Bidwell Lore – Captain William Goodrich, Part I

Welcome to Bidwell Lore number 101! We are happy to be back sharing local history with all of our readers. This week we begin a new series on Captain William Goodrich, who fought in the Revolutionary War and became part of the Woodbridge family when he married Timothy Woodbridge’s daughter Sybil. For a refresher on Timothy Woodbridge, click HERE to read his story in a 2021 Bidwell Lore.

Captain William Goodrich
Rick Wilcox 2022“Dick: The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.
Cade: Nay, that I mean to do. Is not this a lamentable
thing, that of the skin of an innocent lamb should be
made parchment? That parchment, being scribbled
o’er, should undo a man? Some say the bee stings: but
I say, tis the bees wax; for I did but seal once to a
thing, and I was never mine own man since.” [1]

For the next few weeks, we are going to take a look at Captain William Goodrich, who commanded Mohicans and was taken prisoner in Quebec during the Revolutionary War. Born in 1737 in Sheffield, he married into the Woodbridge family in Stockbridge. To begin this story, we go back to the founding of Stockbridge, then known as Indiantown.

On May 7, 1737, Jonathan Belcher, Esquire, Captain General and Governor in Chief in and over His Majesty’s Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England in America, issued a charter for Indian Town:
“TO ALL unto whom these Presents shall Come GREETING.
WHEREAS the Great and General Court or Assembly of His Majestys Province of the Massachusetts Bay aforesaid, at their session held in Boston the seventeenth day of March one thousand seven hundred and thirty five DID give and grant to the Housatannuck Tribe of Indians a Township not exceeding the quantity of six miles Square of Land, and Authorized and Impowered John Stoddard, Ebenezer Pomroy and Thomas Ingersole, Esquires, a Committee to lay the said Township unto said Indians in upper Housatannuck lying and being above the mountain and upon the Housatannuck river, the said Indians to be Subject to the Law of this Province made and passed in the thirteenth year of King William the third Chapter twenty first, with respect to said lands; and impowered the said Committee to lay out to the Reverend Mr. John Sergeant their minister, and Mr. Timothy Woodbridge their school-master one sixtieth part of said land for each of them their heirs and assigns; and also to lay out a sufficient quantity of land within said Township to accommodate four English Families that shall settle the same, to be under the Direction and Disposition of the Committee, and the said Committee were further Impowered to dispose of the lands that were reserved to the said Indians in the Town of Sheffield in order to make Satisfaction so far as the same will go to the Proprietors and owners of the land as aforesaid; and were also Impowered to give the Proprietors of the upper Housatannuck that live below the mountain an Equivalent in some of the ungranted lands of the Province next adjacent to upper Housatannuck, Sheffield and the said granted Town; and the Committee were then further Impowered to make the Proprietors of upper Housatannuck above the mountains an Equivalent in some of the unappropriated land of the Province the same to be a full Satisfaction for such of their lands as were granted to the Housatannuck Tribe as aforesaid; and whereas the Committee Impowered as aforesaid in April seventeen hundred thirty six by a Seuveyor and Chainmen on an oath Surveyed and laid out the said Township on both sides of Housatannuck river, and reported their Doings In the premises to the Great and General Court at their Session held the twenty sixth day of May one thousand seven hundred thirty six,….. TO HAVE AND TO HOLD, the said Tract of land or Township with all other the aforesaid premises Emoluments profits privileges and appur’ces thereto belonging with and under the Savings and Reservations aforesaid, unto the said Housatannuck Tribe of Indians and to their heirs and assigns TO their use and behoof forever…. YEILDING rendering and paying therefor unto our Sovereign Lord KING GEORGE the Second His Heirs and Successors one fifth part of all Gold and Silver oar, and precious Stones, which from time to time and at all times hereafter shall happen to be found gotten or obtained in any of the said lands and premises, or within any part or parcel thereof in lieu and stead of all rents, Services, Dues, Duties, and Demands whatsoever for the said lands and premises and for every part and parcel thereof…..”

And so Indian Town was born with 23,040 acres vulnerable to dispossession by English colonists.

