The Westfield Historian took a much needed vacation to Maryland to visit a friend not seen for over 40 years and his wife, a Celtic fiddler. Knowing my love of historical stuff, we visited historic St. Mary's City, established in 1634 by Lord Baltimore's colony. St. Mary's City was the first capital of Maryland, the fourth permanent settlement in British North America and also the first place to mandate religious toleration.
After 60 years, the town all but disappeared from most maps, but is now a National Historic Landmark, one of America's best-preserved colonial archeology sites. Outdoor exhibits include the State House of 1676, the Brick Chapel, the oldest still standing barn in Maryland, a tobacco plantation, a reconstructed "Maryland Dove" square-rigged 17th century ship and an Indian hamlet depicting how Maryland's native population interacted with English colonists. Re-enactors are met throughout the grounds doing what the colonists would have been doing, explaining things and answering any questions.
Later that afternoon, on our way back to a Summer Solstice party, we stopped briefly at another park museum so my host could purchase a copy of "My American Century - The Memoirs of Mary Marvin Breckinridge Patterson." He commented he had seen and skim-read the book while his wife was at this site for a fiddler's contest, it was fascinating reading and Mary M. B. Patterson was descended from B. F. Goodrich, who was born in Ripley, N.Y. Of course, the book became my reading material for the duration of the visit and ended up coming home with me as a gift.
This old photo shows Spencer House and the carriage house as it may have looked when Dr. John Spencer was teaching medicine to B. F. Goodrich in the late 1850s.
In the introduction, Patterson gives an overview of her life, including her marriage in 1940 to Jefferson Patterson, a U.S. diplomat, and that their two families were somewhat similar, both being children of privilege and wealth. On page 9, she writes, "His father and uncle had founded the National Cash Register Company in Dayton, Ohio. My maternal grandfather, B.F. Goodrich, founded a rubber company in Akron, Ohio in 1871 after careers as a surgeon and inventor. His father had been born a hundred years earlier in Ripley, New York."
In Chapter One - My Family, there is detailed, historical background, including that her maternal grandmother, Mary Marvin Goodrich - Mrs. B.F. Goodrich - had moved from Akron, Ohio to Cambridge, Mass., immediately after B.F Goodrich had died in 1888. Patterson writes, starting on page 16, "I regret that I did not know my grandfather... He was doctor, inventor, entrepreneur, and a Victorian gentleman... born in 1841, orphaned when he was eight years old, and shuttled from one relative to another. When he was 17, he took up the study of medicine with a cousin in Westfield, New York..." Whoa. This requires more research.
In her Ripley Chronicles column in the North East Breeze of Nov. 24, 1981, the late Marie B. McCutcheon, former Town of Ripley Historian, provided some help. Benjamin Franklin Goodrich was born Nov. 4, 1841, in a small farmhouse on West Main Road, Ripley N.Y., son of Anson and Susan Dinsmore Goodrich, grandson of pioneer Gideon Goodrich, and when orphaned at about age 7 or 8, was sent to live with an aunt and uncle in Westfield.
The office of the Westfield Historian is located at 117 Union St., in the small green building on the north side of driveway. Office hours are by appointment; call or email a request. The Westfield Historian phone number is 326-2457 and email address is email@example.com.
Census records on Ancestry.com and Internet biographical histories and genealogies provided further clues. Gideon Goodrich had nine sons and one daughter. The third son, Anson, was born in 1792 and married Susan Dinsmore. Gideon and Eunice Warner Goodrich's only daughter, Harriet, born in 1790, married Dr. Silas Spencer of Westfield, N.Y. Aunt Harriet and Uncle Silas Spencer are the relatives to whom Benjamin was sent to live. Uncle Silas was a physician, but it was his son, Dr. John Spencer, who taught Benjamin part of what he needed to know to become a doctor. B.F. Goodrich graduated from Cleveland Medical College in 1861 and became a surgeon in the Civil War. He practiced medicine in Mayville, N.Y., before the war and in Jamestown after the war, but then became involved in oil drilling and in real estate before turning to manufacturing rubber products.
So B.F. Goodrich was a cousin of Dr. John Spencer, who had the Spencer House built, which later became the first Westfield Memorial Hospital, and the Spencer Block at the corner of North Portage and East Main which had a corner drug store for nearly a century. What a treasure-trove of local history came out of a trip to Maryland.