~ JOHN E. GOODENOW, b. 23 Mar 1812 ~
Related Surnames - GOODENOW, WHITE, MARSH, WRIGHT, CARNAHAN, CASSIN, ANDERSON,
PERHAM, TINKER, HOLCOMB, LEVAN, PHILLIPS, SMEAD, STAUNTON, GRIFFIN
John. E. Goodenow, the founder of Maquoketa, needs very few words of introduction to the
people of this county, with whose interests he has been identified for a period of
fifty-one years. He is one of the most popular men within its limits, occupying a high
position, socially and financially. Under his hospitable roof have been gathered, from
time to time, some of the most notable personages, not only of Illinois, but of the Great
West, and his mansion has long been known, far and wide, as one of the most popular
resorts of the cultivated, refined, and wealthy elements of this region. Providence has
been largely beneficent in its dealings with Mr. Goodenow, who possesses the happy faculty
of observation, thought, and concentration; and from the elements of life around him,
whether under fortuitous or adverse circumstances, which at times visit all men, he has
been enabled to extract much good out of life, and view, with the spirit of philosophy,
its sober phases.
It may be well before proceeding further to glance at the events of the life of Mr.
Goodenow prior to his becoming a resident of Iowa. Of New England birth and parentage, he
first opened his eyes to the light in the town of Springfield, Windsor Co., Vt., March 23,
1812. His father, Timothy Goodenow, it is supposed was also a native of Windsor County,
and the son of Timothy Goodenow, Sr., who settled in that region during its pioneer days.
The father of the latter, the great-great-grandfather of our subject, spent his last years
in that county, and lived to be nearly one hundred years old.
Grandfather Timothy Goodenow improved a farm from the wilderness, near which afterward
grew up the town of Springfield, Vt., and there spent his last days, living to be nearly
ninety years old. His son, Timothy, Jr., the father of our subject, was reared and
married in his native county, and resided there until 1820; then, selling his possessions,
he emigrated overland, by teams, to Warren County, N.Y. Purchasing a tract of timbered
land, in the present township of Queensbury, he cleared a farm, and resided there until
1847. That year he came to the young State of Iowa, and purchased a tract of partly
improved land, two and one-half miles south of Maquoketa, where he took up his abode, but
only lived three years afterward, dying in 1850.
The mother of our subject was, in her girlhood, Miss Betsey White. She was also a native
of Vermont, but born in Rockingham, Windham County. Her father, Phineas White, was a
direct descendant of that well-known character, Peregrine White, and was of the fifth
generation from him. He was a farmer by occupation, and spent his last years in
Rockingham. His wife was Jerusha Marsh.
The subject of this sketch was a lad of eight years when his parents removed to New York
State, and as soon as old enough, he began assisting his father in clearing the land, and
tilling the soil of the pioneer homestead. His schooling was obtained principally in the
winter season, under a system widely different from that of the present day. He remained
a member of the parental household until 1834, and then, at the age of twenty-two years,
purchased a canal boat, and engaged in freighting marble, lumber, wood, and farm products,
on the Champlain Canal, Lake Champlain, and the Hudson River. He was thus occupied two
years, then employed men to run the boat while he engaged as clerk in the general store of
Mr. Parmenter, at Moriah, N.Y., where he was employed until the latter part of 1837.
Then, forming a partnership with Mr. Parmenter, it was agreed that our subject should
repair to that part of Wisconsin Territory, which is now included in the State of Iowa,
and taking !
up a tract of Government land, should improve it in the interests of the firm.
Mr. Goodenow had saved $1,000, and Mr. Parmenter furnished a like sum, which Mr. Goodenow
invested in merchandise, such as he thought would be in demand in the West, including
ready-made clothing, axes, harness, and various other articles. In the month of January,
accompanied by Lyman Bates, Mr. Goodenow started out with a four-horse team, and drove the
entire distance to the forks of the Maquoketa River crossing. At Dixon's Ferry, Ill.,
the present site of the city of Dixon, he traded a harness for a load of corn, to be
delivered at Savanna, then a hamlet of four houses. He crossed the Mississippi River on
the ice, on the 10th day of March. On their arrival at Copper Creek at night, they found
the water too high for crossing in safety, so returned a short distance, and spent the
night in a vacant cabin. The following morning, our travelers constructed a bridge of
poles, and crossed the creek in safety. Upon their arrival at Deep Creek, a larger
stream, they were confr!
onted by the same difficulty, and resolved to wait awhile until the water should lower.
Nearby was the only family then residing between Sabula and the present site of Maquoketa.
