Col. Robert "Tater Hole" Woodson

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Col. Robert Woodson, I

Also Known As: "Potato Hole"
Birthplace: Fleur de Hundred Plantation, Prince George County, Virginia
Death: after October 1, 1707
Varina Parish, Henrico, Virginia
Immediate Family:

Son of Dr. John Woodson, of Flowerdew Hundred and Sarah Johnson, widow Woodson
Husband of Elizabeth Woodson
Father of John Woodson; Richard Ferris Woodson, Sr.; Robert Woodson, II; Joseph Richard Woodson; Stephen Woodson and 7 others
Brother of John "Washtub" Woodson; Deborah Woodson; Richard Woodson; Benjamin Woodson; Judith Woodson and 3 others
Half brother of Elizabeth Dunwell

Occupation: Farmer/Road Surveyor
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Col. Robert "Tater Hole" Woodson

Robert Woodson was born about 1634 in Fleur de Hundred, Prince George County, Virginia and died in 1716 in Varina Parish, Henrico County, Virginia. He followed the life of a planter. He acquired both by patent and purchase a comfortable estate in land. His name appears frequently in the extant records as witness to various documents. The only public service recorded of him is that of surveyor of highways in Henrico County in 1685. There is no remaining record of his will or of admniistration on his estate.

Parents: son of John Woodson and Sarah Winston.

In 1656 in Curles, Henrico County, Virginia, married Elizabeth Ferris (1638-bef 1689), daughter of immigrant Richard Ferris of Curles plantation and his wife Mary Beaple. The Ferris family descended from a Norman family, Henri de Gascon of Leicestershire, England.

9 children of Elizabeth Ferris and Robert Woodson (5 sons, 4 daughters), all born in Henrico County:

  1. John Woodson, born about 1658, "carpenter" and "merchant"; died efore 5 Dec 1715. He married Judith Tarleton.
  2. Robert Woodson born in 1660 and died in Feb 1729/1730. He married, first, Sarah Lewis; second, Rachel Watkins.
  3. Elizabeth Woodson was born in 1662 and died about 1740. She married William Lewis.
  4. Richard Woodson, born in 1662 and died before 4 Mar 1715/1716. He married Ann [probably Smith].
  5. Joseph Woodson born about 1664 and died before 15 Oct 1734, of Henrico and Goochland Counties. He married his cousin Jane Woodson (daughter of John Woodson, Junior, son of John Woodson, Senior).
  6. Sarah Woodson was born in 1665 and died before 12 Oct 1710. She married Edward Mosby, of Henrico County. (See Mosby Family, ante page 2275.)
  7. Benjamin Lewis Woodson, of Henrico County, was born on 21 Aug 1666 and died before Aug 1723. He married Sarah Porter.
  8. Judith Woodson was born about 1673 and died before Jun 1733.
  9. Mary Woodson was born in 1678 and died on 1 Feb 1766. She married George Payne.

Why they're called the Potato Hole Woodsons

According to Woodson family tradition, the two Woodson sons, John and Robert, were twelve and ten years old in 1644 when the Indian chief, Opechacanogh, led an uprising against the settlement. John Woodson, returning home after visiting a patient, was killed in sight of his house. The Indians then began attacking the cabin which was barred against them. It was defended by Sarah and Ligon, a friend who was visiting at the time. Using an old musket, Ligon managed to kill nine of the Indians. Two others attempted to enter the house by the chimney, but Sarah scalded one to death with boiling water then seized the iron roasting spit with both hands and brained the other. The boys had been hidden away: one under a wash tub and the other in a pit used for storing potatoes. For several generations descendants of these boys were called either Tub Woodsons or Potato Hole Woodsons.

From "Adventurers of Purse and Person":

ROBERT WOODSON deposed, June 1680, that he was "46 years of age or thereabouts," and, 1 June 1696, that he was aged about 61. He married Elizabeth Ferris, daughter of Richard Ferris. On 21 Oct 1687 Robert Woodson, Richard Ferris and three others patented 1780 acres on White Oak Swamp in Varina Parish and the same day he, John Woodson, Sr., and two others patented 470 acres, also in Henrico county. He held 1157 acres in Henrico County, 1704, and died after 1 Oct 1707.


