Godbey Family in America
The Godbey Family in America
Biographical Sketches

By John Emory Godbey

Thomas R. Godbey, born in England 1587, came to Jamestown, Va. in the ship Deliverance in 1608.

As the Colonists were required to practice military drill, the muster rolls are among the earlier historic data. These rolls, in the case of families, give staches of the families.

The muster roll of Elizabeth City, Va. for 1624 has "THOMAS GODBEY, his muster." Thomas Godbey came over in 1608 in Deliverance age 38, Joane Godbey came over in 1621 in Flying Heart Age 42, John Curtis came over in 1621 in Flying Heart age 22, Christopher Smith came over in Flying Heart age 24." It is presumed that Curtis and Smith came over with Joane and after she was married remained a time with the Godbeys. The ages were at the time of the muster.

Land Grant or Bred: The Virginia Historical Magazine Vol. 1, pg. 191 has this record: "Thomas Godbey of Kicoughtan, Elizabeth City, Yeoman, as his first dividend, 100 acres, between New Port News and Blunts Point, granted 12-1-1624. Thomas Godbey, born 1587 came to Va. in Ship Deliverance, 1608 and Joane Godbey, 42, came in Flying Hart 1621." The above record indicates that Thomas Godbey was a member of a land syndicate. His will shows that his property was in land on Elizabeth River, Lower Norfolk Co.

The will of Thomas Godbey, of Elizabeth River, Lower Norfolk Co., Va. Planter Book C. p. 76 Apr. 8th, 1652 Recorded 2-20-1653. (This is actually the second Thomas' will. Details of the first Thomas' death will be found in one of the subsequent excerpts) The estate is bequeathed to "Anne my deere and Loving wife, sole Executrix." There is a codicil date 2-10-1653. From these dates we may fix 2-15-1653 as within a few days of the date of Thomas Godbeys death. The will is certified by X, showing that Godbey was illiterate. This accounts also for the varied spelling of the name, which one finds in early official records, as Godbey, Godbye, Godbee, Godby. The name was evidently pronounced to the recorder who spelled it according to his own judgement.

There is no direct proof that any children were born to Thomas and Joan Godbey. Their names appear in a Census of the date Feb. 16, 1623, but there are no children, and none are mentioned in the will. This latter circumstance, however, is not very significant, for the wills of those times show that is was the custom, rather for a man to leave all his property to his widow.

Thomas R. Godbey died 66 years of age, and had been married 28 years. (This is incorrect due to the confusion between the first and second Thomas Godbey.)


The colony records show another Thomas Godbey, of Elizabeth River, Lower Norfolk, Co., who was as I assume, from many evidences, the son of Thomas R. being of proper age for a son, and evidently connected with the emigrant of 1608, as indicated by his home and property. This is the record of his will. His wife also is named Ann. "Will-Thomas Godbey of Elizabeth River, 9-28-1671, recorded 2-21-1686. "Unto Ann, my deare and loving wife all my lands and tennyments, which I now possess at the head of a branch that comes out of the sothern branch of Elizabeth River, in the County of Lower Norfolk, Va." Witness Francis Sayer, Richard Whittle.

The above dates show that this will was made and signed 9-28-1671, and was put on record 2-21-1686 which latter date we may accept as about the date of the death of Thomas Godbey, the son of Thomas R.

Of the doings of this second Thomas Godbey we find scant record. He was a land holder, and tobacco raiser, and the fact that a friend bequeathed to him a distillery suggestive.

But Tom's wife, Ann made herself interesting to the Colonists. She was fined for attending a Quaker meeting at the house of Richard Russell and Tom paid the fine with 200 pounds of tobacco. This was in 1663.

William and Mary Quarterly Vol. 1-p. 59. The bound volumes of a paper published by the students of William and Mary College, in the Carnage Library St. Louius, in an article on Witchcraft tells us that Ann Godbey, wife of Thomas Godbey, was hailed before the court and fined for calling Nick Robinson's wife a witch. Again her husband paid the fine with 200 pounds of tobacco. The evidence that Ann Godbey was an (?) woman, and a person of mark in her community is found in a number of wills in which she is named as executrix. Richard Russel the Quaker, leaves her books, William Bordas, in his will bequeaths "my books and instruments of navigation to Ann Godbey, wife of Thomas Godbey." He directs that Ann Godbey or John Porter shall execute his will; evidently Ann Godbey if living. This will was put to record 10-15-1667. Our dates will show that Ann Godbey lived many years after this date. John Jacobs of Elizabeth River whose will was recorded 5-12-1681, left "to Ann Godbey my chest all that it contains in it," and he makes Ann Godbey sole executrix of his will.

