Letter from A. H. Godbey 1939
709 Yancey Street
Durham, N. C.
Aug. 14, 1939

To Wayne W. Smith, H. V. Godbey, Ephra S. Godbey, Miss Elizabeth Rule, Mrs. Margaret Godbey Smith, H. Perry Godbey:

This circular statement will put together what has been gathered during 40 years concerning the migration of William end John Godbey, brothers and Revolutionary soldiers, from Caroline Co., Va., in 1783; their settlement on New River, Montgomery Co., Virginia;: and the migration of three descendants to Pulaski County, Ky. Two family Bible records fix dates beyond dispute, as will appear. This statement will show that no branch of the family has preserved more than a fragment of the family history. It will correct mistakes in memory of some, and the great mistakes of others who have assumed that some John, or William, or Thomas of no known date, was the person they were particularly interested in: when in point of time the person claimed was sometimes as much as 100 years away from the date of the one known. In fifty years of work I have never met two old people who agreed about some family event 100 years before. This should hurt no one's feelings. Age brings notable losses to all of us. As for mistaken identifications, I have several cases where a claimed devolutionary soldier was really the grandson of e Revolutionary soldier of the same name. Rigid attention to indisputable dates will eliminate such mistakes as were pointed out in the recent circular concerning the legends of a Timothy Godbey.

Next, all should remember that certain important facts may be well preserved in one branch of a family, and entirely lost in another, for good reasons. That brings us at once to the story of the migration from Carolina Co Va. It has been minutely preserved in Missouri: no trace of it has come in all the forty years from any other source. The Missouri branch was founded by my grandfather Rev. Josiah Godbey, in 1~52, and by his oldest brother Rev. John Godbey, in 1868. Both were preachers; each had four sons that were preachers; each had grandsons that were preachers. Then each had married a Kelly. Now the Kelly family came from Montgomery Co., Va. (several times in the published Annals of Southwestern Virginia 1769 to 1800) and settled both in Northern Pulaski Co., Ky. and in Wayne Co., Ky., and Fentress Co., Tenn. The marriages of my grandfather Josiah and his brother John were made in Pulaski Co., Ky. Now it should be remembered that women are much more tenacious of family history and tradition than men are -- as Wayne Smith knows by this time! Elizabeth Rule is another proof. So when John and Josiah got into the same Missouri neighborhood with their Kelly wives, those two women were not going to let the religious preeminence of the two families be lost. For there is another factor in the situation. My grandmother Sena Kelly, had five brothers that were Methodist Preachers, and members of the Kentucky Conference. Two of them followed the early push into Oregon: and in Portland Oregon today the Clinton Kelly High School perpetuates the memory of a Methodist preacher pioneer: my grandmother's oldest brother. The Kelly family has produced other eminent preachers to this day. But everyone can now see why this fervid Godbey-Kelly group, cut off from their Kentucky contacts, cherished their ancestral religious past.

Some one will ask of my personal knowledge of the story. Rev. John Godbey's oldest son Rev. William B. Godbey, the famous "Sanctification” champion, told the story sometimes in his preaching. He printed it partially in newspaper articles. More of it he told in his autobiography. But his brothers Rev. Josiah P. Godbey who did not follow him in his Sanctification theories, was educated at Central College, Fayette, Mo. Joined the Missouri Conference, and lived and died a member of it. He was my circuit neighbor between 1888 end 1894, and next door neighbor for three years, 1899-1902, when he was educating his children in Fayette, where I was teaching. So I had intimate first-hand talks with him of his family past. Josiah P. himself had known and talked with his grandfather William, the Kentucky pioneer up to the latters 87th year, when Josiah P. came to Missouri.