  • be cleared to New Kent Co. (that being his precinct) & with his warrant he do present all persons appointed by him who refuse to assist him. April 1, 1685 . Ibid. p. 182.
  • Robert Woodson, Sr. , of Henrico Co. , deed of gift to his daughter Sarah wife of Edward Moseby , of same place. 100 acres of land on S. side of White Oak Swamp , formerly purchased of Robert Clark & now in possession of sd. Edward Moseby , & adj. lands of Thos. East, Sr. & part of that Pattent: Unto the sd. Sarah Mosby during her life-time & to John Mosby son of Edward Mosby & Sarah his wife & ye heirs of his body if it please God he lives to attain the age of 21 yrs. but if not then to the next surviving heir of sd. Sarah Mosby : Moreover it shall be lawful for sd. John Mosby when he has attained the age of 21 yrs. to clear, build & seat upon any part of the sd. 100 acres of land, not molesting nor troubleing the sd. Sarah , his mother, during her lifetime. June 1, 1689 . Recd. June 1, 1689 . Ibid. p. 66.
  • Robert Woodson, Sr. , in consideracon of 20 days Carpenter's work secured to be paid, conveys to Edwd. Moseby , 50 acres of land adj. on the West side of 100 acres given by deed bearing date wth these present unto Sarah , wife of ye sd. Edward Moseby : June 1, 1689 . Recd. June 1, 1689 . Ibid. p. 67.
  • Robert Woodson Sr. of Henrico Co. , to John Pleasants . For consideracon in hand received. 150 acres including all land wth out ye bounds wch was laid out for me accdy. to sd. Pleasants & my agreement, being a part of a tract of 300 acres formerly bought of him ye sd. Pleasants, it being part of a tract of land taken up by Thos. East, Wm. Porter , Henry Brown & myself ye part now sold to ad. Pleasants being in Henrico Co. on N. side of James River & begins upon land of sd. Pleasants wch. he bought of Henry Bowen & downwards upon dividing line on sd. John Pleasants & myself. Recd. June 2, 1690 . Ibid. p. 131.
  • Under date of October 21, 1687 Robert Woodson, Richard Ferris, William Ferris and others had a grant of land covering 1637 acres, while John and Robert Woodson personally owned 531 acres.
  • Robert lived at Curls, and none of the earlier generation of descendants held prominent offices in the Colony, but served on grand juries, were constables and surveyors. But they were substantial and self respecting citizens of the community, listed as planters owning land and by patent and purchase ran their holdings up to several hundred acres. In these capacities of service they were compelled to have had some education.
  • Robert and Elizabeth had five sons and four daughters: John, Robert Jr., Richard, Joseph and Benjamin; Elizabeth, Sarah, Mary and Judith.
  • In 1707 Robert Woodson made a deed giving land to two of his grandsons, William and Joseph Lewis. This was possibly the last instrument that Robert Woodson signed as he died soon after that in his seventy-fourth year of age.
  • The Woodson brothers were not limited in land holdings, for Robert and John had 531 acres in 1681 and in 1688 their holdings had increased to 1887 acres and in connection with Robert Ferris and William Porter, Robert Woodson had nearly two thousand acres. Much of this was disposed of, however, as the children grew to maturity and married and scattered to various parts of Virginia and other states as well.
  • John Woodson (1586-1633) and his wife Sarah Winston were the immigrants of this family, arriving in Jamestown in 1619 on the ship George. Aboard was the new governor, Sir George Yeardley, about one hundred young Englishmen who would become settlers, and Woodson, a “surgeon” for the company of English soldiers protecting the new colony. He located on land owned by the governor, Flowerdew Hundred (named for his wife Temperance Flowerdew), thirty miles above Jamestown on the south side of the James River.
  • In the 1656, Robert Woodson (1634-1707) married Elizabeth Ferris (1638-1689) the daughter of immigrant Richard Ferris of Curles plantation and his wife Mary Beaple. Robert acquired a large estate and lived the life of a wealthy planter. His name appeared on many of the court records of the time as witness to documents, but his only public service was as Surveyor of Highways in Henrico County in 1685. In some papers he is given the title of Colonel.
  • Robert Woodson Jr. (1660- 1729), Robert's son, was first married to Sarah Lewis (1665-). Sarah was the daughter of John Lewis and his wife, Isobell Warner. She was the granddaughter of John Lewis, an immigrant from Wales who wrote his will in Henrico County in 1687. She was the mother of Sarah, Stephen, Joseph, Robert, Elizabeth, Mary and Agnes.
  • Joseph Woodson (of Robert Woodson's first marriage) married Elizabeth Mattox, daughter of John Mattox and his wife Margaret Kent. A son, also named Joseph, married Elizabeth Parsons, daughter of Joseph Parsons and Sarah Woodson.Their daughter was Judith Woodson.
  • Sarah died before 1710. In that year Robert Woodson (Jr.) requested to be “liberated” from his Henrico County Quaker community in order to marry Rachel Watkins (1669-1729), who was not of that Quaker community. He requested to be received back into his earlier community of Friends in 1723. His 1729 will named only eight of his ten children, so two may have died before him.
  • Elizabeth Woodson (1711-1784), the daughter of his second marriage, married John Knight. Our family descends from a son, Jonathan Knight. Elizabeth had a brother named Jonathan, born in 1715. A sister, Judith, was born in 1713.
  • Jonathan Knight (grandson of Robert's second marriage) married Judith Woodson (great-granddaughter of his first marriage). Their daughter, Judith Woodson Knight married Willam Amis.


