1999 – 02 Feb Newsletter – GRF

Sections in this issue:

1) Astronomer William Gowen Was Married To Three Witham Cousins;
2) Melungeon Became Math Genius After Being Kicked by Mule;
3) Rev. John Going Shot and Killed By Disgruntled Parishioners;
4) Dear Cousins.

All Gowen Manuscript Pages and Newsletters:   https://goyengoinggowengoyneandgone.com/gowen-research-foundation-pages-and-info/

Volume 10, No. 6 February 1999

1)  Astronomer William Gowen Was Married To Three Witham Cousins

William Gowen, [Stephen4, William3, Nicholas2, William Alexander1] son of Stephen Gowen and Molly Powers Gowen, was born at Sanford, Massachusetts [later Maine] December 23, 1778. He was married October 3, 1808 at Sanford to Olive Witham who was born August 7, 1786 to Jonathan Witham and Lydia Witham. He became a farmer, a surveyor, an astronomer and a school teacher.

His life was described in Edwin Emery’s “The History of Sanford, Maine, 1661-1900:”

“In his boyhood he was so afflicted with asthma that he could do no hard manual labor, and therefore concluded to prepare himself to be a school master. He was edu-cated in the public schools of Sanford, at Fryeburg Academy and at his own fireside. He was always a close student, even after reaching mature age.

He began teaching in town not far from 1800 and con-tinued for some thirty years, in winter. Occasionally be taught evening school for business men to learn pen-manship and bookkeeping. In summer he carried on his farm and garden, having a fine garden for the times, with all kinds of vegetables and ‘garden-sauce’ in their seasons. He had a good orchard of apple and plum trees.

He built his own house, finished three rooms before his first marriage and made nearly all of the furniture and household utensils used. His paint was red ochre, ob-tained from the Red brook. ‘Master’ Gowen was never in more than comfortable circumstances, as he never re-ceived more than ten dollars a month for teaching, and could not carry on heavy farming.

He was a member of the school committee four years, and was reelected in 1826, but was excused.

When his first and second wives died, he prepared their gravestones with his own hands, from flat stones, even to the cutting of the names. In person, be was of medium height, spare, light complexioned. with gray eyes, light hair and whiskers. He was a rigid moralist and a member of the Baptist Church. When the church was without a minister, he often conducted meetings on Sunday, reading a printed sermon.”

Olive Witham Gowen died May 20, 1811, at age 24, after less than three years of marriage, according to the June 11, 1811 edition of “The Sanford Tribune.” She was buried in Gowen Cemetery on River Road at Sanford which was established by William Gowen, grandfather of the schoolmaster. William Gowen was remarried to Mary Witham, younger sister of Olive Witham, May 3, 1813. Six years later, she died on June 11, 1819 and was buried beside her sister, according to the July 3, 1819 edition of “The Sanford Tribune.”

A year later, William Gowen and Sarah Haines Witham of Kit-tery, Maine, a cousin of his first two wives, filed an intent to marry, according to “Kittery, Maine Town Records.” They were married June 27, 1820, according to the municipal records.

“‘Master’ William Gowen began to teach in town about 1800,” according to “The History of Sanford, Maine, 1661-1900” “and continued his work in several district for some thirty years in winter, though mostly in the schoolhouses near the Baptist meetinghouse.

Often there were a hundred scholars, from the abecedarian to men and women grown. As there were but few arithmetics, he carried most of his students in his early schools through the fundamental rules by putting examples down on a piece of slate and giving the rules orally.

At the same time, he gave to the young men who so de-sired, lessons in wood and land surveying, teaching them to make, from the woodpile at the door, with axes and jackknives, the instruments with which they worked. He delighted in astronomy, and studied it with his older scholars, as far as his limited means would allow, drawing diagrams showing the position of the planets with chalk on his kitchen floor by firelight.

He frequently made ciphering books for his pupils, some of which, preserved for more than two generations, were unfaded and readable as print, though he made his ink of maple bark and copperas and his pens of goose quills.”

William Gowen died September 28, 1831, at age 52, of the asthma which had afflicted him all his life and was buried near his first two wives in Gowen Cemetery.

The widow Sarah Haines Witham Gowen was enumerated as the head of a household in the 1850 census of York County at Sanford:

“Gowen, Sarah H. 66, born in ME
Sarah A. 36, born in ME, step-daughter-in-law
John C. 13, born in ME, step-grandson
Witham, Joshua 63, born in ME, brother”

She reappeared in the 1860 census of York County as a 78-year-old widow. She died April 24, 1870, after almost 40 years of widowhood, and was buried in Gowen Cemetery near her husband and her cousins.

