Goodmans of Early Colonial and pre-Civil War America

This section deals with the possible origins of the Goodman lines in America that often include that name. It also addresses several related families important to these lines. Because, in some cases, little hard evidence can be found to establish some these links, my conclusions are my own, and are drawn largely from the available evidence in America, and again from published materials on possibly related lines.

Although I have focused primarily on lines possibly related to my own, this section will also be of general interest to all Goodman researchers, especially those whose ancestors settled in or arrived through Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee and into Tennessee and Kentucky in the 1600-1800 time frame. It covers several of the most significant and well documented early Colonial Goodman families, and documents many related families that intermarried and participated with the early Goodman families in the settlement of VA, the Carolinas, and later into Tennessee and Kentucky.

Although the Ansel Goodman b. ca. 1752 is no longer considered to be a direct ancestor of my line, he is certainly related, by name inference, and his well documented adventures are exciting and deserve significant attention. He is also probably the ancestor of other Goodmans who will be interested in his exploits. For this reason, his adventures and petition for a pension as a Revolutionary War soldier are documented in their own sub-section under the “My Ancestors” section of this website.

The information in this section is essentially based on available historical facts and documentation. However, the exact ancestry and lineage presented here, until about 1750, when John James Goodman was born, is my own hypothetical conjecture. partly based on facts, such as the traditional name Robert Goodman as it may have been passed down through many generations, and partly literary license. One should not assume that the generations of Goodmans prior to 1750, as described here, is accurate or true, only that it represents what **MIGHT** have been the way it happened.

Earliest Goodmans in America

Robert Goodman, born ca. 1600 in England or Wales

Young Robert Goodman was very excited. He was the first of his family to take on the adventure of living in the new Virginia Colony. At age 19, his elder brothers had already inherited the family property in England, so he was left with few choices for social and financial advancement there. As he left the port of London on the 190 ton “Bona Nova” in August of 1619, and as a single man, he had no idea that he would later found a large and prosperous family dynasty in the new world. Captain John Huddleston, Master of the Bona Nova, had already made one trip to Virginia in 1618. He tempered his passenger’s excitement with a dose of reality: “Virginia is a wild and unsettled place. All should plan on hard physical work and dangers from the savages, weather and vicious insects.” The 120 colonist passengers would find the truth of that soon enough. The Bona Nova arrived at Elizabeth City and discharged her passengers in November of 1619, just before a harsh winter that many did not survive.


On his arrival in Virginia, Robert rented a land parcel in Elizabeth City, where he is listed on the Quit Rents Roll of The Virginia Company in 1624 as “Robart Goodman”. He was age 24 in that year, a free man in the muster of John Ward. He is also listed in the book “Original Lists of Persons of Quality 1600-1700“. Elizabeth City, now part of the independent city of Hampton, is at the tip of the peninsula between the James and York Rivers. This Robert Goodman is again mentioned in a list of land holders in 1637, by which time the Virginia Company had been dissolved, and taken over by the Crown. He was probably the same Robert Goodman, then of York County, which is adjacent to and just north of Elizabeth City, who was owed a debt by Richard Wyate (sic: Wyatt) in a 1646 York County court record.

Nothing more for certain is known about Robert Goodman and his family, since the records of New Kent and Hanover Counties were lost in courthouse fires. However, from the known surviving records of York County, parent of New Kent and Hanover, it seems that he prospered and became a landowner. Assuming he married, he and his wife probably had several children, and males among them. Based on his age and single status in 1624, he did not marry until at least 1625, and children would probably have been born between 1626 and 1640.

In 1695, in the estate of Capt. John Goodman of York County, VA, two slaves were valued at 60 pounds sterling together (Records of York County, vol. 1694-1702, p. 410, VA State Library). Since this John Goodman is not listed as an emigrant, he was probably the son or grandson of one of the earlier prominent Goodmans of York County, possibly the Robert Goodman who came in 1619, and possibly born ca 1626-1640. This estate record indicates that we need to further research all available and surviving York County records, and those of James City, King William, King and Queen counties as well.

