Aug 132013

(Is a Goff family ghost still there?)

On a trip to California in June, we visited the Chateau St. Jean Vineyards in quiet, scenic Kenwood, located in the Sonoma valley.  While we are familiar with some of their wines, we wanted to see Chateau St. Jean because of its history.   The winery is built around the summer home of Ernest Abner Goff, who was a second cousin of my grandmother.   I had also heard a story from a distant cousin about Ernest Goff’s daughter, Camilla, who sadly died as a teenager.   Some legends say that her spirit still visits the old family home.

Chateau St Jean-2

Summer Home of Ernest Abner Goff (1872-1957) in Kenwood, Sonoma, California. Now part of the special tasting rooms at the Chateau St Jean winery.
(Click on image for larger view)

Ernest Abner Goff was born 24 March 1872 in Michigan, son of Gilbert B Goff and Emily Marsh.  Ernest’s paternal grandfather was Rev. Abner Goff (1782-1857).   While my branch of the family stayed in Ohio and remained poor farmers for another couple of generations,  Gilbert B Goff moved to the wilderness of Michigan and became successful in lumber.   Ernest followed in this tradition, also developing interests in mining and more lumber in the Pacific northwest.   He bought this property in Kenwood and built the home which his family occupied in 1920.   It remained in the family until the 1970’s.  Camilla died on 27 Sep 1928 at the age of 18 at the family home in Michigan.

While we visited the winery we asked a couple of the staff about the rumors that the ghost of Camilla Goff was still present in the home.   Several acknowledged the stories.  One, whose office is now located in what was Camilla’s bedroom, told me that she will come back to her office to find her chair moved.  She also described how a wine glass mysteriously moved during a tasting.  Camilla, it seems, has a reputation as a trickster.

Chateau St Jean

Ernest Abner Goff and family 1919
(click on picture for larger view)


Obituary for Ernest Abner Goff


Jul 192013
Goff Abner Reprobate 1

In the mail today I received  the will of Abner Goff  (1782-1857).  For more than three decades Abner Goff was  a Methodist Circuit Rider, serving churches in central and north central Ohio.

For me three things about the experience of discovering this will are worth noting.  First, I discovered its existence by examining the Ohio Probate Records (1789-1996), a group of 7 million un-indexed probate records added to the website in April.   Heretofore I have shied away from un-indexed records.  How could I find needle in such a large haystack?  However, in exploring this record set I discovered that they are organized by county.   And within each county there is a listing of records that have been digitized.   One set of images was titled “Administration and Executor Index – 1875-1915; worth a look for some of my collateral lines’ research, but not for Abner, since he died in 1857.  I also knew that a fire at the Licking County Courthouse on 2 April 1875 had destroyed most of the records.

Examining the index I discovered references to several Goff’s, including one for an Abner as well as one for Abner W (his grandson.)   Using the volume and page number  I went to the appropriate set of images,  and in a few minutes found a reference to a court hearing in 1891 at which__ Vance brought a certified copy of Abner Goff’s will, which had been probated on  3 July 1857, and asked the court to place the will into the court record, which the Judge ordered.  Thus my second surprise:  finding an official copy of a record which had been destroyed by a courthouse fire.

I could not find a digitized copy of the volume of wills in which Abner’s will was recorded.   Thanks to the Licking County Genealogical Society I was able to order the copy for $5.00.

The third surprise is what I found (and didn’t find) in the will.   The will mentions Abner’s wife, Patty, and one daughter, Sarah.   This is the first proof that I found that Sarah was a daughter.  Abner and Patty moved to Licking County in 1813, purchasing land with his father, Daniel.   Abner and Patty’s four children, Mira, Shadrack, Delano and Varnum, all born in Clarendon, VT, came with them.   There is no mention in the will of these four children, just Sarah.   The four older children had married at least 25 years previously.  Sarah, born in 1823 (according to the 1850 census) was still at home.

For more research:

  • Abner Goff owned a farm at the time of his will, written in 1852, five years before his death.  A further search of real estate records may shed some light on more of Patty and Sarah’s stories.
  • Who was Mr. Vance?   Why did he bring the will to court when he did?   What was going on in 1891?
  • Did Sarah ever marry?

Since this discovery I have found at least a dozen other important documents using un-indexed records on   Since they are releasing millions of new images monthly, I am looking forward to many more discoveries in the months ahead!

