Mary Ann Goodwin, wife of John W. Stoddard

Not too long ago I wrote a short story of John Washburn Stoddard, my 3rd Great-Grandfather. Much of that story remains the same, clouded with a bit of mystery and several family burial plots sitting unmarked. Until I uncover the mystery behind that story and hopefully someday raise the money to respectfully mark their graves, I can provide short updates on this small part of my family tree.

Mary Ann Goodwin was probably born in Oxford, CT, (as was her mother, Sabra Goodwin), on 14 February 1830/31. Mary Ann’s birth year is a bit confusing because she marked both 1830 and 1831 at different times; the best I can tell is that 1831 is correct, but perhaps she fudged the numbers so when she was married in 1848 it appeared she was 18. Without knowing too much about her, she appears to have been a loving mother and a positive influence on her family. She gave birth to 5 children, only one dying prior to adulthood (John L. Stoddard, died at age 3 years, 9 months – see earlier article on John W. Stoddard). After marrying John in Burlington, CT, in 1848, they lived most of their lives in Farmington. They moved in 1885 due to unknown reasons, although being farmers, perhaps life on the farm became difficult and John needed to seek employment in a different manner; the family moved to Meriden and Mary Ann appears to have been very supportive. After her husband’s death in December 1889, and with her children living in the general area (Waterbury, New Britain, and Meriden), she began living with her children…different children at different times. Her two daughters were not married (one never married, the other a widow) and they provided care and shelter, along with her son Nathan. The end of Mary Ann’s life is difficult to state for certain because she appears mainly in city directories and census reports as a resident, so only her address is known. Her final permanent residence was New Britain, CT, so I visited the town clerk there. Interestingly, they did have a record of her death, but merely a note that advised those concerned to visit Middletown, CT. A very mysterious treasure hunt to be sure…off to Middletown. The town clerk (actually, the Health Dept. in Middletown) had Mary Ann’s death certificate…she spent her final few days and died at the Connecticut Hospital for the Insane, which is why the record of her death was in Middletown, CT.

I was sad to think of Mary Ann’s last days being spent in a hospital for the insane, but at the beginning of the 20th century there were very limited places for adequate care…and mental illness, more than 100 years after Mary Ann’s death, still caries significant stigmas and shame from our society. I read a number of interesting articles online regarding early 20th century care for the mentally disabled (in Mary Ann’s case, likely some form of dementia) and was able to contact the hospital, requesting Mary Ann’s medical record. To my great surprise, after filling out the appropriate paperwork, I received a copy of her record that had been preserved on micro-film. Poor Mary Ann had become overwhelmed with feelings of insecurity and was filled with fear that people were trying to take away the last few things that she held dear. She died after a short stay in the hospital on 3 April 1903, at the age of 73, a little more than a dozen years after the death of her beloved husband. She was buried in an unmarked grave at Riverside Cemetery in Farmington, CT, next to her husband.

The rest of Mary Ann’s family remains a mystery. Her mother’s name was Sabra Goodwin…maiden name unknown. According to Mary Ann’s marriage record, her father’s name was Joseph Goodwin. After several hours of research, it does not appear that there is a Joseph Goodwin who married a woman named Sabra (from Oxford, CT) during the early 19th century, at least not from the well-known Goodwin family of CT, descendants of William and Ozias. There is some evidence that Joseph Goodwin was an immigrant from Canada or perhaps directly from England, but this information is circumstantial at best. If there is a solid connection to be made someday, I will certainly provide an update. For now, this is the story of Mary Ann (Goodwin) Stoddard, quietly resting along a beautiful river in Farmington, CT.

John Washburn Stoddard (1826-1889)

John W. Stoddard (my 3rd G-Grandfather) has been an interesting man to investigate…and there is much more to know. John W. was born on 26 Feb 1826 in East Windsor, CT (John Stoddard of Wethersfield, by D. Williams Patterson, 1873) and the date of his death was not quite clear, although often listed as August 1889. Also interesting was his Civil War service in 2nd Light Artillery Regiment of CT…until I discovered a pension record after his death that listed his widow as Martha Matthews Stoddard. John Washburn Stoddard, my ancestor, was married to Mary Ann Goodwin in Burlington, CT, in 1848…so the Civil War soldier pension record pointed to a potential confusion. After digging into the Civil War records and following those leads, I discovered a John W. Stoddard (possibly John Wesley Stoddard) of New Haven, who did marry Martha Matthews, and they are buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, CT…not “my John W.” Back to the drawing board to untangle the tangled records.

What I do know of John Washburn Stoddard is that he married Mary Ann Goodwin in Burlington, CT (I have a certified copy of this). I also know that they lived in Farmington, CT, for several years and he worked as a farmer. I believe they had 5 children, Nathan William Stoddard being one of those children and my 2nd G-Grandfather. One of their children, John L. Stoddard, died very young (3 years, 9 months) in 1856. As I searched for additional details of John W. and Mary Ann Stoddard, the census reports and the city directories led me to Meriden, CT; where for some reason they moved after leaving their farm in Farmington in 1885. John worked at the Bradley & Hubbard Manufacturing Co., for just a few years until he died on 15 December 1889 (again, I am fortunate to have a copy of his record of death from Meriden). Understandable confusion since the John W. Stoddard of New Haven died in August 1889. But where did my “John W.” go? A thorough search of the cemeteries in Meriden revealed nothing; and then a review of the local papers revealed an obituary that noted “his remains were brought to Farmington” (Meriden Daily Republican, 16 Dec 1889). Back to Farmington!

RiversideCem-Stod2A thorough review of the headstones and cemetery information in Farmington, CT only revealed one family member: John L. Stoddard, died at age 3 years, 9 months. I went out to the Riverside Cemetery to find the young man’s grave, hoping to pay my respects and also to perhaps find some undocumented grave markers close by. I wandered through the cemetery, fascinated by the sheer number of Cowles family members in the Riverside Cemetery, until I finally found the grave marker for young John L. Stoddard. I was quite happy, both in finding his resting place and also for beating the rain that was looming in the dark clouds above my head. I continued to look in the general area for other family members, but found nothing. However, I did discover something quite interesting in the “nothing” that I did find. As the posted picture of the general area reveals, there seemed to be an amazing absence of grave markers around young John L. Stoddard…something didn’t seem quite right here.

RiversideCem-Stod1I returned home and looked up the phone number for the office of Riverside Cemetery. Briefly explaining my research to the kind woman on the phone, I told her I could only find one Stoddard family member in the Riverside Cemetery. She asked me to hold as she retrieved the map of the cemetery for a closer look. After a short review, I heard her say, “no, there are several Stoddard family members buried there, right next to John L. Stoddard.” And not one of them was marked! She proceeded to tell me of the burial spots for John Washburn Stoddard; his wife, “Mrs. John W. Stoddard”; Sabra Goodwin (Mary Ann’s mother); daughters Ella and Jane (known as Jenny); and Dwight James Stoddard. A total of 7 family members buried in a family plot with space for 8, but only John L. had a marker. My sense of discovery was great, but then I quickly wondered why so many family members would be buried without markers on their graves. This, unfortunately, is where the story ends today, but I am still on the search for answers.