Hugh Goins Jailed in Nashville Penitentiary for Bigamy
Hugh Goins had always walked on the wild side, according to Sandy Ratledge, family researcher of Cleveland, Tennessee. By the time he was 20 years old, he was regarded in Rutherford County, North Carolina as a gambler, a moonshiner and a trouble-maker. He had little respect for the law, for the community and for its morality.
Hugh Goins, regarded as the son of Obadiah Goins, was born about 1797, and he was different–he was swarthy. Obadiah Goins, who was born about 1777 in Virginia, had dealt with the same problem, and he removed to North Carolina hoping for a better acceptance. He was sometimes enumerated as “white” and sometimes as “free colored.” The neighbors considered the family as Melungeon or near-mullatto, and neither was respected in Rutherford County.
Obadiah Goins, seeking better conditions for his family on the Tennessee frontier, removed across the state line to Monroe County. He was reported there in the 1830 census, Page 92 as “Obadiah Going, white male, 50-60.” He reappeared in the 1840 census of Monroe County, page 189 as “Obadiah Goings, free colored male, 55-100.”
Hugh Goins had married, wife’s name Elizabeth, in Rutherford County April 1, 1820, according to Monroe County Circuit court records. “Hugh Gowen” appeared as the head of a household in the 1820 census of Rutherford County, page 58, according to “Index to the 1820 Census of North Carolina.”
Hugh Goins was influenced to Monroe County by his father and appeared as the head of a household in the Monroe County census of 1840, page 195, nearby to Obadiah Goins, as “Hugh Goins, white male, 30-40.”
Obadiah Gowens was enumerated as the head of Household 484-71 in the 1850 census of Monroe County consisting of: “Obadiah Gowens, 73, born in Virginia, farmer, white, $250 real estate and Synthia, 22, born in North Carolina.”
In September 1848, “Hugh Goings of Monroe County” was tried for “polygamy” at Madisonville, Tennessee by the Monroe County Circuit Court in Case No. 221, “the State of Tennessee vs. Hugh Goins.” The prosecutor had [erroneously] chosen the charge “polygamy” for a psychological advantage in the courtroom. Polygamy was a fighting word in Madisonville and all over Tennessee. The Mormons had just arrived in Salt Lake City in July 1847 and had begun to openly practice polygamy, to the consternation and chagrin of Christians in Tennessee.
Evidence presented showed that Hugh Goins was married to Elizabeth Goins in Rutherford County, North Carolina April 1, 1820 and “remained so married when on July 5, 1848 in Monroe County, Tennessee he married Peggy Taylor, his wife, Elizabeth, being alive.”
Two weeks earlier Hugh Goins was married to Margaret “Peggy” Taylor in Monroe County by William Dyer, justice of the peace. The license was obtained June 8, 1848 and the ceremony was performed 18 days later, according to “Monroe County, Tennessee Records, 1820-1850” by Reba Bayless Boyer. The wedding took place June 26, 1848, according to “Monroe County, Tennessee Marriages, 1838-1850.”
Hugh Goins was tried, convicted and transferred to the state Penitentiary at Nashville. “Hugh Gowens” was enumerated in the state penitentiary in the 1850 census of Davidson County as “Hugh Gowens, 53, laborer, born in TN.” He had been jailed that year for bigamy.
“Peggy Goins,” the “other woman,” who was born in Virginia about 1815, stood by her husband and retained her married name. She was named as the head of Household 758-109 in the 1850 census of Monroe County with the younger children of Hugh Goins:
“Goins, Peggy 35, born in Virginia
Jessee 20, born in Tennessee
Alfred 17, born in Tennessee
Rody 14, born in Tennessee”
Elizabeth Goins was enumerated in the family of Andrew Goins, regarded as her son, in Household 2198-1516 of adjoining McMinn County, Tennessee.
William Goins, regarded as the eldest son of Hugh Goins remained loyal to his father and removed to Davidson County to be near and to assist his father. He was born in 1821 in Rutherford County. Apparently he was married about 1841, wife’s name Rachel. William Goins appeared as the head of Household 2200-1518 in the 1850 census of McMinn County. After his arrival, “William Going” was recorded in the same year in Davidson County as the head of Household No. 233-233:
Whether Hugh Goins returned to Monroe County after his release from prison is unknown. Prison records of the state penitentiary at Nashville, if still available, might reveal something more of the prisoner.
Children of Margaret “Peggy” Taylor Goins are unknown. Children born to Hugh Goins and Elizabeth Goins include:
William Goins born about 1821
Vice Goins born about 1825
Jesse Goins born about 1830
Alfred Goins born in January 1833
Thomas Goins born about 1834
Rhoda Goins born about 1836
James Goins born about 1838