Friday, July 24, 2009

An Orlando Patriarch

David Newton Godfrey:
Early Orlando Patriarch

by David Parmer

His tombstone in the Orlando Cemetery silently testifies to his longevity: 1835-1912. His many descendants are further testimony to his memory in the Oil Creek valley. During his early years, David Newton Godfrey was known as “Newt” or “Newton.” However, he usually signed his name as “D. N. Godfrey.” By whatever name, David Newton Godfrey was a respected and well-known member of the early community in the Oil Creek Valley.

Newt came to Oil Creek when, just before the Civil War, he married Mary Jane, the daughter of Alexander and Phoebe (Conrad) Skinner.

Several of the Godfrey clan married into Oil Creek and Little Kanawha families.

~ Newt's Aunt Mary Godfrey married George Duvall. They settled at the headwaters of Oil Creek. Their granddaughter Patience married Alexander and Phoebe Skinner's son Jackson McWhorter Skinner.

~ Newt's cousin Samuel Godfrey married a grand-daughter of Alexander and Phoebe Skinner (also Newt's wife Mary Jane's niece) Elizabeth Ann Skinner.
~ Newt's cousin Robert Godfrey married Susanna Smith and they settled in the Burnsville area. Their eleven children included Samuel, who settled in the Burnsville area and was the father of Manderville, Commodore, Walter, and Lloyd. Another son was Elijah, who married and raised his family in Gilmer County.

.~ Newt’s older sister Christina (Curtis) Murphy had married Mary Jane’s uncle Alfred Posey when Newt was five years old. Newt and Mary Jane set to farming next to Alfred and Christina, according to the 1870 census.

Left: D.N. and Mary Jane (Skinner) Godfrey.
Right: Newt's sister Christina (Curtis) Murphy who married Alfred Posey.

D.N. Godfrey’s Origins
David Newton Godfrey grew up in the Hackers Creek area. His parents had come to the Hackers Creek area with their pioneer parents. Newt’s mother, Jane Mitchell, was the daughter of English-born preacher and church founder John William Mitchell and his wife Catherine Teter. Several of Jane’s brothers and nephews were also preachers in the Methodist Protestant Church which her dad had helped to form.
Newt’s father John Newton Godfrey came to the Hackers Creek area with his parents from Hardy County, the area from which most of Hackers Creek’s pioneers hailed. John Newton Godfrey's brothers and sisters

Jane brought to her marriage to John Newton Godfrey three daughters by her earlier marriage to Alexander Curtis. Together Jane and J. N. Godfrey had four boys.

Besides Newt and his sister Christina, only one other sibling stayed in the area. Their brother William Jackson Godfrey married Sarah McCord and they lived in the Roanoke area.

The other four of the seven siblings went west: two of the sisters and one brother. Emily, Susannah and Michael migrated to the little farm community of Prairie in Hancock County, Illinois, near the Mississippi River. Sisters Emily and Susannah Curtis married Rohrboughs. Emily, born around 1820 married George Rohrbaugh, born about 1792 and Susannah, born around 1823 married George’s son Adam Rohrbaugh, born around 1828. Their young brother Michael Godfrey was in Hancock County in 1850, according to that year’s census.

A second brother also migrated west. Edward Jasper Godfrey settled in the railroad town of El Reno, in the center of Oklahoma.

Right: this portrait was found when the Godfrey/Bee house was dismantled in 2008. It is unidentifed.

An Interesting Post Card
In November 1909, Newt received a postcard from his niece May (Rohrbaugh) Miller in Quincy, Illinois, not far from Hancock County. May was the daughter of Susannah (Curtis) Rohrbaugh. The postcard had a photograph of Newt’s sister Susannah sitting in front of their brother Michael. We know the man in the photo is Michael because Michael was born in 1835, which would have made him 74 in 1909 and written on the front of the photo is “Taken Aug 22, 1909. Mother 87, Uncle 74.”

