Clergyman. Little is known about Woodmason before he came to South Carolina. He was born in England and was probably of the gentry class. While his place of birth remains uncertain, he probably grew up in London. In his writings Woodmason says nothing about parents, brothers, sisters, or other relatives. Around 1752 he came to South Carolina. At some point an injury received from a horse’s kick left him unfit for “Nuptial Rites,” and his wife remained in England. She never joined him in South Carolina.
Soon after his arrival in Charleston, Woodmason began buying land in the Pee Dee River area. For about ten years he lived in Prince Frederick’s Parish, becoming church warden for the parish in 1756. In the absence of a rector, he read prayers and a sermon each Sunday. He was elected to the parish vestry in 1757 and was appointed justice of the peace the following year, serving for seven years in Craven County and Charleston. In 1762 Woodmason returned to England, and later that year or early in 1763 he came back to South Carolina and settled in Charleston. After he applied for the office of stamp distributor for the unpopular Stamp Act of 1765, he was hated and fell into disrepute.
Late in 1765 Woodmason applied for the position of itinerant Anglican minister in St. Mark’s Parish in the South Carolina backcountry. Since there was no Church of England bishop in the colonies, he had to go to England for ordination. He returned to South Carolina an ordained Anglican priest and was licensed to work in St. Mark’s. The backcountry was religiously diverse, with Anglicans, German Lutherans and Reformed, Huguenots, Scots and Ulster Irish Presbyterians, Quakers, Dunkards, Seventh-day Baptists, Regular Baptists, and Separate Baptists. As a gentleman, an Anglican, and an Englishman, Woodmason had little initial sympathy or understanding of backcountry residents or their religious habits.
Over time, Woodmason became a supporter of the Regulator movement, whose participants in 1768 protested the backcountry’s lack of political and judicial representation. The longer he lived among the backcountry’s inhabitants, the more Woodmason supported them and worked for their improvement. He labored for the relief of the poor, the needy, the stranger, the traveler, the sick, and the orphan. He was committed to the advancement of religion, the good of the church, and the suppression of idleness, beggary, profaneness, and lewdness. With the Separate Baptists outgrowing the Anglicans, Woodmason moved to Virginia in 1773 and then to Maryland. Later, in 1774, he returned to England and sought aid as a Loyalist refugee. After November 1776 nothing is known about him, including his death and place of burial. Woodmason’s major literary contribution is his Journal of C. W. Clerk, Itinerant Ministerin South Carolina, 1766, 1767, 1768, in which he accurately described life in the backcountry and defended the Regulators.
Woodmason, Charles. The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution: The Journal and Other Writings of Charles Woodmason, Anglican Itinerant. Edited by Richard J. Hooker. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1953.