The First Families Chronicles

The Goodwins
by Harriett Magee
and photo by Jody Scioletti

This is the fourth of a five-part series on the founding families of Marblehead. We will take you from the first generations who settled along the "Marble" rocks of Little Harbor to present generations still living in town.

William Goodwin, born 300 year ago, would surely be pleased. One of his descendants, Daniel Goodwin, is in the building trade as an owner of Gilbert & Cole Building Supply in Marblehead. Dan said it's a coincidence that he is the eighth or ninth generation of Goodwins to be involved in the construction and maintenance of Marblehead property.

A genealogical chart belonging to Webster Goodwin, who has worked and lived almost all his life in town ("I moved to Lynn for a year and didn't like it so I moved back"), lists scores of Goodwin carpenters, then called "housewrights." William was the first, born at St. Saviour's Dock in London.

Immigrating to Boston in 1713 with his two brothers, William arrived in Marblehead two years later to build the Second Congregational Church on Mugford Street. It is no longer standing having been destroyed by fire.

But the Old Town House, which he built in 1727, still stands at the junction of Washington and Mugford streets. It has been designated for the National Registry of Historic Landmarks. "Within its walls nearly every question of importance to the town, the state or the nation was discussed by local orators for more than a century," Samuel Roads Jr. wrote about the yellow-clapboarded structure in his History and Traditions of Marblehead.

William stayed on in the town, and with his wife Jane Ashfield had six children. About a century and a half later, the top floor of the building he constructed was dedicated to his great, great-grandson, Lt. John Goodwin Jr., who was killed in battle in 1862. Post 82 of the Grand Army of the Republic is still located there, open on Memorial Day to display Civil War memorabilia.

Within a mile or two of Town House Square are sites and buildings chronicling the family's history. Off Front Street is Goodwin's Court and at the foot of

Pictured here are: Sunny, Dan Russell, Frank, and Kate Goodwin.

Cloutman's Lane on Naugus Head is Goodwin's Landing. On Waldron Street stands a house "built in 1847 by Joseph Goodwin, housewright." Newer, Goodwin-built houses are several on Meadow Lane which connects Green Street to Reynolds Playground. They were built by William Goodwin and a son, and one is still in the family.

An earlier family house is located on the corner of Pearl and Washington streets. This hip-roofed Federalist mansion was constructed in 1808 by William Goodwin, the great grandson of the first William, and remained in the family for 100 years. When William died in 1840, discrete pieces of house became property of the heirs, according to a history commissioned by the current owners.

For example, son Jacob relieved the "southeast front chamber and small chamber adjoining," and Sally, his widow, received "the southeast third-floor chamber and one-third each of the cellar, barn and estate land," which also included land at Goodwin's Head.
The three-story house was sold to the current owners by the First Church of Christ in Marblehead (Old North) and is distinguished by its fine central spiral staircase, panelling, molding and mantles.

The ground floor of the structure was for at least a century a "West India goods store." Washington street apparently was a popular one both for commerce and the Goodwins. In Marblehead from Hollyhocks and Hot Top, a collection of reminiscences, there is a chapter by Helen Dixey Doane titled "The Old Neighborhood Stores." It mentions "the periodical store of the Goodwin sisters who sold crepe and tissue paper, jump rope, candy and Valentines," located at 6 Washington Street.

Up through the sixties, "Bub" Goodwin operated a market there. Mrs. Doane wrote about another Goodwin-owned shop in the same neighborhood -- "Moldy's," where staples and shin cheese, a meat-by-product, could be bought. Having once sold a customer a fuzzy piece of fruit, this Goodwin was stuck with a nickname.

Washington Street seems to be where a lot of Goodwins started out. Webbie Goodwin, now in his 70's, has basically, never left the lower Washington Street area, being born in a house on Doaks Lane, raised on the corner of Stacey and Washington, and forty years ago moving about a block closer to State Street where he's been ever since.