The transcription of the message of the postal card is as follows:
“Dear Uncle and family,
Here is the photo you have heard about. Am so sorry they are poorly finished, yet the features are very natural. Mother appreciated the token of love you sent her. My uncles wish you could come see us. Mother is in her natural health. Gets out driving on nice days. When you can find time write her a long letter. She loves to hear from her loved ones. She dreads the dreary days of winter, is so shut in. Give her love and regards to all the friends and relatives. She joins with me in wishing you joy and success.
Lovingly, May A. Miller”

Triple Cousins and Aunt Grandma:
The Children of D. N. & Mary Jane (Skinner) Godfrey

Newt and Mary Jane became parents of eight children, seven of whom lived to adulthood. Their progeny are woven into the fabric of the Orlando community, particularly the Skinners and Poseys, also the Henlines and Heaters.
Permilia married her triple cousin Robert L. Skinner. They were first cousins through Alexander & Phoebe Skinner, first cousins once removed through John N. and Jane Godfrey and second cousins through Alexander and Catherine (Scott) Skinner.
Sarah married first Elias E. Clark who died of consumption (tuberculosis) after only five years of marriage. Sarah then married John C. Henline, brother of Beham Henline.
Malinda married Isaac Fox when they were in their 20s. When she was 44 she married George Marsh who was 32.
Thomas J. married Bridget Heater.
Laurena married P. N. “Newt” Blake, perhaps better known as Uncle Zeke”. .
Left above: Permilla (Godfrey) Skinner
Left middle: Malinda (Godfrey) Fox Marsh.
Left below: Lorena (Godfrey) Blake.
Right: Their brother Tom Godfrey.

Maletus married his first cousin Estella Henline, but died just five years later, in 1902, from fever, at the age of 32. Estella was the daughter of Beham and Semantha (Skinner) Henline. Semantha (Skinner) Henline and Meletus’ mother Mary Jane (Skinner) Godfrey were sisters, both daughters of Alexander Skinner and Phebe (Conrad) Skinner. Maletus and Estella "Esty" had two children, Harry Godfrey and Sophia (Godfrey) Jarvis. When she was young, Sophia was aware of a confusing family relationship since her paternal grandmother Mary Jane, was also her maternal great aunt. In order to cover all the familial bases, young Sophia addressed Mary Jane Godfrey as “Aunt Grandma.” Esty went on to marry Syrian immigrant Mike Thomas and raised a large family.

Lena, “Duck” married John Bee. They had four children before they divorced.

Oil Creek and Three Lick Farms
In 1875, Newt bought a parcel of 83 acres on Oil Creek from land speculator George I. Arnold of Weston. Also in 1875, Newt bought 30 acres from his father–in-law Alexander Skinner. These parcels were located in the area of the former first railroad crossing west of Orlando on the road to Burnsville and onto the ridge separating Posey Run from Three Lick. Newt Godfrey built a fine two-story house on this parcel near the railroad crossing. Newt farmed his land until his death in 1912. The farm remained in the Godfrey family for nearly another 100 years. Fred “Sally” Bee, grandson of Newt and Mary Jane, owned the land until his death in 1980 and his widow, Ruby, continued that ownership until her death in 2008.

Left: the house that D. N. Godfrey built, shortly before it was dismantled in 2008.
In 1890, Newt bought another 44 acre parcel from George I. Arnold. This additional acreage consisted of land on both the Oil Creek and Three Lick watersheds, and was partially in Braxton County and partially in Lewis County and adjoined the farm of Pat Moran. Within a year, Newt conveyed this 44 acre parcel to his daughter Malinda and his son Thomas but later re-acquired the property. Newt then conveyed the property to Lena Bee, his youngest daughter and wife of John Bee.

Above: the home that Newt Godfrey built on Posey Run 125 years ago was torn down in 2008.
Ruby Bee, the widow of Newt’s grandson, was the last person to live there. She died in 2008.
Thanks to Margret Ann Wilson Willey of Burnsville for these photos of the homeplace.

