Reprinted from the Register of the Kentucky

State Historical Society for October 1935

Madison, Wisconsin

January 1936


The original bears the signature of Mrs. Nannie B. Goodknight, Simpsonville, Kentucky.





(Prefatory Note._The title is perhaps too ambitious. This paper contains the story of the immigrants Michael and George Gutknecht, brothers, and of the first generation of their descendants. The story of the family of Christian Gutknecht, the first known immigrant of the name, remains to be written. It is hoped that this effort may inspire the other story.

For materials painstakingly collected during many years and generously placed at the writer's disposition, grateful acknowledgement is hereby made to Lillian Prewitt (Mrs. Clifton Shealy) Goodknight, of Honolulu, Hawaii, to Asbury and Sherman Goodknight, of Sedalia, Mo., to Gilbert Goodnight, of Knob Roster, Ma., and to John, the son of Cloyd Goodnight, deceased, of Bethany, West Virginia. To many others who have been kind and helpful, the writer hereby expresses his sincere thanks.)

Many versions of this story are extant, virtually all of them based on family traditions as handed down, verbally in earlier days, and chiefly by letter in later times, in various branches of the family. As might be expected in the case of such transmittal, especially when two centuries have elapsed and the descendants are widely scattered, there are many and serious discrepancies among these stories. There is a great confusion of statement as to the origin of the ancestor Michael, where he first settled, who his children were, and whether he had brothers who came with him.

To illustrate forcibly the contradictions that confront him who has the temerity to attempt to unravel the tangled skein, it may suffice to note that, in one biographical sketch,1 it is affirmed that "Michael Goodnight fled from France to Germany to escape religious persecution, thence to America, 1694, and settled in Germantown, Pa.; removed to Rockbridge Co., Va., 1708," etc.; in another,2 that he "came from the lowlands of Germany to Philadelphia about 1735, and settled at Rockbridge, Va., about 1737"; while a third3 chronicles, "Michael Goodnight, who was born in Germany in 1694, and emigrated to America in 1708, settling in Rockbridge, Va."

None of these conflicting statements appears to be backed by the slightest evidence, diligent search has failed to discover documentary verification for any of them, and some of them can be clearly disproved. For example, the land that is now Rockbridge County, Va., was an unexplored wilderness in 1708. Not even the fertile Shenandoah Valley was occupied that early, and there were no white settlers in the present Rockbridge until 1739-40. Obviously then, we cannot accept any of these varying accounts as authentic.

It is to the task of establishing actual facts by searching out documentary evidence that the present writer has devoted his efforts for the past two years and fortune has smiled upon him. We now know the exact date of Michael's landing in America, and,

1 The Abridged Compendium of American Genealogy, Vol. 11, under Goodknight, Clifton Shealy.
2 Lamb's Biographical Dictionary of the U. S., under Goodknight, James Lincoln.
3 A biographical sketch of Isaac Goodnight in the Louisville Courier-Journal.


The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

with some lacunae, are able to give a fairly accurate account of his career in this country. We know nothing of his first wife or wives, relatively little about his children by them, and there is still a good deal of uncertainty regarding his whereabouts during the first decade of his sojourn in the colonies; but the rest is reasonably clear.

Michael Goodnight was one of the many thousands of Germans who fled from intolerable conditions in the homeland and sought refuge in the British colonies of North America during the first three quarters of the eighteenth century. The exodus from Germany, and particularly from the south German states, began after the War of the Spanish Succession had devastated the Palatinate in 1707. By October, 1709, thirteen thousand impoverished German emigrants were congregated in London. The English were kind to them and passed many of them on as settlers to their colonies in America. Later, William Penn invited oppressed Germans still in the homeland to come to his new colony where he could guarantee them religious liberty as well as cheap land. A tremendous immigration began, and it is estimated that, by 1775, there were 225,000 Germans in the colonies.4 Michael Goodnight was one of these "Palatines," as they came to be called here, because so many came from the Palatinate. Whether he actually came from there or from some other German state, we do not know.

In virtually all of the sketches, family letters and clippings which have come to the notice of the present writer it is assumed that there is only one Good(k)night family in America and that all who bear the name have inherited it from the one common progenitor, Michael. The investigations underlying this study make this theory appear highly improbable.

In the first place, the names Gutknecht (high German form) and Gudknecht (low German form) are by no means of such rare occurrence in Germany as is "Goodnight" in America. Several wholly unrelated Gutknechts and Gudknechts may have come to America during the 18th century and become the progenitors of families here. If one of them remained in a community such as Germantown, in which the German element predominated, the name might never be translated or Anglicized. The writer has several letters from Miss Sara E. Gudknecht, of Philadelphia, whose ancestors have resided there for nearly two centuries. Her researches have now brought to light that in land deeds of the 1780s, the name appears as Gutknecht, Goodknecht, Goodneck and even Goodkneight and Goodnite.

In a non-German speaking community, however, the name Gudknecht would inevitably be Americanized into Goodknight. If it were accurately translated, it would become Goodservant,5 but the cognate form Goodknight is obviously the one that would be

4 Faust, A. B., The German Element in the United States, Vol. I, pp. 78 and 285.
5 If it were originally French, "the Good Knight," bestowed for valor in battle, as has been suggested, it would have been "le bon chevalier" and that, translated into German, would have been "der gute Ritter" and not "der gute Knecht." If we give due weight to etymology, we shall have to content ourselves with plebeian rather than aristocratic origin, for Knecht in German means servant, or, in medieval days when knighthood was on the wane, it meant a foot soldier as contrasted with the mounted knight.


The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

chosen. From there, the omission of the k is merely a matter of carelessness or of abbreviation. Beyond doubt, every bearer of the name has a perfect right to use the k; it is probably the seeming petty vanity of appearing to seek to ennoble the inherited family name, under which we have grown up without giving the matter much thought, which keeps most of us from making the change in later life. It is, however, significant that most of the legal documents concerning Michael Goodnight which have come under the writer's observation, whether from Virginia, North Carolina or Kentucky, spell the name without k.

Returning now to the question of whether all the Goodnights in America are descended from Michael, we find ourselves confronted by the indisputable fact that several immigrant Gutknechts entered the country about the middle of the eighteenth century. How many may have entered through such ports as Boston, New York, Charleston, and Savannah, we have no means of knowing. We have record, however, of three who entered with the great tidal wave of German immigration during the mid-century through the port of Philadelphia.

The German Society of Pennsylvania has recently published a stout three-volume work entitled Pennsylvania German Pioneers.6    In 1727, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, alarmed at the vast numbers of continental foreigners being incessantly landed there, passed a law requiring all male continental immigrants between the ages of 16 and 60 to sign certain oaths of allegiance upon arriving at Philadelphia. Ship captains were also required to submit lists of all male adult immigrants imported in their ships. Unhappily, not all the lists have been preserved, but this recent work contains those that have come down to us in the Pennsylvania archives, and shows in both printed lists and in facsimile reproductions of the original sheets the names of the men arriving in 324 shiploads from the year 1727 to 1775. Women and children were not listed, and there is no indication as to which men were single and which were heads of families. It is estimated that at least 65,000 German immigrants landed in Philadelphia from these 324 shiploads. The majority were from the southern German states which had been so heavily scourged by war and famine.

In list 130C of volume I, we find that "Christian Gutknecht" was "imported in the ship Christian, Capt. Thomas Brady, from Rotterdam but last from Cowes, England," and took "the usual Oaths to the Government" on Wed. the 13th of September, 1749.

In list 187C, same volume, we find that "Hans Michael Goodknecht" came "in the ship Neptune, Capt. John Mason, from Rotterdam and last from Cowes, England," and took the oaths on October 4, 1752.

And list 229A shows that the "Ship Recovery, Amos Jones, Master, from Rotterdam and Cowes," brought "Gerick Goodnight" who took the oaths on October 23, 1754.

6 By Strassberger and Hinke. Norristown. 1934.


The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

The facsimile lists show that both Christian and Hans Michael made their mark. the names in both cases having been written for them by some one else; it may have been that neither knew how to write.

The last of the three entries is from a "captain's list"; the facsimile of the original sheet shows all names written by the same hand, an English hand. To a German, or to one well versed in German, the name "Gerick" is utterly strange and non-German. But it occurs several times in this particular list and in this list only: "Gerick Au," "Gerick Timmer," "Gerick Goodnight," "Gerick Holander," and "Gerick Millar." It must be a corruption of a German given name of frequent occurrence. The writer of the list was an Englishman who doubtless understood no German. He probably asked the Germans their names and wrote down what he thought he heard.

In German, the name George is one of common occurrence; it is spelled as in English, except that the final e is omitted, but it is pronounced very differently; it has two syllables and may be phonetically transcribed as "Gay-urk." Slur the last syllable a bit, as a German immigrant would be quite likely to do if asked his name, trill the r, and you have a sound combination that an English ship clerk might very easily write down as "Gerick." To one unaccustomed to German speech, this explanation may sound farfetched; it will not seem so, the writer believes, to a student of German.

In the absence of any sort of evidence to the contrary, and because the documentary material later to be presented harmonizes perfectly with the thesis, even substantiates it, the present writer is quite convinced that it was none other than Ancestor Michael who landed in Philadelphia in 1752, and that it was his brother, George, who came in 1754. This flies fully in the face of the family tradition, but if the reader will consider fairly and weigh carefully the evidence to be presented in the following pages, he will surely have to admit that this hypothesis is a fully defensible one and that it contains no such glaring improbabilities, to say nothing of demonstrable errors, as are found in the old tales.

