had brought his forefathers to America, to forsake his comfortable home in New York for one in the dangerous wilds of southwest Virginia. About this time, the Baptists were coming across the mountains and they might have influenced him to make the move, or perhaps as in more recent treks, the change was favored as a means to acquire lands rich from primeval days. We would rather think it was a frontier-born experiment in uniting religious sentiment and political freedom, as a base from which this new nation could rise to the stars. It has been said it was not on the Mayflower, or the ship that brought Capt. John Smith to Virginia, that the American republic was born, but the new order came from these hills and mountains of Virginia.

If Rev. Thomas was a lover of beauty he was in need of no other incentive for his entrance into the valley of the Holston, buffalo, bear, wolf, elk and other smaller animals roamed the wilderness. Few white men had viewed the majestic beauty of its hills. Slashing the sky above the fertile valleys, ridges criss-crossed from east to west and through these ridges sparkling mountain streams dashed through deep, dark gorges on their entrance to the valleys where they gave sustenance to the blue grass that swayed knee-deep in the breeze.

In 1774, Rev. Thomas owned 300 acres on the Middle Fork on the Holston River and from Washington County surveys I have copied more recent land acquired by him: Thomas Woolsey - August 14, 1781, 200 acres, South Fork of Holston
August 14, 1781, 300 acres, South Fork of Holston
June 12, 1782, 400 acres, South Fork of Holston
August 30, 1781, 400 acres, South Fork of Holston
George Woolsey - August 31, 1781, 300 acres, Middle Fork, Holston (George is most likely Thomas's son)

In Revolutionary War days, in some parts of Virginia, persons were performing the ceremony of marriage without the proper credentials; finally a license was required and Rev. Thomas Woolsey's name was on the list of those to whom a license was given. The History of Washington County, Va., lists eighty-one couples married by him.

Some of the land he acquired was up the river from Abingdon and he was ordained for the ministry at a little church at Linville Creek, near Chilhowie, Sept. 1773. His record there states, "He came from a church in New York Government".

Up to the time of Rev. Thomas Woolsey's arrival in Washington County, Va., very few white men had penetrated thus far for settlement with their families. A few hunters and trappers had passed through, and several years after his arrival that courageous hunter, Daniel Boone, Blazed the trail called the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap and gave to the pioneer a permanent route into the wilderness later to become Kentucky. Indians had a few trails known to them across the mountains in that territory, the most secluded running across Powell Mountain, but it would have been foolhardy for the white settlers to use these trails as they were the lairs of Indians who did not approve of the encroachment of the white men upon their domain.

The savages were dangerous and became very troublesome to the settlers who were seeking new homes in this beautiful country, which today surrounds the cultural city of Abingdon, then the southwest post, and one of the oldest towns in Virginia. At one time Abingdon was called Wolf Hills, as the locality was a headquarters for these animals which made their homes in caves nearby.

One of the churches in which Rev. Thomas preached was in Maiden Springs, and he is buried at Maiden Burying Ground/River Bend in that part of Washington County which became known as Smyth County. Radford, on the New River north of Abingdon, was an early location selected by the Woolseys for their homes.

At the grave of Rev. Thomas Woolsey, at Maiden Burying Ground, is a monument which bears the simple inscription, "A Pioneer Baptist Preacher." He lies under the spreading branch of a large tree, enclosed by a picket fence, whose roots have been nurtured by his dust for these many years. I have no knowledge of any member of his family remaining in southwest Virginia, yet some one has cared for his grave for the past one hundred and fifty years. His burial lot is upon the land of Mr. Britton, doubtless once owned by Rev. Thomas, and I have been told it was he who erected the monument, which today marks the last resting place of the pioneer preacher. For this kindness in perpetuating the memory of our ancestor, Rev. Thomas Woolsey, and shielding his grave from desecration, we tender our most hearty appreciation. Rev. Thomas Woolsey owned other land in this region, probably that now owned by the Dutton family.

His deeds were of an enduring character, in the beautiful valley of the Holston, and traditional stories still carry his name as among the first who served the church in this vicinity. We do not wonder at this when we consider how he must have captured the imagination of the descendants of his early parishioners if they related the story of his primitive days among them. The territory surrounding his church was a wilderness, which in his time was the home of all the wild animals that stalked that part of Virginia. It also was the battleground of hostile Indian tribes, and Rev. Thomas and his congregation attended services decked out with rifles and other war paraphernalia. Can we of today appreciate the comfort safety and beauty of our services unless we carve a mental image of Rev. Thomas trudging through the deep snows of the wilderness, clad in buckskin brushed by the dangling tail of a coon-skin cap, and the every-ready rifle held by his side? Furtive eyes searched each tree and clump of brush for the hidden lair of the enemy, as he trudged, with his loyal wife Sarah and their children, to the little church hidden in the wilderness.

