by Harry A. Goodwin


Edward Goodwin, "shipwright", of Amesbury, Massachusetts was the progenitor of a long line of craftsmen, professional people, farmers and merchants who have lived along the Merrimac River since the early seventeenth century. Goodwin ships were launched from ways along the river for as long as wooden ships were built. Other Goodwins were among the first to push into the wilderness of the Upper Merrimac River and cross over the dividing hills to the Connecticut River Basin. Their offspring helped to open up the lands which are now New York, Ohio, Michigan, and Lower Canada. Many of them made their homes in the plains and mountains or moved on to the Pacific Coast. Always, there were some Goodwin families who stayed behind to multiply and populate the land. The descendants of Edward Goodwin, "shipwright", of Amesbury are legion.

[From: 'Entry Book: March 1680, 11-20', Calendar of Treasury Books: 1679-1680, Volume 6 (1913), pp. 469-487, we find an interesting entry: Treasury warrant to the Clerk of the Pipe for a grant to Thomas Doyly of the office of steward and bailiff of the three Hundreds of Chiltern, viz., Stoke, Desborough and Burnham (as granted to Sir Francis Goodwin, 1615, July 19, for the lives of his sons Arthur Goodwyn and Edward Goodwyn and William Elmes, esq., the 26s. 8d. rent reserved on their lease not having been answered since the Restoration, so that the said 3 lives are probably long since dead). The present grant to be for 31 years from 1679, Sept. 29, at a yearly rent of 26s. 8d. and for a fine of 150l. Warrants not Relating to Money, pp. 164 - 6. Is this our Edward? - Ed.]

[Also, we find in The House of Commons Journal, Friday the Sixteenth of March 1648: .... Edward Goodwyn, Carpenter of the Rainbow ....[.and others - Ed.] The Persons above named, being recommended by the Committee of Merchants to the Committee of the Navy, to be again employed, notwithstanding their Subscription to the Petitions; and the Committee of the Navy having thought fit to leave it to the Generals of the Fleet to employ the said Persons for this present Expedition, if they received Satisfaction in their Fidelity to the State; -Ed.]

Edward was probably born in England and was perhaps first married there. We do not know the name of his first wife or how, when or where he arrived in New England. Too many of the earliest records of Newbury and Salisbury are missing to be certain of his first years in the area. He may have first settled in Newbury and perhaps lived there for some time before he moved across the Merrimac River to Salisbury. There is an undated record of a son, Richard, born to Edward (and presumably by his first wife) in Salisbury about 1654. It is suggested, however, that he had more than a casual association with Newbury. We find his abode given as Salisbury when he bought land of John Bailey in 1665, and he secured a common right in Ames. in 1667. However, he married Widow Susanna Wheeler in Newbury 05 June 1668. In Oct. 1668 he was granted the right to operate a ferry across the Merrimac River, above the Powans River, near "where he now dwelleth." It appears, from the scanty records available that he may have lived at various times in Newbury, Salisbury, and Amesbury.

Edward was "Mr. Goodwin" in the early Amesbury records and was one of the areas earliest shipbuilders. In the new colonies transportation, food-gathering and commerce depended on a good supply of seaworthy vessels built of native timbers. The tidal zone of the Merrimac River was the center of a flourishing shipbuilding industry. The earliest record of shipbuilding in the area is of a vessel built by Kelip (Caleph) Peter in 1639 on the banks of the Powans River. Another vessel built there for "Mr. Greaves" in 1652 may have been built by Edward Goodwin. It is certain that he and Wm. Hackett, another established boat-builder, sold a ketch they had built there in 1667 (Essex Antiquarian 1908, p. 123).

In 1665 Edward had purchased land along the Powans and Merrimac Rivers from John Bayley who had come from Chippenham, Co. Wilts, England as a youth in the ship "Angel Gabriel" and was wrecked in a terrible storm off the coast of Pemaquid 15 Aug 1635. The Old Norfolk County Deeds 2: 406, dated 07 June 1665, records the transfer of title of the first Goodwin property along the Merrimac River as follows:

