Physician, Indian agent. Woodward was among the earliest English settlers of South Carolina. Little is known about his formative years, although he was apparently well educated. In the summer of 1666, the young Woodward was a part of the expedition of Robert Sandford, who came to Port Royal to explore the region for the Lords Proprietors. When Sandford left, Woodward remained among the tribes there, studying the culture of its peoples and learning their language. A Spanish expedition learned of his presence, however, and captured Woodward, imprisoning him in St. Augustine. When the English privateer Robert Searle attacked that city in 1668, Woodward escaped and sailed with Searle as a ship’s surgeon. Around 1669 he married a woman known only as Margaret.
Woodward returned to South Carolina by 1670, where the proprietors, particularly Lord Ashley, valued him as a highly useful agent, Indian trader, and diplomat. In 1670 he helped to negotiate support from surrounding Indians against a possible conflict with the Spanish. For his services, the proprietors rewarded him with a gift of £100. He also undertook secret missions at the behest of Lord Ashley Cooper and Governor Sir John Yeamans to explore the frontier for precious metals and potential Indian trading partners.
In the spring of 1674 the proprietors directed him to establish peaceful relations and regular trade with either the Cussitaws or the Westos, for which he would receive one-fifth of the profit. That autumn Woodward traveled with a visiting group of Westos to their village on the Savannah. The visit opened a lucrative trade in skins and slaves, and the ensuring treaty with the Westos opened the way for the expansion of English settlement beyond Charleston. From a military standpoint, the Westos were to provide support against attacks launched from Spanish Florida. In 1680 a group of southeastern tribes, including the Westos, launched attacks into Spanish territory under English direction. As a direct result of the relationship, the Westos became the most heavily armed tribe in the South- east, free to terrorize other Indians for the ever-lucrative slave trade. Warfare among Indians continued and by 1680 degenerated into the Westo War, which ultimately destroyed that nation. Woodward was fined by the government for providing the Westos with weapons (which they later used against pro-English tribes), and he was subsequently censured by the proprietors. He traveled to England to defend his actions, however, and was pardoned. Returning to Carolina, he resumed his position as Indian agent.
In 1681 Woodward married a wealthy member of the South Carolina elite, Mary Godfrey. The marriage produced three children. The following year the Lords Proprietors commissioned Woodward to explore the backcountry of Carolina and to find a passage through the bordering Appalachian Mountains. In the summer of 1685 Woodward made contact with the Lower Creeks, previously allied with the Spanish. He forged an alliance with this nation, much to the displeasure of the Spanish, who scoured the backcountry for Woodward. He returned to Charleston in 1686 gravely ill and accompanied by a large party of Creeks. Woodward died sometime before March 1690.
Crane, Verner. The Southern Frontier, 1670–1732. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1928.
Salley, Alexander S. Narratives of Early Carolina 1650–1708. New York: Scribner’s, 1911.