The will of Rev. Thomas Woolsey, dated Feb. 26, 1794, was filed at Abingdon, Va., and was as follows: "I leve my wife Sary Wolsey all that I have but Sevenier Wolsey five shillings." Witnesses, Frederick Ickes, Richard Woolsey, Nancy Woolsey. Sevenier Wolsey named in the will is supposed to be his son Zephaniah. Apparently this will was written by one less well educated than Rev. Thomas and it may have been completed at his death bed. It is noticeably that the signatures of his son and wife Nancy contain two l's in the Woolsey, and the name in the will but one.

In a letter, Mrs. G.C. Purdue of Kansas City, Mo., a descendant of Rev. Thomas Woolsey, states, "Evidently this will was written by another as Rev. Thomas was an educated man. I have gone over records at Abingdon, Va., he had written with a quill pen and they are beautifully done."

Rev. Thomas apparently had disposed of most of his estate before his will was executed, as he had deeded land on the South Fork of the Holston River to his son Richard before and made other transfer. (end)

Sept. 14, 1981, a letter written to Patricia G. Hall of Scottsboro, Al.., (I do not know who wrote this letter - Carolyn Wilkerson) the following is stated regarding Rev. Thomas and wife Sarah:

Washington County, Va., lies in the Blue Ridge Mountain range. It is beautiful country but must have been difficult to travel in Rev. Wolsey's day. Actually Washington County seems to lie in the edge of the range. The hills and near mountains are not as large or as tall as those closer to the Kentucky boarder. An old Indian trail cuts east-west through those ranges and mountains, the highway travels the trail for a goodly distance on into Washington County. The name of the trail is the "Trail of the Lonesome Pine." Not certain why the Indians named it such, but can tell you that I did not see any pines in the area. Smyth County lies to the north and east of Washington County. The hills become much more gentle in Smyth. The Holston River and its forks are actually a goodly distance from Abingdon. I estimate a 20 minute drive by car, most of the drive being on an interstate. The Maiden Burying Ground is located next to a branch of the Holston River. The present name of the cemetery is the River Bend Cemetery. Maiden's and two or three other families are presently buried there. Thomas Wolsey's concrete stone is the only one in that particular part or section of the cemetery. There is green grass all about, no trees remain in that particular section of the cemetery at the present time. The cemetery is well kept and the grass is neatly cut. It is likely that other Wolseys are buried there, however Thomas has the only stone - and there is no other trace or known location of graves in that section of the cemetery. There are no rocks or markers or foot stones in that particular section of the cemetery. Just his concrete block stone is all that remains. The stone is well carved and the letters are deep, the appearance of the letters, looks like stones carved by machine today. The stone says: Rev. T. W. Wolsey, A pioneer Baptist minister, Died 1794.

It happened that I met Mr. Julius Britton and his wife. Mr. Britton is presently in his early 60's. His father William (Billy) N. Britton placed the stone on Thomas's grave. He knew where Thomas was buried. Apparently there was a rock or some type of marker there. Billy Britton died in 1927. It is felt that Billy placed the stone there sometime between 1900 and 1910. It is not really known as to what group, or church group or person actually paid for the stone. The Britton farm is located directly across the road from the cemetery.

The St. Clair Bottoms Baptist Church (now a Primitive Church) is located some 2 1/2 to 3 miles from the cemetery. The church is in a beautiful setting. It is in excellent condition and I am certain it has been built onto and expanded. It is well constructed. Beside the church is a picnic area with an enclosed wooden top over the many tables. Looked like the perfect place to eat watermelon. In front and just to the right of the church (facing the church) is a huge hard maple tree. It was in perfect condition. The trunk looked as if it could have 10 to 11 feet wide. It is very wide at the bottom, the roots bulge from the sides of the tree on into the ground. Ean stood on the bulging roots and he looked like a tree frog. I feel this tree may have been there when Thomas Wolsey was living. Both the cemetery and church are presently in Smyth County, Va.