They sought shelter with them, and in the meantime employed themselves in putting up a
substantial bridge, forty feet long, across Deep Creek; splitting logs, which they laid
with the flat side up to cover the stringers, and in due time crossing this, arrived at
their destination after a tedious journey of nine weeks and two days.
Mr. Goodenow immediately purchased a claim, including the ground occupied by the present
city of Maquoketa, and put up a substantial log-house, after which he commenced breaking
the sod. He disposed of his goods gradually, and spent the money in improvements and in
buying claims. His partnership with Mr. Parmenter continued two years, then they
dissolved, dividing the claims and stock. Our subject had no horses, depending upon ox
teams to plow the ground and furnish transportation. The first year, in the month of
June, provisions became scarce, and there was no depot for supplies nearer than the
Mississippi River. Our subject, in company with Mr. Bates, finally started for Savanna,
reaching the river at dark. The stream was high and raging, and had surrounded the
present site of Sabula, upon which then stood one house. They could see the light from it
plainly, but realized perfectly well the danger of driving a team into water whose depth
they did not know; so Mr. Goo!
denow waded boldly into the water some distance, and knowing the team could follow him in
safety, called to his driver to proceed, and thus they waded three-fourths of a mile, when
they came upon dry land.
The following day Mr. Goodenow reached Savanna, but failing to find what he desired sent
his team home with the load of corn which he had secured, and himself started on foot for
Galena, in the meantime spending the night in a cabin. At that point he purchased what
provisions he wanted, and ordered them shipped to Bellevue. He then started on foot for
home, and spent the next night in the cabin where he had lodged before. It had been his
intention to cross the Mississippi at Smith's Ferry, but failing to find this point he
kept on until reaching Hunt's Ferry. There he obtained a late dinner, and endeavored
to persuade the people to row him across the river. The wind, however, was blowing so
hard they would not risk their own lives, but furnished Mr. Goodenow a boat and he
started. He reached a point of land at dark, but to his dismay found it to be an island,
and he was obliged to camp there on wet ground for the night. He laid himself down on the
ground under the boa!
t, which he turned bottom side up to protect himself from wild animals, and thus spent the
In the morning, after wandering around in the bayou, Mr. Goodenow finally found the north
bank of the Maquoketa, and pursued his journey homeward. This was early in the morning
and at about 8 o'clock he arrived at a cabin and secured breakfast, after which he
concluded to call on a Mr. White, living in the vicinity of Bellevue. From him he
purchased a sow and six small pigs, the latter of which he had to carry a part of the way
- two at a time - while he drove the others, a task by no means an easy one, as any one
who knows anything about driving pigs will readily understand. He finally arrived at home
in safety, quite pleased with his acquisition of live stock.
Wild game of all kinds was plentiful in this region for some years after the arrival of
Mr. Goodenow, also Indians, who used to come each spring and fall, with their families,
and encamp along the river, hunting until game became scarce, then move on to another
section. They were always friendly, but frequently frightened the wives of the pioneers,
as in calling upon the white settler they opened the door and walked right in, without the
formality of knocking. At the forks of the Maquoketa was an Indian burying-ground, where,
two years before, during a small-pox epidemic, a large number were buried. The mode of
sepulture was to place the body on top of the ground at the foot of a tree, and build
around it a pen of logs to prevent disturbance by wild animals. After the whites came in
these pens were torn down to secure the trophies left with the dead, and the bones were
soon scattered over the ground.
Jackson County was not organized until after Mr. Goodenow came to Iowa, being still a part
of Dubuque County, of which Dubuque was the county seat, and where the pioneers were
obliged to repair for the transaction of legal business. Our subject entertained
travelers from the first, and finally kept a regular hotel for many years. The first
tavern was a log house containing four rooms and a loft, which was entered by a ladder.
Until 1842, there was no postoffice nearer than Bellevue. That year Mr. Goodenow secured
a postoffice at Maquoketa, of which he was the first postmaster. The nearest mill in the
pioneer days was six miles north of Dubuque, on the Little Maquoketa. During the summer
of 1838, Mr. Goodenow had a mill sent him from the East, which he operated by horse power
until the year following, when he built a dam on Prairie Creek, one mile south of town,
put up a small log building, and within it placed the mill machinery, including a two-foot
burr stone. Havin!
g no bolter, the flour had to be used as it originally came from the stones. For two or
three years this mill performed the grinding for Scott, Clinton and Jackson Counties.
People came a distance of fifty miles, and waited for their grist. The mill was thus kept
busy day and night. The hopper held one bushel, and Mr. Goodenow had no assistance. He
would fill the hopper, then drop down on the sacks and go to sleep. When the hopper ran
short the noise would change and thus awaken him. At one time Mr. Goodenow operated the
mill seven days and nights without stopping.