To do these old accounts full justice, it should be pointed out that in broad, general outline, they all coincide pretty well: Michael Goodnight came to the Colonies from Germany, landing in Pennsylvania, living later in Virginia, removing thence to North Carolina, and finally migrating during Revolutionary days to the "dark and bloody ground" of Kentucky, where he met death at the hands of the Indians on the "wilderness road."

This outline is entirely correct, and the proofs thereof will be hereinafter submitted. It is only with the exaggerated and conflicting statements regarding the early dates assigned to his arrival, his reputed signing of the Mecklenburg declaration of independence, his fabulous age when killed, his twenty-four children, of whom the youngest, a posthumous son, is alleged to have been the first male white child born on Kentucky soil, etc., that the writer finds himself compelled, in the interests of historical accuracy, to take issue.



The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

Mr. Asbury Goodknight, a descendant of Michael through his son John, and now residing at a ripe old age at Sedalia, Mo., set out more than half a century ago to gather information concerning the family. The letters he then received from men now long dead have been preserved and have been made available from the present study. Two or three of them are invaluable, supplying, in spite of small inaccuracies, the frame-work of the family history, which is so well substantiated by county records, such as deeds, wills, and marriage bonds, and by entries in the Draper manuscripts of the State Historical Library of Wisconsin, that we can now reconstruct the story in a manner which, as the writer fondly hopes, may be found thoroughly convincing.

The letters are numbered as in Asbury's collection. Dotted lines indicate omission of material not deemed pertinent to the discussion.


Ashmore, III., Dec. 24, 1883.

Dear Porter and Thomas Goodknight:
Yours of the 18th is at hand... There were two gentlemen and their wives came
across the Sea from Germany of the name of Goodknight and located in North Carolina.
One was named John (Michael), the other George.

George is my grandfather.

George had four sons and three daughters; the names of the sons, David, John, Peter, and Michael which was the youngest of the sons and is my father.

The daughters were named Christena, Elizabeth and S. Catherine, the youngest. She married a British officer and went to Great Britain. David lived and died a bachelor, John had a family and died on Elkhorn. Peter and Michael emigrated to the Green River country.

John (Michael) had four sons, John, Isaac, Jacob and Abraham. If there was another, I don't now remember it. [Henry.]

John lived on Chaplin's fork not far from Perryville. I was at his home once; know but little about his family; he had a eon who had a cork leg. I spent a night with him but don't remember his name; neither do I remember whether he had any more sons, but I suppose he had. He had one daughter who wee struck with paralisis whose mind was considerably impaired. John was a good man; everybody loved him.

. . . . . .

Isaac lived about fifteen miles above Boling Green on big Barren river. Raised a large and respectful! family of both sons and daughters and lived to a great age.

Jacob lived on the hanging fork in Lincoln Co. not far from Stanford; he raised a number of sons and daughters and is the grandfather of J [ames] L [incoln] Goodknight the celebrated schollar and divine a cumberlan Presbyterian minister of Covington, Ohio.

Abraham got off from his people and they lost the run of him.

The two brothers, John (Michael) and George, in the days of General Logan and Boon emegrated to the state of Kentucky and met sad misfortune. George and his entire family except two sons who were in the service were captured I think at Kentona [Ruddell's] station. George was massacreed in the most barbrous manner while his children were scattered among




The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

the Indians. My father was taken to Detroit and sold to the French and taken to Canada. Elizabeth never got to her people until she was twenty two years old.

John (Michael) and his son John went back after some of their goods which they had to pack on horses for want of roads, the Indians came upon them at their camp fire, killed the father. They shot the son, the arrow entered one side and came out at the other and the surprising part is in that condition he made his way to the horses, stopped the bell, concealed himself and the nest day went to the white settlements.

I have given the outlines of our people in America....

                                                                                                                                      Respectfully, Farewell,

                                                                                                                                                        S. W. Goodnight.

From the many substantiating records presently to be introduced, it is clear that the writer of the above letter has indeed given, and given very accurately, "the outlines of our people in America," to use his own quaint phrase. There are minor errors, corrections of which have been inserted in brackets.

Furthermore, this letter, which gives such a correct account of the family history_ the writer undoubtedly had it directly from his father, George's youngest son, Michael_ offers what appears to the present writer to be very convincing evidence that it was Ancestor Michael who landed in Philadelphia in 1752. The immigrant's given name, as the list shows, was Hans Michael. Hans is the universal German abbreviation of Johannes, English John. His English name, then, was John Michael Good(k)night. The letter just quoted refers to him throughout as John. As will be abundantly shown hereafter, the individual described in the letter as John was unmistakably Ancestor Michael. The present writer has therefore inserted (Michael) after John in the above copy of the letter. This letter, then, removes all doubt from the mind of the present writer that our ancestor was Hans Michael Good(k)night, who landed in Philadelphia in 1752. There is, however, other evidence of the same fact in other letters.


                                                                                                                 Concord, Cabarrus Co., N. C., Mar. 12, 1884.

Asbury Goodknight:

Christian Goodknight was born in Germany, May 16, 1747, and came to the United States with his father in the state of Penn. and served as a soldier in the Revolutionary war and after the war moved to N. C. Christian, John and Jacob were brothers and if there were any more I have no account of them.

(Paragraphs recording Christian's descendants omitted.)

As for the name of my great grandfather Goodknight I have no account, but from what I heard my father say he was named Abraham [Michael_correction by present writer] and was killed by the Indians between No. Car. and Ky. and your great grandfather John was wounded and got away. Christian Goodknight was buried in the Presbyterian graveyard at Bethpage.

                                                                                                                                         Yours truly,

                                                                                                                                                   C. M. B. Goodknight.



The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America


Asbury Goodknight:

                                                                                                                                   Concord N. C., Mar. 13, 1884.

I received a postal from you the other day ...You want to know something about the Goodknight family. I can't give a full account at present but will as soon as I can. My great grandfather came from Germany to Penn. and after the revolutionary war came to N. C. in Cabarrus Co.7 My grandfather was seven years old when they came from Germany.
They lived on cold water creek till Christian Goodknight was married then great grandfather and the rest of the family went to Ky. He took John and two other sons and some girls. Great grandfather was killed by the Indians and John was shot but got away in Ky. and one of my grand aunts was stolen by the Indians and had two sons by the Indians before she
got back to her folks......Christian Goodknight died 56 years ago.

                                                                                                                                                    John S. Goodknight.

These letters have been chosen from the collection because the narrations contained in them are so fully substantiated by the records now to be presented that there can be no reasonable doubt of their correctness. Many of the others repeat the traditions indicated in the sketches cited at the outset of this paper, which had Michael coming to America in 1694, 1708 or 1735. No public record of any kind has been discovered by the writer which might pass as proof that any Gutknechts or Goodnights were in America' prior to the coming of Christian, Michael and "Gerick" in 1749, 1752, and 1754 respectively.

Letters 19 and 21 are from descendants of Christian Goodnight,8 a son of Ancestor Michael who remained in North Carolina when his father's family (including the John and Jacob mentioned in letter 19) migrated to Kentucky. Letter 19 states: "Christian Goodnight was born in Germany, May 16, 1747, and came to the United States with his father in the State of Pennsylvania," and letter 21 adds: "My great grandfather came from Germany to Pennsylvania, .... My grandfather (i.e., Christian) was seven years old when they came from Germany."

If letter 19 is correct as to the date of Christian's birth, 1747, he was only five years old, for Hans Michael landed in 1752. Notwithstanding this slight discrepancy, however, the letters again offer strong evidence substantiating the thesis that the Hans Michael who came in 1752 was our ancestor.

7 Both this letter and the foregoing one date the coming to North Carolina as "after the Revolutionary War." As will be shown later, however, Michael bought his farm in Mecklenburg Co., North Carolina in 1764. Cabarrus County was later formed from a part of Mecklenburg County in 1792.

8 Not to be confused with immigrant Christian who landed in Philadelphia in 1749, or with a Philadelphia Christian who enlisted in the American army at Germantown during the Revolution and was later replaced by his brother Christopher; the census of 1790 lists the one Christian in Penn., the other in North Carolina. It is not unlikely that the German immigrant Christian of 1749 remained in Philadelphia and was the father of these two Revolutionary soldiers, for a Christian Gutknecht is listed as a taxpayer in Philadelphia County in 1769, 1774, 1779 and 1782_see the Archives of Pennsylvania, Vol. XIV. He was probably the ancestor of the Gutknechts still living in Philadelphia_see page 2 above. It would not require any great stretch of imagination to surmise that all three immigrants, Christian, Hans Michael and George ("Gerick"), were brothers, but of this we have no proof.


The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

The earliest record of Michael_so far as the present writer can discover_after his landing in 1752, seems to show that he was a resident of Bedford County, Virginia, in 1755. It is to be found in "Chalkley's Abstracts from the Records of Augusta County, Virginia."9

"The following Lists of Delinquents in the Tax Levies are not copies of the complete lists as returned to the Courts but contain only the names of those for whose delinquency some reason is assigned by the officer in making his return."

