Dr. Henry Woodward and a New Archaeological site

A new archaeology site near Middleton Place is ‘ground zero’ for early English influence in S.C.

SUMMERVILLE — Fresh digging a few miles north of Middleton Place has shed new light on one of the Carolinas’ earliest English settlements.

Those working on the Lord Ashley site have created a blog to detail their findings. It’s lordashleysite.wordpress.com.

As archaeologists and students finish their field work this week, they can take heart in finding clear evidence of a moat, the site’s military importance, and the full dimensions of a foundation that may contain the oldest surviving bricks from the English colony in the Carolinas.

Lord Ashley Excavation

The roughly 1-acre site, now a pasture on private land, was a bustling place between 1675 and 1685, a military outpost and trading center where Englishmen, immigrants from Barbados, indentured white servants, African slaves and American Indians all crossed paths.

Andrew Agha is one of a half-dozen archaeologists who have been working on the site.

Agha works with the Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, the original English settlement that took root in 1670 several miles down the Ashley River.

“This and Charles Towne Landing are kind of Ground Zero for telling us about early South Carolina,” he said.

Five years after the 1670 settlement, doctor and explorer Henry Woodward led Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper’s representative, Andrew Percival, to this site at the Ashley River’s headwaters.

Lord Ashley, one of the colony’s original eight Lords Proprietors, had obtained about 12,000 acres from the crown. Records show he built a fort on his land, including a moat and palisade, and had hundreds of cattle and many slaves there.

After his death in 1683, the outpost began to fade.

The building that once stood atop the 15-foot by 15-foot brick foundation apparently was burned down, either by lightning or by colonists seeking to clear the land.

One reason this site is so valued by archaeologists is because the land hasn’t been churned up and muddled by other development after 1685.

Katherine Saunders Pemberton of the Historic Charleston Foundation said the archaeological work is a great collaboration between a lot of groups.

The property owner has allowed the work to continue for a third time in five years, while MeadWestvaco Corp., which owns property nearby, has continued to offer grants to defray the cost.

The excavations are done by archaeologists and students with Charles Towne Landing, the College of Charleston, Salve Regina University and the Charleston Museum, which has displays of some of the site’s previous finds.

Jon Marcoux, an archaeologist with Salve Regina, brought some students from the Newport, R.I., school to the site this year. Marcoux specializes in Native American societies and has been intrigued by the Indian pottery brought to the site, potentially from as far away as the Ohio River Valley.

“There is good evidence here that there were pots — and maybe even people — coming here from Georgia and east Tennessee,” he said.

Other finds from the 20 5-foot by 5-foot pits have been similar to previous discoveries, including 17th-century ceramics, lead shot and gun flints, and small glass beads used in the Indian trade.

The site’s frontier history is underscored because 2 percent of its artifacts are military or armory in nature.

“That’s a higher percentage than at Charles Towne Landing,” Agha said. “We need to know more about this site to know more about Charles Towne Landing. This site informs the whole state about its 17th-century roots.”

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771

I was called to be an artist. And as an old old midwife said to me "If the Lord wants you to do something, you won't have no good luck' til you do." So, here I am, sharing what I love, longing to illuminate the work of art, which is everywhere.

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Posted in Arts & Culture, Charleston South Carolina, science, South Carolina History
5 comments on “Dr. Henry Woodward and a New Archaeological site
  1. Thank you for posting this ,Charlotte! My son is learning about Henry Woodward this summer; since we all have his blood running in our veins,so to speak it makes it that much more interesting!

  2. Paula Hutson Simmons says:

    I have been reviewing old emails and found this posting. Any more news, publications or pictures? When I used to live in Virginia, I travelled back and forth to Florida to see my mom and family. Often I stopped in the Charleston area and took a day or two searching for the site of the trading place where Dr. Henry Woodward met the Indians coming toward the coast. One site I looked at (with permission of the owners) had originally been beside a waterfall on the Ashley River. It would be a logical place to trade since the Indians would have had to unload their canoes to get around the waterfall. I had heard there were going to be excavations there. Thanks for keeping us up to date, cousin Paula Hutson Simmons of Denver

  3. WordsworthSo says:

    Charlotte I am a writer, artist as well and love South Carolina and it’s history. I wanted to pass on a very important fact about the life of Dr. Henry Woodward. Tales of Dr. Woodward’s life are the stuff of legends most surely and accounts of his life were at one time a part of South Carolina educational history but many facts were embellished perhaps to cover some of the realities of Dr. Woodward’s life. While he did indeed communicate and live among some native Americans and created some form of trade with them, Dr. Woodward captured and sold great numbers of Indian’s into slavery. Particularly at the end of his life, this was his legacy.

    • Yes, commerce was what settled Carolina and I well know of this history, Leslie. I would not venture to call it his legacy however. The colony would not have survived without his valiant efforts and he is still considered South Carolina’s first settler and is taught in schools, thank goodness. What an amazing life he had. Historian Suzannah Smith Miles believes she has just discovered his exact birth date. Today she is talking to the Colonial Dames Society in Beaufort, SC (the Henry Woodward Chapter!) about his life. I wish I could be there! Thanks for writing!

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What’s this?

Welcome to my blog about the Lowcountry of South Carolina, a place proud with beauty, history and art. Sometimes we feel a call, to be, to go, to do. I was called to be an artist, and as an old midwife from Alabama said, “If the good Lord wants you to do something, you won’t have no good luck until you do it.”

So here I am writing about what I know, about the 'under glimmer' as the poet Basho, says, the way I have learned to see, to notice. I am inspired by, and talking about the history and art and culture of this place that has called me to herself. By the ancestors.

My background includes a degree in fine arts from a small private college in Florida, and before that, four years of all girls' boarding school in Asheville. I worked as a professional photographer, helped my children grow up, and now and I love seasoned things, good food, better conversation, beauty, my beloved and beautiful Italian Greyhound, Beau. Moved by the sacred places and stories of this beautiful historic land called the Lowcountry, I am here in spirit and I hope to infect you with my love of this place.