Mr. J. Britton happened to have a copy of "Smyth County History and Traditions" by Goodridge Wilson, published by Connection with the Centennial Celebration of Smyth County, Va., copyright 1932.
This book was one of the reference books for Mrs. Brewer's book. The Will of Rev. Thomas Wolsey is recorded in Washington County, Va., page 49, Feb. 26, 1794.

The following information was contributed by James Woolsey of New Carlisle, IN and Norman Hopkins of Rochester, MN

Thomas Wolsey, All But Forgotten Is The Man Who Brought First Church To Holston, Clinch Valleys
by Gordon Aronhime
Each Sunday morning in every hamlet and city and town along the Clinch and Holston thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children gather to go to church. The buildings they attend are built of brick, of log, of frame; some are large and some are small, but, of the countless thousands who attend thefse churches, only the tiniest handful--perhaps a dozen persons can tell you the name of the first minister to settle in our region and bring his message to the people. To most, the name of Thomas Wolsey would be meaningless.

This man lies in a grave in the River Bend Cemetery in Smyth County, along the South Fork of the Holston River. His grave was unmarked for over 150 years. There is now a plain, modern stone above it. The inscription merely says: Rev. T.W. Wolsey--A pioneer Baptist Minister: Died in 1794. There is nothing more.

YET, IN SPITE OF THE INDIFFERENCE of an ungrateful area, this is the man who preached the first sermons, held the first Sunday Schools, the first funerals, and performed the first marriages in the Holston-Clinch region. He was in the area about three years prior to the coming of the Rev, Charles Cummings, whom Presbyterians long thought he first minister living in our area.

It is a pity that old Thomas Wolsey is so forgotten, for he was not merely a "pioneer" Baptist minister but THE pioneer minister of our area, as stated.

Thanks to the sectarianism of the earlier historians of our section and to the great indifference of man to man, we know but little about him. He seems to have settled on land very near and possibly including his final resting place, in 1770 or 1771. Though we know approximately when he moved to the frontier settlements along the Holston,, we do not know from whence he came. It is reasonably sure, however, he did not come from Augusta County, as the Valley of Virginia was then denominated.

His wife was Sarah, or, as she is called in his will, "Sary". We know they had the following children, given without knowledge of order of birth: George, John, Richard, Stephen, Thomas (Jr), and the "wicked" Zephaniah. Just how Zephaniah was "wicked" is certainly not clear, but he was in disfavor with his stern father, as is shown by the Rev. Thomas' will. In that remarkable document, he was given five shillings--in other words, cut off with a dollar--while not one of the other children are mentioned. From the little we know of this very early and energetic family, it would seem Zephaniah had Tory leanings-- which must have been gall and wormwood to his father who was a militant apostle of liberty. In the early county records in Abington, there is an entry in which Zephaniah supported Francis Hopkins and his brother William.

The Hopkins brothers were noted Tories. Francis promised flashy clothes and high position to all willing to back him. He was captured, put in prison in the old fort of William Cocks, about the present location of the Spring Creek Church on U.S. 11. Hopkins escaped from there and, later, was summarily hanged by General William Campbell. Zephaniah lost his money put up for the good conduct of the Hopkins boys. Old Thomas' Patriotism was such that there is evidence to lean one to believe that he went with the troops to King's Mountain in 1780. When Col. Arthur Campbell, fired up with the seemly success of the so-called "State of Franklin," tried to get the Commonwealth of Virginia to cede territory for a new mountain state, Rev. Thomas was one of his warmest supporters. This project had about the same fate as Zephaniah's Tories. For the new state was summarily dispatched with, figuratively, a rope around its neck.

When Thomas Wolsey settled on the south fork of the Holston not far from the present grave, he built his home in the neighborhood of a group of hardy pioneer Baptists. These included the Pierces and Wolseys, who took up land independently and jointly, as well as the Holliotts, Coles, Wheelers, Thomases, and Bishops. The land of these early settlers lay around a magnificent tract of 996 acres, known then and still called Sinclair's Bottom. This great tract had been patented by Charles Sinclair on 3 August 1753 and had lived on it until the French and Indian War massacres of 1755 drove him out.
The land around Sinclair's Grant was the property of the speculative Loyal Company. From the Loyal Company Thomas Wolsey bought a tract of nearly a square mile,613 acres. On the edge of the tract, a Baptist Meeting House was erected. The date of the survey for this 613 acres to Wolsey is February 23, 1775 in the Fincastle records, but the meeting house, of course, had existed before this.