In the list returned by Sheriff: Robert Breckinridge for the year 1755, "Mich'l Goodnight" is listed as "in Bedford," that is, he was a resident of Bedford County, hence wrongfully included in the tax rolls of Augusta.

The Deputy Clerk of Bedford writes, however: "We do not have the very early tax lists; but I have examined the indices to the Deed Books from 1754 to 1780, also the old Marriage Bonds from 1775 to 1800 and do not find the name of Goodnight at all. If Michael Goodnight resided in Bedford County, it must be that he did not purchase land here or else his deed would be of record."

Inquiries in Augusta, Rockbridge, and Botetourt Counties, adjacent to Bedford, have also proven unavailing. But the inclusion of Michael Goodnight's name in Sheriff Breckinridge's tax list of 1755 may be accepted as conclusive evidence that the former did reside in that region of Virginia at that time, for how else could his name have appeared there ?

The stream of German migration which flowed southward from Pennsylvania through Virginia and North Carolina about the mid-century, evidently carried with it Michael and_as we shall presently see-- his brother George and their families. The tax list shows that Michael, at least, did not remain long in Pennsylvania and that he tarried awhile in Virginia. The family chronicles, which differ so widely on some dates, do coincide on one. Michael Goodnight, whose wife had died, married Mary Landers10 on Feb. 19, 1762, probably in Virginia. Asbury Goodnight claims to have obtained the date of this marriage from the family Bible of John Goodnight, eldest son of the marriage and great grandfather of Asbury. The Bible has since been lost in a fire. The present writer has been unable to find any marriage bond or other public record confirming the statement, but accepts it as correct.

The removal of Michael and Mary to and their residence in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, is, however, clearly documented in a deed, of which a photostatic copy

9 Vol. II, p. 417.
10 Some accounts say the name was Landreths, others Landis, and a majority Landers. Landreths is quite un-German and may safely be discarded; but Chalkley's Annals, Vol. II, pp. 17-18, record a land transfer in Greenbriar in 1771 involving Christopher Landers, and a deposition witnessing that Christian (Christopher) Landers lived in Greenbriar in 1753-4. P. 341 also records a marriage bond of Daniel Landers in 1800.

The immigration lists in German Pioneers of Pennsylvania record the landing at Philadelphia of Rudolf Landes in 1727; Johanis Landis in 1732; Christian Landes in 1736; Samuel Landes in 1743; Heinrich and Rutdolf Landes in 1749; Friederik Lander in 1751; Peter Landis in 1753; and Jacob Landes and Johannes Landes in 1764. Unless some one is fortunate enough to uncover an actual record of the marriage_which the writer has searched for in vain_we shall probably never know what the name really was. For the purposes of this paper the form Landers will be used.



The Good(k)night(Gutknecht) Family in America

has been very kindly supplied by the Deputy Register of Deeds of that county. It reads in part:

This indenture, made on the 20th Day of May in the year of our Lord 1776 Between Michel Goodnight and Mary Goodnight his wife of the County of Meclenburg and Province of North Carolina of the one part and John Pfifer of the County and province aforesaid of the other pare Witnesseth that for and in Consideration of the sum of one hundred and five pounds piece Money of North Carolina to the said Michel Goodnight and Mary Goodnight his wife in hand paid by the said John Pfifer at or before the sealing & Delivery of these Presents the Receipt whereof we do hereby acknowledge and therefore cloth Releave acquit & Discharge the said John Pfifer his heirs Executors and Administration by these presents thee they the said Michel Goodnight and Mary Goodnight his wife hath granted Bargained sold and Confirmed and by these presents doth grant bargain sell & Confirm unto the said John Pfifer & his heirs or assigns forever all that crack or parcel of land situate lying and being in the County & province aforesaid Containing by survey 190 acres & beginning at a Red Oak [description here omitted in pare] which land lye on and near the three mile Branch Being the waters of Rocky River it being a Certain piece of Land Conveyed to the said Michel Goodnight by deed of Conveyance from James McClean bearing date the first Day of May 1764 & the same had been Conveyed by deed of Conveyance to James McClean by his Escellency Arthur Dobbs Esquire bearing date the 24 Day of June 1762, etc.

There would seem, then, to be no reasonable doubt of Michael's removal to North Carolina at some time between his marriage in 1762 and May 1, 1764. He unquestionably resided there approximately 12 years, and the Mecklenburg Convention, which is said to have adopted an early declaration of independence, met on May 20, 1775, precisely one year before Michael sold his land in that county. It may thus have been that he attended the convention, but so far as the present writer can discover, he was not listed by historians as among the signers.ll

Michael Goodnight was appointed constable for one of the districts of Mecklenburg County in 1775, and George Goodnight was appointed assessor in 1778.12 This service in public office before the end of the Revolutionary War renders direct descendants of either Michael or George eligible, if the writer is correctly informed, to membership in such patriotic organizations as the D. A. R., the S. A. R., Colonial Dames, and others.

From the Deputy Register of Deeds of Mecklenburg County we learn further that, on August 14, 1779, George Goodnight and wife Catherine deeded land to Leonard Bar-


1l The North Carolina Professor of History, J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, wrote to the Rev. Cloyd Goodnight from Chapel Hill, Jan. 20, 1914:

"Almost all historical investigators reject utterly the authenticity of the so-called Mecklenburg Declaration of May 20, 1775 There is no contemporary mention of the declaration and no document has been preserved. The declaration and the names of its supposed signers were written from memory by John McKnitt Alexander some 25 years later. The name of Michael Goodnight was not among them."    Professor Hamilton's statement is fully corroborated by many documents in the Draper collection.
12 The record of these appointments, as copied from the records of the Mecklenburg County Court from 1775 to 1785, now appears in the D. A. R. magazine for July, 1927, pages 547-549.




The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

brick. The deed is recorded in Book Alexander 1, page 11. Unhappily, there is no record of the date of the purchase of the land by George Goodnight.

Michael and George Goodnight sold their North Carolina lands and migrated with their families to Kentucky at a very early date. In just which year they came, and whether the two families came together or separately, we shall probably never know. However, this much we do know: the first white settlement in Kentucky was made at Harrodsburg in 1775; three of George's sons were serving as soldiers at Ruddell's station in December of 1778; and Michael Goodnight preempted land near Harlan's Station by virtue of actual settlement thereon in February of 1779. Presumably both families came in the summer_for migrations were not undertaken in winter_of 1777 or 1778. They were thus among the very early pioneers in Kentucky.

Strangely enough, the two families did not settle together. Ruddell's Station_there is a marker on the site_was located some thirty miles northeast of the present city of Lexington in what is now Bourbon County. Harlan's was thirty-five miles southwest of Lexington in what is now Boyle County.

Since the stories of the two families are distinct from the time of the migration on, they will be recounted separately.


The earliest reference to this family in Kentucky is in a document now preserved in the Draper collections.13 It was found among the papers of Colonel John Bowman, the first County Lieutenant of Kentucky. It is: "A payroll of Capt. Richard May's Company Stationed in Kentucky County under the Command of Col. John Bowman from the 13 day of July 1778 till the 2d day of August 1779." Among the names are those of David Goodnight, John Goodnight, and Henry Goodnight. Each enlisted on Dec. 17, 1778. Under subsistence, each is listed as having "Paid Cap Ruddell" for 220 days. On the reverse side of the roster, the names of fourteen men are again listed_for what purpose is not quite clear_and among these the names of David, John and Henry Goodnight appear again.

Incidentally, the writer is credibly informed that this is proof sufficient for admission to the D. A. R. or the S. A. R. for anyone who can show direct descent from this John or this Henry. David remained unmarried.

A reference to letter 1 above will show that David and John are there mentioned as older sons, while Peter and Michael were younger, and Henry is not mentioned at all.

The Draper Collections also furnish the second reference 14 to this group. Shane, an historical investigator, rode about many years ago consulting old settlers and recording his

13 Draper Collections. State Historical Library of Wisconsin. MSS. 17JlO.
14 Draper Collection. State Historical Library of Wisconsin. Kentucky MSS. 12CC235.



The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

interviews. Dr. Draper worked over his manuscripts, ordered and numbered the pages, underscored names and made marginal notes to make reference easy.

In Fleming County, three miles from Sherburn, Shane interviewed Jacob Lawson, born 1763, in Pennsylvania. Lawson told him:

"My f(ather) had purchased lands on the S. Branch, but the Indians were troublesome and we didn't move for a year or 2 years after. He wasn't one of the earliest settlers. I was small when we moved here. When we came there was no person living any more in forts on the S. Branch.

"The people forted up on the S. Branch, Ashby's fort on Patterson's Cr., and Parker's fort on the S. Br. Patterson's Cr. came into the north side of the N. Branch The Indians broke up Ashby's fort on P. Cr. They killed a good many. There was a grave containing 7 persons in one hole on m(y) f(ather's) place, adjoining P.'s Cr. They had been killed in Ashby's fort," etc.

A little later he says: "At the taking of Riddle's S. were taken Michael Goodnight, Peter Goodnight and perhaps John G. and their bros. and sisters."