Benjamin Goodman, born ca 1662, of New Kent / Hanover County Virginia

and his sons Robert, Samuel and Benjamin

Benjamin Goodman had inherited large tracts of land and other substantial assets, including slaves and cattle, from his father’s York County and New Kent County estates in about 1695. However, much of the York County land had already been cultivated to exhaustion. So he sold most of that land, some to his extended family that remained in what was left of York County after it was split to form New Kent and King and Queen Counties, took most of the proceeds, and bought new lands in the western parts of then New Kent County, which had been formed from the western parts of York.

Soon after he acquired his new lands, he married, in about 1700, to Lucy Blackwell, the young daughter of his new neighbor, James Blackwell. Lucy was only 15 at the time, born September 27, 1685, while he was already over 33. Their first son Samuel soon followed, and was christened in the St Peter’s Parish church on April 27, 1701. Sons Benjamin and Robert followed quickly thereafter, as well as a daughter, Ann. The family was surrounded by active and prominent people of the times and region, and intermarried with some of them, including the Henderson, Williams, Lewis, Maupin, Meriwether, Horsley, Carr and Overton families, but they neither aspired or attained any great prominence themselves. The Goodman family lived a relatively quiet rural farming life, not very active in politics or religion. 

Between 1700 and 1730, Benjamin Goodman acquired even more lands, eventually over 600 acres, primarily on the north side of Little River, some of which he and his new family and slaves cultivated, primarily in tobacco, and some of which lay fallow. The family was very close, and remained so long after the three sons had grown up and were managing various of their father’s plantations. When he died, sometime between 1730 and 1735, he rewarded his three sons generously, with bequests of his various lands, cultivated and fallow, for themselves and their heirs.


In the “Register of St. Peter’s Parish New Kent County VA 1684-1786”, it is recorded that on April 27, 1701, Samuel Goodman, son of Benjamin Goodman, was baptized. St. Peter’s Parish was on the eastern shore of the James River, and just north and west of James City County. New Kent County was formed in 1654 from the northern parts of York County that were north of James City. It was later further divided, and its progeny counties included Hanover (of St. Paul’s Parish), Goochland, and Louisa Counties. Albemarle County was just to the west of these, and was included in Louisa County for a time. Goodman Road is in New Kent County, just south of the current Hanover County line. Given its name and location, it is likely that this road leads to what were some of the ancestral Goodman lands in New Kent County.

For purposes of conjecture only, I will presume that this Benjamin Goodman was probably a grandson of the 1619 emigrant Robert Goodman, possibly a son of Capt. John Goodman of York County, and probably just one of several  heirs of their then substantial lands in early New Kent County after it was split off from York County. However, other Goodman researchers have claimed, and probably will still assert, the following: That this Benjamin Goodman was either the same Benjamin Goodman, a prisoner of Middlesex Prison, believed to be of the Bedfordshire/Goldington England Goodman line, who was reprieved to be transported to Barbados in February 1672, and possibly the same Benjamin Goodman later came to and had land in Maryland in 1674. My primary issue with that theory is that it would probably have been very difficult, if not impossible, for a reprieved prisoner to have accumulated as much land as Benjamin Goodman of Hanover County later passed on to his three known sons. At the very least, he may possibly have been a son of the Benjamin Goodman who was reprieved and transported in 1672.

One of the best source of information about the families that lived in New Kent and Hanover Counties in the early 1700s, although not detailed, is probably the Vestry Book of St. Paul’s Parish, New Kent Co., in what was to later become Hanover County. The vestry book of St. Paul’s Parish first mentions the lands of Samuel Goodman in 1732, next to Benjamin Goodman, who was his brother. Their brother Robert Goodman first appears with Samuel and Benjamin in the same precinct in 1739, the first processioning after the death of Benjamin Goodman, Sr. (p. 278). Benjamin Goodman’s will gave “his old plantation” and 100 adjoining acres, presumably in then Hanover County, to son Robert, presumed to be the eldest son, who was probably already managing that plantation for his elderly father and mother, who was Lucy Blackwell. Benjamin Goodman gave other lands in then Louisa County, on the Hanover/Louisa borders, to sons Benjamin and Samuel, including “to my son Samuel Goodman the plantation whereon he now dwelth and one hundred acres of land thereunto adjoyning”, and to his wife and then to fall to son Benjamin at her death, “my plantation whereon I now dwell with all with all houses and orchards thereupon during her natural life and after her decease to be to the only proper use of my son Benjamin Goodman.” These large properties could probably only have been accumulated by Benjamin Goodman as part of a substantial earlier family legacy.

