52 Ancestors II, Week 60: John Woodley and his wife Louisa

St George's Cathedral in Georgetown, Guyana
and is one of the tallest wooden churches in the world
at a height of 143 ft. (b)

John Woodley was born 1809 in England.  We don’t know when he immigrated to the US.

In about 1845, John (36) married Louisa (25) who was born in 1820 in Demerara.

“Demerara, (Guyana) was first colonized by the Dutch West India Company(DWIC). The Demerara region was opened to settlement in 1746, and new opportunities attracted British settlers from nearby Barbados. By 1760, they had become the largest contingent in Demerara.  The mainstay of its economy was sugar, grown on cane plantations worked by slaves.  The treatment of slaves were markedly different from owner to owner, and from plantation to plantation.” (1)

Guyana is highlighted on the map

When Louisa was only 3 years old, “the Demerara rebellion of 1823 took place.  It was an uprising involving more than 10,000 slaves. The rebellion took place on 18 August 1823 and lasted for two days.  In part they were reacting to poor treatment and a desire for freedom; in addition, there was a widespread, mistaken belief that Parliament had passed a law for emancipation, but it was being withheld by the colonial rulers. Instigated chiefly by Jack Gladstone, a slave at "Success" plantation, the rebellion also involved his father, Quamina, and other senior members of their church group. Its English pastor, John Smith, was implicated.

Demerara Rebellion (a)

The largely non-violent rebellion was brutally crushed by the colonists under Governor John Murray. They killed many slaves: estimates of the toll from fighting range from 100 to 250. After the insurrection was put down, the government sentenced another 45 men to death, and 27 were executed. The executed slaves' bodies were displayed in public for months afterwards as a deterrent to others. Jack was deported to the island of Saint Lucia after the rebellion following a clemency plea by Sir John Gladstone, the owner of "Success" plantation. “ (1)

We don’t know when Louisa arrived in America, or when exactly she married John Woodley.  They had at least two children:

  • Harry born somewhere in English-speaking Canada in Mar 1847 (our ancestor)
  • Emma born in New York in 1848

In 1864, the family returned to the US, (from where?  Canada?)

In 1870 John (61) and Louisa (51) and family were living in Kansas City, MO, and the trail ends there.


*(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demerara_rebellion_of_1823
1870 Federal Census
(a) Bryant, Joshua (1824) Account of an insurrection of the negro slaves in the colony of Demerara, which broke out on the 18th of August, 1823., Georgetown, Demerara: A. Stevenson at the Guiana Chronicle Office. High-res scan courtesy of Brown University archives. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demerara_rebellion_of_1823
(b) http://www.guyanacityguide.com/place/st-georges-cathedral/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._George%27s_Cathedral,_Georgetown


  1. It's interesting to have ancestors who came to the New World but not directly to America. In this case by way of Demerara and Canada. One wonders if the slave rebelion in Demerara had been successful would it have inspired other slave uprisings throughout North and South America?


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