This is, of course, a reference to one of the major catastrophes of the early Kentucky settlements, the taking of Ruddell's and Martin's Stations by Capt. Bird with an army of 500 Canadians and Indians in June of 1780. The invaders had cannon, the defenders none. Resistance was futile, so the garrisons surrendered upon the condition that their lives should be spared. Capt. Bird could not fully control his savage allies, however, and many of the settlers were killed. Three hundred prisoners were taken at Ruddell's Station, 50 more at Martin's and all were turned over to the Indians who hurried them off to Detroit.

It was here, then, that George was "masacreed" and his children, including Michael and Elizabeth, were taken into captivity, as related in letter 1. It may be added that Henry is not heard of again in the records, and the letter does not mention him. Presumably he was killed or died early. The other four sons came safely through the ordeal, however; those who had been carried away as captives returned and all outlived the Indian warfare in Kentucky.

A few years later, we find them signing petitions to the Legislature.15

"The petition of sundry inhabitants of the County of Bourbon humbly sheweth, That a Number of your Petitioners are settled in that part of said County of Bourbon which is commonly known by the name of Limestone Settlement, . . ." The petition requests that this part of Bourbon be set off "into a distinct County." It is dated Oct. 26, 1786, and among the signers were David Goodnight, John Goodnight, Michael Goodnight and Peter Goodnight. These are the four sons of George Goodnight as named in letter 1.

Similarly, another petition, reproduced in the same volume,16 requesting that "a new Village called Washington in the settlement of Limestone" be established as a

15 Filson Club Publications, 27. "Petitions of Early Inhabitants of Kentucky," Robertson. Page 89. No. 32.
16 Page 91, No. 34.


The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

town, and dated August 22, 1786, is signed by David, John, Michael and Peter Goodnight.

and finally, a petition 17 that the Supreme Court should "sit at Lexington, in the County of Fayette" and "at Baird's Town [now Bardstown] in the County of Nelson," which bears no date, but contains in supporting documents "An Acct. of Witnesses attendance for 1789," numbers among its 800 signers Michael and Peter Goodnight. A facsimile page of signatures in Robertson's book, subsequently reproduced in Edna Kenton's biography of Simon Kenton, shows Michael Goodnight's signature from one of these petitions.

Michael Goodnight seems to have served in military expeditions under Col. George Rogers Clark or Col. Benjamin Logan in 1786. The evidence is contained in a list of military certificates now recorded in Vol. 32 of the Kentucky Register, page 229. One passage reads:

"Goodnight, Michael, Oct. 31, 1791, for his services in the Militia of this State, under Capt. Helinz from Mason Co. 0-12-8."

Then, too, we find in an old book, Military Certificates No. 1, that on Sept. 6, 1803, Michael Goodnight was paid _1 4 p "for service on the Frontiers," on a certificate issued Sept. 11, 1788.18

David Goodnight preempted 400 acres of land at the state price "lying on Johnson's Creek about 3 miles from the Mouth thereof upon the northeast side of Licking Creek & six miles below the blue lick by making an Actual Settlement Apr. 1779.-19 Fayette County records20 show a purchase by David of 100 acres of land on the waters of the Elkhorn in Bourbon County in 1815, and the statement of letter 1 that "David lived and died a bachelor," receives confirmation in his will,21 probated in August, 1819, in which, "being without children," he bequeaths all his property to the children of his brother John.

John Goodnight took 400 acres "lying on Hingston's Fork about 5 miles from the mouth thereof and about 4 miles from Ruddle's Station by making an actual settlement in April 1799.- 22 John's daughter "Kitty" married William Hall on Oct. 29, 1810; the marriage bond is in Harrison County records, and "Katharine Hall" is named by David Goodnight in his will as a daughter of his brother John and one of the beneficiaries of the will.

Peter Goodnight took 390 acres in Bourbon County in 1786, and Michael took 400 acres on Horse Branch, in Nelson County, in 1788. Peter Goodnight is one of the

17 Page 124, No. 60.
18 The Certificate Book is the property of the Kentucky State Historical Society, Frankfort, and the information is kindly furnished by the Secretary, Mrs. Jouett Taylor Cannon.
19 See Kentucky Register, Vol. 21, page 132.
20 Deed Book M, page 384.
21 Fayette County records, Will Book E.
22 See Kentucky Register, Vol. 21, page 132.




The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

witnesses with David Boone and Robert McGill to the will of William Frye, Fayette Co., Ky., written March 28, 1796, probated May, 1796.23 And, finally, on February 5, 1798, Governor James Garrard commissions Peter Goodnight a captain for the 10th (Fayette County) regiment.24

The writer of letter 1, S. W. Goodnight, an own son of George's youngest son Michael, unquestionably knew from his father the story of the family. His account corresponds so accurately with the data presented in the above records that there can be no reasonable doubt, it would seem, of its correctness.

His story of Ancester Michael's family is almost as complete and as accurate. The only confusing element in it is his allusion to Ancestor Michael as "John." This evidently puzzled a later descendant. There is now preserved at Stanford a diary25 of Thomas Mitchell Goodnight, who was a great grandson of Ancestor Michael through the latter's son Jacob. But the first entry in his diary reads:

"George and John Goodknight.

"Jacob Goodknight, my grandfather, was a son of John Goodknight. George was grandfather of S. W. Goodknight.

"Charles Goodknight, of Muhlenberg County, son of Peter, removed to Illinois."26

Later he writes:

"On first page of this Book it is stated on the authority of S. W. Goodknight that John and George Goodknight were brothers and that my Great Grandfather was John and his Grandfather was George," etc.

If we simply read "John Michael" for "John" in the diary quotations, we have a correct statement, but probably Thomas Mitchell, who has long since been gathered to his father, never knew the explanation.


As noted above, the migration to Kentucky of Michael Goodnight with his wife and the children of his last marriage may have occurred in the summer of 1777 or 1778. Happily, an interesting old document gives us the date of his first settlement on Kentucky land for the purpose of preemption.

The document is in The Certificate Book of' the Virginia Land Commission of 1779-80.27 From this entry we learn that: "Michael Goodnight this day claimed a preempt of 400 acres of land at the State price in the District of Kentucky on Acc't of making an Actual settlement in Feb'y 1779 lying at the mouth of Doctors fork of

23 Will Book A, p. 222, Fayette Co., Ky., records. P. 34, Kentucky Court and other Records, by Mrs. W. B. Ardery, publ. at Lexington, 1926.
24 See the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Vol. 29, p. 335.
25 In possession of his foster-son David.
26 This Charles Goodnight was the father of Col. Charles Goodnight, the famous cattle king of the Texas Panhandle, whose
marriage at the age of 91 (in 1927) and death at 93 had such wide publicity.
27 See the Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, for 1923, Vol. 21, p. 246.




The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

Chaplins fork of Salt River on both sides of the s'd Creek Satisfactory proof being made to the Court they are of Opinion that the said Goodnight has a right to a preempt of 400 Acres of Land to include the above Location & that a Certificate issue accordingly."

This land, which the writer visited in the summer of 1934, lies several miles to the south of Harrodsburg, in the present county of Boyle. In his "Stations and Early Settlements in Kentucky,"28 Collins locates Harlan's Station as "on Salt River, in Mercer (now Boyle) County, 7 miles s. e. from Harrodsburg and 3 miles n. w. of Danville; built by Major Silas Harlan, in 1778." It is clear that the Goodnight family, living on the land described, must have "forted," as the pioneers expressed it, at Harlan's rather than at Harrod's.

There is not the slightest doubt that Michael Goodnight's preempt of the 400 acres was honored, for, if further evidence were necessary, it would be supplied by the deeds on record in the Mercer County Court House. On the 25th of March, 1794, thirteen years after Michael's death, Christian Goodnight, a son of Michael by his first wife and who had remained in the east_see letters 19 and 21 above_and Caterinah his wife, of Mecklenburg Co., No. Carolina, deed to Jacob Goodnight for the sum of 5 shillings "one certain tract of Land containing one hundred and sixty seven acres lying & being in the County of Mercer on Chaplins .... part of a survey made for Michael Goodnight," etc. This is obviously a clearance of title, a guarantee that the half brother in North Carolina will not at some future time lay claim to the land as an inheritance.

Two similar instruments, both dated Sept. 23, 1794, deed 147 acres of Michael's 400 from Christian to Henry Goodnight, "adjoining Jacob Goodnight on the lower side and Abraham Goodnight on the upper side"; and 105 acres on Chaplin's Fork "to a stake in the line of Michael's survey" to Abraham.

There is, further, a deed whereby Jacob Goodnight and Elizabeth, his wife, transfer ownership of the 167 acres described in the first mentioned deed to Charles Hart and his heirs on June 24, 1797. Two years later, Abraham and Mary, his wife, convey 97 acres of Michael's original 400 to Isham Pruitt and wife, and, still later, Abraham sells his remaining seven and one- half acres to John Goodnight for L20. John, Jacob, Henry and Abraham were the four elder sons of Michael and Mary Goodnight.

It appears a bit strange that Michael's land should have been divided among Jacob (167 acres), Henry (147 acres), and Abraham (105 acres), with no reference to John, the eldest son, or to Isaac, the youngest. It is quite conceivable, however, that John had received his inheritance in money upon the sale of Michael's effects_see below_and that Isaac, who was only six years old when the estate was settled, was to be provided for by his mother.