"Jne Bayle of town of Newbrie for good pay conveyed unto Mr. Edward Goodwin of ye town of Salisbury in ye county of Norfolk, shipwright, four full & complete acres of upland ground now lying & being with the bounds of ye township of Salisbury aforesaid in ye division of land wch belongs to ye place called Powwans River, ye sd four acres of land bounded as hereafter is expressed viz. Merrimac River on ye southeast & little runs on the northeast & highway ye south-southwest & other land of ye sd Jne Baylys on ye northwest to run seventeen rodd from ye River in breadth. John Bayly, his mark signed in ye presence of Richard Currier, Wm Sargent. "

Amesbury was incorporated in 1666. Edward was granted a common right in the new town on 25 Jan 1667, and on 09 July 1667, he was appointed to "set at the table" in the newly built church. Seats at the table were reserved for the voters of the congregation. Other members stood along the walls or occupied the few wooden benches in the room. The church he attended was at the corner of the cemetery near Amesbury town where John Greenleaf Whittier, the poet, is buried.

Some time between 1665 and 1668 he built a home beside the highway and overlooking the Powens and the Merrimac Rivers. That house, still occupied more than 325 years later, is at the same site in Amesbury where it was originally built. Edward lived there in 1668 while he maintained a ways on the Powans River and operated a tavern, run by his second wife, the widow of George Wheeler of Newbury. This was the year that the town sought leave of the General Court for a ferry over the river, "about Mr. Goodwin's house", and was given leave to do so; but, the appointing of the ferry-man and the price was reserved to the County Court. When the County Court was next held in Hampton on 13 August 1668

Mr. Goodwin was presented by the selectmen of Amesbury, at which time the said court approved his services for a period of one year:

HAMPTON QUARTERLY COURT [Oct. 1668]: Mr. Edw. Goodwyn, presented by the selectmen of Almsbury to keep the ferry over Merimack river above the mouth of the Pawwaus river where said Goodwyn dwells, was allowed to keepit one year until the court took further order. Prices: For everysingle passenger, 2d.; for a horse and man, 6d; for all great cattle, 4d per head; for sheep and other small cattle under two years old, 2d per head.

This ferry was to continue in service until 1792 when the first bridge was built across the Merrimac and was used by George Washington in 1789 on his way to Portsmouth, N.H. to visit his former Secretary, Tobias Lear.

John Bailey must have had some misgivings about having sold a valuable piece of property to Edward Goodwin and wanted to buy it back. To quiet him, Edward provided a buy-back provision which is recorded in the Old Norfolk County Deeds 2:406, dated 07 Feb. 1670, as follows:

"I Edward Goodwin pmise Edward Goodwin deeds yt if I Edward Goodwin do ever sell this land Jne Bayly shall have ye refusal of it giving ye same pay another will. 11 June 1669. signed, Edward Goodwin."

In April, 1669, Edw. once again got the attention of the Court: Edward Goodwyn, presented for swearing and other mis-carriages about threatening to stab Tho. Hoyt, was fined.

On 03 Feb 1670, Edward conveyed a dwelling house and land in Newbury that had formerly belonged to George Wheeler, the first husband of his second wife, to Robert Holmes (Ipswich County Deeds 4:185). On 15 Nov. 1672, he transferred title to the four-acre homestead on the Merrimac and Powans Rivers to his son Richard (Old Norfolk County Deeds 2:407); and his wife Susanna, by virtue of a letter of attorney, "conveyed unto Caleb Moody all chattles, etc. in New England (Old Norfolk County Deeds 2: 414)." It is generally assumed that these events marked the demise of Edward Goodwin our immigrant ancestor. There is no death or burial record and no will was probated. However, Susanna is recorded as Widow Goodwin in Newbury in 1681 (Coffin, p. 128).

Richard, the son of Edward by his first wife, married Mary Fowler and carried on with the family business in Amesbury. Edward, the son of Edward and Susanna, married Martha _____, resident of Newbury and had children. Another early family of Goodwins in the Newbury area were the descendants of Richard and Bridget (Fitts) Goodwin and their son Richard (prob. b. Eng.) who married Hannah Jones, and his son Richard, who married Hannah Major. The families of these lines must have recognized a blood relationship because there were very few intermarriages. In any event there were soon enough Goodwins in the area to make the task of identifying the descendants of Edward Goodwin, "shipwright", of Amesbury both interesting and demanding.

The sole purpose of this effort has been to locate, organize and describe some of the early families which descended from Edward Goodwin the shipwright of Amesbury. The major reference books of previously published information are listed and the source of the record for each event is given in brackets identifying the town record from which it was taken. No special effort has been made to search beyond New England.