Mar 022013
Gilbert Goff

For the last several years part of my research has focused on Licking County, Ohio, about 30 miles east of Columbus.  There my 3rd Great Grandfather, Abner Goff and his father, Daniel purchased 200 acres for $1,000 in 1813 after moving from Clarendon, Rutland, Vermont.  In a search for “Abner Goff” in Google Books I discovered several references to an Ohio Appeals Court Case which addressed a dispute over land where an individual died intestate.

The subject Abner Goff (grandson of my Abner and cousin to my great grandfather) died in 1896 without a will and with no children.  According to Ohio law his 162 acres passed to his widow, Martha. Martha died with a will, but the will did not address the disposition of the land, only granting a life estate to Martha’s brother, Ensley Finney Hass.    The dispute arose at death of Mr. Haas as to the proper distribution of the property.  The Goff family claimed that under Ohio law they were entitled to one half of the land.  Mr. Hass’s heirs disputed this.  Hence this court case.

What makes this case interesting to me is not the details of the argument from a court case more than a century ago, but what I found when I visited the Recorder’s Office in Licking County a few years ago.  As a young person Abner’s brother, Gilbert B. Goff, moved from Licking County, Ohio to Michigan and had great success in lumber and other businesses.   In 1911 as this dispute was headed to court, Gilbert Goff executed a quit claim relinquishing his claims to this property and giving it to the heirs of his brother, Zara Goff and their sister, Mary Goff Lampson.   What’s interesting is that he lists fourteen of his known nieces (with their married names) and nephews as we see in a transcription of the document below. Continue reading »

Oct 092011

One of my most cherished church records is a tribute to my 3rd great grandfather, Rev. Abner Goff, published in the Minutes of the Ohio Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1857, the year of his death.  Born in 1782 in Vermont, the Goff family came to Ohio in 1813, purchasing land in Newton Township, Licking County.  Within a few years Abner was licensed to preach within the Methodist circuit.  During the next 25 years of ministry he traveled extensively throughout central and north central Ohio, covering many circuits. A Google search produces listings of many marriages performed by Rev. Goff, as well as listings among the clergy in several Ohio county histories.

Abner Goff married Patty Hudson in 1800 in Clarendon, Rutland, Vermont. They had four children before coming to Ohio in 1813: Mira, Shadrach, Delano and Varnum (Vernon), my great-great grandfather. They may have had other children after coming to Ohio.

From the tribute published in 1857:

“Brother Goff was acknowledged by all who knew him to be a good man. His moral, religious, and ministerial character was unblemished and irreproachable. He was held in the highest esteem by his neighbors, and those with whom he associated. In the society and community where he lived thirty-five years, no preacher was heard with more pleasure than brother Goff, and he was always ready cheerfully to labor to the extent of his ability, when necessity demanded.”

Read a copy of the complete memoir here.

View Abner Goff’s Genealogy Page here

Rev. Abner Goff (1782-1857)


Memoir of Rev. Abner Goff

 Published in the Minutes of the Ohio Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church,  1857,  located at the Archives of Ohio United Methodism, Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, OH 

“Rev. Abner Goff was born in Shaftsbury, in the state of Vermont, November 4, 1782.  Of his early life and religious training, we have no means of knowing anything.  In 1800 he was united in marriage to Patty Hudson, and settled in his native place, where he resided till some time in the year 1813, when he removed to the west, and settled in Licking county, in the state of Ohio, where his family have lived to the present time.

“In 1809 brother Goff gave his attention to the subject of religion.  He sought, and soon obtained a full and free pardon of all his sins.  His conviction was deep, and his conversion was sound and clear.  He united himself with the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was soon after licensed as a local preacher.  Before he left his native state he traveled one year as an itinerant preacher, under the presiding elder of the district.  In 1819 brother Goff was admitted on trial as an itinerant preacher in the Ohio conference, and was appointed to the Fairfield circuit, where he traveled two years.  During his probation he gave satisfactory proofs of his gifts, grace, and usefulness, and in 1821 he was received into full connection with the conference.  From the time of his connection with the conference till 1841 he was an effective and faithful minister of Christ.  He traveled, consecutively, the following-named circuits: Fairfield, Granville, Muskingum, Knox, Mansfield, Wayne, Delaware, Mansfield, Granville, Knox, two years; Putnam, Mt. Gilead, Granville, Worthington, two years; Roscoe, Putnam, Irville, Hebron, and Irville again, where his effective labors in the itinerant ministry ended.

In 1842 brother Goff’s name was placed on the supernumerary list, and to the day of his death he sustained to the conference a supernumerary or superannuated relation, as his declining health and increasing infirmities demanded.  During most of the time of his effective labors the country was new, his family large, and ministerial support very limited; he was therefore, accommodated with work near his residence.  But although he was several times appointed to the same fields of labor, he was acceptable among the people, and they always received him as the messenger of God, and treated him with great kindness and respect.