The deeds described above are preserved in Mercer County archives. Originally, however, that part of the state was included in Lincoln County, and the very earliest

28 Collins' History of Kentucky, Vol. II, p. 190.


The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

"state papers" concerning that section are preserved at Stanford. Here we find some very interesting documents, bearing on the subject of our study, and which solve, to the satisfaction of the present writer, at least, the vexed question of the year in which the killing and scalping of Michael and the wounding of his son John by the Indians took place.

First in order is an "Inventory and Appraisement" of all the effects of Michael Goodnight, deceased, "in obedience to an Order of the Worshipfull Court," dated May 21, 1783, which shows the old fellow to have possessed 14 horses, 22 head of cattle, 9 "hoggs and piggs" and quite an array of household effects.

Then follows an "Order of Court" of June, 1787, requiring "that John Irwin, John Rodgers, John Cowan, and Gabriel Madison or any three of them," "settle all accounts of the estate of Michael Goodnight deceased, and report to the Court."

Next comes an itemization of the "sale of Michael Goodnight's estate," dated March 26, 1788, attested by John Cowan and signed:

                                                                                                                                                  "Mary X Flannagan"

Again we have, under the same date, a list of "Sundry Articles Belonging to the Estate of Michael Goodnight which was not sold, which Mary Goodnight Widow of sd Michael kept at the appraisement," also witnessed by John Cowan and John Rodgers and signed by Mary Flannagan.

Then we find the final "Statement of an Acct the Adm of Michael Goodnight Dec'd," dated April 15, 1788, signed by John Rodgers and John Cowan showing the estate to have totalled L230, ls, 9p. The last item of the list: "By cash paid L5," with which the administratrix is credited, is explained by one more small but very significant scrap of yellow paper in the old files. It is a "Deposition of Doran for L5 to the Doctor," which reads thus:

"Mercer Ct.

Patrick Doran made Oath before me a Justice for sd County that Mary Flannagan paid Mary Airs five pounds for curing John Goodnight of wound he received of the Indians 1781 out of the Estate with which she is now charged.

                                                                                                                                                         John Cowan

                                                                                                                                                         Mar. 27th 1788."

Unquestionably, then, the wounding of John and the killing and scalping of Michael occurred in 1781. The circumstances of the attack were probably such as are set forth in letter 1.

A characterization of Michael Goodnight handed down by the wife of a great


The Good(k)night (Gudknecht) Family in America

grandson, she having heard it from her husband's uncles, depicts him as "energetic, industrious, economical and prosperous, with the greatest contempt for a shiftless person."

He was buried in the forest where he fell, within a half day's journey of the fort at Harlan's Station.

Although we have no record of actual enlistment in military service on the part of Michael Goodnight, he is now accepted by the D. A. R. as an ancestor, descent from whom qualifies for membership in that organization. Not only did he serve in public office in North Carolina in Revolutionary days, as noted above, but his grant of land in Kentucky in 1779 was made by commissioners who exacted an oath of allegiance of each grantee and refused lands to the disloyal. Also, Michael Goodknight met death at the hands of the enemy during the Revolution. The same holds true for George Goodnight, except that the writer has found no evidence of land grants to him.

The reader may, perchance, be curious to know who the Mary Flannagan of the foregoing documents might have been. She was none other than Mary Landers Goodnight Flannagan, the widow of Michael Goodnight and the mother of John. As the
administratrix of Michael's estate, she signs herself:


                                                                                 "Mary X Flannagan."     Despite her


19 years of married life with Michael and her nine or ten children borne to him, she evidently remarried at some time prior to 1787.

The Kentucky pioneers of that early day coveted wives as homemakers, but relatively few women had had the hardihood to venture so far beyond the confines of civilization. A census of Harrodsburg shows 85 men and only 24 women there in 1777.29    Furthermore, a woman without a man to "fend" for her was helpless in the wilderness. For hese reasons, widows remarried with a celerity almost equal to that of Hollywood divorcees of the present day. A striking instance is recorded in a journal or diary kept by Col. George Rogers Clark in Harrodsburg during 1777. Two entries are:

"March 18. A small party of Indians killed and scalped Hugh Wilson about one mile from the Fort near night and escaped."

"April 19. James Barry married the widow Wilson."

"An example of frequent remarriage was Ann Poague, a capable woman of Fort Harrodsburg who had four husbands during her life there and of whom it is reported that "as soon as the funeral was over, the men stood in line to propose to her."

The heroine of Elizabeth Madox Robert's novel, The Great Meadow, also remarries at the fort soon after her husband is believed killed by the Indians, thus affording a basis for the Enoch Arden motif of the well-written narrative.

29 See the extract from the diary of John Cowan, quoted below.


The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

It is not so strange, then, that great great grandmother Mary remarried. She had retained, as the "appraisements" of Michael's effects show, an amount of personal property, valued at L77, and including horses, cattle, hogs and household effects, which must have been considerable in those wilderness days, while the balance was sold "at Public Vendue." She was administratrix of the entire estate, totaling L230, and, as there seems to have been no will involved, she doubtless kept her widow's portion of the proceeds of the sale as well.

Of the five sons, the eldest, John, remained for the rest of his life upon a farm which embraced a portion of Michael's original preempt, lying on Chaplin's Fork between Harrodsburg and the present Perryville. John bought seven and a half acres of Abraham's portion in 1794, 200 acres from guardians of George Silvertooth's orphans in 1796, one hundred nineteen acres from David Hart in 1798, and forty-four acres "adjoining former holdings" from Philip Board in 1806. He married Ruth Davis in Mercer County on Dec. 25, 1786. His name appears in all early tax lists in that county. His old home is still shown on the banks of the creek, and nearby is the family cemetery in which he lies buried.

(As to Jacob, the second son, see sketch under subhead "Jacob Goodnight" in the latter part of this article.)

Of Henry, the third son, little seems to be known. He received 147 acres of Michael's land, as evidenced by the above-mentioned clearance of title by Christian in 1794; mention is made in the instrument of "Elizabeth, his wife"; and he is listed as a taxpayer in Mercer County in 1794, '95 and '96, but not thereafter. Letter 17 in Asbury's collection says of him: "Henry lived in Tennessee on Duck River."

The fourth son, Abraham, married Mary Hanna on January 23, 1794. The bond is in the Lincoln County records at Stanford. He bought a homestead near Simpsonville, in Shelby County, on February 10, 1806, where he remained. He was one of the trustees of the town of Simpsonville, title to which was vested in him and others "by order of the Court at the October term, 1816" when it was established. His descendants are listed in an article in the Kentucky Register for September, 1908.

Isaac, the posthumous son, is listed as "1 male over 16 and under 21" in a tax list for Lincoln County in 1799, and his marriage to Elizabeth McMurry in 1805 is recorded in Mercer County, but he migrated soon thereafter to Allen County, in southern Kentucky, where he spent the remainder of his life. He was married four times, fifteen children were born to him, and many descendants of his still reside in the vicinity of Smith's Grove. He died in 1869.

Several of the biographical sketches of Michael Goodnight name correctly the five sons of his last marriage, but none attempt to name the daughters. The same is true of the letters. It is said there were five of them. A diligent search in Lincoln and Mercer



The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

County records enables us to name four, but if there were five, one has apparently left no record by which she might be identified.

On June 24, 1782, Henry Pope bound himself to marry Margaret Goodnight in Lincoln County. The bond states that the prospective bride and groom are "both of this Parish." This was three years before Mercer County was formed from Lincoln, and the Goodnight homestead was still in the latter. Charles Ferguson was bonded with Henry Pope to guarantee observance of the contract, and the document was witnessed by William May.

Another marriage bond in Lincoln County shows Patrick Doran to have married Elizabeth Goodnight on Jan. 20, 1783. Patrick Doran's deposition in behalf of Mary Flannagan_see above_appears, therefore, to have been the aid of a dutiful son-in-law in a legal matter. Patrick Doran was a Revolutionary soldier; he enlisted on April 6, 1778, in Capt. Jos. Bowman's company under command of Col. Geo. Rogers Clark.30

Since the dates of the marriages of these two daughters were only 20 and 21 years, respectively, after the date commonly assigned as marking the marriage of Michael and Mary Landers, Feb. 19, 1762, these two daughters were probably their oldest children. John is said to have been born in 1765; Jacob, Henry and Abraham probably followed in the order named, although this is merely inference from the amount of land each received from Michael's estate, and from the dates of their marriages: John, 1786; Jacob, 1792; Henry, ; and Abraham, 1794.

Almost ten years after Elizabeth's marriage, we find Mary Flannagan certifying the age of another daughter for wedlock. This record is in Mercer County, the separation of Mercer from Lincoln having occurred in 1785:

"I do hereby certify that my daughter Rachel Goodnight is twenty-one years of age and I am willing for Jacob Young to wed with him (sic).

                                                              Eleventh day of December 1792.
                                                              Mary Flannagan (Seal)

                       Joseph Ayres
                       Abraham Goodnight"

The last of the affidavits was made by Abraham for his sister Sarah who was marrying Pete Boucher. From the facts that Mary does not sign this certificate, and that her name disappears from the Mercer County tax lists from 1795 on, we may perhaps conclude that she died in that year.

"May the 26th 1795.

I hereby certify that the within feme is above the age of twenty-one years.
                                                                                                 Abraham Goodnight


     Will Chapline."


30 Draper Collections, MSS. 17J10. State Historical Library of Wisconsin.



The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

It would appear that Rachel and Sarah, who married so many years later than their sisters, were probably the youngest of the flock, except Isaac, who was born at Harlan's Station some months after his father's death.

