About Me

Abner Cheney Goodell's Biography (Books)

To Authors Index

Abner Cheney Goodell, lawyer, antiquarian, historian and scholar, was born in Cambridgeport, Oct. 1, 1831, and passed away July 19, 1914, in Salem, of which city he had been a resident since early childhood. Practically his whole life, it may be said, was passed in the city of Salem, and he " played in his time many parts " that brought him prominently before the public.

Mr. Goodell was descended in the seventh generation from Robert and Katherine (Kilham) Goodell of Dennington, Suffolk, Eng., who sailed from Ipswich, Eng., April 30, 1634, in the ship " Elizabeth," William Andrews, master, and settled in Salem, Mass., whence they soon removed to a place on the Ipswich river in that part of Salem which is now Danvers. Robert Goodell brought over, beside his wife, his three children, Mary, aged four years, who married John Pease and became the founder of the Pease family in New England ; Abraham, aged two years, who died young ; and Isaac, aged six months, whose descendants still own the ancestral acres in Danvers. To this family was added, among other children, another son, Zachariah Goodell, who was born in 1639, and who married Elizabeth, only daughter of Edward Beauchamp of Salem. Through this union Abner C.

Goodell traced his line of descent. Joseph, son of Zachariah, bad, by his wife, Mary, a son Josepb, who, as a lad was placed under the guardianship of Ezekiel Cheever (son of the noted schoolmaster, Ezekiel Cheever, sen.,) and who married Elizabeth, daughter of John and Elizabeth (Witt) Goodell of Marlborough, Mass. Azubah daughter of this Joseph, was the mother of Robert B. Thomas the famous almanac maker.

Joseph Goodell of the fifth generation, son of Joseph and Elizabeth (Goodell) Goodell, married Ann Hopkins, and had Zina Goodell, who married Joanna Cheney, daughter of Ebenezer and Abigail (Thompson) Cheney of Mendon (now Milton), Mass. Their son, Abner Cheney Goodell, born in North Orange, Mass., Feb. 9, 1805, was named after his mother's brother, Abner Cheney, a graduate of Dartmouth college in 1796, an accomplished classical scholar and schoolmaster, who died at Charlestown New Hampshire, Nov. 11, 1797, aged 32, widely lamented.

Abner C. Goodell, sen., became a noted inventor. He invented the first printing press that printed both sides of a sheet at once ; a process for preparing copper and steel for engraving, a tricycle, and machines for making kegs, shoe pegs, tin tubes, pump logs, cutting steel, etc. He removed to Salem in 1837, and died there March 27, 1898. He married Sally Dodge Haskell, daughter of Aaron and Eunice (Dodge) Haskell, and a descendant of William and Mary (Tybott or Tibbetts) Haskell. Her mother was the daughter of Barnabas Dodge of Ipswich and Hamilton, and Elizabeth Giddings, his wife, whose mother, Sarah Burnham, was a sister of the mother of Nathan Dane, the founder of the Harvard Law school.

One of Eunice's brothers, Oliver Dodge, was graduated from Harvard University in 1788, and became a minister in Pomfret, Conn., while another brother, Paul Dodge, a graduate of Brown University, was a distinguished lawyer in Vermont. Through these various lines, representing as they do some of the oldest and most prominent families in New England, Mr. Goodell inherited his distinguished traits of character and intellect. Not long after his birth his parents removed to Ipswich, but returned to Cambridgeport, and in 1837 finally came to Salem, where he attended the public schools, graduating from the High School at the head of his class. Among his classmates were the brothers Judge William G. Choate and Hon. Joseph H. Choate, and the late Hon. Darwin E. Ware. During the following two years he assisted his father in the machine shop, but in the meantime, and even before leaving school, carried on his studies privately in Latin, French, and mathematics, and in English literature. Although he never entered college, he nevertheless acquired an equivalent classical education.

As a lawyer, Mr. Goodell was very successful, and in his criminal practice never lost a case. His business, however, was very largely in the civil branch. In the Supreme Judicial courts he won some notable trials. Of his reported cases, the most important is Harvey vs. Mosley, in which was decided for the first time the question of age of consent of marriage in Massachusetts; and Commonwealth vs. Hitchings, which is recognized as a leading case and cited as an authority both in this country and in Great Britain. Only a short time before the death of President William H. Niles of the Essex Bar, and since the death of Mr. Goodell, President Niles said to the writer : " Mr. Goodell was a great laAvyer, and that fact will appear stronger in time to come than it does now."