Sylvia, Timothy, and Abigail Woodbridge’s third daughter born about 1745, married Captain Phineas Morgan from Springfield. Sybil, their second daughter, born about 1743, married Captain William Goodrich, settled in Stockbridge, where she died Jan. 21, 1782, age 39. Her children were first, Experience and William who died June 10, 1771, age 9 years. [2]

It would appear that William Goodrich’s domestic life was much more tranquil than that of Phineas Morgan, as you will see below. Goodrich seems to have made up for that by spending his time dispossessing the Mohicans of their land, while at the same time leading a company of them into battle, on several occasions, in support of the Patriot cause. When the Mohicans started to run out of land that could be exploited, Goodrich moved to Vermont and continued land speculating there. Enough was recorded of William Goodrich’s life that he seemed a likely candidate for Bidwell Lore, and the Bidwell Lore “cousin connection” was made possible by Goodrich’s marriage to Timothy Woodbridge’s daughter Sybil. Timothy Woodbridge, who through his mother was a descendent of Rev. John Eliot, of Praying Town fame, and had a connection to Rev. Adonijah Bidwell’s first two wives. [3]

What follows is a transcript of a 1764 court session in Great Barrington in which Joseph Woodbridge, brother of schoolmaster Timothy Woodbridge and Uncle to Sylvia, presided as foreman:

At a Court of General Sessions of the Peace holden at Great Barrington for and within the County of Berkshire on the last Tuesday of April being the twenty fourth Day of said Month, Anno Donini 1764. Sylvia Woodbridge of Stockbridge in the County of Berkshire Single Woman comes into Court and confesseth the Crime of Fornication within the County of Berkshire wherefore it is considered by the Court and thereupon ordered that she pay as a Time to be disposed of according to Law the Sum of 20/ & that she pay Costs 6 @ 2 standing committed & fine and costs paid accordingly. (Page 45)

The above was followed by this transcript, also involving Sylvia:
Sylvia Woodbridge of Stockbridge in the County of Berkshire Single Woman vs. Oliver Hanhacett [4] of Suffield in the County of Hampshire Yeoman Complains that on the Nineteenth Day of September last past she was delivered of a Male Bastard – Child begotten then nine Months before that time on her body by the said Oliver, which Child yet remains in full Life: It is considered by the Court that the said Oliver is the reported father of said Child and that he stand charged with the Maintenance thereof, with the Assistance of the said Sylvia the Mother i.e. that he pay the said Sylvia 2/6 per Week toward the Support of the said Child meaning from the Birth of the said Child and to be paid quarterly until the further order of this Court, that he give Bond to save the Town of Stockbridge free from Charge for the Maintenance of said Child, that he pay Costs and fees taxed @ £2:15:8 & stands committed &c. [Page 46]

An explanation for this strong reaction to Sylvia and her child is explained by Katherine Abbot in 1907: “Although Stockbridge was born after the blue laws period, yet her town records reveal that on account of Puritan discipline pretty piquant Sylvia Morgan suffered. She was complained of at church meeting in 1782 for associating with ‘vain, light, and airy company, and joining with them in dances and frolicking and by companying with a man on Saturday night, which she professedly considers a holy time.’ (The Sabbath began at sun-setting on Saturday.) Sylvia bore social ostracism bravely for eight long years, but finally confessed her innocently wicked deeds, and was taken back in the fold.”  [5]

Next week we continue the story of William Goodrich and share more about his time as an Inn Keeper in Stockbridge as well as begin the tale of his time in the military.

1. Henry the Sixth, Part 2, Act 4, Scene 2, William Shakespeare. 18th century Mohican deeds, like other deeds were sealed in wax.
2. Stockbridge, Past and Present: Or Records of an Old Mission Station, Electa Jones, 1854
3. See Bidwell Lore: Timothy Woodbridge (1709-1774) School Master of the Mohican Mission in Stockbridge
4. Commonly spelled Hanchett
5. Old Paths and Legends of the New England Borders, Katharine Abbott, 1907, Page 243