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By W. T. Block

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Four Goodwin family members, three brothers and a sister, were very much a part of the early history of Nederland, Texas. Actually, a second sister, Bernice Goodwin (Mrs. T. A.) Spurlock of Rosedale, Texas, near Pine Island Bayou, migrated from Missouri to Jefferson County, Texas, to engage in rice-growing with her siblings, but the latter was never a part of the history of Nederland.

The Goodwin siblings were the children of Thomas P. Goodwin (b. April 1, 1852-d. May 23, 1913), a native of Missouri, and Martha Jane Goodwin (maiden name unknown, b. November 3, 1857-d. April 2, 1921), a native of Ohio. Thomas Goodwin was a farmer, who apparently moved around considerably in search of good agricultural land; he died in 1913 and was buried in Missouri. His widow, Martha Jane Goodwin, later moved to Rosedale to reside with her daughter, Bernice Spurlock, died there in 1921, and was buried in Magnolia Cemetery. (Obit., Beau. 'Journal,' April 3, 1921) After her death, the remains of her husband were exhumed in Missouri and reinterred beside her on the Goodwin plot in Beaumont.

The five Goodwin children who came to Jefferson County (whether others remained in Missouri is unknown) were as follows: Robert A. Goodwin (b. 1878-d. January 1, 1936); James H. Goodwin (b. September 28, 1885-d. May 14, 1952), born in Lincoln, Benton County, Missouri; William Franklin Goodwin (b. 1874-d. March 10, 1936), born in Cooper, Dallas County, Missouri; Dana Goodwin Defee (d. 1962), born in Sedalia, Pettis County, Missouri; and Bernice Goodwin Spurlock. Hence, it appears that the T. P. Goodwin family may have resided on several different farms within a large area of Missouri scattered out between Springfield and Sedalia.

The Goodwin name is of English origin, having arrived in that country about the fourth century A. D. with the Anglo-Saxon invasion. The name is considered to be a derivative of the Saxon surname of Godwin. (King Harold (Godwin) II, the son of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, was the last Saxon king of England, killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 A. D.) Palmer Goodwin of Groves observed that one of his Goodwin ancestors was part Osage Indian.

It is likewise unknown whether all of the Goodwin siblings arrived in Jefferson County at one time, or whether their arrivals were staggered. It is known that they were rice-farming in the countryside around China and Nome by 1905 or 1906. According to Carrie Goodwin's memoirs, it was the fact that Margaret Cooke (later Goodwin) taught school in China, Texas, in 1908 that she became the instrument for bringing the first Goodwin brother, her husband Robert, to Nederland to farm rice in 1909, and ultimately three other Goodwin family members would follow. It is likewise ironic that while Margaret Cooke (later Goodwin) of Nederland was teaching school in China in 1908, Carrie Jones (later Goodwin) of China was teaching school in Port Neches in the same year.

Margaret Cooke boarded there at a home which was close to Carrie Jones' home, and each of them met their future husbands at functions at China's Methodist Church. Robert and Margaret Goodwin were the only Goodwin couple living in Nederland when the 1910 census was enumerated. They married in 1909, and as of one year later, Robert Goodwin was still rice-farming here.

Margaret Cooke (b. 1888-d. September 20, 1972) was born in Scatterwood, South Dakota, the daughter of John Bunyan Cooke (b. July 9, 1855-d. December 13, 1934) and Louie J. Groves Cooke (b. July 15, 1861-d. April 8, 1948), both of them originally from Viroqua, Vernon County, Wisconsin. It is likewise ironic that during 1896-1897, Margaret Cooke resided in Cedar County, Missouri, perhaps less than fifty miles from where her future husband was residing at that time. She was educated in the common schools of Missouri, Port Neches, and Nederland. The Cooke family arrived in Nederland on February 8, 1898, and resided at first at the Orange Hotel at a time when Nederland's population consisted of no more than fifty newly-arrived Dutchmen. Margaret Goodwin's uncle, Asa E. Groves of Wisconsin, had just acquired three hundred acres, upon which he planted 2,500 pecan trees, at Groves, Texas, and the town acquired its name from the man, not the "pecan groves."

