Charles Woodmason
English poet
Charles Woodmason
Charles Woodmason was an author, poet, Anglican clergyman, American loyalist, and West Gallery psalmodist. He is best remembered for his journal documenting life on the South Carolina frontier in the late 1760s, and for his role as a leader of the South Carolina Regulator movement.
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  • 1789
    Age 68
    In late March 1789, Rev. Charles Woodmason died.
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    Evidently, he was in the parish of Sedbergh (West Riding, Yorkshire now Cumbria) for he was buried from St. Andrew’s Church, in Sedbergh, on Monday, 30 March 1789.
    More Details Hide Details His grave in the churchyard is unmarked. A great-grandson, also named Charles Woodmason, along with several other family members, followed their friend John Henry Newman into the Roman Catholic Church. This Charles' brother, Rev. James Mathias Woodmason died in Cumbria in 1873. A graduate of St. Bees Theological College, he had served a church near Cockermouth as an Anglican curate for about 25 years. There is no record that either man ever married.
  • 1782
    Age 61
    On 18 January 1782, tragedy struck the Woodmason family.
    More Details Hide Details While James Woodmason was at a royal ball at St. James’ Palace, he suffered a disastrous fire that destroyed his home and business on Leadenhall Street, City of London, killing all seven of his children. The oldest child was only eight and home from boarding school for a visit. Mary Gavelle Woodmason, James’ wife, alone survived. (The children are memorialized by a Francesco Bartolozzi plaque in St Peter upon Cornhill church, Leadenhall Street, City of London. The monument pictures each child individually.) Although two additional sons were born to the couple, the marriage eventually disintegrated. Fortunately, Charles Woodmason did not live long enough to see it end in a messy and very public Doctors' Commons lawsuit against the wife for abandoning her husband and family by returning to live with her father in France, obtaining a French divorce (which the British courts firmly refused to recognize) “on the ground of non-performance of conjugal rights”, and committing bigamy by marrying a Parisian named Joseph Antoine Guibert (who, according to press accounts, was very much younger than Mary). Parliament granted James Woodmason a divorce in early 1798. Being, in the eyes of the law, the “innocent” party in this affair, he was free to remarry, which he quickly did.
  • 1776
    Age 55
    As an American Loyalist refugee, Woodmason faced an uncertain future. From at least February 1776 through December 1777, he served as the curate of St. Michael and All Angels Parish, Dinder, Somerset (less than three miles southeast of Wells).
    More Details Hide Details He also preached at nearby churches, Watford (which Watford is unstated), and the parishes of Dedham and Chingford in Essex. Ongoing research will, hopefully, fill in the many unaccounted for time periods of Woodmason's English years.
    That act, coupled with his refusal to publish at that service the “Brief for collecting Money for relief of the poor of Boston, (but in fact to purchase Ammunition)” according to Woodmason's 1776 memorial to the Bishop of London, led a local Patriot committee to advise him to “consult his safety”.
    More Details Hide Details He did so by returning to England.
  • 1772
    Age 51
    Woodmason served as a curate for a parish near Baltimore, Maryland in 1772 and 1773.
    More Details Hide Details On 29 May 1774 (the day that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer set aside to commemorate the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II), Rev. Charles Woodmason angered the local Patriots by performing the special liturgy authorized for that occasion, which stresses that those in authority—especially the King—must be obeyed, and read the homily on obedience (the traditional reading for this day), all as the Prayer Book rubrics directed.
    In 1772, Charles Woodmason accepted a parish in Virginia only to find upon his arrival that the vestry in their patriotic zeal had resolved to hire only native-born Americans.
    More Details Hide Details Had they read his Sylvanus article, they would have been even less desirous of employing Woodmason! His name appeared on a list of early (pre-1786) Fredericksburg, Virginia Free Masons.
  • 1766
    Age 45
    Woodmason was assigned to St. Mark’s Parish on the South Carolina frontier, assuming his duties in September 1766.
    More Details Hide Details The parish had a dispersed and growing population, yet had few roads and even fewer amenities. Woodmason had 26 regular, periodic stops in the parish which he visited anywhere from every other Sunday to once yearly. He also had the option of preaching whenever and wherever he could gather a congregation. In two years he traveled 6,000 miles. He found very little in backcountry life to his liking. The people lived in open cabins “with hardly a Blanket to cover them, or Cloathing to cover their Nakedness”. Their diet consisted of “what in England is given to Hogs and Dogs” and he was forced to live likewise. Most cabins even lacked basic cutlery. At worship, the people used “the barbarous Scotch Version” of the Psalms instead of Isaac Watts’. And that was just the start of his long litany of complaints and criticism.
    After a series of reverses, including a failed attempt to become a distributor under the hated Stamp Act, Charles Woodmason returned to England and was ordained a Church of England minister. On Friday, Apr. 25, 1766, Charles Woodmason was ordained a deacon by John Green, the Bishop of Lincoln, at the Chapel Royal, Whitehall, Westminster.
    More Details Hide Details On the following Sunday, Edmund Keene, the Bishop of Chester ordained him as a priest.
  • 1754
    Age 33
    Writings from both of them were included in a microfilm edition Selected Materials Relating to America, 1754-1806 that the Society published in the 1960s.
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  • 1752
    Age 31
    The South Carolina Gazette issue of August 10, 1752 contains a long list of books “to be sold by Charles Woodmason.” This is the earliest mention of his presence in South Carolina.
    More Details Hide Details Both his wife and son remained in England. Initially, he prospered as both a merchant and planter. In addition to his mercantile and agricultural pursuits, he wrote a book on the production of indigo and published several poems in The Gentleman's Magazine, including one (which was widely reprinted) lauding Benjamin Franklin’s recent electricity experiment. One authority on colonial life described him as “South Carolina’s brightest literary light”. Both Franklin and Woodmason were considered "principal correspondents" (and were members) of the Royal Society of Arts, London.
    Sometime in 1752, his son left England for America and settled in the colony of South Carolina where he initially prospered as a planter and store proprietor.
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  • 1750
    Age 29
    In September 1750, Benjamin Woodmason died.
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  • 1748
    Age 27
    His tune book, A Collection of Psalm Tunes with Basses Fitted for the Voice and Figured for the Organ, for the Use of Gosport in Hampshire, saw its second edition in 1748.
    More Details Hide Details Hannah Page Woodmason was buried from St. Mary's Church, Alverstoke in 1766.
  • 1747
    Age 26
    In 1747, he was responsible for the removal of the organ used by George Frederick Handel from the deceased Duke of Chandos' private chapel at Canongate to Holy Trinity, where it still remains in use today.
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  • 1745
    Age 24
    He married Hannah Page in 1745 and they had two children, a daughter and a son.
    More Details Hide Details Only his son James Woodmason survived to adulthood.
  • 1735
    Age 14
    In June 1735, Woodmason completed the seven-year apprenticeship to a Gosport mercer named Thomas Levet.
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  • 1722
    Age 1
    Charles Woodmason’s mother died in August 1722 and his father remarried in October 1725.
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  • 1720
    Born in 1720.
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    The son of Benjamin Woodmason, a ship's carpenter, and his second wife, Susanna Pittard, Charles Woodmason was baptized on November 3, 1720 at Holy Trinity Church of England Chapel, Gosport, Hampshire, England and was evidently a native of that town.
    More Details Hide Details Benjamin was from an old Devon family and apparently settled in Gosport after marrying the first time to a local girl.
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