This project began with a request from my friend John Taylor to look into the history behind the Godwin family gravestones on his property. He lives in an old farm house on White Marsh Road northeast of Centreville, Maryland in Queen Anne's County. The inscriptions for Henry J. Godwin and his wife Julianna Rochester Godwin are very legible. Another stone for Henry's mother Elizabeth Hall Godwin is not as legible. Henry died in 1853, his mother in 1859, and Julianna in 1863.

I first looked at the 1850 federal census of Queen Anne's County and found this family with a son John, one year old. In the 1860 census I discovered a possible entry for a Julia Godwin, but could not find the young son. After much frustration, I was ready to give up. However, I finally found more information that enabled me to piece together much more of this family than I expected to find.

The Godwins

According to a family Bible record in the Maryland Historical Society, Henry and Julianna were married in May 1847. They had two daughters and a son by 1850, however only the son appears on the census. This leads one to believe that the daughters died by that time. Furthermore, apparently the son John Henry also died, because in 1851 they had another son named John Francis.

Shortly before Henry's mother Elizabeth died in May 1859 she left all of her real property to her grandson John Francis. It is apparent that he was the only child to survive. Julianna was named as her executrix. But then Julianna died in January 1862, leaving John Francis an orphan. Julianna's brother, Samuel S. F. Rochester was appointed as his guardian. Samuel died just a few years later in 1865 at the age of 38, leaving a widow and several children. James F. Hall, a cousin of Henry Godwin, then became the guardian of John Francis.

 According to Louis Sudler, Jr.'s Ancestry family tree, John was educated at St. Clement’s Hall in Ellicott City, Maryland. I found him enumerated there in the 1870 census. St. Clement's was an Episcopal boys school that only existed for a few years.

In November 1873, after reaching the age of maturity, John signed a release and accepted his property for his second guardian, James F. Hall. For the next 30 years John managed his various properties in Queen Anne's County. There is evidence in newspapers that he raised and bred horses. Evidence in the land records of the county shows that he frequently mortgaged one or more of his properties. It is not possible to determine whether this was due to the uncertainties of raising and selling crops and horses, or due to lost wagers on horses. In the end it appears that he was forced to sell at least some of his inherited property to pay off a mortgage.  (See deeds WHC10-393 and TSP24-552 for the details.)

John represented Queen Anne's County in the Maryland House of Delegates for the session held from January 6 to April 4 1892. That appears to be his only service.

At age 53 he finally married. His wife was a first cousin on his mother's side, the daughter of his guardian and uncle Samuel Rochester. May Stevens Rochester had lived in Baltimore after the death of her father, and that is where the couple lived from somtime after their marriage until their deaths. The census of 1910 listed his occupation as real estate agent and in 1930 as a cashier at a race track.

Start your search of the family by looking at the page for John Francis Godwin. Note that wherever you see a camera or PDF icon, you can click on it to see the image or document. Many people are also linked to several charts that give you an overview of the family. Explore and have fun!

The Rochesters

The Rochester family was closely tied to the Godwins. Henry Godwin's wife was a daughter of Francis Rochester, who I believe lived north of Church Hill, near where Henry's father probably lived. They obviously knew each other well and intermarried frequently. The families and their descendants remained close even after some of them moved to Baltimore. John Godwin died at the home of a niece of his wife.

The Halls

This is another family with close connections to the Godwins. Henry Godwin's mother was Elizabeth Hester Hall, daughter of James Hall. Other descendants of James Hall interacted with the Godwins and Rochesters as witnesses of wills and administrators of estates. There may be other intermarriages that I was not able to uncover. Both of these associated families may have known histories in Queen Anne's County that I did not pursue.

Godwin Land Records

My primary goal was to determine the origin of the property currently owned by John and Lauren Taylor. I was able to successfully trace that back to the original surveys in 1719 and 1746 by Charles and Robert Wright. The tract known as White Marsh Addition eventually passed to Nathan Godwin, great grandfather of John Francis Godwin. John inherited the property following the respective deaths of his grandfather and father. This tract was sold in 1900, along with several others, to satisfy a mortgage. In 1973 several Parry brothers bought the property and eventually subdivided it into several building lots. These surveys can be seen in the section on Godwin Land Records.

Two other tracts with early surveys seem to be adjacent to the tract above. Those are White Marsh and Cork House. You can see those plats in the section on Godwin Land Records. I hope to eventually map these plats together and lay them onto a current plat map.

Several other tracts were inherited from the Hall family and descended to John Francis Godwin. The names are Fox Hill, Notlar's Delight (spelled various ways), Brotherhood, and Dangerfield. These tracts are located north and east of the town of Church Hill, on the road to Sudlersville. John inherited these after the death of his grandparents and parents. They were divided in different ways over the years. Throughout all the mortgages that John executed on these properties, I am not sure exactly when he eventually sold them.

The Slaves

I was somewhat surprised to discover that each of these families owned quite a few slaves before the Civil War. They are enumerated in the early censuses of Queen Anne's County. I found them listed in wills and estate inventories. Elizabeth and Julianna Godwin each filed deeds of manumission for several of their slaves, usually to be freed at a certain age. It's obvious that the Civil War and emancipation intervened to free them all earlier than expected. I extracted the names from each of these documents to create a list of the know slaves of these families. See the page on Slaves. You can also examine each of the wills and estate records to see the values places on each of these people.

The Godwin, Rochester, and Hall families were farmers and obviously used their slaves to work their land. Following the early deaths of the men in the Hall and Godwin families, it is apparent that the wives depended on their slaves were needed to keep their "plantations" profitable. Julianna Godwin died in 1862 when her son John was only 10 years old. It would be interesting to know how John was able to manage his several properties when he came of age in 1873. Did he find it difficult to keep them profitable now that he had to pay for labor?