I may well be that this was the first Church erected in the entire region of the Holston and Clinch. Regardless of this, it is certainly one of the three colonial churches (i.e. built before the Revolution) in Southwestern Virginia--the other two being the Glade Spring and Abingdon Presbyterian churches.

Later on, Thomas Wolsey moved from the portion of land on which the Meeting House stood and sold that section to Joseph Cole, the wicked Zephaniah being one of the witnesses to the deed. Still later, Joseph Cole deeded one acre and 100 poles of land to the trustees and congregation of the Baptist Church. Oddly enough, no name is given to the church, but is referred to in the deed as "Congregation and Meeting House formerly known by Sinclair's Bottom."

The little church still stands, and it is one of the most beautiful of our old churches. When the little brick building now on this spot was erected is not known, but it must beat least 150 years old, and is most likely one of the very earliest brick structures in the region. In front is gigantic oak that three men with outstretch arms can scarcely circle. In the rear of church, in the graveyard is a splendid white pine that is worth the trip up the South Fork to behold. The stones in the cemetery date back to one for old Joseph Cole himself, who was born in 1733 and died in 1806. Many of the older graves are, of course, unmarked.

The earliest marriage of which we have a record in our region was performed by Thomas Wolsey. This was not, of course, the first he performed, but just the first of which we have a record. This was in March of 1773, six months before the Reverend Cummings moved to near Abingdon to live. This was a brilliant wedding of its day. Margaret, daughter of Colonel John Buchanan, was married to Joseph Drake at the famed Townhouse in Chilhowie, home of the bride's cousin James Thompson. Since there was no Lilian Childress to write it up, a brief account must be given to the guests. Present were Thompson (later son-in-law of General Shelby), a sister of the bride and a brother of the groom who later married each other, and the two sisters of General William Campbell. What this marriage had in brilliance, it lacked in durability, for Drake, a most disagreeable troublemaker to the settlers, moved to Kentucky in 1778 and was killed by the Indians.

THOMAS WOLSEY'S WILL is probably the shortest on record in Abingdon: "Feb 26,1794, I Thomas Woolsey (it is spelled both ways in the will) of Washington County and State of Virginia lise very low and dus not think he will live long. I do in the name of God make this my last Will and Testament. I leve my wife Sary Wolsey all that I have but Sevenior (phonetic for the "wicked" Zephaniah) Wolsey five shillings. I do acknoleg this to be my last Will and Testament Thomas Woolsey."

The "lise very low" portion of the will must have correct, for old Thomas did not sign the will, although he could write, and the document was probated in December, 1794. How "Sary" lived and where she is buried is not certain.

This, then. was the man who first brought the organized church into the Holston and Clinch. He lived and died and has been forgotten among the people of our own area. The section in which Wolsey lived and died is one of the most quietly beautiful on the Holston. To get to the little brick church he founded, take State 91 out of Damascus to the village of Lodi. There, turn off to the right and follow 762 up to the brick Church in Sinclair's Bottom that is a monument to our first minister.

After you have seen the church and its great white pine, Route 762 will take you back into Chilhowie. This trip between Sinclairs Bottom and Chilhowie passes through the Bonham apple orchards which are quite a sight in the spring when the blossoms are out.

Those who take this trip will have seen scenery they will not soon forget, one of the earliest churches we have, and, perhaps, a glimpse into what was done by the most pioneer of our ministers--Thomas Wolsey.

The Washington County Surveyors Record 1781-1797

Page 42 - Jonathan Dean, Jr, assignee of Thomas Woolsey...241 ac...commissioners Certificate...on the waters of the middle and south forks of Holstein River...Beginning corner with Thomas Woolsey, Sr. land...corner with Jonathan Dean...on Sampson Coles land...corner with Richard Higgins line...corner to George Woolsey...with George Woolsey then with Joseph Cole & Jonathan Dean...May 28, 1782 - Thomas Woolsey, assignee of Irathias Wall, assignee of Elias McCoy...300 ac...on the waters of the Middle Fork of Holstein, the east side 124 ac of which was conveyed for Elias McCoy, January 11, 1774, includes improvements, by actual settlement made in 1774...August 30, 1781 - Assigned to Jonathan Dean

1999 March 1 from Wilford W. Whitaker

To all interested Woolsey descendants: [Please take all I say with a "grain of salt". These are just the thoughts of a night when I couldn't get to sleep.]

