Thomas Woolsey

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ChartsAncestors of Dora Myrtle Woolsey
Richard M. Nixon - Dora Myrtle (Woolsey) Smith
James Earl Carter Jr. - Dora Myrtle (Woolsey) Smith
Thomas Woolsey, son of Richard Woolsey and Sarah Fowler, was born at Bedford, Westchester Co., New York, November 1719.1 He died at Washington Co., Virginia, in February 1794, and was buried at River View, Smythe Co., Virginia.1

For his first wife, Thomas may have married Elizabeth Waters, whose ancestry is unknown (or not traced here), about 1738;2 he married (2) Sarah [Pierce], whose parents are also unknown (or untraced), at Washington Co., about 1782.1

Thomas Woolsey was in the Marlborough area of Ulster Co., New York in 1763 when, on the "first Tuesday in April" he was named as a Path Master for one of the roads in the precinct of Newburgh, predecessor to Marlborough.3

That Thomas Woolsey of New York and of Southwest Virginia is the same man is shown by the records of the Linville Creek Baptist church where in 1772, he was received into the church by letter, "from a church in 'New York Government, and now ordained for the Ministry by Order of this Church, by the Rev. Mr. Jno. Alderson.'" Just the next year, on the second Sunday in August 1773, Thomas was dismissed from the church, with no reason given.4

When Thomas Wolsey settled on the south fork of the Holston, 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 who 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 probably had existed before this.

Some of the land he acquired was up the river from Abingdon.

During the Revolution, British influence and control over colonial affairs began to wane, and along with it, the requirement for all marriages to be performed by the Church of England in order to be legal. In 1780, the General Assembly of Virginia, in the October session, enacted a law with the objective to "encourage marriages and for removing doubts concerning the validity of marriages celebrated by ministers, other than those of the Church of England." At a court held In Washington Co., 15 May 1781, Rev. Thomas Woolsey, "a regular Baptist minister," was given "license to solemnize the Rights of Matrimony according to Law, and was among the first of those granted a license under the new law.5,6 The marriage records of Washington County start later than this, and the records show Thomas Woolsey performed 79 marriages between August 1785 and April 1789, though there were probably many more between 1780-1785.7

Later, Thomas Wolsey sold the portion of land on which the Meeting House stood to Joseph Cole, 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 Washington County Surveyors Records for 1781-1797 shows:
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 acres of which was conveyed for Elias McCoy, January 11, 1774, includes improvements, by actual settlement made in 1774 . . . August 30, 1781 - Assigned to Jonathan Dean8

Surveyed for Thomas Woolsey 400 acres . . . in Washington County . . . lying on the South Fork of Holstein River Beg on a Sycamore on the bank . . . to a black oak and elm on John Thomas' land . . . to a white oak, black oak & poplar with Thomas's line . . . to a black oak, thence crossing the River . . . to a poplar corner with Moses Ashbrook's land . . . to a white oak with Ashbrook . . . to a small white oak sapling with Ashbrook . . . to 3 white oaks withAshbrook, thence leaving Ashbrook's corner . . . to a red oak corner with Joseph Coles land . . . to 2 white oaks & dogwood, with Coles . . . to 3 white oaks corner with Jonathan Deans land . . . to a bunch of poplars with Deans line . . . 12 Jun 1782
We . . . do certify that Thomas Woolsey, John Pierce & Moses Ashbrook are entitled to 400 acres . . . lying in Washington County joining the South Fork of Holstein on the north side being part of 612 acres surveyed for Thos Woolsey the 23rd Feb 1775 by order of Council . . . 16 Dec 1773, he having proved to the court . . . actual settlement made in 1771 . . . 30 Aug 1781 . . . "The whole of this Certf. is assigned to Thos Woolsey."9

In 1774, Rev. Thomas owned 300 acres on the Middle Fork on the Holston River
August 14, 1781, 200 acres, South Fork of Holston
August, 1781, 300 acres, South Fork of Holston10
June 12, 1782, 400 acres, South Fork of Holston10
August 30, 1781, 400 acres, South Fork of Holston10

He is shown in the 1782 Land Tax List for Washington Co., Virginia as Thomas Woolsey Senr with 312 acres valued at £30-0-1/11.11 In the Personal Property Tax list, Thoms Wolsey Sen. (in Col Arthur Campbell's Precinct/Capt Bowen's Company) has one tithable, 2 horses, 8 cattle, no slaves.12

At the Washington County court, 17 Jun 1783, Thomas Wolsey, Sen., and three others were appointed to "view the plantation whereon Hugh Cole deceased lived and value the yearly income and consider the Expences of the Maintenance of the five Orphan children of the said Hugh Cole and make report to the August Court agreeable to the Will of the said Cole."13

Thomas apparently disposed of most of his estate before making his will:
17 Jun 1790, Thos. Woolsey and Sarah his wife to Nathaniel Hull of Ulster Co., New York for £130, 300 acres on the South Fork of the Holston.14
20 Nov 1792, Thomas Woolsey and Sarah his wife to Joseph Cole for £10, 112 acres on the South Fork of the Holston.15
5 Dec 1792, Thomas Woolsey to Richard Woolsey for £10, 300 acres on the waters of the South Fork of the Holston.15

At the grave of Rev. Thomas Woolsey, at Maiden Burying Ground, is a monument which bears the simple inscription, "Rev. T. W. Wolsey, A pioneer Baptist minister, Died 1794." It appears that William N. Britton placed the stone on Thomas's grave sometime between 1900 and 1910. He had known where Thomas was buried as there had been a rock or other marker there.16

Earlier 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 married 2nd Sarah Pierce. The first wife may have been Elizabeth Waters as given in the Annotated Baptisms of the Dead, but, those annotations include data from the Ancestral File or FamilySearch, and there is no indication of which information came from which source or even which specific FamilySearch record was used.17 The reference to Elizabeth Waters is no more than a clue at this point.