During these times Mr. Goodenow, still unmarried, kept bachelor's hall at the mill.
In the morning he would mix his cornmeal with water in a wooden box, without any salt, and
spread it on a board before the fire to cook. Sugar, tea, coffee and butter were luxuries
not often to be thought of. In the fall of 1839, he sold out the mill, and returning East
was married, on the 3d of October, to Miss Eliza Wright, of Bolton. On account of
sickness they prolonged their stay there until it was too late to make the journey by the
rivers, so started with a team of horses, a sleigh and a wagon, using sometimes one
vehicle, and sometimes the other, as occasion required. They were accompanied on their
trip by a young man named Green, and visited friends at different points along the way.
Finally, nine weeks from the time of starting, they arrived at their future home. While
passing through Carroll County, Ill., they lost their way, and night overtook them on the
prairie, a long di!
stance from any house, so they were obliged to encamp in the open air, and all three slept
in the sleigh.
After his marriage Mr. Goodenow occupied himself at farming and hotel keeping until about
the close of the Civil War, when he dropped out of the hotel business, but has been more
or less interested in agriculture to the present time, and in connection with this has
done a great deal in erecting buildings in the city. In due time there were born to our
subject and his estimable wife, children to the number of nine, the eldest of whom, a son
Osceola, has been twice married, first to Miss Sarah Carnahan, who died, and next to Miss
Frances Cassin; the eldest daughter, Mary L., is the wife of D.H. Anderson, of Maquoketa;
Emma married George B. Perham, and lives in Ravenswood; Helen C. is the wife of Fred S.
Tinker, of Maquoketa; Alice, Mrs. D.N. Holcomb, lives in Ravenswood; George E. married
Miss Ella LeVan, and they are residents of Monona County, Iowa; Winfield S. married Miss
Eva Phillips, and makes his headquarters at Maquoketa.
Mrs. Eliza (Wright) Goodenow was born at Lake George, Warren Co., N.Y., March 19, 1818.
Her father, Thomas M. Wright, was a native of Connecticut, as also was her grandfather,
Samuel Wright, who traced his ancestry to Scotland, and who is supposed to have spent his
entire life in Connecticut. Thomas Miles Wright, was left an orphan at an early age, and
was reared by his step-father. He had but one brother, Samuel, who was for some years a
missionary and teacher among the Indians of Western New York. He finally removed to
Milwaukee, Wis., where he spent his last years. The father of Mrs. Goodenow, when a young
man, took up his abode in Shelburne, Franklin Co., Mass., where he was married to Miss
Eliza Smead, who was a native of that place, and who became the mother of Mrs. Goodenow.
About 1800, he, with several other families, set out for Warren County, N.Y., with ox
teams, located on a tract of heavily timbered land in the wilderness, and put up a log
house. Near this!
homestead afterward grew up the town of Huddle. His wife and all the other members of
the colony, except himself, were members of the Presbyterian Church in New England, and
after their arrival in the new country they organized themselves into a society and put up
a church edifice. Mr. Wright, with the assistance of his sons, cleared three farms,
besides establishing a woolen-mill, in which he manufactured cloth, and a smelting furnace
for iron. He also engaged in merchandising, and in the lumber business, running at one
time two sawmills. By his enterprise and industry he accumulated a good property, the
whole of which he lost by the signing of notes for friends. He was a man of dauntless
courage, however, and succeeded in retrieving a part of his fortune. He remained a
resident of New York State until 1840, then set out for Iowa Territory on a visit to his
children in this county. Upon his arrival here he was so much pleased with the country
that he bought a farm, !
and made his home here with Mrs. Goodenow and his son Samuel until his death, which
occurred in February, 1864, at the advanced age of eighty-eight years and four months.
The mother of Mrs. Goodenow was born at Shelburne, Mass., and died in Warren County. N.Y.,
Nov. 18, 1828. Her father, Samuel Smead, was a native of Massachusetts, whence he removed
to Ohio about 1825, settling among the earliest pioneers of Lake County. Purchasing a
tract of timbered land he and his sons cleared a farm, and there Mr. Smead spent his last
days, dying at the advanced age of ninety-three years. After the death of his first wife,
Mr. Wright was married to Mrs. Catherine Staunton, nee Griffin, a native of Warren County,
N.Y., and who spent her last years in Bolton, that State.
Mr. Goodenow has been three times elected Mayor of the city, and has ever taken a
prominent part in the growth and development of the city.
("Portrait and Biographical Album of Jackson County, Iowa", originally published
in 1889, by the Chapman Brothers, of Chicago, Illinois.)