WOOD, THOMAS, physician, surgeon, and Church of England clergyman; b. late in 1711 in New Jersey, probably in New Brunswick, of Scottish Quaker descent; son of Thomas Wood; m. before 1752 Mary Myers, and they had one son and four daughters; d. 14 Dec. 1778, at Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.
Thomas Wood was “bred to Physick and Surgery” and practised medicine from New York to Philadelphia in his early years. When troops were raised in New England to relieve provincial units that had taken part in the first siege of Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), Wood was appointed surgeon to Shirley’s American Provincials and accompanied them to Louisbourg in May 1746. He remained there until the regiment was disbanded late in 1748. Having decided to seek ordination in the Church of England, he left for England in June 1749 and was ordained deacon by Bishop Thomas Sherlock of London on 24 September and priest five days later. The report of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel for 1749–50 states that the citizens of New Brunswick, New Jersey, had requested that “Mr. Wood, a Gentleman of a very good Life and Conversation . . . might, if he should be found worthy of holy Orders, and be admitted into them, be appointed their Missionary.” Wood left late in 1749 to serve the churches in New Brunswick and Elizabethtown (Elizabeth, N.J.).
Apparently Wood became dissatisfied with his mission, for in letters of 9 Nov. and 6 Dec. 1751 he petitioned the SPG for transfer to Nova Scotia. The following year, on 1 August, he asked to be allowed to exchange missions with Jean-Baptiste Moreau* of Halifax. Without receiving the Society’s permission, but with the approval of Governor Edward Cornwallis of Nova Scotia, Wood left for Halifax that month. His hope of succeeding William Tutty* as missionary there was, however, disappointed by the arrival of John Breynton early in October. On Breynton’s recommendation Wood was eventually made assistant at St Paul’s Church, since the population of Halifax had grown to such an extent that two missionaries had become necessary.
Using Halifax as his base, Wood made many missionary journeys to the western parts of Nova Scotia and to districts as far as what is now the New Brunswick border. In 1755 he was appointed chaplain to the garrison at Fort Cumberland (near Sackville, N.B.), and in 1759 he became chaplain to the first House of Assembly in Halifax. As there appeared to be some rivalry between Wood and Breynton over who was actually in charge of the parish of St Paul, on 24 Sept. 1759 Governor Charles Lawrence* appointed Breynton rector, and Wood vicar, of St Paul’s. Wood remained vicar until he went to Annapolis Royal permanently in 1764. Although little is known about his ministry at Annapolis, he seems to have continued his missionary travels. In July 1769 he advised the society of a tour he had made that summer to Maugerville (N.B.) and the Indian settlements on the Saint John River.
Wood was a good linguist and could preach in French, German, English, and Micmac. During his years in Halifax he had become friendly with Abbé Pierre Maillard*, with whom he had studied Micmac. He learned the language so well that in 1764 he began to translate the services in the Book of Common Prayer and started a Micmac grammar. On 4 Sept. 1766 he informed the SPG that he had finished the first volume of the grammar, including the creeds and the Lord’s Prayer, and that he was engaged on the second and last volume. A year later he was able to read prayers to the Indians in Micmac at a service attended by the governor in St Pauls. Nothing is known of his Micmac studies after 1767.
Wood had married Mary Myers before his arrival in Halifax. She died on 17 April 1778 and Wood was buried beside her on his death eight months later. One of their daughters married William Shaw and another the surgeon John Philipps*.
USPG, B, 19, p.10; 20, pp.8, 97, 100; 25, nos.2, 51, 80, 85, 88, 116, 179 (mfm. at PANS). SPG, [Annual report] (London), 1748–49, 46. J. B. Bell, “Anglican clergy in colonial America ordained by bishops of London,” American Antiquarian Soc., Proc. (Worcester, Mass.), 83 (1973), 159. G.B., WO, Army list, 1758, 159. S. A. Clark, The episcopal church in the American colonies: the history of St. John’s Church, Elizabeth Town, New Jersey, from the year 1703 to the present time . . . (Philadelphia and New York, 1857), 62, 65. [H. M. S. Clayton], Smith’s Cove and her neighbors: the story of Smith’s Cove and her neighbors in the land of the bluenoses (2 pts., [Smith’s Cove, N.S.], 1961–62), pt.1, 63. R. V. Harris, The church of Saint Paul in Halifax, Nova Scotia: 1749–1949 (Toronto, 1949), 26. C. F. Pascoe, Two hundred years of the S.P.G. . . . (2v., London, 1901), 855. Savary, Supplement to history of Annapolis.