The ABCs of Lowell History: G is for Goodsell

The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. This week, museum staff is telling us about the Goodsell family who made their mark on the community in the 19th Century. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.

The Goodsell name was once well known in the Lowell area. While there are many stories in the family to be told, this sketch will feature John O. Goodsell and two of his sons, Joseph and Clark William Goodsell.

John Orton Goodsell – born in 1803 in New York, was the ninth child of Jacob and Elizabeth Goodsell. Two of John’s older brothers were in the War of 1812. As Jacob was a gunsmith, he supplied the guns for the company. When John moved to Michigan, he purchased land from the government and settled his family on 190 acres north of Lowell, on the hill overlooking the Fallasburg Village. John was a farmer, carriage maker, licensed preacher, school director, Justice of the Peace and a County Commissioner. He earned a biographical sketch in Chapman’s 1881 ‘History of Kent County’ book. John lived the rest of his life on his land, and when he died in 1889 he was buried in a private cemetery on his property, where he had buried two wives and several daughters.

Joseph B. Goodsell was the son of John and Matilda (Nash) Goodsell. When he married his wife Mary Davis, it was at the Walker Tavern on what is now Vergennes Street, near Alden Nash. He worked in Lowell as a dentist in the 1890s, later moving to Lake Odessa. While living in Lowell, his son Joseph Byron Goodsell fell into the Flat River off the bridge over today’s Main Street. He was rescued thanks to the quick action of Rudolph Vandyke, making it his sixth rescue of those in peril in the river!

The adventurer of the family was Clark William Goodsell. Called many things, C. W., W. C., and “Buckskin Billy”, he was the son of John and second wife Lorena. When the Post Office on Main Street was being built, he had part of an index finger severed. He bragged that part of his finger was left beneath the pile driver as they were installing the underpinning of the building. He also boasted of twenty seven scars from near mortal wounds on his body. While his wild and crazy adventures thrilled newspaper readers as he described them, such as narrowly escaping being drowned during a logging drive on the Grand River, he also left written accounts important to historians. The John Goodsell home where he was born was on Beckwith, up on the hill, overlooking the Fallasburg Village. The now decommissioned part of Beckwith went down the hill east of the Goodsell home, and came out right at the covered bridge. In a letter he describes the building of the bridge, including that Jared Brasee was a Frenchman. Though he moved away, he continued to regale and entertain Lowell residents with his stories on his frequent visits.

Early members of the family who died were buried on the family farm in a private cemetery. The location was known and the cemetery was cared for. Sometime in the 1970’s the cemetery was cleaned up and cared for, but then vandals broke most or all of the stones. Today only a general location is known and it appears to be surrounded by private property.

Today there are known descendants as close as Ada. Though the family appears to be gone from the immediate area, the Lowell Community can be grateful for the contribution that the Goodsell family has made, from business to civics, and especially to the preservation of the local history they experienced.

Image shows Clare Goodsell, son of Joseph Goodsell. Photo courtesy of the Fallasburg Historical Society.

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