By: Rand Michaels, Interpretive Ranger at Pawtuckaway State Park
In early July, while living and working at Pawtuckaway State Park, I received a letter addressed to “Chief Ranger” – making my job sound a bit more grandiose than I feel like it is. This handwritten letter was from Carl Johnson, who now lives in Barnegat New Jersey, but spent his younger years teaching in Raymond where he often visited the state park, sometimes with his students. The letter asks about one of the features of the park that predates the existence of the park itself. This feature is an old family cemetery that was established in the early 19th century by the Goodrich family. A small collection of headstones, the cemetery sits in the northern section of the park just off of Tower Rd.
The cemetery tells a sad story of life and loss that has likely intrigued many hikers including Carl and myself. Consider yourself warned about the melancholy nature of this story before I get into it. Also before I get into it I’d like to thank Rachel who was the Pawtuckaway Interpretive Ranger for 2016, and put together the facts and stories of Pawtuckaway’s history for me.
The Goodrich family was one of the first farming families to take up residence in the Pawtuckaway area, with Barnard and Sally Goodrich as its respective patriarch and matriarch. Together they had six children who are buried there in the graveyard with them, with Delia Jane, their only daughter being the first to pass away in July of 1825. Four of their five sons passed away in the winter of 1833-34, most likely from diphtheria or smallpox which were raging throughout the local community at the time. The last remaining son, Samuel Gove, lived until April of 1839, and Barnard died in 1854. Sally, after living through all this loss and associated heartbreak went on to live on until 1884, to a fantastic age of 101 years, and six months old, purportedly maintaining the family farm through much of this time.
The only grandchild of Barnard and Sally Goodrich was named George Goodrich, and he had much acclaim in the community as a bit of an eccentric. He is often called the ‘Barefoot Farmer’ as he never wore shoes besides some knee-high rubber boots in the winter snow. Many other stories abound about George and can be found in the book, The Barefoot Farmer of Pawtuckaway by Paula Casey Wood. One of my favorites tells of how George met his wife – apparently he advertised for a wife in Manchester as none of the local girls lived up to his standards.
There are also a few other cemeteries within the park’s bounds, each with its own story. Among them is that of the Chase and Bartlett family, both early farming families of the area. The story of the Goodrich family however holds a special place in my heart as I’ve told it to park visitors many times throughout the summer as a part of my ‘Pawtuckaway Past and Present’ program. In this program I hope I inspired some of these visitors to go themselves in search of some of Pawtuckaway’s hidden historical gems.