Cross Woodis: Candidate for Oldest North Carolinian
By Dr. H.G. Jones, for the Associated Press
Chapel Hill (AP) — … Who was the oldest person ever to live in North Carolina? We may never know, but know candidate for the distinction was Cross Woodis, who complained before his death about 1880 that liquor had shortened his life.
He had done pretty well, though, for according to his biographer, Woodis was 130 years old when he died. If we base his age on the census of 1860 when he was listed as 100, he would have been only 120 at the time of his death. But what difference would 10 years make at that age?
We would perhaps know nothing of Cross Woodis except for a tiny sketch published in 1905 by Alfred Nixon ….
A mulatto born free but bound to a white man named Curtis until he was 21, Cross Woodis, according to census records, was born in Mecklenburg County long before the Revolution. He spent many years in Cabarrus County but lived in Lincoln County in his advanced years. He had a cabin on the farm of William King near Catawba Springs.
As a young man Woodis married a free black woman who, when the southern states began restricting the rights of free Negroes, insisted that the couple move to the free state of Ohio.
Woodis told his wife to go ahead with her relatives ad that he would follow. He never did, except for a visit. After years of separation from his first wife, he married another free black woman in North Carolina.
Apparently Cross Woodis was primarily a farmer, but he worked at various jobs – fisherman, hunter, horse racer, well digger, water witch. With a forked peach tree spout, he was almost unerring in locating water for his clients.
Woodis was remembered as shriveled and stooped but retaining a remarkable degree of his senses, particularly his memory and wit. He claimed to have killed a British soldier while guarding a cache of guns during the Revolution, a claim that Nixon accepted as true. …
Cross Woodis died at the home of a daughter in Mecklenburg County about 1880 and was buried at a Presbyterian church for blacks at Caldwell, a few miles from Cowan’s Ford.
The Robesonian, Lumberton, 11 February 1982.
In the 1850 census of Lincoln County: Cross Woodruss, 70, Delphy, 35, Henderson, 10, and Jane Woodruss, 8. In the 1860 Lincoln County: Cross Woodis, 100, farm laborer (active), born Mecklenburg County. In 1870 Catawba Springs, Lincoln County: Jordan Shuford, 25, wife Dovey, 26, and Cross Wordice, 110, “at home.” In 1880, Catawba Springs, Lincoln County: farm worker George Johnston, 27, Lucy, 22, Lizzie Boyd, 55, mother, Sarah Johnston, 50, mother-in-law, and Cross Woodis, 128, grandfather.