That Isaac was the first male white child born on Kentucky soil is a myth that has long been cherished in the family tradition. It is a pretty story, and it is too bad to spoil it, but it simply will not stand up under the evidence of the "state papers." Michael was not killed until 1781 and Isaac was a posthumous child, born January 1, 1782.31

But the pioneers of Harrodsburg had been raising families there since 1775. For example, John Cowan, whose name is already familiar to us from the fore-going "state papers," one of the original party that came with Capt. James Harrod in 1775, kept a diary which has been preserved and in which is recorded a census of the population of Harrodsburg in 1777:

                                                              Men in service                       81
                                                              Men not in service                   4
                                                              Women                                 24
                                                              Children over 10 yrs.              12
                                                              Children under 10 yrs.           58
                                                              Slaves over 10 yrs.                12
                                                              Negro children under 10          7

If there were that many men and women in the colony in 1777, and new immigrants were arriving each summer, it would be simply absurd to assume that no male white child was born there prior to 1782.

Incidentally, history bestows the first-male-white-child honor upon Harrod Wilson, named for Captain Harrod, a son of the Hugh Wilson mentioned in George Rogers Clark's diary entry cited above. Harrod Wilson's grave is shown in the old Harrodsburg cemetery, marked however, "the first white child buried in Kentucky." Collins says:32 "The first white children born in Mercer County_so far as it is possible at this late day to ascertain_were: 1st Harrod Wilson;33 2d Wm. Hinton ; 3d Wm. Logan _; 4th Anna Poague ." Only one exact birthdate is cited, that of Wm. Logan, December 8, 1776.

31 In an article in the Louisville Courier-Journal entitled "Isaac Goodnight," written by Ed. O. Leigh, and dated Bowling Green, Mch. 17, 1917, the statement is made: "George W. Mottley .... has in his possession the family Bible of Michael Goodnight, the father of Isaac, containing the record of the birth of the subject of this sketch. This shows that he was born at Harlan Springs near Harrodsburg on Jan. 1, 1782." Incidentally the present writer visited Allen Co. in the summer of 1934, talked with an own daughter of Geo. W. Mottley, deceased, and with others, but found no trace of Michael's family Bible. The members of the family protested they had never heard of it. Probably Journalist Leigh, also deceased, meant Isaac's family Bible_merely a trifling journalistic inaccuracy.
32 History of Kentucky, Vol. II, page 64.
33 Collin's statement may have been based in part upon a document in the Draper mss. (CC5, p. 85), written by Mrs. Eliza Thomas, born 1764, who was taken by her father, William Payne, to Harrodsburg in 1775. She writes: "The Cabbins built by Col. Harrod in 1774 were then standing and some of them occupied one by a Mr. Hugh Wilson, whose wife had a son a month or two old which she called Harrod Wilson which was the first white child born in the place."


The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

Two other well-beloved statements in the family tradition which the writer believes to be myths, make Michael Goodnight ninty-one years of age at the time of his death and the father of twenty-four children, fourteen by the first wife and ten by the last.

A very able American historian34 wrote, after perusing a first draft of this paper: "The pioneers were apt to exaggerate the age of old persons and I very much' doubt that Michael was 91 at his death. Even if he came to Kentucky in 1777, as seems probable from your dates? men of 87 did not migrate into regions of such great danger. It seems to me that the birth year was more probably 1708, so often mentioned in the sketches." The present writer is quite in accord with the reasonableness of this conclusion.

No reliable information appears to be available as to the number of children born to Michael Goodnight. As we have seen, nine were born to him and Mary Landers, whom we can identify, and there may have been a tenth. But we have almost no information regarding the fourteen children alleged to have been born of his earlier marriage or marriages. Certainly the North Carolina Christian was one_and therefore the Philadelphia Christian and his brother, Christopher, who served in the Revolution can not have been own sons of Michael35_and letter 17 in Asbury's collection, from an own son of Isaac says: "The older set of children I can't tell much about. Katy Landers was one of the oldest. I have seen her several times when I was small. She could speak German." 38

The present writer has been unable to identify with certainty any of the others, and doubts that there were fourteen. This, however, is merely guesswork, not proof.

It would seem unnecessary to attempt to bolster up the history of the Goodnight family in America with the exaggerated claims found in the old tales. The true story is a thoroughly creditable one. Michael and George Goodnight, brothers_and this does not preclude the possibility that Christian, who came in 1749, may also have been a brother_came to America before the French and Indian War. They pioneered into the Kentucky wilderness among the earliest of those who went there; the blood of both brothers, spilled in Indian warfare, helped make it "the dark and bloody ground." Their families stuck to their posts, preempted lands, and did their full share in winning that rich wilderness for America and for civilization in that bloody last quarter of the eighteenth century. Their descendants have, in part, remained in the East, remained in Kentucky, and helped conquer the West. Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Texas and the great Northwest are conquests in which they have had a share. The record is everywhere an honorable one; they have been farmers, stockmen, lawyers, business men, statesmen, teachers and preachers; no descendant need hang his head in shame

34 Dr. Louise Phelps Kellogg, of the State Historical Library of Wisconsin.
35 See footnote 8 above.
36 From Thomas McMurry Goodnight, dated Gainesville, Allen Co., Ky., Mar. 1, 1884.


The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

over treason or major crime of any sort on the part of an ancestor, so far as an exhaustive search in many archives has been able to discover. In every quarter the family and the name are of good report and are in no need whatever of having the family history embellished by fiction. If we of the present generation can successfully live up to the high pattern of courage, industry and integrity set by our ancestors we shall do them far more credit than by inventing fables for them.

To the present-day reader of the early history of Kentucky, the constant marvel is the celerity with which our pioneer forebears introduced into the wilderness the machinery of civilized government. The first white settlement was made at Harrodsburg in 1775. In the preceding winter, Lord Dunmore had had all pioneers recalled to Virginia and there was presumably not a white family resident in Kentucky. In 1777, there were less than 200 men, women, and children, white and black in Harrodsburg. There was constant Indian warfare during the first ten years of the existence of the new colony. Michael Goodnight was killed in 1781, just six years after the first settlement in the wilderness. But in Lincoln County courthouse there are today the originals of the above described "state papers," fully written out, attested and properly recorded in correct legal form by clerks and justices of the peace, as though the community had been established for half a century.

The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society records,37 "the first court in Lincoln County, Virginia (now Kentucky), was at Harrodsburg, January 16, 1781."

Collins records in his Annals:

"Sept. 1777, first court of quarter sessions at Harrodsburg."

"Mch. 1783,_Kentucky is formed into one district and a District Court opened at Harrodsburg, March, 2."

And, "The first County Court met in Harrodsburg on Tuesday, August_, 1786 , Justices of the Peace present: John Cowan, Hugh McGary, ."

It was in these first district and county courts established in Kentucky that the above described documents concerning the death of Michael Goodnight and the disposition of his property were prepared.


If, as we have been informed, Michael Goodnight married Mary Landers in February of 1762, and if, as we may reasonably assume, the daughters Margaret and Elizabeth were their oldest children, it follows that the four sons, John, Jacob, Henry and Abraham, were born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, for Michael Goodnight bought his farm there in 1764. Asbury ascertained from John's family Bible that John was born May 1, 1765; the second son, Jacob appears as "over 21" in a Lincoln County tax list

37 Vol. XX, p. 170.


The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

in 1789. Probably, then, Jacob was born about 1767. This is merely inferential guessing, however; the exact date of his birth seems to be unknown.

If 1767 is, perchance, the correct date, then Jacob was a little chap of about eight when the Revolution broke out; he was perhaps ten or eleven years old when the family migrated to Kentucky; and he was probably not over fourteen when his father was killed in 1781.

There is no record of military service as an enlisted man on the part of Jacob Goodnight, so far as we know. The years of his young manhood fell between our two wars with England. He was presumably about sixteen when the treaty of Paris was signed, ending the Revolutionary War, and he was forty-five at least at the outbreak of the War of 1812, in which his eldest son, John, served as a private. In all probability, however, Jacob Goodnight saw his share of the Indian fighting which engrossed all pioneer Kentuckians intermittently up to the time of Wayne's successful campaign and his treaty with the western Indians in 1795.

We have little actual knowledge, however, of Jacob Goodnight's boyhood and of the years of his youth. Presumably, he remained with his mother and brothers on the family homestead, near the present Perryville, until he broke the home ties and set out for himself. The home was originally in Lincoln County, but in 1785, Mercer County was formed from Lincoln, and the Goodnight farm was included in the new county. Mary Flannagan (Michael Goodnight's widow and Jacob's mother), John Goodnight, Henry Goodnight and Abraham Goodnight are all listed on the tax rolls of Mercer County in its early years. Jacob, however, seems to have struck out for himself and to have made his headquarters near Stanford at an early date. His name does not appear in the Mercer County tax lists at all, but it appears consistently in the Lincoln County lists1 from May 30, 1789, on. At this time he was presumably about twenty-two, and he is designated as a "single male, over 21" and owning one horse. Each year, his tax is recorded as a small amount until 1796, when it is considerably increased. In that year he is taxed on "100 acres originally surveyed for James Craig."