The story then is that our Revolutionary ancestor John Godbey was converted under the preaching of Francis Asbury, and immediately took two radical steps. He had received his share of 8 considerable estate in slaves. He immediately manumitted his slaves. Under the laws of Virginia, he had to make some provision for the maintained of those manumitted. W. B. Godbey in his auto-biography says the total cost to his great grandfather was about 30,000. John established a fervid household worship. An immediate consequence was that no descendant of his ever held slaves, tho living in slave-holding estates. John further announced that for any house-raising or log rolling no whiskey would be furnished. His Kentucky descendants stuck to that policy.

Now there is important corroboration. The records of Caroline Co., Va. were nearly all destroyed in the burning of Richmond, 1865. But a personal property tax list for the year 1763 escaped, and was published in the William and Mary Quarterly Vol. 27, Pg. 16lff. John Godbey is the only one in that list. And the list report 1 white tythable (--Poll-Tax payer, John himself). No negroes over 16: one under 16; 2 horses, 2 head cattle; no "Wheels”: No licenses to keep an Ordinary. Which mea that John had no son 8S much as 16 years old (taxable): No negroes except one under 16 who could not be manumitted under Virginia law: did not hold a license to keep a dram shop. A widowed cousin or Aunt? Judith Cheadle, h seven negroes over 16 and seven under, 3 horses, 25 cattle. I mention this merely to show that Godbeys in Caroline Co. had been holding slaves. John's brother William does no appear in this list: his land then lay in one of the counties cut off the west side of the original huge Caroline Co.

But this shows how little Revolutionary John had to face the frontier with. If he reaches Montgomery Co., Va. he has no money to buy lane with. And his older children will have none. This will clear for everybody the long puzzle over the fact that no trace of any of them appears in Montgomery County land records.

Now continuing the story of migration: it is that the two brothers John and William, with some neighbors, decided to follow Daniel Boone into Kentucky. A chief factor in this was the fact that Virginia was unable to pay her soldiers in cash; and offered instead liberal grants of lend in her "Kentucky County" - But the emigrant train from Caroline County ran into an Indian ambush, somewhere near the Kentucky frontier. Some of the party were killed. The Indians got some cattle. The party turned back for a time. John and William stopped on New River, Montgomery Co., Virginia.

Here is the place to introduce the Family Bible record of William and Zennah Godbey of Godbeys Cliffs or Godbey's Window Glasses, on New River. It was copied by a Grandson, Russell Godbey 1-20-1860: as follows.

William Godbey of Montgomery Co., State of Virginia was born 9-29-1750 d. 1833. Zannah his wife was born 11-10-1751. Children: John born 3-30-1769, Polly 12-15-1773, William 6-6-1775., Gabriel 11-15-1778, Lucy 3-13-1782, Francis 6-24-1786, Sarah 2-9-1789, George 2-28-1791, Susannah 6-1-1793, Benjamin 6-7-1798.

Now all of these with one exception, appear again and again in the Montgomery records. For the present objective these details must be omitted. The one exception is Gabriel. He appears in no record of any kind. He left the county early and married either in Fentress Co., Tenn. or in Kentucky, as shown in the previous circular statement concerning Timothy Godbey. His father William died in 1833 and Gabriel soon after deeds away his share in his fathers estate. He did not have to return to Virginia to do that. Gabriel's marriage to Sarah Crockett recorded at Christianburg, Va.

Next, observe the oldest son John. He married Naomi Bain, 12-10-1785, when not yet 17 yrs. old; emulating the example of his parents. He raised a family; appears in various transactions.

Then who is the John Godbey whose little estate is appraised Aug. 11, 1803 at $1330.00? Six horses, three cows or oxen, seems a major part of it. William Trigg, Charles Brown, & Michael Brown are the appraisers. None of the William--Zannah family seem connected with the settlement. On the face of the published records, this must be Revolutionary John. There is no other John in the County records. The next spring 1804 his son William appears in Pulaski Co., Ky. with a wagon and team and one dollar. Probably part of John's estate is represented by that team.

