Robert Hope Goodman of Georgia

He was a Civil War veteran, and fought with “Mell’s Rifles”, Company D, Infantry Battalion, Cobb’s Legion, Georgia Volunteers. He was a 2nd Lt. in 1861, and later promoted to Captain. He was mustered Aug. 1861. His entire company was surrounded and captured during Lee’s final march two days prior to the battle of Appomattox. (“These Men She Gave: Civil War Diary of Athens, Georgia”, by John F. Stegeman, University of Georgia Press, 1964, p. 151-152)

The following information was posted by EMail to the Goodman-L list some time ago, and tells the rest of his story first hand and in good detail. The records from John Goodman Bible mentioned, are on the page of his father, John Goodman. Florrie is Robert Hope Goodman’s daughter, Florence, then living in Philadelphia, and probably in a private school run by a Mr. Harris, mentioned in the letter below.




[See John Goodman Bible, page 2, OUR PEOPLE, Bible Records]


April 3d 1873

Dear Florrie

I have seated myself to write you a letter one from me, – I have intended for a long time to write you, but you know how I am worked and how little time or chance I have to write – and as your mother and Charlie were writing to you every week and I hearing from you often, I did not feel the necessity of writing as I would have done had it been otherwise. I have very little news to write. Your mother and Charles have informed you of the passing events in our City. I enclose to you a check on New York for $150.00 dollars – which you will please hand over to Mr. Harris and ask him to receipt for it. I will send him the balance as soon as I can. You wrote to your mother some time since wanting to know more of the history of the Goodman family. She in her letter gave you some outline of it. I thought I would give you a history of the family more in detail as I learned it of my Father. 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. (RG: Hanover was formed from York then New Kent Counties, so the family was most likely in the same neighborhood all that time.)

My grandfather James Goodman (RG: Actually probably John James, as John Goodman was named as the father of this family in 1790 Greene Co., TN Court record, just as he and sons John and Robert were leaving for Wilson County, TN) 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 (RG: Epharilla Thorp/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 afterwards in Wilson County. My father then being but 18 years old left his Father and came to Georgia and settled near the Cherokee Corner 8 miles below where Athens now is, it was a wilderness then; the Cherokee Indians owning the land to a point below it, he settled in Oglethorpe County near the Indian line in the outside settlements or frontiers, and after a few years married a Miss Elsbury (RG: Sally Elsberry, actually his 2nd wife. His 1st wife, Sarah, b. 9/29/1778, is listed in his bible, along with a daughter Mary, b. 2/29/1800. Sarah probably died before 1806, when John James Goodman married Sally Martin.) – they had a very hard life of it for a few years the Whites and Indians were at War – fighting and hiding out from the Indians nearly all the time – he had two brothers-in-law killed in battle by the Indians, after the birth of 3 children his wife died.

His second wife was a Miss Martin (RG: 3rd wife: Sally Martin) from South Carolina which was my Mother. My Father had a great uncle a bold adventurous man by the name of Ansel Goodman that went West and joined himself to Daniel Boon the Great explorer of Tennessee and Kentucky-he was captured by the Indians and was held a prisoner for a year but finally made his escape and got back to Virginia. My Grandfather James Goodman by leaving the older settlements and going on to the frontiers raised up his family comparatively illiterate – my father John Goodman followed in his steps and raised up his family in the same way – they were both high minded honorable men and remarkable for their honesty – but suffered their familys to become illiterate through their love of back woods life. And as back woods men rarely ever accumulate anything their familys became poor and illiterate and comparatively degraded on account of this backwoods life. I when quite a boy and just started out in life saw how the matter stood and I determined to try and elevate my family and raise them up from this illiterate and social degradation. I have had a great deal to contend with and have worked hard all my life, I have educated my son and am educating my daughter and am trying to place them in a good social position and it will rest with Charlie and yourself to maintain it. And see to it that you do not let the family go down again into illiterate and social degradation – and remember that NO GOODMAN – no one of my blood has ever been guilty of a mean and dishonest act that I have ever heard of – they have ever been noble true honest and honorable men.