Soon afterward, Robert Goodwin quit farming rice and went to work as a stillman at Gulf Oil Corporation's refinery at Port Arthur. Robert and Margaret Goodwin became the parents of four children, as follows: two daughters, Katherine, who married J. K. Poage of Baytown and still (1991) resides in Houston, and Frances, who married Lewis Hartwig of Weslaco; and two sons, John R. Goodwin and Reverend Wilton Jackson Goodwin of Weatherford, Texas.

In a recent letter to W. T. Block, dated June 22, 1991, Rev. Bill Goodwin of Weatherford, Texas, shared these coments: "I know it must seem strange for us to know so little about our background and ancestry. It was a subject that apparently was not of great interest or importance, especially in my father's family. I cannot remember that my mother or dad ever shared with me anything about my father's parents, who died before I was even born....I cannot exaggerate at all how wonderfully happy a childhood I had in Nederland with my Cooke grandparents living next door to me and four sets of aunts and uncles living within a two-block radius of my home. There were sixteen of us, all first cousins, living within that same distance."

Rev. Wilton "Bill" Goodwin married Helen Guerrant Thorington in her hometown of Taft, Texas on December 23, 1958. They are the parents of two children, as follows: Mary Margaret Goodwin, a graduate of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, lives in Atlanta, where she is employed by the Center for Disease Control; and Robert Thorington Goodwin, who is an automobile salesperson in Dallas.

In 1935, Robert Goodwin contracted Bright's disease, and following a long illness, died on New Year's Day of 1936. Margaret Goodwin continued to live at her two-story residence which still stands at 215 Fifteenth Street, and where she ran a rooming house for school teachers for about 25 years. In 1955 she celebrated fifty years of membership in the Women's Society of First United Methodist Church of Nederland. In 1957, she wrote a history of that church which appears as the Prologue of Volume III of "The Chronicles of The Early Families of Nederland, Texas." When advanced age impaired her health, Margaret Goodwin left Nederland to live with her daughter in Weslaco, and she died in Wichita Falls on September 20, 1972, the only surviving charter member of Nederland's First Methodist congregation. She and her husband are both buried in the Cooke family plot in Magnolia Cemetery. Bob and Margaret Goodwin were noted in Nederland for their devotion to Christian living and were thoroughly respected in their community as outstanding citizens.

Carrie Belle Jones (Goodwin, b. September 30, 1888-d. January 3, 1986) was born at Lake Charlotte, near the mouth of the Trinity River in Chambers County, and she moved with her parents from Chambers County to China, Texas, in 1902. According to the 1910 census of China, Texas (Res. 112, Precinct 5, page 7-A, Supervisor's District No. 2, Enumeration District No. 89), she was recorded as being a 21-year-old single female, a primary school teacher, whose parents were J. Coleman Jones, age 50 and born in Texas; and wife, "G. A." Jones, age 48, also born in Texas. (See "Memoirs of Carrie Belle Goodwin," Part X, pp. 83-87, Volume III, of "The Chronicles of the Early Families of Nederland, Texas.") According to Mrs. Wilda Yount, Carrie's father, James Coleman Jones, was descended from Chambers County pioneers who had settled there long before the Civil War, as was also her mother, George Ann Hill Jones. J. C. Jones was also a farmer, who owned 100 heads of range cattle, fattened and slaughtered hogs, raised corn and cotton, as well as "great wagon loads of peanuts."

Carrie Goodwin described her eight years of teaching school, which included two years in Nederland after she was married. She wrote, "I was a country school teacher - taught in Fannett and China. The one in Fannett was a little old prairie school with sheep under it. It was hard, hard - you don't know what I went through. And I boarded so far away I had to ride horseback to school. I already had a school in Amelia, but they were not ready to start that school as yet because of the big boys being needed at home on the farms. . . .I taught that one teacher school there (Port Neches). The next year, I got a school at home (China). I taught there four years, I believe, before my health began to fail."