Since I have used the term "Godbey's Cliffs" and "Godbey's. Window Glasses" above, this needs explanation. In 1904 an aunt of mine living at the time in Nashville Tenn., called the attention of my Uncle John Emory Godbey to an article in Harpers Magazine that mentioned "Godbey's Window Glasses". The article is in Harpers Magazine 9-1857 one of a series of “A Winter in the South". On page 444 the artist of the party, Larkin, leaves the train and walks from Newbern to see the famous "Godbey's Cliffs". Take a Rand-McNally map and drew a line from Newbern in Pulaski Co. a little south of east to Snowville. Where that line crosses New River, is the still famous "Godbey's Cliffs". Somewhere around there Revolutionary John lived and died. In the article the artist Larkin says "Grandfather, father and son" lived there in succession. This was perplexing. But a cue from Mrs. Margaret Godbey Smith, of Rich Creek, Va. identifies the three. "The grandfather" was William with wife Zanna: "The father" was William's 6th son, Francis Marion, then past 71 years old. "The son", who is the host in the story, was Reason Vermilion Godbey, then living with Francis Marion, and some years later sole legatee of the old homestead. All will be better pleased to get the old fact clear on the map.

Now we want the story of William and John Godbey coming into Kentucky. To know who is talking, it is best to give first the Family Bible Record of William Godbey.

William Godbey was born in Caroline Co., Va. 1-18¬1781. His first wife, and mother of all his children, Sarah Smith, was born 3-10-1783. His second wife, Martha Curl, was born 3-22-1793.

William Godbey and Sarah Smith were married in January 1801. Their children were John b. l2-23-1801 married Orpha Kelly, Jacob b. 3-1-1803 m. Tavis Jones 2nd?, Fanny b. 7-18-1804 m. James Reese, Nancy b. 1-23-1806. Edmund Debored, Ibby b. 3-29-1807 m. Eli Haynes, Matilda b. 12-20-1808 m. William Gastineau, Sally b. 8-12-18l0 m. 1st Samuel Reagan, 2nd John Cundiff, William b. 2~10-18i2 never married, Henry Harrison b. 10-28-1813 m. 1st Sarah Jones, 2nd Eliza Richardson 3rd Catherine Barber, 4th Martha A. Randolph, Joshua b. 6-30-1817 m. Sena Kelly, Josephus b. 6-30-1817 died 9-29-1817, Melissa b. 1-27-1820 m. Miles Wesley.

This copy was made by Henderson Valentine Godbey of Cynthiana, Indiana, from his Grandfather's bible. It agrees with a copy made much later in 1907 by John Monroe Godbey, oldest half brother of Henderson Valentine. It appears that John Monroe Godbey owned the bible at that time, since it is now in the possession of his youngest son Ephra Slavins Godbey.

We may now compare the foregoing Missouri tradition of the migration of Revolutionists William and John to get from Caroline Co., Va. into Kentucky with the Kentucky story of the final success of two sons of John, the Kentucky pioneers William and John. I have no reports from any descendants of Gabriel. Of the descendants of John, Dr. Wayne Smith's wife, (University Idaho) is my only contact. Of above children of William, I have four independent reports at different times, from descendants of Jacob, two descendants of Henry Harrison, and one descendant of Josbua L. That these all agree on certain starting points will probably satisfy everybody.

Now the above mentioned article in harpers Magazine, 1857 resulted in my Uncle John Emory Godbey getting in communication with Francis Marion Farmer of Newbern, Va. about the old Godbey homestead on Godbeys Cliffs: and then into communication with John Monroe Godbey, son of Henry Harrison Godbey, about our forebears arrival in Kentucky. It is necessary for everybody to know that I have worked in office with my Uncle for years. I have typed copies of two letters he wrote to John Monroe in 1907. A word from Henderson Valentine caused me to write last April to Ephra Slavine Godbey, youngest son of John Monroe. he answered at once that he had a copy of the letter and later sent a typed copy of it as follows.

