A Condensed Look into the Journey of Charles Woodmason Across the Carolina Backcountry
By: Anna Greco
Charles Woodmason was a merchant and planter whom notably preached and tried to convert hundreds of Americans. He was assigned to St. Mark’s Parish in South Carolina but was often on the move. The New Lights, who favored revivalism, and the Old Lights, who were resistant to any new thought, disagreed heavily. Woodmason hated the New Lights and thought they had infested North Carolina, and Woodmason being an Old Light was not happy about this revival and stuck firmly to his British roots and beliefs about the Church of England. He was on a mission to change that though so he traveled thousands of miles across the Carolina backcountry.
When & Where?
Woodmason’s travels took place mostly from 1766 to 1768 in South Carolina and North Carolina. These years were during the Great Awakening. For those who do not know what the Great Awakening was, it was the spreading of religion in colonial America. Woodmason did everything he could to stop this.
What You Need to Know
Charles Woodmason, an English Anglican, spent years traveling in the Carolina Backcountry. He was a strong follower of the Church of England and wanted to stop the spreading of new religion and new thinking. Since most of the colonist left England for religious freedom, it is no wonder most did not take to Woodmason’s preaching. As I researched about his travels, I found that he mostly revisited certain churches, land, and meeting houses. Often, he spent only a day or two in an area to preach, baptize, or marry a couple. His journal entries, which I used for my data points, varied in detail. Some days were short and uneventful; while others were filled with detail and emotions. He joined Prince Fredrick’s Parish in South Carolina for 10 years starting in 1752. Obviously, the people of this parish took a liking to him since he was there for multiple years.
While traveling, he did not just focus on the English/Whites but on all races. Particularly on July 3, 1767, Woodmason baptized several “negroes and mulattos ” and also married “several couple on the Proclamation” there, which shows how the Great Awakening in the South impacted blacks. Woodmason preached in Little Creek, South Carolina in 1768 and was “amazed at the generosity of these people” (Woodmason). He gave a sermon to the congregation and found the scarcity of provisions here, but he was given bacon and eggs even though most people were starving. On April 1, 1768, Woodmason had a successful day at Lynch’s Creek, South Carolina. He preached to a devout congregation and some new communicants. He also met many serious, religious people and received 18 of those people.
With traveling comes mother nature, Woodmason had to cross rivers and creeks and endure harsh weather conditions while on his journey. Particularly on January 24, 1768 on his way to Rocky Mount, Woodmason contracted a “very great cold and cough” from swimming in the creeks. Pine Tree Hill was a common stop for Woodmason. He baptized, married, and rested in that location frequently especially in 1768.
On July 20, 1767, he preached at Granny’s Quarter Creek and said that the people there were “rude ignorant and void of things“(Woodmason). He also said that they knew nothing of religion, manners, or anything really, “except for vice”. This showed how harsh he was to many southern colonists in the Western Frontier, mainly because they were not as educated as him. As time went on, Woodmason tried to preach again at the same place. On January 1, 1768, he attempted to preach at Granny’s Quarter Creek in South Carolina. However, he was shocked by their savagery. He even said, “they are the lowest pack of wretches my eyes ever saw, or that I have met with in these woods”(Woodmason).
Woodmason sometimes preached to crowds of hundreds of people. For example, on June 26, 1768, he preached to a crowd of about 400 people, He then baptized 24 infants, 2 adults, and married a couple. On July 15, 1770, Woodmason preached that people should render all kind and neighborly offices when people are sick aka just be good to each other.
What can the Reader Learn from This?
As one might be able to tell, Woodmason traveled many miles over multiple years in the Carolina Backcountry. His goal was to reel these new thinkers and believers back to The Church of England. He did not like this Great Awakening. The question that I and you might be wondering is, was Woodmason more hostile as the years went on or as he traveled further into the backcountry. Either way, one might be able to tell Woodmason was not a success with all people he visited and preached to. His message was not always taken well and some people were reluctant to listen. Now after learning about Woodmason’s journey, it is up to you to decide if his goal was meat or if it simply was a pointless grueling journey?
What Sources Did I Use to Find This Information?
I used one extremely creditable source when researching the Carolina Backcountry. Charles Woodmason kept a journal of all of his travels and experiences.
This journal is now known as The Carolina Backcountry in the Eve of the Revolution. I used a text copy of this journal found in SMU’s Fondren Library.
Want to Learn More About Charles Woodmason and the Carolina Backcountry? Check out the Sources Below!
- The Carolina Back-Country on the Eve of the Revolution: The Journal and Other Writings of Charles Woodmason