I believe that the key to success with the Woolsey family in the Southern States is the Reverend Thomas Woolsey, Baptist minister. During this time period, ministers frequently would accompany their flocks into the frontier regions. I think that what we have here with Rev. Thomas Woolsey is a congregation of his followers, friends and family, who accompanied him into southwest Virginia. So me need to find not only Rev. Thomas Woolsey and his children, but all those who lived around him, who may have come with him.

These would include the families of John Pierce and his wife Sarah, Pierce, Plumstead, Gilbert, Hopkins, Wall, Dean, John III Woolsey and Priscilla Woolsey, Cole, Schaeffer, Stewart, Weger, Roberts, Humphrey Martin, Turpin, Hudgin, Houchin, Logan, English, Vaughn, and Hall, and others. Some of these families we have a fairly good start on. I see the Research Problem as a five pronged approach.

  1. Research in Westchester County, NY, with emphasis on wills, land records, census, and vital records, and for many of the above names.
  2. Research in New York for the Baptist churches of Rev. Thomas Woolsey. He received a "dismission from a New York Church" in 1767, but which church is not yet known.
  3. Research in Virginia from the Baptist Church Archives. This may entail having research done in their library, that may not be available elsewhere. Other research as we discover sources.
  4. Rev. Thomas Woolsey was in Virginia at least as early as 1771, where he obtained about 1400 acres of land. Aside from being an "early settler", what did he do to warrant that amount of acreage? In those days travel was down the river valleys, starting in Maryland down the "Monocacy" or "Wilderness Road" into Virginia and on through Virginia, into southwest Virginia. Land recordds for the whole "toe" of Virginia need to be searched. I think Rev. Thomas Woolsey settled on his land on the "South Fork of the Holston" right from the beginning and many Virginia counties were formed around him a. Botetourt county was formed 1769/70 from Augusta County.
    b. Fincastle county was formed 1772 from Botetourt(discontinued 1777)
    c. Montgomery county was formed 1776 from Fincastle, Botetourt
    d. Washington county was formed 1776 from Fincastle, Montgomery
    e. Russell county was formed 1787 from Washington county.
    f. Lee county was formed 1792 from Russell and Scott counties.
    Each of these county records whould be checked. One also needs to know that this area was disputed over betrween Virginia and North Carolina, especially the area south in Tennessee, which was once Washington County, formed 1777, North Carolina, which covered the whole state of Tennessee.
    a. Greene county, Tennessee, was formed 1783 from Washington, TN(NC)
    b. Sullivan County, TN, was formed 1779 from Wash. county TN
    c. Hawkins county, TN was formed 1786 from Sullivan County, TN
    d. Fentress county, Tn was formed 1823 from Morgan & Overton, TN
    I think those are the pertinent counties.
    If you follow the South Fork of the Holston down into Tennessee, you will see that the Nolachucky river is one valley over from the Holston, in Greene County, Tennessee. John Woolsey III and his family settled north on the Nolachucky and Zepohaniah Woolsey and his family settled south. And evidently lost track of each other and their relationship.
  5. Rev Thomas Woolsey seigned a petition with many of his neighbors, which I believe was the beginning spurt for the short-lived "State of Franklin"/I don't have that document at hand, so I won't comment more, except to say that we need to study tax lists, census lists, and other records in

Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, for the years between 1770 to 1800 (later for descendants). I think that when we accomplish the above research suggestions, we will have "broken the back" of this southern research and Rev. Thomas Woolsey.

If anyone has access to any of these records, and would like to do some original research, may I suggest that you contact me and I can perhaps "co-ordinate" the research so that we don't duplicate too much.