Bethelridge, Kentucky
May 1907

John Emory Godbey
Prescott Arkansas

Dear Cousin:

A few days ago cousin John Godbey, of Bethelridge showed me a letter from you asking information as to the Godbey family. After we talked the matter over cousin John requested I write and give all the information I could. To begin I tell you who I am.

My name is John Monroe Godby, son of Henry Harrison Godby, who was brother of Josiah Godby, your father. My mother died when I was in my 8th year, then I went to our grandmother and remained in the home until 1860. I have heard him give his history so often that I have recollected a portion of it. There were two Godby brothers, William and John, that lived on New River Va. William, I think, the elder, John who was our great¬grandfather was in the Revolutionary War, when our grand father William Godby was born. Great grandfather was twice married, by the first marriage there were three or more children, William, our grandfather, the oldest one named John, one daughter named Fanny. This I can name great grandfather started for Kentucky, when be got to Green Briar County, Va., great grandmother took sick and died, after a time great grandfather married his second wife and there was born to them three or more children, two sons and one daughter - Joseph, George and Sally. Joseph lived for a time in the state of Tennessee. George I think, came to Kentucky, and was never married, I think he died a young man. Sally came to Kentucky and lived with our grandfather, William up to her death, 2-6-1856.

Grandfather William married Sarah Smith in Green County Va. about the first of the year 1801. About the year 1804-5 grandfather moved to Kentucky and settled on Cumberland River, Pulaski Co. in what was called Pumpkin Holler. I have often heard him say that when he got to Pumpkin Holler he bad a wagon, team, a wife, three children and one dollar in money. He then lived in Pumpkin holler for some years. He purchased a farm some three or four miles east of Somerset, Pulaski, Co., Ky. and remained at that place until about the year 1831-2. He then moved to Casey County and remained there until his death, which was on the 28th day of April 1816. To Grandfather and Grandmother was born 13 children, seven sons and six daughters, all except one lived to maturity. Grandmother died on the 15th day of Sept. 1836. Grandfather then married Martha Curl, who survived him about 8 years. As I have the family record of grandfather I will give record as I have it, beginning with Grandfather. William was born 1-18-1181. First wife Sarah born 3-10-1783. Second wife, Martha born 3-22-1793. Children John born 12-23-1803 married Orpha Kelley, Jacob born 3-1803 married Travia Jones. Fanny born 7-18-1804 married James Reece. Nancy born 1-23-1806 married Edmond Debord, Ibba born 3-29-1801 married Eli Haynes. Matilda, born 12-20-1808, married William Gastineau. Sally born 8-21-1810 first married Samuel Rexgon, second married John Cundiff. William born 2-10-1812 never married. Henry Harrison, 10-28-1813 married Polly Jones. Joshua born 11-5-1815 married Sally Randolph. Josiah your father born 6-30-1817 married Senia Kelley. Josephus born 6-3-1811 died 9-29-1817. Malissa born 1-21-1820 married Miles Wesley.

Grandfathers’ brother John emigrated to Kentucky but I do not have the date. He too settled in Pumpkin Hollow and several of his descendants are living in the county now. Joseph who was a half brother to grandfather lived some years in Tennessee and then moved to Missouri. Fanny, I never knew anything about her. Well that takes our line of family as far as I can go.

We will now go back to New River, Va. William Godby, brother to our Great grandfather, John, I think was the elder, I can give but little description of his family. He had one son named Gabriel, whose family moved to Kentucky. Of Gabriels family there was Timothy, Annie married Joab Rigney, Zener married Robert Ellison, the other daughter married Thomas Edwards. There is several of Gabriel's descendants living in Kentucky in Casey County. One of Timothy's sons is a Baptist preacher. There is a great many preachers in the Godby family. Wishing to hear from you soon.