Children born to William Gowen and Olive Witham Gowen in-clude:

Calvin Powers Gowen born August 25, 1809
Isaiah Gowen born May 11, 1811

Children born to William Gowen and Mary Witham Gowen in-clude:

Mary Gowen born in 1814
Nahum W. Gowen born August 21, 1815
William Gowen, Jr. born December 18, 1818

2)  Melungeon Became Math Genius After Being Kicked by Mule

Alvin Goins, son of Acie Goins and Sara Bolden Goins was born in Rhea County, Tennessee September 14, 1903. His father was a native of James County which had been created prior to the Civil War and existed until about 1908 when it was absorbed by Hamilton County. Acie Goins removed his family to Graysville, Tennessee in Rhea County, and young Alvin Goins grew up in the Melungeon community there.

As the result of a childhood accident, Alvin Goins developed a mental compensatory ability that allowed him to make complex mathematical computations “in his head” long before the age of computers. He was the subject of an article written by Bennie McKenzie Fleming for “History of Rhea County, Tennessee:”

“Alvin Goins, a lifelong resident of Rhea County, was born September 14, 1903, of Melungeon parentage in the Brown Rock section of Graysville, a sparsely populated area on the road leading to Montague. This was the rural part of the county where most of the Melungeons lived. Alvin was the youngest of about nine children and several half siblings.

Alvin never learned to read or write because he was injured when he was kicked in the head at the age of five by a mule. This was confirmed by Mrs. Hazel Keith, a former teacher in the Graysville School. With no formal education, but apparently possessed with an innate ability coupled with a passion for ciphering, he is considered a mathematical genius.

He can perform a remarkable feat of computation in his head that would baffle a math professor. Given the day, month, and year of someone’s birth, in a few seconds Alvin can estimate the exact number of days that elapsed since then. Tested out by author Jean Patterson Bible from a tape recording she made when she interviewed him for her book about Melungeons, his figures were found to be correct down to the last digit.

Alvin worked in numerous lumber mills, one being in South Dayton and from time to time on TVA projects. including Fontana Dam. When Oak Ridge was being developed, Alvin got a job there for a while with a sawmill company. It was said that he could accurately figure, in about five minutes, the amount of board feet of lumber on a truck loaded with logs: e.g., given the number of logs, length and width, he would tell you how many slabs to cut off. He was fired when they learned that he was illiterate.

Another story that Alvin remembers was when a brick building was being erected and for days the contractors were puzzled over the amount of brick to be ordered. Alvin, in a matter of minutes after being given the dimensions of the building and number of windows and doors, told them the number of bricks required. Skeptically, the amount of bricks were ordered and when the building was completed, only three bricks were left over.

As a boy, Alvin explored the mountains about Graysville, as was typical of Melungeon youths at that time. He knew as he does today where all the coal outcroppings were and the entrance to all the mines, even those abandoned. He was once married to a “mail-order bride” but the marriage lasted only a short time.

For the past several years, Alvin has frequented the Court House, especially the Trustee and Registrar of Deeds offices, counting Registrar Gladys Best one of his best friends since she reads and interprets his letters to him and he trusts her explicitly. He wears a heavy coat splattered with amber, which is his “office” as he keeps big packages of mail, some months old, secured by rubber bands in the numerous pockets. He never leaves home without wearing this coat, summer or winter.

The last of his original family, he lives alone in his project apartment in Dayton, his mind alert for his 86 years. He has several nieces who care for him when he allows them. He is very independent and completely honest. Alvin has not been well lately, hospitalized a few times in the past year. The last time he was transferred to the Rhea County Nursing Home, but after two weeks, he went back to his apartment. He says that neighbors and people in Dayton are kind and help him,. and he was not happy being confined.”

3)  Rev. John Going Shot and Killed By Disgruntled Parishioners

John Going, eldest son of Richard Going and Anne White Going, was born July 3, 1766 at Birdhill Estate in County Tipperary, Ireland, according to “Going of Muenster” by Rev. C. C. Ellison. Much of the Going genealogy published by Ellison was gathered from the research of John Charles Going of Cranna House, County Tipperary who began a study of Going genealogy in 1908.