Having already disposed of his property Thomas Woolsey left an extremely short will dated 26 February 1794 and proved in December 1794:
Feb 26,1794, I Thomas Woolsey 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 Wolsey five shillings. I do acknoleg this to be my last Will and Testament Thomas Woolsey.18

Family 1

Elizabeth Waters
  • Mary Woolsey2 b. 7 Jan 1739/40, d. bef. 1820
  • Zephaniah Woolsey1 b. 7 Jun 1740
  • Priscilla Woolsey1 b. 1741, d. 1772
  • Simeon Woolsey1 b. 1743
  • Daniel Woolsey1 b. 1745
  • George Woolsey+1 b. 1748, d. bef. 7 Jul 1817
  • Richard Woolsey1 b. 1751, d. 1825
  • Abraham Woolsey1 b. 1754
  • William Woolsey1 b. 1758
  • Thomas Woolsey1 b. 21 Oct 1761, d. 6 Apr 1797
  • Sarah Woolsey2 b. 1762
  • Lucinda Woolsey2 b. abt. 1768

Family 2

Sarah [Pierce] b. say 1720, d. aft. 1794
This person was last edited on15 Dec 2017


  1. [S817] Wilford Whitaker and Carolyn Woolsey Wilkerson, Woolsey Genealogy Website, online, Descendants of Thomas Woolsey (1719-1794). Hereinafter cited as Whitaker and Wilkerson, Woolsey Genealogy.
  2. [S817] Whitaker and Wilkerson, Woolsey Genealogy, online,
  3. [S842] C. M. Woolsey, History of the Town of Marlborough, Ulster County, New York From its Earliest Discovery (Albany, New York: J. B. Lyon, Printers, 1908), 149, further cited as Woolsey, History of Marlborough.
  4. [S1763] John W. Wayland, Virginia Valley Records: Genealogical and Historical Materials of Rockingham County, Virginia and Related Regions (With Map) (1930; reprint, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1978), 55-56, further cited as Wayland, Virginia Valley Records.
  5. [S1778] Washington County Courthouse, Abingdon, Virginia, Minute Books, 1777-1903, 1:111, FHL Film #34382, further cited as Washington Co., Minute Books.
  6. [S847] Lewis Preston Summers, History of Southwest Virginia 1746-1786, Washington County, 1777-1870, two vols. (1903; reprint, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1966), 370-371, further cited as Summers, History of Southwest Virginia.
  7. [S846] Lewis Preston Summers, Annals of Southwest Virginia 1769-1800, two vols. (1929; reprint, Greenville, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1992), 1256-1272, further cited as Summers, Southwest Virginia.
  8. [S1717] Tom Colley, Washington County Virginia: Surveys & Commissioners' Certificates, 1781-1797 (Athens, Georgia: Iberian Publishing, 1999), 31-32, further cited as Colley, Washington Co. Surveys.
  9. [S1717] Colley, Washington Co. Surveys, 137.
  10. [S821] Goodridge Wilson, Smyth County History and Traditions (Kingsport, Tennessee: Kingsport Press, 1932), 44, further cited as Wilson, Smyth County.
  11. [S1738] Keith Nickles, transcriber, 1782 Land Tax List of Washington Co., VA for the first battallion: A list of Proprietors of land with their several quantities & value thereof as assertained by the commissioners of the land tax for the first batalion in the County of Washington 1782 No. 2 (url:, viewed 24 Sep 2011), further cited as Nickles, 1782 Land Tax List for Washington Co., VA.
  12. [S849] Thomas Jack Hockett, Washington County, Virginia, Personal Property Tax Lists: Volume 1 1782-1786, 1788-1790 (Athens, Georgia: New Papyrus Publishing, 2004), 9, further cited as Hockett, Washington County Tax Lists: Vol. 1.
  13. [S846] Summers, Southwest Virginia, 1153.
  14. [S846] Summers, Southwest Virginia, 2:1304.
  15. [S846] Summers, Southwest Virginia, 2:1296.
  16. [S821] Wilson, Smyth County, 129.
  17. [S1753] Susan Easton Black and Harvey Bischoff Black, Annotated Record of Baptisms for the Dead: 1840-1845: Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois (7 vols., Provo, Utah: Center for Family History and Genealogy, Brigham Young University, 2002), 6:3925-3926, further cited as Black and Black, Baptisms for the Dead.
  18. [S1759] Abingdon, Virginia, Washington Co. Will Books, 1777-1908; general index to wills, divisors and divisees, 1777-1937, 2:49, FHL microfilm 34356, further cited as Washington Co. Will Books.