Biography of William C. Goodwin, Rev.
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Rev. William C. Goodwin. In the death of Rev. William C. Goodwin, which occurred at his home in Moline, Kansas, May 12, 1913, that community lost a much loved citizen and there passed away a character which in strength and in service deserves more than passing mention. Largely in the words of a friend and admirer who wrote of him the following biography had been prepared for this publication.
He was born at Massena Center in St. Lawrence County, New York, September 3, 1837. His father, Daniel Goodwin, was born and reared in New Hampshire; his mother, Elvira Clark, in Chatham, Lower Canada. He was of Puritan stock and ancestry. St. Lawrence is the northeast county of New York and had the vigorous climate and sterile soil peculiar to the northern New England states. Daniel Goodwin was a typical Yankee. He possessed in full measure the enterprise, courage and piety of that race. In his youth he spent some years on the ocean. His son related that at one time his father was one of the crew of an American privateer in the War of 1812. While off the coast of South America the ship was overhauled by a British man-of-war. The American skipper took a vote of his crew as to whether they should fight or surrender. Young Goodwin voted to fight.
From some memories of his early life which Rev. Mr. Goodwin wrote out for the benefit of his children the following extracts have been made, presenting a fine picture of the Puritan home and school life in which he was reared:
“My father was a poor man but industrious and of excellent moral character and habits. A Christian, well read in history and theology. He was a good singer by note and sang many of the old Methodist hymns and their accompanying tunes into our memories and hearts at the family altar and of evenings. My mother was also a Christian and a model mother and housewife. My earliest continuous recollections of the home are that it was comfortable and peaceful, that every child must ‘mind’ without waiting or questioning. The winter evening music was often by mother’s wheel as she converted wool rolls into yarn which later she patiently needled into socks and mittens. In the quiet of mother’s knitting father could entertain us all with ‘Josephus,’ ‘Hester Ann Rodgers,’ ‘Bunyan’s Pilgrim,’ the Bible and Hymn book, Wesley’s Sermons or stories of his own adventures and seafaring life which suited us best of all.”
He then describes the homely but wholesome fare, of mother-made Johnny cake, home-made butter, maple sugar and butter nuts and walnuts that gave pleasure to the long winter evenings. “My school privileges were very limited. The district school, three months in summer, taught by a woman for the smaller children, and three months in winter, taught by a man for the big boys and girls. But my mother being a primitive teacher had taught her children as far as their a-b-abs and to write and cipher a little, so we were quite well advanced on entering the school, but must stand up and toe the mark or sit on the bench and behave ourselves, one eye on the teacher and both on the lessons. Our books were Webster’s Elementary Spelling Book, Sander’s Reading Book, Josephus History, Adams’ Arithmetic, Bullion’s Grammar, a writing book of ‘fool’s cap’, a bottle of home-made ink and a goosequill pen. The teacher must set the copy and make and mend pens. Of course, the children must be quite often belabored, with hand, switch or ferrule as needed.”
Of one part of his life Rev. Mr. Goodwin was always reticent. But his descendants will always take pride that he was such a gallant and loyal soldier during the Civil war and few served longer or suffered more. In 1861, the first year of the war, he enlisted in Company K of the Ninty-second New York Volunteer Infantry, leaving a young wife and child at home. He was discharged after about two years’ service and in September, 1864, re-enlisted in Company F of the Ninety-first New York Infantry and served until the end of the war. While lying before Petersburg he had frequent attacks of army dysentery, but though much weakened he would not leave the ranks. His regiment was attached to the Fifth Corps, Warren’s, and during Sheridan’s operations culminating in the Battle of Five Forks the soldiers marched for days in mud and cold rain with scant rations, sleeping on the ground with no covering but a gum blanket. In spite of his weakened condition Private Goodwin marched in the ranks until the surrender at Appomattox. In one battle he was wounded and taken prisoner, and remained a prisoner at Andersonville for eight months until exchanged. A few days after Appomattox he was taken down with nervous exhaustion, fever and rheumatism, and was finally sent to Carver Hospital in the District of Columbia, from which he was discharged June 7, 1865, a physical wreck. To the end of his life, nearly fifty years later, he suffered the torments of disease brought on by his army life. He lost the sight of one eye, and during the last two years he was totally blind. But he bore his sufferings with Christian patience and resignation.
In early manhood he was converted and joined the Methodist Church. He was licensed an exhorter in 1864, a few months before his second enlistment. In 1869 he was licensed as a local preacher and afterwards received deacon’s orders. For a number of years he was one of the leading ministers in the Methodist District around Potsdam, New York. His courage and fearlessness made him the terror of the rowdy element which delighted to break up camp meetings. When Elder Goodwin was present, peace and order reigned. Largely for the benefit of his health, Mr. Goodwin moved to Southern Kansas, in 1881, and for a time had charge of the circuit including Elk Falls, Ames Chapel and one or two other points. His last regular work was in Moline. For several years he officiated at weddings and funerals, but finally was compelled to cease all ministerial work. Rev. Mr. Goodwin had an excellent education. Few excelled him in the use of strong, pure idiomatic English. He hated sin and his denunciation of vice in all its forms made him many enemies among the vicious. On all moral questions he was found on the right side and no one was in doubt as to where he stood. His love for his church and loyalty to her teaching was touching. The friends who knew the circumstances of his life, his many afflictions and the fortitude with which he bore them can say with perfect sincerity “he was indeed a man of God.” Of his own family the record will be found in the sketch of his son, Arthur W. Goodwin, which follows.