Carrie Jones met Margaret Cooke (later Goodwin), who taught at China in 1908, long before she ever met Bob, Jim, or Will Goodwin. She met Jim one day at the China Methodist Church, when she was removing a flag from a stage, following a play, and Jim Goodwin came on stage and offered to help her. The romance between them began almost at once, but it was several more years before they were married.

Carrie Goodwin added that after the rice harvest had ended, Jim Goodwin worked at whatever employment he could find to support himself, including on occasion, guarding county prisoners who were doing road work.

Jim Goodwin moved to Nederland first because he went to work at Port Arthur's Gulf (Chevron) refinery in June, 1913. For many years, until he bought his first Ford car, he rode the Interurban trolley to Port Arthur and then caught a city street car back and forth to work. His first pay scale was $15.00 a week for 48 hours work.

On December 12, 1915, he and Carrie Jones were married in China before the Sunday morning congregation, and the wedding party then went to dinner at the old Crosby House in Beaumont. For the first two weeks they resided with Bob and Margaret Goodwin until their first home at 320 Fifteenth Street was completed. Later they built a second home next door at 324 Fifteenth, which is still standing. Carrie Goodwin recalled that they had no public utilities whatsoever in those early days of Nederland - only kerosene lamps, a kerosene cook stove given to her by her brother, a wood heater, well water, a cistern, and an outhouse.

Two children were born to Carrie and Jim Goodwin over the years, namely, (1) a son, James Horace Goodwin (b. April 18, 1918-d. February 19, 1984), a U. S. Army veteran, who lived much of his adult life in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. At the time of his death, he was retired from Burns Security Company, and he was survived by his wife, Betty June Goodwin. Jim and Carrie Goodwin were also parents of (2) a daughter, Martha Ann Goodwin Evans (b. October 8, 1926-d. December 9, 1969), who was divorced from her husband and died without issue. At first she worked in the Pure Oil Company office, but in 1961 she became assistant secretary of Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union, Local 4-228, of Port Neches.

In 1939, Jim Goodwin was a leading exponent and advocate for the incorporation of Nederland in the face of considerable opposition. He ran for and was elected Nederland's first mayor in 1940. In October, 1950, he retired from Gulf Oil Corporation, following 37 years of service there as an oil treater at the Port Arthur refinery. He helped organize the Nederland Chamber of Commerce. After his retirement, he worked for about a year as court bailiff for Judge Owen Lord's District Court in Beaumont. He was also a member of Port Arthur's Elks Lodge, a life member of Cosmopolitan Lodge, A. F. and A. M.(asons) of Port Arthur and of Nederland's First Methodist Church, of which he was an enthusiastic member.

James H. "Speedy" Goodwin died on May 14, 1952, and the Elks Lodge presented their graveside rituals at his funeral in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Beaumont. Carrie Goodwin not only remained a widow for 32 years, but it was also her unfortunate experience to have to bury both of her children. She died on January 3, 1986, after 97 years and three months of Christian living, and beloved for her role of senior citizen in the community.

William Franklin Goodwin (b. 1874), the oldest of the three brothers, may well have been the first of them to arrive in Texas since about 1905 or 1906, he married Zoe Maude Gleason (b. 1881-d. November 16, 1963), the exact marriage date not being readily available. They were the parents of four children, the first three of whom were born at Nome, Texas, as follows: Irma Juanita (b. September 21, 1907); Basil D. Goodwin (deceased, b. 1908); Palmer L. Goodwin (b. 1912); and Audrey (b. Nederland, 1918).

