Page from Thomas Woodson family photo album open to picture of "James Cassell" and "Frances Woodson, Daughter of Thomas Woodson"
Courtesy Mary Cassells Kearney
Thomas and Jemima Woodson and their family left Greenbrier County, Virginia, for Chillicothe, Ohio, about 1821. There they participated in founding Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, the first independent African American church west of the Alleghenies. In 1829 Woodson started a community of “very independent people” in rural Jackson County. By 1840 he owned 372 acres in a thriving settlement of nearly two hundred African Americans. One newspaper writer described the Woodsons as the most “intelligent, enterprising, farming family” in Ohio.
Of the Woodsons’ eleven children, three were ministers and five were teachers. Two of their sons were killed for assisting fugitive slaves in the Underground Railroad. Their descendants include many leaders in the fields of education, religion, law, and business. Descendants of at least five of Thomas Woodson’s children carry the enduring family tradition that he was the son of Thomas Jefferson.