Boatmen-are you part of the escape plan?

Today is Saturday and I have attempted a little research, yeah right! I have a few call for papers to complete and design an “Understanding the Process for the DAR”. But as usual, something else pops in my mind and I have to check it out. I believe this is my ancestors whispering to me. So I need to pay attention. For some reason I was drawn to Jim Surkamp’s website about Jefferson County, West VA. I had not visited in a while and the USCT’s were on my mind. I haven’t located any of my ancestors in the database as of yet and wondered if any of the ones he had listed were connected. My Goens/Goings surnames are worst than my Murphy’s when researching. There are so many of them.

Jim’s site covers numerous histories of Jefferson County, Virginia, now known as Jefferson County, West Virginia (after June 1863). Most do not know of this area, but might have heard of some towns in the county such as Charles Town or Harper’s Ferry, John Brown’s raid, etc. I met Jim a couple of years ago and we chatted about the 1860 Slave census where the count of escaped slaves is 602 noted on the census. Now is it all accurate, who knows, but it is a start of something. My great great great grandfather was Lawson Goens/Goings/Goins, who was born in 1807 in Loudoun, Co. Virginia, and was a boatman for 30 years at the Shannondale Springs Resort.  His parents were Joseph and Nancy (assumed Windsor) Goings. Lawson’s wife is Sarah Hart, they were married about 1830 in a location I have not been able to document yet. We have this wonderful flyer from 1856 noting the resort where Lawson worked:

shannondale springs flyer

The flyer was tucked in Sarah (Hart) Goens/Goings bible. It had no meaning until I located Lawson’s Obit. Lawson passed on 12 July 1874 and the obit was a reprint in the 1944 Jefferson Spirit newspaper in Charles Town, WV. I found it on the newspaper microfilm at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV:

lawson goens obit reprint 1944

With the flyer and obit there are a lot of things that can be noted, such as dates, names, and locations. Using the “so what” principles I will be able to analyze the information for some good solid research. Lawson was working for the company at the time the flyer was produced.

Jim has laid out an extremely informative reference using maps. The maps show the location of the escaped slaves. On his website he also mapped the free people of color. Jim Surkamp’s maps are located at:

The value of using a map is unbelievable. You realistically cannot do genealogy research without picking up a map or two. He references my 3x grandfather Goens and wondered if they were cooperative in helping individuals escape slavery. I too wonder. The Goens/Goings were free for as long as I can document them. I am also on the hunt for more information on Joseph and Nancy, since I located a marriage record online that I believe is theirs (1801, Maryland marriage record). Yes, you saw that right, the marriage took place in Maryland, instead of Virginia. It was easier to get married quick in Maryland versus Virginia at this time. This marriage record was located on

Name: Joseph Goings
Spouse: Nancy Windsor
Marriage Date: 30 Jul 1801
County: Frederick
State: MD

Ref: Dodd, Jordan, Liahona Research, comp.. Maryland Marriages, 1667-1899 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA

The boatmen are the logical choice to help escaped slaves along the rivers. One of my mottos for research is “follow the money, the land and the water”. I am not sure how I will plan this research, but I have to have a plan! Jim said that there are only two actual accounts from slaves on the route out of Jefferson County. So there is obviously more work to do on this topic since the census is noting 602 escapees.

What are you thoughts on the research? Where would you begin to locate information on 602 escaped slaves and the “boatmen” that might of helped? As you know, I have to have a plan in order to guide my research. I am only at the stage of writing down everything I know in a timeline format and from there I go…

2 responses to “Boatmen-are you part of the escape plan?”

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