“Uncle London” Woodard (1792-November 15, 1870) was one of the most respectable black men of his area and time. Having been married about 1817 to James Bullock Woodard’s Venus, he was purchased by this planter on May 24, 1828, and became his overseer and distiller. London was baptized into the fellowship of the Tosneot Primitive Baptist Church on August 24, 1828, and Venus on August 4, 1838. This good woman died about the end of 1845, leaving several children to mourn her loss.
In 1846, he married Penelope Lassiter, daughter of Hardy Lassiter. She had become an indispensable part of the James B. Woodard household after the death of his first wife in 1837. “Aunt Pennie,” a free woman of light color, who worked hard, saved her money, and bought land. On September 18, 1854, she also bought “Uncle London” and made him a free man. He was “liberated to preach” on April 21, 1866, and in the following December Mrs. Elizabeth Farmer gave him one acres upon which he soon erected “London’s Primitive Baptist Church” which is still in existence.
From the introduction to Hugh Buckner Johnston, The Woodard Confederate Letters of Wilson County (1977).
Photo of London Church taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, May 2013.
[Sidenote: Actually, while London Woodard may have lived essentially as a free man after Penny Lassiter’s purchase, there is no evidence that he was in fact emancipated prior to the end of the Civil War. No record of such has been found and, while Penny and their children appear as Lassiters in the 1860 census, he does not.
The London Church congregation built a new edifice on the church’s original site on Herring Avenue in Wilson. The building above was saved and moved around the corner to a site on London Church Road, where it sits neglected. — LYH]