In the next block at 102 is the house where Ruth (Elder) and William Knowland Goodwin raised there three sons, Daniel Webb, Randolph Elder, and John Hooper Goodwin Jr. The boys' grandfather, John Hooper, practiced dentistry at that same address. William Knowland was an engineer who managed the municipal light department. He and his wife are now retired and living in New Hampshire.

Dan even began his working career in that part of town before going uptown to Bessom Street where the lumber yard is located.

He said, "When I was 11, I began working at Toy Wagon for Nancy Frost, now O'Connor. It was right across from Penni's and only a few minutes from our house. When I started, the pay was a chocolate soda. We bought the merchandise, small things for younger children, from a truck that would come by. Three years later at 14, I started at Marblehead Transportation Company (at Tucker's Wharf) working summers during college, sometimes driving the harbor excursion boat. Eventually, I became manager and stayed until 1978. My wife Shirley was a bookkeeper there and left when we had Russell, our first child."
Although there are no Goodwins listed as bank incorporators in 1830, Dan's brother Randolph Elder is now president of the National Grand Bank of Marblehead. The third brother, William, is an architect living in Winchester, Massachusetts.

Randy said, "My son Jonathon is a student at Northeastern. I don't have any feeling about his staying in town. For him and my daughter, Meredith, who wants to be a teacher, wherever there's an opportunity for work, that's where they should go."

Randy's wife, Barbara, has been teaching at the Elbridge Gerry School, where her husband was a student, for several years. Her relative by marriage and a teacher as well, Janis (Goodwin) Gallagher grew up on Meadow Lane and remembers, "there were always six or eight Goodwins at Gerry when I was there from kindergarten through the sixth grade." Many of the Marblehead children Janis has taught in her own preschool are now attending Gerry.

Some Goodwins didn't build houses, they moved them. Doaks Lane was the site of B.F. Goodwin housemoving business. Back then, many houses were built to last. Like ships, they were joined with tenons and joints to give in the wind.Sometimes buildings were moved from one town to another: Instead of erecting a new structure at a new location, the old one was put on log skids and relocated.

William Peach, a mason and the son of Edith (Goodwin) Peach, can list several buildings in town that were moved by the company. He remembers them because he and his relatives (not that anyone's counting, but the Peaches predate the Goodwins by about 85 years) did the foundation work at many of the new sites. He described the white three-story house on the corner of Village Street and Heritage Way as part of a bigger structure moved up from Pleasant Street by "Topsy" Goodwin, who carried on the business after Benjamin Franklin died.

There were also Goodwins who farmed. Henry , who owned land on Naugus Head, was the last farmer who took produce by wagon to Haymarket, according to Bill Peach. The barn still stands on Cloutman's Lane.

The Peaches were not the only Marbleheaders Goodwins married. Families such as the Ornes, Bowdens, Dennises, Graveses, Tuckers, Roundys, and Fosses appear in the genealogy. And names that they gave their children reflect tradition -- William and Hooper, together in combination with other names, appearing again and again, right down to today. As well, popular names of the times such as Sarah, Hannah, Jacob, Azor, Benjamin Franklin, and Elbridge, also recur. (One Goodwin married a Hepzibah and another a Mehitable, but seemed to have spared their daughters the same fate.)

Dan Goodwin's eight-year-old son, Franklin, another favorite family name, may be the last Goodwin actually born in town because, "we couldn't get to the hospital in time," said the father. Like many old Marbleheaders, Dan laments the loss of open space in town, especially the field and meadows where West Shore Drive now exists. He and his downtown playmates could pretty much walk and play around the rim of the harbor. "Now, you'd be trespassing."

"People and real estate are constantly churning." Some of this churning contributes to the traffic and congestion both he and Randy mention as one of the most dismaying changes the town has undergone.

Education is important to Dan Goodwin: "It's the schools that primarily keep us in Marblehead. My children go to Coffin and my wife volunteers there. We're very pleased with the teachers and programs."

Today the telephone book lists 20 Goodwin households in Marblehead, a lot for a small town. Given the growth of the community since William first arrived in 1715, many apparently agree with Dan Goodwin that "Marblehaead is a good place to raise children."