In his family Bible2 we find the statement that he married Elizabeth Hoover on March 15, 1792. Unhappily, no trace of the marriage bond has been found, and we know neither the place of the marriage nor the home or family of the bride.

On March 25, 1794, Christian Goodnight and Caterinah, his wife, of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, gave Jacob a clearance of title to 167 acres of land in Mercer County, evidently his inheritance from the estate of Michael.3

1 These lists are now preserved in the Kentucky State Historical Library at Frankfort.
2 Now in possession of Gilbert Goodnight, Knob Noster, Mo.
3 Recorded in Deed Book 2, page 153, Mercer County.


The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

Goodnigh' to Goodnight.

This Indenture made this 25th day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety four between Christian Goodnight of Maclingburg North Carolina and Jacob Goodnight of the County of Mercer the ocher pare.

Witniseth that the said Christian Goodnight and Caterinah his Wife for & in Consideration of the sum of five shillings to them in hand paid current money by the said Jacob Goodnight the receipt where of the said Christian Goodnight & Caterinah his wife do hereby Acknowledge: Have Granted bargained and sold and by these presents do sell alow & confirm unto the said Jacob Goodnight and his heirs forever, one certain Brace of Land containing one hundred and sixty seven acres lying & being in the County of Mercer on Chaplin's fork and bounded as follows. Towit (long description omitted)_a pare of a survey made for Michael Goodnight with its appurtenances to have & to hold forever to his the said Jacob Goodnight and his heirs proper use & the said Christian Goodnight & his wife for themselves & their heirs the said Brace of land with its appurtenances to the said Jacob Goodnight & his heirs will warrant & forever defend against the claim of him the said Christian Goodnight & Caterinah his wife & his heirs forever and against the claim of no ocher person. In Witness whereof the said Christian Goodnight & Caterinah his wife by John Goodnight their atorney in face have hereunto see their hands & seals the day & year written.

Sealed in presence of

And Delivered Ws

John Goodnight (Seal),
Christian Goodnight &
   Caterinah his wife (Seal).

Three years later, however, on January 24, 1797, Jacob and Elizabeth, his wife, deeded the 167 acres on Chaplin's Fork to Charles Hart and his heirs.4 They had evidently made their permanent abode in Lincoln County.

They appear to have added from time to time to their Lincoln County land, consisting, at first, it would seem, of the above-mentioned "100 acres originally surveyed for James Craig," on which they began to pay taxes in 1796.

On January 5, 1801, Jacob bought 8 acres on the Hanging Fork of Dick's River from Hugh Leeper and Martha, his wife, for L21.5

On August 11, 1802, he acquired 94 acres, also on Hanging Fork, from William Nash for L100. 6

And on July 30, 1823, he purchased six and three quarter acres on Hanging Fork from James Hardin for $49.7 His farm thus included something over 200 acres.

On this farm, located about 3 miles west of Stanford, Jacob and Elizabeth Goodnight lived and died. All their children were born and reared there. The latter scattered, however, the sons migrating westward, for the most part, and the daughters following their husbands. So far as the writer has been able to ascertain, the widow and fosterson of Thomas Mitchell Goodnight, a grandson of' Jacob through his son Isaac, are the only members of the family remaining in the vicinity, and they are not descendants of Jacob.

4 Deed Book 3, page 224, Mercer County.
5 Deed Book E, page 49, Lincoln County.
6 Deed Book E, page 51, Lincoln County.
7 Deed Book L, page 97, Lincoln County.


The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

An abstract of a will of James Isom, of record in Boyle County, adjacent to Lincoln, written September 9,1842, and probated in January, 1843, shows Jacob Goodnight named as executor.8

Jacob Goodnight died on February 19, 1843. If our assumption regarding the date of his birth is approximately correct, he was about seventy-six at the time of his death. His wife had preceded him in death by twenty-three years. His will, which is on file in the Lincoln County Court House, runs thus:


I Jacob Goodnight of Lincoln County Kentucky make and ordain this my last will and testament hereby revoking all others.

Item Second. It is my will and desire that my son John Goodnight receive the sum of Two Hundred Dollars out of my Estate and that my Executor pay my said Son John Goodnight the said sum of Two hundred dollars in convenient time after my decease.

Item Third. It is my will and desire that my daughter Polly McMurry receive the Sum of One Dollar from my Estate, and that my daughter Sally Harney receive the sum of One Dollar from my Estate, and that my Son Isaac Goodnight receive the Sum of One Dollar from my Estate, and that my daughter Peggy (P)orch receive the Sum of One Dollar from my Estate, and that my Grand (son) James P. Goodnight and that my Grand daughter Mary Goodnight, children of my deceased Son Henry Goodnight, it is my will and desire that my aforesaid Grand children receive the Sum of One Dollar each from my Estate and that my Grandson Thomas Henry Billingsley Son of my deceased daughter Elizabeth Billingsley. It is my will and desire that my Said Grandson receive the Sum of One Dollar from my Estate, the above mentioned sums of money being the full and entire amount that I want my Children and Grandchildren before named to receive from my Estate.

Item 4th. It is my Will and desire that my son Thomas Goodnight receive all the remaining part of my estate after the payment of my just debts and the sums of money previously directed to be paid my children mentioned and set forth at large in the previous part of this Will.

Item 5th. I do hereby ordain and appoint my son Thomas Goodnight Executor of my Last will and Testament Signed and delivered this 23 day of November.

Jacob Goodnight.


    J. M. Smith
    T. Kenley
    John D. Steele
State of Kentucky
Lincoln County

At a County Court holden for the County of Lincoln at the Court house in the town of Stanford on Monday the first day of April 1843 the Last Will and Testament of Jacob Goodnight deed was executed into court and was proven by the oaths of John D. Steel and Jeremiah Smith two of the subscribing witnesses thereto and ordered to be recorded. And on

8 McAdams: Kentucky Pioneer and Court Records, page 15.




The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

motion of Thomas Goodnight who made oath as the Law directs and executed bond in the penalty of Five Thousand Dollars unto Hugh Logan Hays his security with a proper condition. Ordered that a certificate be granted him for obtaining a probate of Said Will and in due form of Law In Testamony whereof I Thomas Helm, Clerk of the Lincoln County Court have hereinto subscribed my name, the day and year aforesaid.

                                                                                                                  Thomas Helm, Clerk

                                                                                                                             Lincoln County Court.

It is a peculiar will; all heirs except John and Thomas are cut off with one dollar. John, the eldest son (grandfather of the present writer) had married and removed to the vicinity of Bloomington, Indiana, in 1827, sixteen years before the execution of the will. Thomas was the youngest son, and from the fact that he is named executor as well as heir to all the property, he had doubtless remained on the home farm and taken care of his father in his old age. Henry is referred to in the will as deceased, but one wonders why Isaac shared the fate of his sisters and the grandchildren and received only one dollar.

It all happened nearly a century ago, and probably no one now living can answer our questions. Presumably the provisions of the will were carried out, and we find no record of any attempt to set it aside.

We are fortunate in having the family Bible of Jacob Goodnight preserved. It was carried to Missouri by Thomas Goodnight when he pioneered into the West nearly a century ago, and is still in possession of his descendants. The following items are from photostatic copies of the family record contained in it:


Jacob Goodnight and Elizabeth Hoover were married March 15th day 1792

James McMury & Polly Goodnight was married Decr (1810).

John Goodnight & Rhode Brown was married Oct. 19th, 1820.

John Goodnight & Agnes Jones was married December 22nd 1825.

Elizabeth Goodnight & John Billinsley was married Feby 13th 1831.

Henry Goodnight & Louisa Jane Billingsley was married December 2nd, 1830.

Margaret Goodnight & John Henry Porch was married March 11th 1830.

Thomas Goodnight and Martha Dawson was married the 23rd July 1835.

Elijah W. Dawson and Martha Bosley was married December the 16th 1846.


Polly Goodnight was born December 30th 1792.

John Goodnight was born May 4th 1794.

Elizabeth Goodnight was born Nov. 15th 1795.

Sarah Goodnight was born August 25th 1797.

Henry Goodnight was born Feby 16_1800.

Isaac Goodnight was born March 20th 1802.

Thos Goodnight was born Oct. 25th 1805.

Margaret Goodnight was born Jan. 22nd 1808.


The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America


Elizabeth Goodnight departed this Life April 1st 1820.

Rhode Goodnight departed this life Sept. 11th 1823.

Jacob Goodnight departed this life Feby. 19th 1843.

Thomas Goodnight departed this life Oct. 13th 1851.


Like his father, he was a pioneer farmer. He was the second child and the eldest son born to Jacob and Elizabeth Hoover Goodnight, May 4, 1794, on their farm three miles west of Stanford in Lincoln County, Kentucky. We know nothing of his childhood, but it was presumably the life of toil and adventure that was the lot of frontiersmen's sons in that early day. Probably the most colorful part of his career was his service as a soldier under General Jackson in the War of 1812. He fought as a youth of 20 at the battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815, among the Kentucky riflemen who served so well on that occasion. His service record, supplied by the Adjutant General's office at Washington under date of April 6, 1923, reads in part:

"The records of this office show that John Goodnight served in the War of 1812 as a private in Captain Jonathan Owsley's Company, 15th Regiment (Slaughter's) Kentucky Militia. His service commenced November 10, 1814, and ended May 10, 1815. His name appears on a muster roll, dated Camp Jackson, December 31, 1814, and on a company muster roll dated Camp Jackson, Louisiana, February 28, 1815."

