Home |  PublicationsEncyclopedia |  Woodhouse, Samuel Washington

The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


A physician and a naturalist, Samuel Washington Woodhouse, son of Samuel and H. Matilda Woodhouse, was born in Philadelphia on June 27, 1821. Early in life he was attracted to the study of natural history. He gained access to the holdings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (ANSP) and became acquainted with several of the eminent naturalists affiliated with it. At the University of Pennsylvania he studied medicine, graduating in 1847.

In 1849 Woodhouse was appointed physician and naturalist of the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers's survey of the boundary of the Creek Nation in the Indian Territory. In the first season the survey party, led by Lt. Lorenzo Sitgreaves, traveled from Fort Gibson to near the present town of Quay, Oklahoma. In 1850, under the leadership of Lt. I. Carle Woodruff, the survey progressed westward to near the current Dewey-Major county line. The party returned eastward along the North Canadian River. During both seasons Woodhouse collected numerous specimens of the region's flora and fauna, some of them new to science. He deposited most of his collections at the ANSP; others are located in the Smithsonian Institution and the New York Botanical Garden. His descriptions of the plants and animals are found in the reports of Sitgreaves and Woodruff and the papers he published in the ANSP's Proceedings. Other naturalists also prepared papers based on his specimens. The journals he kept while in the field contain much information about the American Indians and other inhabitants of the territory, as well as observations on natural history, the terrain, and climate. Although Woodhouse was not the first naturalist to collect and write about the biota of the Indian Territory, his work did much to expand scientific knowledge of the area.

In 1851 Woodhouse accompanied Sitgreaves's expedition to the Zuñi and Colorado rivers in the Southwest, surviving a rattlesnake bite and a Mohave arrow wound. Sitgreaves's report of this reconnaissance includes further information on Woodhouse's natural history work in the Indian Territory.

Woodhouse's last significant activity as a naturalist was with Ephraim G. Squier's expedition to Honduras in 1853. Thereafter he practiced medicine in Philadelphia. In 1872 Woodhouse married Sara A. Peck, with whom he had two children. He died in Philadelphia, November 23, 1904.

Michael J. Brodhead


Edgar Erskine Hume, Ornithologists of the United States Army Medical Corps (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1942).

John S. Tomer and Michael J. Brodhead, eds., A Naturalist in Indian Territory: The Journals of S. W. Woodhouse, 1849–50 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992).

Browse By Topic

Westward Expansion




The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Michael J. Brodhead, “Woodhouse, Samuel Washington,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=WO011.

Copyright and Terms of Use

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS). This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and part or in whole.