John Woodson b: 1658 in Curles, Henrico, Virginia Joseph Richard Woodson b: 1664 in Curles, Henrico, Virginia Sarah Woodson b: 1665 in Curles, Henrico, Virginia Benjamin Woodson b: 21 AUG 1666 in Curles, Henrico, Virginia Judith Woodson b: 1667 in Curles, Henrico, Virginia Mary Woodson b: 1678 in Curles, Henrico, Virginia


Robert Woodson, son of Dr. John Woodson, and Sara Woodson, was born in 1634 at Fluer de Hundred Virginia.

Robert Woodson married Elizabeth Ferris in 1656 in Curles Henrico County Virginia.

Robert Woodson died between 1707-1711 in Henrico County Virginia.

Robert was known as "Potato Hole" Woodson because his Mother hid him in the potato bin during the Indian Raid that killed his father.

Robert Woodson b. 1634 m. Elizabeth Ferris, d. ca. 1707. Last known to be living in 1707, Henrico Co., VA. when he made a deed to his grandson, William and Joseph Lewis. He married Elizabeth Ferris, daughter of Richard Ferris, of Henrico, with whom, among others, received a patent, 21, October 1687, for 1785 acres at White Oak Swamp in Varina Parish, in that county. This man was the direct ancestor of Jesse Woodson James, and his brother, Alexander Franklin "Frank" James, the famous James Boys. Robert Woodson married Elizabeth Ferris: son Benjamin Woodson, married Sarah Porter; their son Robert Woodson (d. 1748/50) married Rebecca Pryor. Their daughter Elizabeth married Shadrach Mims (1734-1777) and became the mother of Elizabeth Mims (b. 1769) who married Robert Poor (1763-1801), a cornet in the American Revolutionary War. Their daughter in turn, Mary Poor, (died 1825) married John James (1775-1827), son of William and Mary (Hinds) James of Goochland County, Virginia. Their son Robert Sallee James, who died in the Gold Rush area of California, married Zerelda Cole and they had sons Frank James and Jesse James. (See: Background of a Bandit, by Joan M. Beamis and William E. Pullen (1971).

Jesse Woodson James, the bandit, married his cousin Zerelda "Zee" Amanda Mims. She was also a descendant of Elizabeth Woodson Mims, who married Robert Poor.

Birth: 1634 Henrico County Virginia, USA Death: 1707 Henrico County Virginia, USA

Robert Woodson, son of Dr. John Woodson, and Sara Woodson, was born in 1634 at Fluer de Hundred Virginia.

Robert Woodson married Elizabeth Ferris in 1656 in Curles Henrico County Virginia.

Robert Woodson died between 1707-1711 in Henrico County Virginia.

Robert was known as "Potato Hole" Woodson because his Mother hid him in the potato bin during the Indian Raid that killed his father.

Family links:

 John Woodson (1586 - 1644)
 Sarah Isabelle Winston Woodson (1595 - 1659)

 Elizabeth Ferris Woodson (1638 - 1689)

 Robert Woodson (1660 - 1729)*
 Richard Ferris Woodson (1662 - 1704)*
 Benjamin Lewis Woodson (1666 - 1723)*
 Elizabeth Woodson Payne (1678 - 1766)*
 Mary Woodson Payne (1678 - 1766)*

 John Woodson (1632 - 1684)*
 Robert Woodson (1634 - 1707)
  • Calculated relationship

Burial: Unknown

Created by: Bette Keene Scavone Record added: Sep 19, 2011 Find A Grave Memorial# 76792422

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Col. Robert "Tater Hole" Woodson's Timeline

Prince George County, Virginia
Age 24
Henrico, Virginia
Age 28
Curles, Henrico County, Virginia, Colonial America
Age 28
Curles, Henrico, Virginia
Age 30
Curles, Henrico County, Virginia
Age 31
Henrico County, VA
August 21, 1666
Age 32
Curles, Henrico County, Virginia Colony
Age 34
Henrico?, Henrico County, Virginia