The will of Bordas, and the will of Jacobs, the peculiar character of the bequests which they make to Ann Godbey, and the fact that she is executrix of each, sets us guessing that Ann was the daughter of one of these men. Our guess is that she was the daughter of Bordas for why should he leave her his books and instruments of navigation but as an heirloom?

New England History and General Register has this entry: Cornelius Lloyd hath due three thousand acres for farms, of persons whose names are underwritten,". Thomas Godbey is the 43rd name in this list. The date 12-15-1642. It is probable this record refers to the first Thomas Godbey. The records of the Virginia Land Office show the entry of land by Thomas Godbey in 1653 in Lower Norfolk Co.

Break in the History.

Reckoning the death of the 2nd Thomas Godbey as occurring in 1686, whose will mentions no children, (as we have noted was common in the will of the times) we cannot, for lack of names trace the family line. We have a lot of fragments which might be put together, if official records were more thoroughly searched. I can only preserve the fragments, watchful for links which will unite them.

Fragments: The Register of Christ Chuch Middlesex Co., Va. contains this record: "Edward and Frances Godbee" (The index has it Godbey) have their children christened: Mary born 10-10 baptized 10-27, 1701. Rebecca Baptized 5-2-1703, John Baptized 4-2-1705. In the same Register I find marriage of Thomas (Sir name indistinct) and Frances Godbey and that this note, which I pick up in the St. Louis Library points to other records in Middlesex Co., which would if I could obtain them, connect the chain. I suspect however that the most valuable records were those of Caroline Co. which were burned in the Civil War. My grandfather was born in Caroline during the revolution, his father being in the army.

GODBEY'S BLUFF: An article in Harper's monthly Vol. IV Dec. 1857 describes a bluff on New River, VA., named for the Godbey settlement on the bottom lands opposite. The article states, "The Godbeys grandfather, father and son have lived here for the but end of a century." The river makes the boundary between Pulaski and Montgomery counties. The place is about three miles from Newbern. The Godbey settlement was on the bottom lands in Montgomery County opposite the bluff.

Influenced by the magazine article I addressed a letter to the postmaster at Newbern to give me the name of some one best acquainted with the Godbeys. He gave me the name of F. M. Farmer. I wrote him in 1905 and he answered with this statement. "Godbey's Bluff or Looking Glass - so called from a great pannel in the Cliff is on the opposite side of the river from the farms. My grandfather, Francis Marion Godbey was born and died on the place. His brother Ben, inherited a place joining in. That place was sold sixty years ago. The old home, from what I can learn, has been in possession of the Godbeys for 150 to 200 years. The last heirs sold out in 1900. The county owns the place now as a poor farm."

From such data the time of the Godbey settlement on New River can only be approximately guessed. It was some time before the revolutionary war. The picture of the first house has been furnished me. It was built with beams set upright with portholes, like a stockade. This was for the defense against indians.

It is interesting to know that the Godbeys were in America 124 before the birth of George Washington.


Through the aid of Mr. Farmer, and my nephew Dr. A. H. Godbey, now professor in Duke University, I secure the following record of the family of William Godbey, who it appears, was the first settler at the Bluff on New River, Montgomery Co., Va. and hence known as Godbey's Bluff. William Godbey born in Hallifax Co., Va., 9-28-1750, Zanna his wife born in Hallifax Co., Va. 11-10-1751. Their children: John born 3-30-1769 married Nannie Bane 12-10-1785, Patty born 12-10-1773 married Townsend Farmer 1792, William born 6-6-1775 married Nancy Dickerson, Gabriel born 11-15-1778 moved to Casey Co., Ky., Lucy born 3-13-1783 married Mr. James Hedge, Francis Marion, born 6-24-1784 married Roda Whitt, Sarah born 2-9-1789 married John Gunter, George born 2-28-1791 married Nancy Elswick, Susanna born 6-1-1793 married Sam Covey, Benjamin born 6-7-1798 married Nancy x x.

Resin Vermillion Godbey reported to me in 1906 that his grandfather William owned several farms at the Bluff. Besides the home place he had the horse shoe farm, the Pocket Farm and others.

The will of William Godbey is dated 10-28-1829 proved 1-1833. The records show that the property was appraised at $4679.55 and was sold at $5008.00 and the children shared alike, except Benjamin whose property was held in trust to go to his children at his death, he having life use of it.