1999 March 15 from Wilford W. Whitaker

I have been studying for some time the Rev. Thomas Woolsey and his two wives. I notice the following:
  1. The early researchers, W. Herbert Wood, especially, was very careful to state that there were two wives, that the first wife was unknown, but she was the mother of his children, and that he md 2nd Sarah Pierce.
  2. Later researchers began to ignore the first wife and state that Sarah Pierce was the mother of his children. Some would mention a first wife but most would ignore her.
  3. Even Robert M. Woolsey, who did a good job on most families, falls apart on Rev Thomas Woolsey and his descendants. He shows Rev. Thomas Woolsey and wife Sarah Pierce as parents of all his children, but Robert does make a note that "some say there was a first wife, but nothing further known".
  4. Marcella J. Massey sent me a copy of an application to National Society Colonial Dames of XVII Century, which had been prepared by Norman Bolin, Evansville, IND, "but he is no longer available." In it he puts the family of Jedediah Dean and Ariontyea Van Winckel right smack dab in the middle of
    our Woolsey family, in New York. Some intriguing possibilities here.
  5. Sometime ago I picked up a posting from "Debbie" that showed that Mary Woolsey (possibly a dau of Rev Thomas Woolsey) md Jonathan Dean, son of Jedediah and Ariontyea Dean). Jonathan Dean shows up neighbors with the Woolseys in Washington County, Virginia, along with John Pierce and his
    wife Sarah, which John Pierce could be related to Sarah Pierce, Rev. Thomas Woolsey's 2nd?? wife??
  6. The ages of everyone here is crucial and need to be verified. The only actual date I have is for Jonathan Dean b 24 Mar 1740, Belleville, Essex, New Jersey, md 1765 in New York to Mary Woolsey, died 21 Mar 1820, Washington Co., VA, and buried at Scratch Gravel, Smyth, Virginia. [ Love that name ] So if Jonathan was one of the youngest in Jedediah Dean's family, and if Elizabeth was the oldest, it could be very possible. At least intriguing.
  7. Unfortunately, none of the Dean connections are documented, so I think I will roll up my sleeves and go to work on this problem. It has remained up in the air long enough, don't you think?

1999 April 7 from Wilford W. Whitaker

  1. From my research it appears that Rev Thomas Woolsey and Sarah Pierce settled on the South Fork of the Holstein River as early as 1771, and counties were formed around them.
  2. So we find Woolseys in the records of Fincastle County, Halifax County, Washington County, Virginia, etc. but, I think most were while the Woolseys remained in the one area, on the South Fork of the Holstein river. In other words, the Woolseys were not moving around, but counties were being formed all around them. [Even the short-lived state of Franklin was formed while they were on the Holstein.]
  3. I think the same thing was happening on the Nolachucky River in Tennessee, north and south. One branch of the Woolseys was settling on the northern end and one branch of the Woolseys settled on the southern end of the Nolachucky. [From faulty memory, I don't remember which branch settled where.]
  4. Tennessee was once part of North Carolina, who ignored them for a time. Washington County, N.C. covered all of Tennessee, so technically, it is correct when we say the early Woolseys were born in Washington County, Tennessee, But I think we can standardize and localize even further. Greene County, Tennessee, was formed early enough that we could state that they were all (probably) born in Greene County, from oh, say 1783, on.

1999 Aug 3 from Wilford W. Whitaker

As you know I am spending a great deal of time in the Ulster County, New York, records.

In those records I have found Richard Woolsey and Sarah Fowler and most of their children listed therein. Thomas Woolsey is Richard Woolsey and Sarah Foiwler's oldest son (and is so designated in Richard's Will). I have found Thomas Woolsey in Ulster County, NY.

Along with Thomas Woolsey, I have found some of Thomas Woolsey's children, specifically Richard Woolsey (who md Nancy Plumstead) and George Woolsey (who md Mary Hopkins). (and Francis Hopkins, Mary's father)

From Heigerd, p. 280, we have the following: George Woolsey, a signer of the Articles of Association at New Marlborough (Syl C1). This would be enough to DAR membership IF you could prove that this George is your George.

Boucher states that George Woolsey was a Rev. War Soldier, and was at Bunker Hill in Boston and also at the Cowpens in South Carolina. Though this is seemingly improbable, given the fact that he was in New York and could have enlisted in the New York Line or in the Mass. Line, and then he and his family moved to Washington Co., Va., he could have been in the Virginia Line for participation in the Battle of Cowpens. So it isn't that improbable, after all The "Nolichucky settlers", from Greene County, Tennessee, were famed for
their abilities with rifles, and figured prominently in the Battle of the Cowpens,SC.

I thought when I read Boucher's account, that it was pretty far-fetched, but now, knowing that George Woolsey was in New Marlborough during the early part of the Revolution and he could have moved west with Richard Woolsey and Nancy Plumstead, it doesn't look that improbable now.

Richard Woolsey who md Nancy Plumbstead, is also found in Ulster Co., NY and states that he enlisted from Newburgh, Orange Co., NY in 1773 and was in several local battles, White Plains, Kings bridge, to name a couple. Richard later appears in Washington County, Virginia, so he and his brother George may have come west together.

Francis Hopkins, a notorious Tory, and father of Mary Hopkins, was in Ulster Co., NY and then appears in Washington Co., VA, so they may have all come west during the Revolution, but after Rev. Thomas Woolsey, who was in Washington Co. before 1771.