From your Cousin
John Monroe Godby


Prescott, Ark.
June 1907

Dear Cousin Monroe:

It was a great pleasure to get your letter end the information it contained, I remember you. Saw you at grandfathers about 1845. I think there was also a young man there named Dan Barnes. Is that right? I remember Aunt Sally also. You have given me a good deal of information. But it showed me I had an incorrect record at some points. I think with the help of your letter I can get it straight. I will give you what I have, Study it and correct as far as you can.

The original name is Godobey and it originated in the time of Cromwell. There was in Cromwell's army one of our descendants Col. John Godobey. The "O" is now dropped.

Two sons of Colonel John Godobey, Jonothan and Charles, with their cousin Ezra came from Whitehorn England, to America in the Ship Providence in 1651.

The family is there lost sight of for a time. There are many of the name in Central New York but I do not know their history.

An article in Scribners magazine, found in Carnagie Library, Nashville, dated 10-1857 gave a description of Godbey's Bluff on New River, Pulaski Co., Va. and states that at the time the Godbys, grandfather, father and son had lived there" for the best end of a century, this set me on the right tract.

I wrote to the P. M. at Newburn, Va. and he put me in communication with Frances Marion Farmer, grandson of Frances Marion Godby, on his mothers side. It seems that his great grandfather was William, the brother of John, your great grandfather. He owned several farms On New River on the Bluff in Pulaski Co. On these his sons lived for a time, one on the Horse Shoe farm, one on the Pickett Farm, one Frances Marion on the old place. So we have Frances Marion on the farm when the Scribners article was written, in 1857, and his father William before him and now we like but the name of the grandfather mentioned in the article, who is our great great grand-father, the father of William and John. If you can get the name of your great great grandfather, put him down as the first settler of Godby's Bluff, New River, Pulaski Co., Va. And we shall also conclude that William and John were born there. William remained and John went to Green Briar, and thence his son William our grandfather went to Kentucky.

The sons of William Godby, at the bluff were Frances Marion, who stayed on the place, Benjamin who settled on an adjoining farm, William, who went to Montgomery Co., Va., Gabriel whose descendants you know, George a Methodist preacher, who went to Alabama and was the father of Crockett Godby, also a preacher of North Alabama Conference. I saw the widow of Crockett last May in Alabama. She told me her husband’s father was George, born 2-2-1791, died 8-1673, 82 years old.

I thought that George was your grandfather's brother until I got your letter. I am now clear that he was William's son.

William's family, I find went largely to the Baptist and Campbellite Church. Frances Marion was a Campbellite. He has a son W. V. in West Virginia, 84 years old, a Campbellite preacher.

It seems that our ancestors were long lived. Frances Marion died at the Bluff, 86 years old. He had 8 children all passed 80, two yet living.

I and my brother very much desire to come up to your neighborhood. I go to Louisville every April or the 1st of May to our Church extension Board Meeting. I may get around to visit you.

Your Cousin,
John Emery

One corrective comment is necessary. John Monroe is emphatic about William and John both living on New River. Then how does Green Brier Co. get into the story? Godbey's Cliffs on New River are not in Green Brier Co., and never were, as anyone may see by looking at the map. Further, at the time of the migration from Caroline Co. there was no Greenbrier Co. The whole west half of Virginia was unsurveyed: subdivision was just beginning.

The explanation is that in that early time the whole undivided Virginia between the Greenbrier River and Ky. was popularly spoken of as "the Greenbrier Country." Methodist pioneers wrote in Advocates as late as 1840 of the Greenbrier Country including Green River, in Ky. John Monroe's story is a corroboration of the Missouri legend that the emigrants got into an Indian ambush in the Greenbrier Country, somewhere near the Kentucky Co. line and had to turn back. He suggests that Revolutionary John's wife died of the hardships before they could get back to New River. Later generations, forgetting what Greenbrier Country once meant have turned it into Greenbrier County.

Next John Monroe's statement of the two wives and six children of Revolutionary John is exactly the same That was told me forty years ago by Josiah P. Godbey, 0f John Godbey and Orpha Kelly. In both accounts Dames of the two wives are missing: and neither knows what became of Fanny. Some one may be found who can tell more.