I have not been able to trace out all the branches of the family of William Godbey of Montgomery Co., Va. Here are some notes: John of the family of John, the eldest son, I have no record, official entries show that he remained at the Bluff. William born at the Bluff, 6-6-1775, married Nancy Dickerson of Montgomery Co., and in 1800 removed to Logan Co. (Now in West Va. in which section many of his descendents still remain. Chapmanville is the P. O. address of several.)

The names of Williams children were: Polly born 4-6-1799, Russell 12-2-1800, John 8-3-1802, Wm. F. 6-11-1805, Obed 6-22-1807, Letitis 6-20-1810, Eliza 12-2-1814, Nancy 6-17-1818.

My last correspondence with this group was with John H. Vickers of Chapmanville. He said the family was noted for its old people. He says the entire list given above lived to be very old.

Russell-named in the list, left Logan Co. and settled at Curtis, Ills. in 1830. An article in the Petersburg, Ill. Democrat, celebrating Russells' 88th birthday says, "His land at Curtis was surveyed by Abraham Lincoln, for which service "old Abe" received in payment two buckskins, tanned by Mr. Godbeys own hands. Mr. Lincoln utilized them to add to the serviceableness of his pantaloons."

Gabriel the third son of William of Montgomery moved to Casey Co., Ky. I doubt if I have full record of his family. His sons were: John a Baptist preacher, Timothy, also a preacher whose home was at Waynesville, Ky. He was born 1813, David of whom I have only the name. John the Baptist moved to Missouri in 1848 and settled at Cherry Valley, Crawford Co., He had a son William, born 1-17-1834, also Grabriel T. who died in 1865. George R. was a son of William, born 1850. He moved from Crawford Co. to St. Louis.

John W. (or Jr.) son of Gabriel T. was born 1864. He lives at Sligo, Mo. As Descendants of Rev. Timothy Godbey of Waynesville, Ky. I have his son J. C. and grandson J. F. who is my informant, resident at Joyce, Ky. He has only furnished me intials and no dates.

George 5th son of William of Montgomery, born 2-28-1791 has left us a tolerably definite history. He was converted when 19 years old and joined the Methodist Church 7-9-1810. He was licesnsed to preach 9-1828, ordained a deacon by Bishop Emory at Winchester Va. in 1835, and elder by Bishop Morris at Cincinnati, Ohio in 1840. He removed to Tenn. and mad his home at Cleveland where he died, 8-11-1875, being 84 years of age. He was never member of a confrence but was an earnest and efficient preacher. His children were Rev. Crockett Godbey, a member of the Tenn. Confrence, Jackson, Mariah, Julia, Rachel. These children were born at the Bluff. Jackson settled at Jacksonville, Va. where he spent his life. He served as Clerk of the Court, lived to be old and reared a large family. I was entertained by his son Walter at our general conference in Memphis 1894. Walter afterward went to California. Rev. Crocket Godbey's children were Rev. Crocket C. a member of the Alabama Conference, and E. W. a lawyer of Decatur, Alabama. E. W.'s only child was Gladys.

Crockett C.'s children were: Eva born 1900, Edgar 1902, Luther 1904, Charline 1906, James McCoy and John C. Kilgore twins born 1912.

Jackson Godby's children born at Jacksonville, Va. were Nannie Pick, Alice Lee, Josephine Gay, Walter Henry, with whom I lodged at Memphis. Julia Ann married Rice Montague and they now live at Portland, Oregon.

Francis Marion, son of William Godbey of Montgomery Co., Va. His children were: William, Archibald, John, Resin V., Susan married a Briggs, Hannah married Ike Carpenter, Amanda married James Rankin, Rhoda married Andrew Miller, Mary married John Lenkhouse, Rachel married James B. Farmer.

I have not the order of birth or the dates for the above list of names. But I am of opinion that we have here a most remarkable record of longevity. F. M. Farmer, the son of Rachel, in the above list wrote me in 1906 that all this list had passed 80 years. Four were still living all past 80, six had died all past 84. The father Francis Marion, died at 86, the mother at 94. F. M. Farmer who gave me this information was living in the old home neighborhood at Godbey's Bluff. About 1915, and after his death, I took up the case with his daughter, who assured me her father's statement was correct. All the persons were dead at that time, but she could not give dates. I doubt if any else can be found to equal; father 86, mother 94 and ten children all passing 80 years of age at time of death.

With these notes I close the sketch of that branch of the Godbey family descended from William of Godbey's Bluff, New River, Montgomery Co., Va. One who would investigate the official records must seek them chiefly in Pulaski Co., for Montgomery, though presently the home of the Godbeys was in Pulaski until 1839. I have a good deal of matter from Christiansburg, Pulaski representing will and deeds recorded there which are not included in the sketch here given. The article about Russell Godbey of Ill. in the Petersburg, Ill. Democrat states that his grandfather William of Montgomery was a soldier of the Revolution.

