The Woods family papers chronicle the establishment of an important family in western Virginia during the 18th and early 19th centuries. While the bulk of the collection pertains to Archibald Woods' (1764-1846) activities as a surveyor and land speculator in Ohio County, the collection also contains several letters from later generations of the family, and documents relating to military and public affairs. A series of land surveys of the Ohio Valley, prepared by Archibald Woods, has been arranged and placed at the end of the collection.
The most important individual document in the collection is a petition relating to the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798. Addressed to the Senate and House of Representatives of Virginia from the citizens of Ohio County, the petition includes thirty nine signatures protesting the Acts. The signers expressed their concern regarding what they saw as a violation of the Constitution, and asserted that the acts were a "serious cause of alarm" for the citizens of Ohio County, whom, they noted, continued to adhere to the Democratic principles of the American Revolution.
During the time that Andrew Woods served as sheriff of Botetourt County, 1777-1780, he kept a small, deerskin-bound notebook that presents an important picture of his activities. Two interesting threads emerge from this notebook. First, Woods kept receipts and notes regarding the collection of taxes and fees, providing some elusive details on the activities of a rural sheriff in Virginia during the Revolutionary years. Secondly, Woods also kept sporadic records of family business, unrelated to his public activities. Included are a copy of the contract for the care of his mother and arrangements for the purchase of a slave for Elijah Woods. The contract specifies that Woods agreed to provide clothing, food, and shelter and, if his mother chose "to go back over the mountains," to provide a slave to care for her. In an addendum, he commanded his heirs to fulfill the contract if case of his death.
Over fifty surveys and treasury warrants document Archibald Woods' importance as a surveyor and land speculator in the Ohio River Valley. Many of these can be positively traced to land that today lies in the state of West Virginia, mostly in the panhandle, but, Woods owned property throughout Ohio County, which then included parts of Ohio and a corner of Pennsylvania. A contemporary range and township map assists in situating Woods' land holdings.
Seven printed orders, each unique, or nearly unique, include information about troop recruitment and deployment during the War of 1812, and about demobilization at the end of the war. Among other documents in the collection are Archibald Woods' commissions and resignations.
There is little true correspondence in the Woods family papers, although one item, a letter from Joe Woods, is of some interest. In this letter written to his mother, Woods summarizes his reasons for transferring to Princeton, assuring her of his sound character and his decision.
Finally, the collection contains useful information about the Woods family estate, Woodsdale. Three documents from 1815-1816 provide floor plans and a record of construction costs, and there are two copy photographs of the house as it stood before its demolition in 1949. In 1976-77, Ruth Moss described the physical layout of the home and grounds as she recalled them, as well as her memories of life at Woodsdale in the early part of the century.