Brother Goff was acknowledged by all who knew him to be a good man.  His moral, religious, and ministerial character was unblemished and irreproachable.  He was held in the highest esteem by his neighbors, and those with whom he associated.  In the society and community where he lived thirty-five years, no preacher was heard with more pleasure than brother Goff, and he was always ready cheerfully to labor to the extent of his ability, when necessity demanded.  If the regular minister failed to meet his appointment and brother Goff was present the congregations were never disappointed.

As a preacher his talents were of mediocrity, and his sermons were clear, sound, and Scriptural, and always acceptable to the people among whom he labored.  He was plain, artless, and solemn in his style and address.  He never studied to please the ears of his hearers with pleasant sounds, nor to dazzle them with shining things.  He was a plain, practical Methodist preacher – he aim was at the hearts of the people, and the conscience was not quiet in sin when he preached.  He was serious in and out of the pulpit, never trifling, never light.  He did not allow himself to speak evil of any person, or to utter an idle word.  He was very reserved in his manners; possibly he carried this too far, but it appeared to be a principle with him never to be obtrusive with his words or opinions.  With his friends, and when good counsel was necessary, he was communicative and free; but he did not talk to be heard by himself, or to amuse others.  The temperament of his nature, and the restraints which he imposed upon himself, sometimes inclined him to dejection of spirits.  His piety was deep and consistent, but his spiritual comforts were not always prominent.  His temperament had a strong and decided influence upon the state of his mind; but it is believed that disease and the infirmities of age had a far greater influence upon the state of his mind than anything else.  During the time that he sustained the supernumerary and superannuated relations to the conference he seldom attended its sessions.  A disease of the heart, with which he had long been afflicted, and the infirmities of age gradually increased, exhausting his strength; and as his health failed he become more and more subject to depression of spirit.  Indulging the hope that he might be restored to health and soundness of mind, he was brought toColumbus, and committed to the care of Dr. Hills, some time last winter.  But the hopes of his family and friends were not realized.  From that time his health failed rapidly, and his mind fell into most gloomy, discouraging, and fearful apprehensions.  The horrors of despair constantly preyed upon him.  From this unhappy state of mind, however, he was mercifully delivered, and his mind became clear and quietly fixed on the promises of the Gospel as in other days, and for some ten days before his release from suffering and from earth the state of his mind was calm and lucid as in the days of his strength.  He talked of the past and the future with great composure.  His confidence was firm, his hope was strong, and his happiness was inexpressible, and to the last moment of his earthly existence his peace was without interruption.  Though from home, he was surrounded by his family and friends, who ministered to his wants, and witnessed with what composure and confidence a good man can die.  His sufferings were protracted and most intense, but when they were most extreme, and his mind in its most melancholy state, he was patient, submissive and childlike in his demeanor.  No word deserving censure escaped his lips.  He received the kind attention of his physician and friends with expressions of the most affectionate gratitude.

Brother Goff died in the city of Columbus, Ohio, on the 15th day of March, 1857.

Minutes of the Ohio Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church for the Year 1857, Cincinnati: Methodist Book Concern, RP Thompson, Printer, pp 33-35

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Goff Family


Lucius B Goff

Lucius (Lucas) Bento Goff was born on 4 Feb 1841 in Alexandria, Licking, Ohio to Vernon (Varnam) Goff and Diana Woods.  Lucius’ family moved to Madison and then Union counties in Ohio.

On 3 Feb 1862 Lucius married  Sarah Martin in Madison County, Ohio.    One son, Harry E Goff, was born.

Lucius served in the Civil War in 1864 and was discharged on  20 Aug 1864.

On 6 Feb 1875 Lucius married Martha Maria (Mattie) Minter, b. 9 Nov 1854 to Ralph Minter and Elizabeth Evans.  The Minters had 7 surviving children, Cora Estella, Lula Elma, Ina Belle, Nellie, Frank, Grace and Parl.

Mattie Minter died in Hardin County, Ohio on 28 Jul 1894.  Lucius died on 2 Feb 1920 in Lima, Allen, OH.  They are buried in Wolf Creek Cemetery in Hardin County, Ohio.

More on Lucius Bento Goff

Lucius Goff Genealogy Page

Rev. Abner Goff (1782 – 1857) Methodist Circuit Rider in North Central Ohio (Lucius’ grandfather)