John Charles Going obtained a report from a French expert on the origins of the family in Lorraine in northeastern France. The French historian had concluded that the surname was taken from the fief of Going sur Seille near Pont a Mousson in Lorraine. The Going family of Lorraine belonged to the “Ancienne Chevalerie,” their forbears having taken part in the First Crusade under Duke Godfrey de Bouillon, he reported.

John Going was married to Frances Anne Shirley February 18, 1789 under a special license. She was born May 6, 1870 to Rev. Walter Shirley, rector of Loughrea and his wife Henrietta Maria Philips. After undergoing training for the clergy, John Going was named curate [assistant rector] of Stradbally. Forty years later he would be shot out of the saddle by angry parishoners.

In 1794, he was made curate at the church at Kilmastulla where he served until 1807. He was named rector at Mealiffe in 1815 and served there until age 63 when he was shot and killed during the “Tithe Troubles.”

The Tithe [a tenth] was a religious custom that dated back to the days of the Old Testament Jews, and the parishoners in the Anglican Church of Ireland chaffed under what they considered a burden. Tithing had been abolished in France in 1789 during the French Revolution. The Italians threw off the tithing yoke in 1787, and other European nations began to follow suit. The tithe would continue to be a point of contention between the clergy and the laity in Ireland until it was finally abolished in 1871 with the disestablishment of the Anglican Church.

Details of the slaying were contained in a letter dated October 24 from “Templemore:”

“This morning the alarm here became very general that the Rev. John Going, Incumbent of the Parish of Mealiffe in this diocese was shot last night near his own house. Maj. O’Donohue, the Police Magistrate stationed here, and a party of police who were sent for express in the course of last night have just returned and confirm the melancholy intelligence.

The facts are as follows: The Rev. Mr. Going went to Thurles yesterday morning [Friday] and was at the Sessions Court where he was detained somewhat late. He was riding home between six and seven o’clock in the evening, and, when within half a mile of his own glebe [parsonage], he was shot through the heart by some ruffians who awaited his return–the unfortunate gentleman instantly fell from his horse and expired.

The animal proceding home without its rider naturally alarmed Mr. Going’s family, who were expecting him to dinner. The son went out to meet his father and found him a lifeless corpse by the side of the road. It is alleged that the provocation given by this inoffensive gentleman was that he was unwilling to compound the tithes of his parish on the terms offered by his parishioners–they refusing to allow him more than £300 per annum for a parish containing 12,000 acres of tithable land and which was worth to his predecessors £700 a year, but for which he only demanded £400 and which would not be granted.

He was always very kind to the poor of his parish, making every allowance in their tithes and taking anything in lieu thereof to accommodate them.”

The court record reveals that three years later, in 1832, two men were indicted for the murder of the Rev. Going, “but were defended by R. L. Sheil and acquitted.”

John Going had begun writing a will, and it was found, unfinished and undated, among his papers:

“I leave to my dearly beloved wife all my household furniture with jaunting car [two-wheeled cart] and horse, provided she remains with my children who are incapable of assisting themselves and are not otherwise provided for and as she is entitled to £60 a year out of the lands of Erina during her life, being the interest of £1,000 of her fortune obtained by me; I leave the remainder of the rent, £31 a year, to my 3rd son Thomas Shirley Going during her life and the entire rent for 3 lives renewable for ever after her death.

I also leave to my 4th son Charles the third part of the interest coming to me out of the lands of Grange on the decease of my sister Jane Going, as stated in my father’s will.

I also leave to my 2nd son Henry all my interest in the lands of Birdhill, Summerhill and Pollough Brehan, provided he takes under his protection his mother and unmarried sisters and pays each of them [that is his unmarried sisters] £500 in addition to what they may be entitled to of their mother’s fortune as younger children after her decease.”

Children born to the Rev. John Going and Frances Anne Shirley Going include:

Frances Anne Shirley Going born about 1792
Richard Shirley Going born May 3, 1794
Henry Going born Nov. 7, 1800
Anne Augusta Going born Feb. 19, 1801
Caroline Going born about 1802
Thomas Going born in 1804
Charles Waller Going born June 21, 1806
Elizabeth Going born about 1810
Rebecca Going born about 1813

4)  Dear Cousins

I am in search of information on Mary Goins, b1860 AR, m. Robert Sharp. She d1927 in Kaufman Co, TX. The cs1910 of Kaufman County enumerates Robert & Mary with seven living children: Ola, b1882; Alonzo & Lonnie, twins, b1886; Robert T. & William Pinkney, not twins, but born in the same year, 1892; Samuel, b1898 and Pugsey b1901. Robert T. and Pugsey are said to have died from eating “crow’s bait” by a creek, thinking it was wild onions.