Very little is recalled about Zoe Gleason Goodwin's ancestry, except that her father, ------Gleason, was a Civil War veteran. His widow (Mrs. Goodwin's mother), Lucretia Gleason, later was remarried to -------Nokes, also a Civil War veteran. She died on April 23, 1937, and is buried on the Goodwin plot in Magnolia Cemetery.

From 1906 until 1916, while Will Goodwin was engaged in rice farming, the family resided at 1029 Twelfth Street in Nome, Texas, and the older children began school there. In 1916, however, the Will Goodwin family moved to Nederland (when Palmer was four years old), and all of the Goodwin brothers, Bob, Jim, and Will, appear in Nederland's city directory of 1918. At that time, Will Goodwin went to work for Gulf Oil Corporation, at its Guffey (Spindletop) plant on West Port Arthur Road, where he remained employed for twenty years until he died. Will Goodwin bought four or five lots between 1020 and 1036 Boston Avenue in Nederland, where he built his story and one-half home and two rent houses, which were later bought by John Ware, the postmaster. His former home, although remodeled into a single story dwelling, is still located there. While he resided in Nederland, Will Goodwin was a very active Methodist member, serving both on the church's board of stewards as well as board secretary.

About 1926, Will Goodwin bought ten acres of land between Merriman and Nall Streets when that area of Port Neches was open cow pasture. He built his home on the street that still bears his name - Goodwin Avenue. In addition to working for Gulf Oil, he and his sons operated a dairy there until Goodwin's death on March 10, 1936.

Of the four Will Goodwin children, daughter Audrey married (1) Bill Waggoner (deceased), and (2) Lamar Donald. She is the mother of one son, Van. Daughter Irma Junaita married Arthur Teaf and is the mother of one son. Son Basil Goodwin (deceased) married Laura Aycock, and they were the parents of four daughters. For the past ten years, Palmer L. Goodwin of Groves has been married to the former Mrs. Claris Cheshire Baird, and each of them is the parent of one son by a former marriage, William L.Goodwin and Charles Baird.

Although William Franklin and Zoe Goodwin left Nederland during their latter years, they remained active citizens of their church and community. Will Goodwin died in March, 1936, only two months after the death of his brother Bob, and he is buried on the Goodwin plat in Magnolia Cemetery. His widow, Zoe Goodwin, survived her husband for 27 years, and died in November, 1963, at age 82. She too is buried on the Goodwin plot beside her husband.

Dana Goodwin Defee, the only daughter of that family ever to live in Nederland, married James Franklin Defee and settled in Nederland around 1920. The writer, however, has very little genealogical data concerning her family. Her husband died in 1932. They were the parents of two daughters, Lola (Mrs. L. M.) Harvill and Inez (Mrs. H. H.) Bailey, both of Nederland, and three sons, James Arthur (Jake) Defee (deceased), Tillie A. Defee, and Luther Defee. The latter and his wife are retired and now live at Toledo Bend.

After remaining a widow for several years, Dana Goodwin Defee married Elbert Liner and moved to Wills Point, Texas, where she died in 1962. Jake Defee (died July 15, 1949) is buried on the Goodwin plot in Magnolia Cemetery, but the writer has no knowledge about the other family burials.

In retrospect, the Goodwin family members who are deceased contributed much to Nederland's early history, welfare, and improvement beyond all proportion to their numbers. They were particularly active in the town's political and religious affairs. Arriving during the community's infancy years, they helped chart the town's course through two world wars and the great depression. Jim Goodwin lent his expertise to Nederland's beginnings as its first mayor who helped set up the tax rolls, first police and fire protection, and the means for the earliest street, sewer, and water department maintenance. Each Goodwin family, both husband and wife, were pillars in the Methodist Church affairs of Nederland. As early-day school teachers, two Goodwin wives were to influence the youth of neighboring communities as well as the children of their hometown. They are still fondly recalled and sorely missed by their children, grandchildren, and an entire host of friends whose lives they touched.

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Copyright 1998-2023 by W. T. Block. All rights reserved.
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