A Deadly Indian Siege at Jamestown



Dr. John Woodson and Sarah Winston, both born in England were among the first immigrants to the new Jamestown Colony in Virginia. They arrived in April 1619 on the ship George, which was under the command of Sir George Yardley. John and Sarah settled in Fleur de Hundred, about 30 miles upriver from Jamestown. Dr. Woodson served as a physician for both British soldiers and colonists.

On April 19, 1644, while returning from a house call, Dr. Woodson was ambushed and killed by Indians within sight of his home. They then set on the house, which was defended by Sarah and a visiting shoemaker named Ligon. Sarah hid her two young sons: John, age 12, and Robert, age 10, under a tub and in a potato hole respectively. Sarah and the shoemaker killed eight Indians together; the shoemaker used an 8-foot musket that now resides in the Virginia Historical Museum in Richmond.

At one point during the attack, an Indian began descending into the house through the chimney. Sarah lit a mattress afire in the fireplace, which caused the Indian to fall in confusion. She dispatched the unfortunate native with a frying pan.

Both sons survived the attack. For generations after, John's descendants were known as "Tub Woodsons" and Robert's as "Potato Hole Woodsons." We are "Potato Hole Woodsons".

Descendants of the Woodsons include Dolley Todd Madison, wife of President James Madison, and the James brothers, Frank and Jesse James, the notorious bank robbers. Read more about these cousins in the Favorite Mullins Stories from "Across the Centuries!"

Our family has proven our lineage to both Dr. John Woodson and Sarah Woodson for membership in the Jamestowne Society.