Goodman Pioneers of Western Virginia and Tennessee

Robert Goodman, born ca 1725, of Hanover and Lunenburg County VA

Robert Goodman’s father, also named Robert, and his uncles Samuel and Benjamin Goodman, were all prominent plantation owners, with several hundred acres of lands located on Little River, and straddling the border of Hanover and Louisa Counties in Virginia, just north of Richmond. However, as tradition would have it, and as a younger son, his inheritance from his father in 1757 had included little more than some money, a horse, a gun, and possibly a parcel of the family lands when his surviving mother, Mary Goodman, eventually passed away. She was much younger than her deceased husband, a common practice of the time, so that would not be any time soon!

In the meantime, some of his extended family, including first cousin Benjamin Goodman, son of his uncle Samuel Goodman, along with Benjamin’s wife Maria Williams, daughter of Daniel Williams, Maria’s brother Henry Williams and his family, and others of the large Williams clan, had all previously moved south and west into Lunenburg County Virginia and established their own large plantations there. Their letters to friends and family in Hanover and Louisa County were filled with descriptions of the virgin lands, cheap and easy to plant and cultivate.

Robert was enticed to the point of sending 40£ of good English money to his cousin Benjamin, with instructions to secure a rich piece of land for Robert, as much land as his money would buy. This Benjamin did, to great effect. He found a 500 acre parcel, larger than any of their father’s lands, on the good flowing waters of Flat Rock Creek, a tributary of the Meherrin River. The parcel was adjacent to lands that were owned by their cousin John Williams, who with his partner Israel Brown, had been speculating, making money on land deals, and buying even more land for themselves in the process.


On 7 Jun 1759, George Green of Halifax County sold to Robert Goodman, Planter of Hanover Co., for 40£, 500 acres of land in Lunenburg Co., on the branches of Flat Rock Creek, … along Brown’s (Israel) and William’s (John) lines,… to Leveret’s. (DB 5:383-385, CO 6:11B). George Green had previously purchased some of that land from Israel Brown in 1753, when Green was then living in Lunenburg. 500 acres is a pretty substantial parcel of land, even for the times, and generally took a large family, or a family with slaves, to cultivate.

Since Robert Goodman, son of Benjamin, remained in St Paul’s Parish in Hanover County, and had his lands processioned until his presumed widow Mary Goodman first is mentioned in the processioning of the middle 1760s, and the male children of his brothers Samuel and Benjamin Goodman are fairly well known and documented, it is my presumption that this is a son of Robert Goodman of Hanover County, perhaps a younger son who migrated westward because his father’s lands had been willed to elder sons, leaving young Robert with a bit of cash, but little else to do but go westward, to where lands were still cheap and unoccupied.

This Robert Goodman’s presumed cousins, Benjamin Goodman born ca 1732, son of Samuel Goodman of Hanover/Louisa, and his wife Maria Williams, were already in Lunenburg by 1758, when Benjamin is documented as a witness in several court cases. Maria’s brother, Henry Williams, was also there and well established on 420 acres later given to him by his father Daniel Williams in 1757. Daniel Williams was already a planter in of Granville County NC at the time. Therefore, it is likely that Robert Goodman may have been encouraged by his cousins and extended family to also come to Lunenburg to settle and raise his family.

John James Goodman, born ca 1750, of Bedford County VA, to Tennessee and Beyond

From this point onward, we have well documented and proven facts to support our story, and this John James Goodman is also my own direct ancestor.