A letter written by Dr. Lemuel Jones Godbey of Beres, Ky. 12-30-1917 came into my hands some years ago. He was grandson of Jacob Godbey (3-1-1803) who married Tevis Jones. In explaining his family relationship, be said that be had approved and kept the statement made by John Monroe Godbey.

On 1-23-1939, Melvin Godbey wrote that he was a grandson of the same Jacob Godbey, who was born in Va. 3-1-1803 and brought into Ky. when he was a baby. That reduces John Monroe's time of arrival by a year. He did not mention John Monroe's narrative, but notified me that Ephra S. Godbey had Great-grandfather William's family Bible, 150 years old, with all family records.

Next John Monroe's mention of Pumpkin Hollow is of first importance. In fifty years of correspondence I had never heard of it, till Wayne Smith wrote me that his wife's Godbey forbearers, who settled in Northern Indiana about a hundred years ago, had come from a place in Pulaski Co. called Pumpkin Hollow. No correspondent then could tell me where it was. No postmaster or official explained. On my reporting this to Wayne Smith, he turned up in the University Library an old official survey locating Pumpkin Hollow. Any one can see it. Take a Rand-McNally map of Pulaski Co. In the south center, just north of the Cumberland River, is the little village of Northfield, in the upper end of a little valley spreading south into the Cumberland River. That is Pumpkin Hollow: and immediately south of Northfield was the old Pumpkin Hollow School House, near which Wayne Smith lived for a year or so when a very small boy: when Godbeys were there, living later a mile northeast of the Cedar Grove R. R. Station, where his father died.

So John Monroe's approved account is a historical document of the first importance: particularly in the detail that John Godbey also settled there, and that some of his descendants were still in Pumpkin Hollow 16 years after Wayne Smith's family moved to Missouri. John Monroe does not know when John Godbey came there. But he gives us a direct challenge. Why did William leave the well-established community on New River, where he had been renter or employee only, and strike out for Pumpkin Hollow knowing that he would be penniless and without farm tools when he got there? There seems only one answer. John was already settled there and offered him better terms than be could get on New River. The two worked together till William could buy a little land near Somerset.

And we have another cue as to date. The published Annals of Southwest Virginia show that John Godbey was married to Elizabeth walker 5-8-1793 by Rev. Richard Whitt. Anyone can see that this John was not one of the Godbey's Cliffs family. And it is improbable that Revolutionary John waited ten years ere taking a second wife to care for his young children. William was only two years old in 1783. This can only be Williams older brother John, setting up, for himself 11 years before William started for Pumpkin Hollow.

Henderson Valentine unconsciously adds a little to John Monroe's letter, which he has never seen. He has insisted from the first that his grandfather William's brother John came into Pulaski Co. from the south, but did not stay long: went back south. Of Wayne Smith's, John and Gabriel of Boone Co., Indiana 100 years ago, he has insisted from the first that they could not be of William's family, nor of Gabriels from New River. They were children of an older man: certainly of John who went back south. On 4-24-1939 he wrote specifically that "John brother of William settled somewhere between Bethelridge and Somerset, on the east side of Fishing Creek, southwest of Science Hill: but only stayed there 8 few days and went back". The entirely independence of this testimony enhances its value. But H. V. not knowing Pumpkin Hollow, could not know that when John "went back", he did not go outside of Pulaski Co. It must have been when John moved up on the east side of Fishing Creek that his sons John and Gabriel went on to Boone Co., Indiana.

Data in hand do not warrant further historical reconstruction. Descendants of John Godbey who may see this should be able to add information concerning the earliest times. Henderson Valentine has the old wooden clock of his grandfather William: and it is still keeping good time. There may be mementoes of John in existence. And since John was much older than William, some of his descendants may know a little more about their father Revolutionary John, than is shown here.

Allen H. Godbey
709 Yancey Street
Durham, N. C.