Mary told family members that Robert married her “straight off the reservation.” Robert died December 17, 1917. He had taken a wagonload of cotton into town and sold it for $35. He was followed by two men who ambushed him, robbed him and beat him to death. He was buried in the County Cemetery at Athens, TX. Any information on him or her would be greatly appreciated. Shirley Hardee, 74 Sunny Gap Rd, Conway, AR, 72032, sah@cyberback.com.


A big thank you for inserting my query in “Dear Cousins!” I had an immediate response from Dr. C. C. Waldrep III of Yanceyville, NC. He had information on the parents of my Henry Goings that I have been seeking f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

This was my first contact with the Foundation, and it paid off BIG. My membership is enclosed. Sharon Miller, 5249 Onion Rd, Pylesville, MD, 21132, miller_sharon@phh.com.


This letter is to notify you of the death of my mother, Evelyn Sandifer Hall of Shreveport on January 29. Thank you for the pleasure and the assistance that the Foundation and its members gave to her in the pursuit of the family history which she enjoyed so much. David Hall, 482 Merritt Rd, Benton, LA, 71006.

==Dear Cousins==

The oldest Goings ancestor that I know of is my g-g-g-gf John Goings who was born in Virginia c1780. He appeared in Ohio in 1820 and was enumerated in the 1830 census of Washington Co, IN, He was recorded in the 1850 census of Iowa Co, IA at age 70, along with wife Catherine, age 50. Other members of the household was son, George W, 30; his wife Susan, 22 and their daughter Nancy, 10 months.

I have been to the Iowa County courthouse and saw a bankruptcy paper filed about 1851 where his signature was an “X.” His will dated March 1853 listed his heir as George W. Goings. I have reached a roadblock in finding out where in Virginia John Goings came from and who his parents were. I would appreciate any help you can give. Ronald S. Goings, 1717 Ridgevue Ave, Clifton Forge, VA, 540/862-7139, rjsp-kids@aol.com

==Dear Cousins==

I recently read Dr. Brent Kennedy’s book “The Melun-geons.” Coupled with the information the author provided and various physical traits I have observed in regard to my own family, plus the fact that they migrated from Spartanburg Co, SC to Neshoba Co, MS in 1840, leads me to believe that I may have a Melungeon heritage.

My family has always, somewhat loosely, claimed a Scotch-Irish and Choctaw ancestry, but it seems to me to be more than that. This is something that has haunted me all my life, and until I read “The Melungeons” I had nothing to tie my suspicions together. I would be grateful for any information that anyone can share. J. R. Willis, Rt. 8, Box 232, Carthage, MS, 39051-8814.

==Dear Cousins==

Last Saturday we were coming home and passing our little local cemetery, we saw a sign that said “Eagle Meeting.” Be-ing curious, we drove down the pothole-filled drive, and at the end, in the cemetery we found a group of about 20 young men and women working furiously despite the cool weather and drizzle.

It was Boy Scout Troop 454 from Austin with their Scoutmaster Walter Roye and parents helping on an Eagle Project being done by Russell Yeager to survey the cemetery. Russell was recording all the graves [names and dates] for a book to be placed in the Visitor’s Center which is being built by the troop. The data will also be sent to the Austin History Center as well as on their website.

This wonderfully worthwhile project which is being done by some fine young people is a good example that we as indi-viduals and institutions ought to emulate. Linda Cooksey, 1060 White Oak Drive, Houston, TX, 77009-7566.



NOTE:  The above information produced by the Gowen Research Foundation (GRF), and parts of the “Gowen Manuscript” they worked on producing.  It has tons of information – much of it is correct, but be careful, some of it is not correct – so check their sources and logic.  I’ve copied some of their information in the past researching my own family, only to find out there were some clear mistakes.   So be sure to check the information to verify if it is right before citing the source and believing the person who researched it before was 100% correct.  Most of the information I found there seems to be correct, but some is not.

Their website is:  Internet: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~gowenrf

There does not seem to be anyone “manning the ship” at the Gowen Research Foundation, or Gowen Manuscript site any longer, and there is no way to contact anyone about any errors.   The pages themselves don’t have a mechanism to leave a note for others to see any “new information” that you may have that shows when you find info that shows something is wrong, or when something has been verified.

Feel free to leave messages about any new information found, or errors in these pages, or information that has been verified that those who wrote these pages may not have known about.

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