Mr. Goodell was especially proficient in English literature and history, a taste for which he had acquired from his mother. He read the standard poets when very young, and committed many of their poems to memory. He was especially fond of Milton and Pope, and readily quoted selections applicable while engaged in conversation. Under the late Napoleon H. Jerome, the editor of Wanostrocht's French grammar, he took a course in French, thus gaining access to new fields of literature, which were extremely useful to him in later years. Endowed with a retentive memory and a mind of singular power and comprehension, he was not only versed in general and classical literature, and in modern and ancient history, but was interested in the natural sciences. As a conversationalist, he was brilliant and charming. He was a fluent writer, a great lover of books, and the owner of one of the finest private libraries in the State, which was especially strong in books relating to witchcraft. He was elected a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Aug. 6, 1862, a life member in 1863, a director in 1884, and president, to succeed the late Marshall P. Wilder, in January, 1887. He served in the presidency until June 22, 1892, when he resigned with all his official associates, being succeeded in the chair by Gov. William Claflin. He was a life member and senior vice president of the Essex Institute, one of the oldest and foremost members of the Massachusetts Historical Society and of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts.

To all of these he had long been a frequent and valued contributor. From Amherst College he received the honorary degree of A. M. in 1865. He was also a member of the Phi Beta Kappa fraternity of Harvard University, a corresponding member of the historical societies of New York, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island, a member of the Old Colony Historical Society of Taunton, and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He was a member of the Society of the Sons of the Revolution and of the Prince Society, and he had been a trustee of the Peabody Academy of Science of Salem, and also had been its secretary since February, 1867, when he was appointed to the board by its founder, George Peabody of England.

Mr. Goodell's writings outside the notes and articles connected with his great life work, the Province Laws, consisted chiefly of addresses and papers on historical, genealogical and kindred subjects. Some have been favorably noticed in England as well as in this country. Of late years his published papers were mainly historical.

In 1874 he delivered the first of a series of commemorative addresses on events connected with the American revolution. This was followed by other addresses by distinguished orators. His paper entitled " The Centennial Anniversary of the Meeting of the Provincial Assembly in Salem, Oct. 5, 1774," was delivered before the Essex Institute, and afterwards published in the New England Historic Genealogical Register. He delivered an address at the dedication of the court house in Salem in 1860 ; and another at the semi-centennial celebration, in 1871, of the founding of the Essex Historical Society out of which fifrew the Essex Institute. He also delivered an oration by invitation of the New England Historic and Genealogical Society in February, 1888, in commemoration of the ratification of the constitution of the United States by the Massachusetts convention in 1788 ; and another at the Old South Meeting House, Boston, Nov.

27, 1895, before the Society of Colonial Wars, in commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the first summoning of citizens and burgesses to the Parliament of England, wherein a comparison is made between the legislatures of Great Britain and Massachusetts. This last was well received both in this country and in England.

Numerous other papers, addresses and articles for various historical and patriotic societies, and reviews of historical works prepared by him have appeared in different publications. For some years he was engaged in preparing for publication a history of the Salem witchcraft, which, outside of the Province Laws, he deemed his most important and interesting work. For this work he imported a large number of rare and expensive volumes relating to the subject. Had he lived to write this history no doubt it would have been the " last word " upon the subject. One result of his studies upon Salem witchcraft was an address given by him before the Danvers Historical Society, in 1892, when that body commemorated the outbreak of the witchcraft delusion in 1692 in Salem village, now Danvers.

In 1865 Mr. Goodell became president of the Salem and South Danvers Street Railway Company, which, after an existence of twenty months, had accumulated a debt of $40,000. He continued at the head of that enterprise nineteen years, reorganizing and economizing the management of the road and building extensions to North Salem and Salem Willows. By his efforts the value of the stock, which was comparatively worthless, was raised to $200 per share. During the last four years of his presidency, the stock paid twenty-two per cent, dividends and earned thirty per cent, annually.

To Authors Index