FAMILY OF JOHN GODBEY 1752, Godbey's Bluff, New River, Va.: William Godbey whose descendants I have sketched had a brother John. This John Godbey was also a revolutionary soldier, so stated by John Monroe Godbey who had it from the statement of William Godbey or Casey Co., Ky. the son of John whom we are considering. As his brother William was born in Halifax Co., Va. 1750 we assume that John was born there in 1752. After serving in the Revolutionary War it seems that John Godbey started to Kentucky. He had at the time a wife and three children. His wife falling sick he stopped in Greenbriar Co., now in W. Va. When his wife died this caused him to abandon his purpose. He remained in Greenbriar, married again and there spent his days. His children were: By his first wife: John came to Ky., Wm. Also, and Fannie. By his second wife: George, Joseph, Sallie. George I understand never married. He went to Tenn. Sallie never married, she lived with her brother William in Casey Co. and died 2-6-1856. John came to Kentucky and settled in Pumkin Hollow on the Cumberland River. He had a son Josiah, who was killed under the harrow, while harrowing his field. He also had a son John but I know little of this branch of the family. William Godbey, son of John of Greenbriar, being my grandfather, I have given attention especially to his immediate line.

WILLIAM GODBEY who came from Virginia to Ky. 1804. I observed that the obituary of Wm. Godbey of Casey Co., Ky. stated that he was born in Caroline Co., Va. 6-18-1781. This was during the War of the Revolution and I understand the father John, who was my great-grandfather, was in the army at the time of William's birth. An unsettled question is whether said John Godbey had his home at the time in Caroline or at the Bluff in Montgomery Co., Va. on New River. (It must be noted that Montgomery County really was not then in existance, as it was formed of a division of Pulaski in 1839. The official records of the Godbeys, deeds, wills, and marriages, are chiefly found at Chritiansburg, the county seat of Pulaski). Those records name many Godbeys not mentioned in my sketch of William of Montgomery.)

Monroe Godbey of Bethelridge Casey Co., Ky. says John Godbey lived on New River and left there to go to Kentucky. Wm. Godbey came from Greenbriar Co., Va. to Kentucky about 1804. He reached Pumpkin Hollow on the Cumberland River with one dollar, a wife and three children. (I think Pumpkin Hollow was in Pulaski Co.) After some years he pruchased a farm four or five miles east of Somerset in Pulaski Co. where he lived until 1831, when he removed to Casey Co. and remained there (at Bethelridge) til his death 4-2-1876 being 95 yrs. old. Wm. Godbey's first wife was Sarah Smith, she was the mother of all his children and died 9-15-1836. Mr. Godbey then married Martha Curl who survived him eight years. The family record is on the following page.

WILLIAM GODBEY'S FAMILY RECORD: William Godbey b. 1-18-1781 d. 4-2-1876, wife Sarah Smith b. 3-10-1783 d. 9-15-1836, 2nd wife Martha Curl b. 3-22-1793 d. 1-15-1884. Children: John born 12-23-1801 d. 1885 married Orphy Kelley, Jacob b. 3-1-1803 d. 3-22-1885 m. Fanny Jones, Fannie b. 7-18-1804 married James Reece, Nancy b. 1-23-1806 d. 9-14-1875 m. Edmund Debord, Ibby b. 3-29-1807 married Eli Haynes, Matilda b. 2-20-1808 m. Wm. Gastineau, Sally b. 8-12-1810 d. 10-9-1850 married Samuel Regon 2nd John Cundiff, William b. 2-10-1812 d. 5-29-1835, Henry Harrison b. 10-28-1831 d. 9-29-1896 married Polly Jones, Joshua b. 11-5-1815 d. 2-12-1905 m. Sallie Randolph, Josiah b. 6-30-1817 d. 3-20-1890 m. Sena Kelly, Josephus b. 6-30-1817 d. 9-29-1817, Malissa b. 1-27-1820 d. 8-3-1863 married Miles Wesley.

John Godbey, son of William of Casey, moved to Missouri in 1865 and settled at Smithton, Petis Co. and was killed by lightning aged 84. His children were William Buck, a Methodist Preacher and noted evangelist and writer, died 88, Josiah P. a Methodist Preacher now ('26) is superannuate, resident, Fayette, Mo. Sallie married John Pierce, Smithton, Mo., Martin deceased, died at Smithton, John K. deceased. He was a Baptist Preacher died at Smithton.