His six-month period of service ended, then, within a week after he passed his 21st birthday.

The battle of New Orleans was a remarkable one in two respects: First, because it was fought after peace had been signed in Europe, ending the struggle, but the contestants had not yet received the news; and, second, because of the frightful slaughter of the English with a mere handful of casualties on the American side.

"In that brief space of time [about one hour] one of the best equipped and best disciplined armies England ever sent forth was defeated and shattered beyond hope by one half its number of American soldiers, mostly militia.''

Slaughter's regiment of Kentucky militia, in which John Goodnight was serving as a private, appears to have been in the thickest of the fighting, as the following extracts from Smith's history show.

"With Colonel Slaughter's regiment of seven hundred men and Major Reuben Harrison's battalion, three hundred and five men (the Kentuckians under arms), Adair took position just in the rear of Carroll's Tennesseans, occupying the center of the breastwork line."2

"As soon in the morning as word came that the British were in motion for an advance, General Adair formed his Kentuckians in two lines in close order and marched them to within fifty paces of the breastwork in the rear of Carroll's command. The day dawned and the fog slowly lifted. There was no longer doubt of the point of main assault, as the enemy's heaviest columns moved forward in Carroll's front. The lines of the Kentucky troops were at once moved up in order of close columns to the Tennesseans, deepening the ranks to five or six

1 The Battle of New Orleans, by Z. T. Smith. The Filson Club Publications, No. 19, 1904.
2 Ibid., page 74.


The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

men for several hundred yards. Batteries 6, 7, and 8 opened upon the enemy when within four or five hundred yards, killing and wounding many, but causing no disorder in his ranks nor check to his advance. As he approached in range, the terrible fire of rifles and musketry opened upon him from the Tennessee and Kentucky infantry, each line firing and falling back to reload, giving place to the next line to advance and fire."3

"On our left, in front of the Tennesseans and Kentuckians, the greatest execution had been done. The slaughter here was appalling. Within a space of three hundred yards wide, and extending out two hundred yards from our breastwork on the battlefield, an area of about ten acres, the ground was literally covered with the dead and desperately wounded...... There lay before him [viz., an English officer who surveyed the field during the truce] in this small compass not less than one thousand men, dead or disabled, all in the uniform of the British soldier not one American among the number."4

In an appendix to Smith's volume, there is a roster of each company of the American army participating in the battle. John Goodnight's name appears on page 190 as a private in Captain Jonathan Owsley's Company of the regiment commanded by Colonel Gabriel Slaughter.

After his discharge from the army, John Goodnight appears to have returned to Kentucky, and he presumably spent the next few years as a dutiful eldest son should, aiding his father in tilling the paternal acreage. We find no further record of him until October 18, 1820, when he was married to Rhoda Brown.

After her death in 1823, he again married. This second marriage, to Agnes Jones, is recorded in Lincoln County archives, the bondsman being Joseph Whorton, and the date being December 21, 1825.

Two years later, responding, perhaps, to the pioneering urge he had inherited from his fathers, he turned his back upon Kentucky and set his face northward.

In those days, veterans received recognition of their war service in the form of a grant of land, instead of cash or a pension. The quarter section of land thus awarded to John Goodnight lies near the present city of Bloomington, Indiana. Its description is:

          Part of Section                               Section                                Township                                      Range

E           l/2         S. W.                                  8                                        8N                                       1 W 80 acres

W          l/2         S.W.                                   8                                        8N                                      1 W 80 acres

In 1827, the farm was probably from two to three miles from the village, and not far from the present site of Clear Creek. Today, the city has gone out to meet the farm and the latter is now in its very outskirts. The Dixie Highway passes directly by it.

To this farm John Goodnight and his second wife Agnes came in the year of 1827, bringing Margaret, the sole surviving child of the first marriage, and Elizabeth A., their own first born. They remained there twenty-five years, and it was there that the remaining children were born, Mary Jane, Martha Ellen, Amanda F., Thomas Henry and Frances M.

Again, however, the wanderlust cast its spell upon the old pioneer, and in 1852, then

3 Ibid., page 77.
4 Ibid., page 83.


The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

58 years of age, John Goodnight sold his farm, loaded his family and belongings into a great wagon and migrated farther north and west in search of cheaper land. Nine years before, his father, Jacob Goodnight, had passed away in Kentucky, and John's store of earthly goods had doubtless been augmented by the bequest of $200 stipulated in his father's will. John appears, however, never to have accumulated much wealth.

The writer has often heard his father, Thomas Henry, who was a lad of 12 at the time of the migration, tell of the hardships of the overland trek into western Illinois in 1852, of the prolonged delay at Terre Haute, waiting for the high waters of the Wabash to subside, so they might cross in safety, and of the settlement on the new home land, in Henderson County, Illinois. The farm was a tract of 160 acres lying one mile east of Old Bedford Church. When asked why John hadn't taken a farm in the rich prairie land nearby, instead of a timbered piece broken by runs and gullies, Thomas used to reply that his father John thought the prairie land worthless, except for pasturage; that the heavy sod could never be successfully broken.

The land records also show that on Jan. 27, 1860, John Goodnight bought the N. W. quarter of the N. W. quarter of Section 5, Town 7 N., Range 4 W. (Blandinsville Township), of George H. Payne for $750. On June 12, 1868, he sold four acres of this forty to the Trustees of the Christian Church at Old Bedford for $90, and on the same day, eight and one half acres to Hugh W. Hodgen for $240. John Goodnight had come from the vicinity of Bedford City, Indiana. His farm lay between Bedford and Bloomington. He sold to the Trustees of the Church the land for the edifice, and, apparently, at a reduced price_probably his contribution to the undertaking. One wonders whether he may have suggested the name which the church has borne ever since.

The family had resided nine years in the new home in Illinois when the Civil War broke out. Thomas Henry, born in 1840, was just 21. John, however, was 67, and his children, with the sole exception of Thomas Henry, were all girls. The only son was undoubtedly needed on the farm and his father was insistent that he remain. Whether John's war experience in youth had given him pacifistic leanings, whether his Kentucky rearing and his strong Democratic convictions had made him less loyal to the cause of the North than his neighbors, or whether the exigencies of the family farm situation in 1861 were alone responsible, the writer cannot say, but John was determined that his son should not go to war. Thomas Henry yielded to the importunities of his father, and remained at home, although he himself had been strongly inclined to volunteer. John paid $500 for his son's exemption from the draft.

As old age drew on him, John became more and more dependent upon Thomas Henry. In response to his insistence, the latter gave up missionary work in Kansas in 1875 and returned to Blandinsville in order to be with his aging parent who had moved into town, although the unmarried daughters, Amanda and Ellen, were keeping house for him in exemplary fashion. Thomas Henry remained in Blandinsville until after his father's death. The present writer remembers his grandfather John who used to take him



The Good(k)night (Gutknecht) Family in America

walking, aged 4 years, up and down the main street of the small town, passing banter with all and sundry.

John was burried in the Old Bedford cemetery and his wife Agnes, who had preceded him in death by five years, sleeps beside him Their epitaphs read:

"John Goodnight


June 28, 1879


85 yrs. lm. 24d."

"Agnes Goodnight


December 15, 1874


74 years."

The dates in these inscriptions differ by a few days from those contained in the following biographical sketch from a county history.5 Although the differences are unimportant, the dates on the stones are doubtless correct. Eighty-five years, one month and twenty-four days from May 4, 1794, brings us to June 28, 1879, and not June 25th. In general, however, the sketch is accurate as to factual data, and, as the book is now rare, the page is here reproduced.

John Goodnight (deceased) was born in Stanford, Lincoln county, Kentucky, on May 4, 1794. He was a soldier under Gen. Jackson at New Orleans during the years 1814-5. He was married to Rhoda Brown October 18, 1820. She died in 1823, and he was married a second time to Agnes Jones, December 22, 1825. She died December 13, 1874, leaving him once more alone. He removed to Indiana in 1827, and here in Monroe county lived the greater part of his time for twenty-five years. Under the eldership of Michael Combs he embraced the doctrine of the Christian church in 1833. He removed to Adams county in the fall of 1852, and early in the spring of 1853 removed to a farm one mile east of Bedford church in Henderson county, and from there to Blandinsville in the spring of 1876, where he died at the age of eighty-five years, one month and twenty-four days. He was an exemplary christian, and as a man he was honest in all his dealings, ever ready to denounce evil on its first appearance; the poor never left his door uncared for; the hungry were bountifully supplied from his table, and the naked were clothed by his generous hand. He died June 25, 1879. By his first marriage with Miss Rhoda Brown he had two children: Isaac, born July 3, 1821; Sarah M., August 19, 1822. Isaac died in infancy, and Sarah married Samuel A. Moore February 12, 1846. Agnes Jones, his second wife, was born in 1800. They were married December 22, 1825. The following children were born to them: Elizabeth A., born October 16, 1826; Mary J., April 14, 1831; Martha E., February 26, 1834; Amanda F., April 24, 1836; Thomas H., December 8, 1840; Francis M., January 12, 1845.

5 extract from History of Mercer and Henderson Counties. (H. H. Hill & Co., Chicago, 1882), pp. 1124- 25.


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