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Goodrich family: New window to the past

Bert Goodrich, brother of James Goodrich, ca. 1870 (click for larger version)
January 26, 2011 - Goodrich, May 20, 1886.

The Goodrich clan gathers on the family farm just outside the village that bears their name. The family includes Moses, Aaron, Enos and Reuben, four of the living brothers that 50 years earlier settled on land in southern Genesee County that's now part of the village and Atlas Township.

On that late spring afternoon, Enos addressed more than 40 family members that gathered.

"The number of houses and barns and sheds we have built I will not attempt to enumerate, nor of orchards we have planted and reared to vigorous maturity, neither will I attempt to compute the miles of fences built, or of blind and open drains sunk to improve the land, nor the number of wells and fountains opened to supply the families and stock with pure water."

The speech by Enos during that family reunion 125 years ago is just one of the well preserved artifacts, some dating back to the 1840s, that Kelly Burton, great-great granddaughter of Edith Goodrich 1881-1968 (Downy), owns and recently shared with The Citizen. The collection includes some unique items such as tree leaves and weeds preserved in pages of a business ledger from the 1840s, along with more than 100 postcards from across Michigan dating back to the 1880s.

Nancy Dugas, president of the Goodrich Historical Society, said such artifacts often tell a unique story about the community.

"We can learn a lot about ourselves from the past," said Dugas. "There's a lot of historic material still out there in attics, basements or in family Bibles—people often find old items and throw it out because they don't know it's valuable."

Dugas said the historical society welcomes old pictures and writings.

"If people are not sure, let us take a look at it first."

Also in the collection were several hand-written letters mailed to James Goodrich, the son of Levi Goodrich, the fifth brother who died prior to the 50-year reunion.

A letter dated Feb. 26, 1871 to James Goodrich (1846-1919), who lived in Goodrich at the time, was written by CK Paige, a relative or friend from Traverse City. The letter describes the activities and weather in the northern Michigan area during the 1800s:

"We have a good run of sleighing and R.L kept the team moving. I tell you he will be gone a month. Char Randall the Prisoner is out on Bail. There is good skating on the Bay now. But it begins to snow and blow which will spoil it. Reviewed Letter from Char in last night from Grand Rapids, he says he like to froze going out, it was very cold Tuesday. Mom says if I wish for a Pretty Wife I should go to Grand Rapids she saw lots of them there, was that your opinion."

In another letter to James Goodrich, this time from his nephew Charles W. Adams, who lived in Seattle, Wash., was dated Aug. 7, 1889:

"I rec. (received) your letter a few days ago. It was at the Gleneor House about 2 months. Now you must excuse poor writing for I am just getting over Typhoid Fever and my hand trembles like a leaf. Well this is a mountainous country, thickly timbered with Fir (trees). There is iron and coal mines not many miles from Seattle. Then you go East of the Cascade Mountains and you find a prairie country. Some say that it is a fine country land dry where here Seattle is worth from $200 to $250 per acre, all covered with timber. At that I think people are crazy on prices here. In the winter it rains nearly every day and in the summer it hardly ever rains, so you can see it is not a very nice place to live. I shall leave here next spring. I think I shall go to Montana. I am working in a Saw Mill, wages are $2.25 per day, about $4.50 per week. From where I am sitting I can see Mt. Rainier. It is 14.444 ft high and covered with snow the year around. Well, I must close. Give my regards to all."

Yours truly, Charles W. Adams

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