Jacob Cox Godbey, son of William of Pulaski spent his life near the old home. His children were Thomas Jefferson, a Methodist Preacher of the Ky. Conference, now deceased, Ephraim-Hustonville, Ky., Elizabeth - married Robt. Moore, Caroline, Matilda - deceased, William - lived at Humphrey, Ky., Fanny Reece's children so far as I knew them were: John, Sam, Shelton, Sallie, Baber and Lizzie. There were others no doubt. John came with Josiah Godbey to Missouri in 1852 married and settled in Monitor Co. Nancy Deboard. I know nothing of this branch. Ibba Haynes moved to Pettis Co., Mo. Had but one child Sarah who married Robert McFarland. Matilda Gastaneau I know nothing, Sallie Cundiff I know nothing, Wm. son of William, I know nothing, Harrison died early leaving an only son Monroe brought up by his Grandfather. His son Perry, I met in 1905.

Joshua, son of William of Casey born 12-5-1815 died 2-12-1905 age 91. His children were John born 8-11-1838, Josiah, Nimrod, William, James, Alexander, Jeremiah, Perry, Susy, Josephus, Joseph, Ibby, Eli, Timothy. I do not think this is a full list or that the names are in order of birth. Joshua, the father, John, Josiah, James, Eli, Timothy were all Methodist Preachers. Of the sons of Josiah I record L. A. Dante, Va., George, Tipton, Ind., Josiah Jerngan President of School at Arlington, Tex., Cisco ?, Ardmore, Okl.

JOSHIAH GODBEY'S FAMILY: Josiah, son William Godbey of Casey Co., Ky. born 6-30-1817 died 4-20-1890, aged 73 years married Sena Kelly born 5-25-1818 - 10-27-1836. Their children were: William Clinton born 9-15-1837, John Emory 8-11-1837, Martha Jane 6-16-1842, Milton April or Sept. 10, 1845, Sarah Hellen 11-13-1847, Samuel McGinnis 8-3-1850. In 1852 they moved to Missouri. Josiah 6-26-1853, Nancy Margaret 10-10-1856, Thomas Kelly 2-16-1858, Alice 5-26-1863. Alice had infantile paralysis and was the first to go away. She died at the age of 26. Josiah was next. He graduated from Central College, Fayette Mo., was licensed to preach, joined the Conference. Married Annie Priest of Pettis Co. was transferred to Texas and died of tuburculosis at Monterey, Mexico, aged 30 years. Milton was a Physician. He married Roberta Simpson, practiced medicine there and died at the age of 50. Nancy Margaret married Nathanniel Gower of Pettis Co., Mo. had three daughters and died of Tuburculosis at the age of 34. Samuel McGinnis graduated at Central College, Fayette Mo. Was licensed to preach, served various charges in Missouri, transferred to California, edited Pacific Methodist, returned to Mo., transferred to Ark. taught Prarie Grove Academy, Located to Texas, President Cappell Hill Female College, returned to S. W. Mo. Conference, made associate Editor Christian Advocate Nashville, Professor in Hendrix College. Moved to Fla. and died at Waldo, Fla. 69 years of age. His children one son and two daughters graduated at Vanderbilt. His son Robert was a drill officer in the World War. His daughter Lena translator of War orders into French and German and out of these languages into English in War Office Washington, D. C. Lois was domestic science demonstrator in which she is still engaged. The widow and two daughters live at Barton, Florida. William C. was a preacher and college President and he died in Chicago at the age of 79. Martha Jane married Gerrase Smith, a Methodist Preacher who died many years. Martha died aged 83. Sarah Hellen married David Shy of Pettis Co., They reared a large family, two sons and five daughters. Both sons Physicians. One died last year the other Dr. Milton Shy is in Sedaria or Sedana where his mother is still living.

Thomas K. married in Cooper Co., Mo. and went to Waldo, Fla. where he has prospered as a horticulturalist and is called the Burbank of Fla.

A matter to note is that of the six sons of Josiah Godbey only William the eldest leave a child to perpetuate the Godbey name. Williams sons are Allen H. Prof. of Semetics in Duke University, Durham, N. C., Victor A. Presiding Elder of Marshall District E. Texas Conference. Prof. Ernest Godbey principal Public School Houston, Texas. Walter A. Principal of Shepherd School St. Louis. J. ?. Godbey - my first wife and four children. I leave now to perpetuate the Godbey name. I was married to my second wife in 1911. We are in good health and comfortable circumstance and would be delighted to have a visit from Josiah Jernigan Godbey.