The present owner dismantled the two story farm house in 2008 and all that is left of structures on the Godfrey farm is an old log granary which is well over one hundred years old. An interesting aspect of the old Godfrey home is that many people assumed that the house was a log house which had been covered with siding. However, the 2008 demolition of the home showed that it not built of logs, but was instead a framed house. As Orlando historians are aware, in 1875 the Burns brothers were operating a large band saw mill in Burnsville, then known as Lumberport. and house builders from the near country side were transporting sawn lumber to nearby building sites, many using wagons, also built in Burnsville by the Bodkin, Fidler, and Corbett (later Rudkin) manufactory, known as the “Star” or the “Burnsville” wagon. Since we know that Mt. Zion Methodist Church was built with trees cut from Alexander Skinner’s land and transported by George Jackson Posey by wagon from Burnsville to be milled, it is highly likely that Newt Godfrey also built his new home in 1875 with old growth lumber from his land, milled at the Burnsville saw mill.

Right: D. N. Godfrey's hewn log granery

Comment by Burlen Henline

When I was a young boy, I lived in Doddridge County with my parents, Frank and Audrey Henline. Every summer I looked forward to coming to Orlando to visit my grandmother, Semantha Henline, my Uncle Heaterhuck Henline, my Aunt Clora Henline and my cousin Opal Jeffries who lived across Oil Creek from the family of Tom Godfrey. Tom was the son of Newt and Mary Jane Godfrey.

Tom had a potato patch down Oil Creek near the home of Newt Henline and he and his wife Biddie [Biddie is a nickname for Bridgit -ed] would walk down to the potato patch, with hoes over their shoulders, during evenings to hoe weeds. Tom would frequently stop to talk to me and was always very friendly. From time to time Tom would tell me about his children, most of whom had moved away for employment. Tom had a son Edward who lived in Parkersburg. I recall that Tom pronounced Edward’s name as “Edderd” and that he lived “way out on the border.” Referring perhaps to another of his children, I forget the name, Tom proudly announced that he was “walking on clouds in California.”


  1. I noticed that the two sisters of D.N.who moved to Ill. married descendents (son, grandsons, ggrandson) of the the John Rohrbaugh and and Anthony Reger who were in the Tory rebellion (discussed at

    I love how the stories weave together.

  2. The Isaac Fox whom married Malinda Godfrey might have been from the Fox family in Miracle Run.

  3. Do you think that Isaac Fox had a Benjamin Fox that had a daughter Eva Leota Fox that md Weeden Lewis Wetzel in Lewis Co.,WV,USA?? Brother or son??

    Anna Mae Skinner md William Carl Baker,Sr in 1941 . They moved to FL in 1970 from WV,USA

  4. Do you think that Isaac Fox would be any relation to Benjamin Fox that had a daughter Eva Leota Fox that md Lewis Weeden Wetizel in Lewis Co.,WV,USA ?? Anna Mae Skinner md William Carl Baker,Sr. in Lewis Co.,WV,USA. Anna has pictures of lots of lots of Braxton,Lewis Co's W V.
    Anna will be going to the Skinner Reunion on 3 Sep 2011 in Orlando,Lewis Co.,WV

  5. To Anonymous, RE: Fox family
    I don’t have a clear indication of how Benjamin Fox, b. 1834 and Isaac Fox, b. 1864 are related, but since both are tied into the Hinzman and Starcher families (Isaac’s mother and Benjamin’s wife) I think they most certainly are.
    According to my records,
    1. Eva Leota’s father Benjamin Fox b.1834, married Ruhama, daughter of Thomas Hinzman and Deborah Starcher Benjamin Fox’s parents: Isaac Fox and maybe Mary T.
    2. Isaac Fox b, 1864 son of Walter and Deborah (Hinzman)Fox, married Belinda Godfrey b. 1867. Isaac’s grandparents were Isaac and Catherine (Ratliff) Fox.
    I'm going to miss this year's reunion. Have fun! Contact me, if you wish, at

  6. I'm a decendant of ELIJAH GODFREY noted as his cousin in first few paragraphs.. awesome of whoever did this research to put online.. thanks..