2000 Nov 11 from Wilford Whitaker

Now, just a word about Thomas Woolsey who md Sarah Pierce - He is not a son of Thomas and Ruth, but rather a son of Richard Woolsey and Sarah Fowler. In Richard Woolsey's will he is named as "eldest son Thomas". This is the Reverend (Baptist) Thomas Woolsey of Westchester, Ulster Counties, New York, to Washington County, Virginia, before 1771. Some researchers have him marrying twice : 1) Sarah _______, who is the mother of his children and 2) Sarah Pierce. The research I have done indicates, but not conclusively, that he may have only md once, and Sarah Pierce is the mother of his children. Rev. Thomas Woolsey and Sarah (Pierce?) settled at "St. Clair's Bottoms (Sinclair's Bottoms), on the South Fork of the Holstein River in that part of Washington County, Virginia, that became Smythe County, Virginia. He had many land transactions on the South and Middle Forks of the Holstein and married about 80 couples (I forget the #) in Washington County, Virginia. He left a will in Smythe County, Virginia, but only names a son Zephaniah. His son Richard Woolsey and Richard's wife "Ann" (Nancy Plumstead) were witnesses to the will.

1999 Feb 20 from Wilford Whitaker

Was Priscilla Woolsey a daughter of Rev. Thomas Woolsey & Sarah _____/Sarah Pierce?
After spending 19 months of full-time research trying to document these Woolsey families, I have reached a few tentative conclusions:
I. We are not going to be able to document every name, date and place & relationship because:
  1. Some information was available to early researchers which seems to be no longer available to us.
  2. It appears extensive use was made of Bible records and Family records which are no longer
    available, such as the many birth dates and marriage dates.
  3. Quite a bit of data came from "personal knowledge" or Family Records and seems to be no longer
This does not mean we will not find more original proof, but that we have to "dig deeper". This seems to be true concerning the papers of Benjamin

II. In the absence of original documentation it appears that the researchers in the 1920's and 1930's arrived at their conclusions by a "concensus of opinion."
  1. W. Herbert Wood, a careful researcher living in New York, whose papers I copied while in the NHG&B Society Library last summer, concentrated on the Eastern Woolseys in New York, New Jersey,
    Connecticut, etc.
  2. Mrs. Nellie Cramer Woolsey lived in Los Angeles and was an avid researcher in the 1920's-1940's. She carried on an almost daily correspondence with W. Herbert Wood and she concentrated on the Western and southern Woolseys, from VA, KY, NC, TN, IL,IN, MO., etc.
  3. My great-grandmother Sarah Woolsey Hickerson (d/o Joseph Woolsey and Abigail Schaffer) was especially interested in research 1880 to 1900's. She left her papers to her daughter (my grandmother) Clarissa Melissa Hickerson Whitaker, who also researched from the 1880's to the 1930's. She left her papers and research findings (as well as papers and letters dating back to the 1840's to me. Grandmother Clarissa carried on an extensive correspondence with Mrs. Nellie C. Woolsey during the 1920's and early 1930's. They concentrated on descendants of Rev Thomas Woolsey and Sarah
    ______/Sarah Pierce.

    Much of their correspondence is in the W. Herbert Wood (Pearson) papers in the NYG&B Society library in New York City. It is interesting to go back over their correspondence with one another and trace how they would work and worry and theorize and place names in one family then remove them and juggle them until they reached a "concensus of opinion", using the best information they had, they would finally come to a conclusion that seemed best. Admittedly not the best solution, but until something better comes along, one that we have to live with.

III. Later researchers Pearson (whose papers are in the NYG&B Society), James W. Woolsey, Howard Woolsey, Robert M. Woolsey, McKnight, and others, made some advances and pinpointed a great deal of information during the 1950's and 1960's. I am in touch with descendants of James W. Woolsey, McKnight and Nellie C. Woolsey and know where their papers are.
  1. Some of these writers were Robert M. Woolsey, Brewer, Brewster, Young, Logsdon, McKnight, James W. Woolsey, Mitchell, etc. (Don't quote me on these, I'm pulling them out of my head as I'm not at my computer.}

We still haven't answered the question: "Was Priscilla Woolsey a d/o Rev. Thomas & Sarah? W. Herbert Wood concluded there was enough evidence to include her in Rev. Thomas' family. My great grandmother and grandmother both stated she was a d/o Rev. Thomas. Priscilla Woolsey married a distant cousin John Woolsey (III) as his first wife. From the John Woolsey Bible Records: John Woolsey b 15 Oct 1737. Married Priscilla on 20 Nov 1761. Now this doesn't tell who Priscilla's parents were, but she would have had to be born about 1740 to be md in 1761, and in my data base, I only have
one Mary born in that time period, the (supposed) d/o of Rev. Thomas & Sarah.