Reserve this letter for when I am dead and gone it may interest more when you are old (if you should live to be old) than it will now-

Your mother will write a few lines to go in this. Mr. Harris says that you are getting along in your studies very well – which I am glad, to learn –

Yours truly


Newspaper Article:


[THE ATLANTA JOURNAL, August 28, 1909]

He Built One of Atlanta’s First Houses on Heap of Ruins – Was in his 91St Year, and Is Survived by 12 Grand-Children.

Robert H. Goodman, who came to Atlanta when it was an ash heap and built one of the first houses that rose from the ruins of the war, died in this 91st year Friday afternoon at the home of his son, C. M. Goodman, 257 Peeples street. His passing removes one of the kindliest and most historic personalities the city ever knew.

Funeral services will be held Saturday afternoon at 4 o’clock in the Church of the Incarnation, West End. The interment will be in Westview. Mr. Goodman is survived by his son, C. M. Goodman of Atlanta, his daughter Mrs. Florence Spracklen, of Philadelphia, and by 12 grandchildren, 6 by his son and 6 by his daughter. Among these is Robert Goodman, third, 1-year old baby son of Robert Goodman, second, who was formerly a well-known Atlanta newspaper man, and who now resides in New York City. The pall bearers will be Captain G. J. Dallas, Hubert L. Culberson, W. S. Kelley, and three of the grandsons, P. M. Goodman, C. M. Goodman, Jr., and H. T. Goodman.

Mr. Goodman, sometimes popularly known as Captain Goodman, was born on a farm near Athens, February 21, 1819. He was the son of John Goodman, one of Georgia’s pioneers from Virginia. As a young man he moved to Athens entered the mercantile business, played a notable part in the town’s civic affairs as chairman of the street committee and then at the outbreak of the civil war enlisted in a company known as Mell’s volunteers. He became lieutenant and subsequently Captain in Cobb’s legion. In the midst of the war his health temporarily broke. He came back to Georgia and joined the state troops near Rome, where he served with great bravery and distinction.


In July, 1865, when Atlanta was a pile of smoking ruins and scarcely a building stood to mark the city’s site, Captain Goodman set forth from Athens in a wagon to drive to Atlanta through the open country. On his way here he stopped at Decatur, bought a little store house, took it to pieces largely with his own hands, mounted it on the wagon and came on until he reached the corner of what is now Peachtree street and Auburn avenue. There he put the timbers of his little store together again and started a general merchandise business. It marked the beginning of the present-day Atlanta.

He continued in that vicinity until 1878. Then his wife’s health grew feebler – she suffered from asthma – and he sold out and went to Oregon, remaining in that state five years. On his return in 1883 he bought a farm in DeKalb county on what is now called the Fair street road. He lived there until his wife’s death in 1894, when he made his home with his son, C. M. Goodman on Peeples Street. For several years past Captain Goodman’s declining years have kept him from active business. He was hale and vigorous, however, and like a young man in his outlook upon life until about six weeks ago when he suffered a stroke of paralysis. That was the immediate cause of his death.


Mr. Goodman married Miss Caroline Mason, at Dahlonega, in 1849. She was the daughter of Dr. D. H. Mason, president of a United States mint that coined $5 and $10 gold pieces at the Dahlonega mines prior to the war. The mint was on the site of the present North Georgia Agricultural College.

Though Captain Goodman was of a retiring disposition and took no conspicuous part in politics, he was particular about casting his vote in every election and always voted as a Democrat, even in the day of the Whigs before the war. He was a prominent Mason, being a member of the Georgia lodge and was a Knight Templar. At one time he was treasurer of the Coeur de Leon commandery.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Missing from the obituary was the fact that Mr. Goodman, recently moved from Jefferson, Ga., to Athens, Ga., was instrumental in securing the ether used by Dr. Crawford W. Long in his first operation using ether as anesthetic. Mr. Goodman’s deposition today reposes in the National Archives together with other affidavits which proved that Dr. Long was the first person to use ether for anesthesia. A photostat of these documents is on exhibit today in the Crawford Long Museum, at Jefferson, Ga.


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