According to this excerpt of the Robert Hope Goodman letter to his daughter Florence, written in 1873:

“… The Goodman family were among the early settlers of Virginia, or at least we can trace them back some 160 to 170 years, they settled in that part of the country between Yorktown and Richmond. They were well off, had fine estates and lived like Gentlemen and were well educated for people in that day and time, stood high as noble and true men. That branch of the family that my Father sprang from settled before his birth (which was 100 years ago) in Hanover County. “

“My grandfather James Goodman being a young man of adventurous and roving disposition went up into Bedford County – it was then a frontier County and there married a Miss Thorpe daughter of a Widow lady and Scotch by birth who was a noble patriotic woman and stood so high with the Whigs in the Revolutionary War in that part of the Country. He (my grandfather) settled there in the mountains of Virginia and there raised his family – until my father John Goodman being the eldest son was 18 years old. That beautiful Country Middle Tennessee and Kentucky was then being settled up by Virginians. My grandfather took John and Robert his two eldest sons they being 18 and 16 years old and went into Middle Tennessee and settled on a tract of rich land which was then or afterward in Wilson County. …”

Robert Hope Goodman apparently misstates his Grandfather’s name as “James”, when we now know from a December 1790 Green County TN court guardianship order that it was actually “John”, or possibly “John James” Goodman. It appears from Mr. Goodman’s letter that his grandfather may have gone by his middle name James later in life. Of the two sons of John James Goodman mentioned in the letter, Robert Goodman remained in Wilson County and raised his family there. His descendants are well documented by census records and by Nancy Goodman of Nashville, whose husband is one of his descendants. Mr. Goodman does not name the other children, or the first name of John James Goodman’s wife. The eldest son, John Goodman, did not remain in Wilson County for long, and removed before 1794 to Oglethorpe County Georgia, and is listed in the 1800 US Census with 1st wife “Sarah”, and two young daughters.

From the Green County TN court record we learn that their children included Robert, Stephen, Amos, Sarah and Rachel. Sarah Goodman married in 1796 to Obediah Richardson, son of her guardian John Richardson. From later descendants of Sarah (Sarah Jane) Goodman Richardson, we have learned that the first name of the “Miss Thorpe” mentioned in the Robert Hope Goodman letter was Epharilla, the spelling of which may be in question. An older daughter, Susanna, had married Joseph Richardson in Green County in July 1790, so was not mentioned in the Court record. Eldest son John Goodman, being 18, was too old to be placed in the care of a guardian, and had already determined to accompany his father (and possibly also his mother) to Middle Tennessee, so was also not mentioned. Another presumed son, Arthur Goodman, born in 1787, and as an infant at the time, may have not been mentioned because he also may have gone with John James and his wife. Another presumed daughter, Martha Goodman, had married Matthias Reynolds in Bedford County VA in 1788, so also was not mentioned. Martha and Matthias Reynolds later settled in Barren County KY, where most of the other children of John James and Epharilla Goodman eventually settled.

Amos I. Goodman, born 1782 in Bedford VA, Kentucky Pioneer

Amos I. Goodman, son of John James Goodman, remained with his adopted Richardson family in Greene County, TN, until he married Sarah Conway in 1801 in Blount County, TN. They remained in Blount County, where he is listed on the county tax rolls, until about 1805, and then removed to then Barren (later Hart) County Kentucky. Several of his siblings, including brother Stephen and sister Martha and her husband Matthias Reynolds, were already in Barren County. Joseph Richardson and his wife Susanna Goodman Richardson were also in Barren County about 1806/1809, and Obediah Richardson and his wife Sarah Jane Goodman were also there about the same time.

Amos and Sarah had only two children: Anselm Goodman born 1802 in Greene County, TN, and an unknown daughter, who is listed with Amos, Anselm and his 2nd wife, Mourning Jones, in the Barren County KY 1810 census. What happened to his 1st wife Sarah is uncertain, but some later descendants refer to her as “Miss Sarah”, which tends to indicate that she may have lived after Amos remarried to Mourning Jones in 1810 and began his second family.

Anselm Goodman, born 1802 in Barren County KY, Merchant

Anselm Goodman remained with his father Amos and his 2nd wife at least until about 1824, when he married Nancy Fowler in Madison County, KY. After that, Anselm was apparently an itinerant merchant, possibly trading cattle and swine as he traveled around and between Kentucky and Illinois. The Goodman family lived in several locations, including Hart County Ky, where their first son and my direct ancestor Socrates E. Goodman was born, plus Lawrence Co., IL, White Co., IL, and finally in Knox Co., IL, all locations where at least one of their children were born.

Anselm Goodman was difficult to track in US Census records, partly due to many
misspellings of his name.

Continued in Josephine Goodman’s Book


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