There is a Mary Woolsey, bapt in the Huntington, Long Island, Presby. Church 4 Jun 1732, d/o John Woolsey (II) and Mary Sammis, who were md in that church 15 Dec 1730 and joined the church that same day. This shows that some of the early records are out there, they just need to be found. This Mary Woolsey couldn't have married Jonathan Dean, as He and Mary Woolsey were having children in the 1780's. Debbie thinks that the Mary who married Jonathan Dean is the d/o of Rev. Thomas & Sarah because Jonathan Dean was living next to Rev. Thomas and Sarah in Washington Co., VA., so Proximity may account for something here.

So, actually we have the same problem with Mary Woolsey (who md Jonathan Dean), as we do with Priscilla Woolsey. Are they daughters of Rev Thomas Woolsey and Sarah _____/Sarah Pierce? I would include both until we find documented data to the contrary.

This reminds me that the early researchers stated that Rev. Thomas Woolsey's wife was named Sarah ________, and later researchers began to say Sarah Pierce was a second wife and listed Sarah ______, as mother of his children and Sarah Pierce as a later wife. Then still later researchers mereged the two and began to show Sarah Pierece as only wife and mother of his children. I have seen nothing to dispute this later thought. There was a John Peirce who appeared along side Rev. Thomas Woolsey in several
records in Virginia, but I haven't begun to research the Pierce/Pearce family yet, so I don't know for sure.

Per Wilford Whitaker: I'm am not convinced that Sarah Pierce was the mother of Thomas' children.

    i.    MARY WOOLSEY, b. January 07, 1739/40, NY - Huntington, Suffolk; d. Bef. 1820, VA - Washington/Smyth; m. JONATHAN DEAN, SR., 1765, NY; b. March 24, 1739/40, NJ - Second River [Belleville], Essex; d. Bef. March 21, 1819, VA - Washington County.

    ii.    ZEPHANIAH WOOLSEY, b. June 01, 1740, NY - Huntington, Suffolk.
Christening: June 01, 1740, NY - Huntington, Long Island - Presbyterian Church
Military: Revolutionary War

    iii.    PRISCILLA WOOLSEY, b. Abt. 1741, NY - Bedford, Westchester; d. 1771, VA - Fincastle County; m. JOHN III WOOLSEY, November 20, 1761, NY - Marlboro, Ulster; b. October 15, 1737, NY - Huntington, Long Island, Suffolk; d. January 14, 1819, TN - Jearoldstown, Lick Creek, Greene.

    iv.    SIMEON WOOLSEY, b. 1743, NY - Bedford, Westchester; d. NY.

    v.    DANIEL WOOLSEY, b. 1745, NY - Bedford, Westchester; d. NY.

    vii.    RICHARD WOOLSEY, b. 1747, NY - Bedford, Westchester; d. 1825, KY - Somerset, Pulaski; m. NANCY ANN PLUMSTEAD, Abt. 1768, NY - Ulster County; b. Abt. 1748, NY - Newtown, Queens; d. Aft. 1796, KY - Somerset, Pulaski.

    vi.    GEORGE WOOLSEY, b. 1748, NY - Bedford, Westchester; d. 1817, KY - Warren County; m. MARY HOPKINS, 1769, NY - Marlborough, Ulster County; b. April 09, 1753, RI - E. Greenwich, Kent; d. Bet. February 01, 1822 - 1829, IN - Francisco, Gibson.

    viii.    ABRAHAM WOOLSEY, b. 1754, Bedford, Westchester, New York; d. Pulaski, Kentucky.

    ix.    WILLIAM WOOLSEY, b. 1758, Bedford, Westchester, New York; d. Pulaski, Kentucky.

    x.    REV THOMAS WOOLSEY JR, b. October 21, 1761, NY - Bedford, Westchester; d. April 06, 1797, TN - Greene County; m. PHOEBE GILBERT, 1779, VA - Radford, Washington; b. May 10, 1763, NY - Esopus, Ulster; d. Abt. 1835, KY - Knox County.

    xi.    SARAH WOOLSEY, b. 1762; m. JOHN PIERCE.

    xii.    LUCINDA WOOLSEY, b. 1768.

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