Thomas Woodson Family Association History
By Alan Jones
(Extracted from the Oct 2002 newsletter)
One of the questions I have heard often is where and when did the Thomas Woodson Family Association start. The real answer is sometimes in 1805, probably in Greenbrier, Virginia (now West Virginia) with the marriage of Thomas and Jemima. But the Association as we know it found its origins in May 1945 when Ada Highgate (Lewis 4) a great granddaughter of Thomas and Jemima Woodson died intestate with a sizeable personal fortune. Ada had no surviving children, siblings, nieces nor nephews. Her first cousins, the surviving grandchildren of Lewis Woodson were determined to be her closest relatives and they selected Howard Dilworth Woodson (Lewis 4) to represent them in settling the affairs of the Highgate family. In pursuit of his duties Howard did extensive research of the Woodson family to ensure an equitable distribution of AdaHighgate’s estate.
Howard made copious notes of his research and these notes aroused the curiosity of his daughter-in-law Minnie Shumate Woodson. Minnie continued her father-in-law’s work and developed contacts with Woodson’s all over the United States, meticulously tracing their ancestry and documenting connections for those that were descendants of Thomas Woodson. Through her commitment and diligence Minnie was able to document all eleven of the children (Lines) of Thomas and Jemima including their spouses and most of their children. Four of the eleven lines were traced right down to contemporary Woodson’s.
In 1975 while living in Herndon Virginia, a suburb of Washington I had the fortune of meeting with Minnie and her husband John. We discussed Minnie’s research of the Woodson Family. Over the ensuing years we remained in contact and I shared with her the information which I had received from my mother Edith Byrd Woodson
There is a long history of Woodson regional and family groups holding local reunions but in 1978. encouraged by Minnie’s revelations of the existence of so many living Woodson’s, a group of Woodson’s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, notably the Etheridge’s, Golden’s, Jones’ and Woodson’s sponsored the first reunion of all descendants of Thomas and Jemima Woodson in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
Family members were so enthusiastic about the 1978 Pittsburgh reunion that others were held. In 1980 the family met in Austin, Texas, in 1982 in Washington, DC and in 1984 in Columbus, Ohio. The scheduling and location of the reunions were determined on the basis of which group would sponsor it and the date most convenient to the sponsoring group. Several of the family were a little concerned about the haphazard manner in which the reunion site and dates were being selected. They also felt that there should be a stated purpose for the reunions and that the family should develop family objectives.
In view of these concerns I met with Minnie and several other family members including her husband John, John Q King, Logan Wiley and Edgar F Love. During this meeting we formulated an agenda for the family which included establishing a formal national family organization with some broad but meaningful goals and objectives. The national organization was to be composed of groups based on family or regional affiliation. And the goals and objectives were designed to perpetuate the reunions, get more Woodson’s involved in serious study of the family and to instill an even greater pride of family.
The group managed to assemble all 1984 reunion attendees at a meeting to consider the group’s proposal for an association with affiliated regional or family groups. After considerable discussion, debate and some revision of the original proposal the matter was put to vote and unanimously approved. This resolution by the General Membership in July 1984 marked the establishment of the Thomas Woodson Family Association.
Edgar Forrest Love (Francis 5) was elected Charter President of the Association and served from July 1984 to July 1986. During this period a lot of the basic organizational tasks were carried out. A draft constitution and by laws were developed and the geographic regions were designated Edgar was followed by William Donald Woodson (William 6) Bill served as President from 1986 to 1988.
John Stanton Woodson (Lewis5) served from 1988 to 1990 and was instrumental in getting the Association incorporated. A major step toward national recognition.
Alan Reid Jones (Lewis 6) was elected to succeed John and served as president from 1990 to 1992. In 1992 I had the honor, (with no small assist from Robert Cooley and Minnie Woodson), to lead the family up the Mountain for our historic return to Monticello in 1992. I use the term return for many of us had heard so much of Miss Sally and the Mr. Tom that it was indelibly sketched in our minds. In a letter to Daniel Jordan following the visit, I thanked him and through him the staff at Monticello for having so graciously received the family but I also mentioned the families disappointment in among other things, no mention of Thomas Woodson and lack of recognition for all that the black slaves did to make Monticello what it was.
James Thomas Wiley (Lewis 6) held the reigns from 1992 to 1994. Jim solidified the Association’s relations with Monticello. I like to believe that the work during James’ tenure played a role in Monticello starting the Getting the Word program..
Robert Henry Cooley, III, (Lewis 7) held the Presidents office during the period 1996 to 1998. Bob was outspoken in his belief in the family's oral tradition and his proximity to Monticello gave him a good platform to advance this tradition and the recognition of the Woodson Association.
Bob was succeeded by Robert C Golden (Lewis 6) who served during 1998-2000, His term was discussed on a previous page.
Ruth Jane Cassel Faithful (Francis 6) was president from 1994 to 1996. Jane made a special contribution in that she gave the association a heart by
instilling in the membership an even stronger feeling of family. She also increased the family's involvement in the Cassel Center and the Woodson Cemetery. She was active in and got the Ohio Woodson’s involved in the administration and management of this Berlin Crossroads activity which is so crucial to our history.
Many of the family have played a part in the Association, but no story of the Association is complete without mention of Logan William Wiley (Lewis 6) and his wife Clemmie who have been two of the most active supporters of the Association from its inception. Their support has been one of deed as well as word and the family is most grateful for their contribution.