LIFE HISTORY OF ALFRED GOODSELL
Aseneth Laura Goodsell Keiser
Francis Calvin Gill (1995)
Alfred Goodsell was born January 5, 1851 at Hastings, Sussex, England. He was the son of
Goodsell and Lydia Ballard. On June 3, 1864, at the age of thirteen, he joined a group of
Latter-Day Saint immigrants for the voyage across the Atlantic to America. Apparently he
the William Upfield and John E. Ellis families from Hastings since they boarded the ship
HUDSON together. His mother and step-father, Stephen Catt, remained behind until they made
their own journey in 1868. According to the ship's passenger list, his occupation was a
"messenger". He boarded the HUDSON along with 863 others for the trip. The HUDSON was a
large "packet ship" with three large masts and three decks, a round stern and tuck, and a
billethead. It weighed 1618 tons and was 208 feet by 41 feet by 29 feet and was built in 1863 in
New York City. Elder John M. McKay presided over the company of Saints.
(Since we do not have the personal account of Alfred Goodsell's trip to Utah, the following
account was compiled from the journals of those who travelled in the same company as did
Alfred. Their general experiences would have also been his.)
The company was divided into fourteen wards, with a teacher for each. Prayer was held on
night and morning with meetings on Sunday and during the week. Professor George Careless was
a passenger. He organized a choir which had plenty of time to practice, so became quite
proficient. The ship's officers enjoyed the singing very much, so the captain gave permission to
practice in his cabin. Unlike passenger ships of today, each family had to make arrangements for
cooking and serving their own meals. Most of the cooking and serving was done in the large ship
galley. The rations consisted of tea, sugar, oatmeal, rice, split peas, potatoes, salt pork, and hard
biscuits. Due to head winds, the journey was unusually slow--forty-six days. Measles broke out
among the children and nine died and were buried at sea. There were three births.
Captain Pratt, a cousin to Parley P. Pratt, was the captain. He was noted as a fine man and a
good sailor. At that time the Civil War was going on and as they neared New York, the warship,
ALABAMA, pulled along side to determine what kind of freight was aboard. The sailors cried
out "say your prayers, you Mormons, you are all going down!" But they were spared since they
were immigrants from other countries and they dared not sink them.
They landed at Castle Gardens on July 20th. In the afternoon they went aboard a steamer as
passengers for Albany, New York. The boat was crowded. They had to find places for their
luggage and a place to stand or lie down. The next morning they arrived in Albany. After noon
they boarded a passenger train of 21 coaches and left for Buffalo, New York. At Buffalo, they
were delayed several hours by engine trouble. Because of the Civil War, the railway equipment
was depleted, so some of the cars were cattle cars. From Buffalo they traveled through Canada.
In passing through Canada, they encountered a forest fire. Trees were blazing on both sides of
the tracks. They managed to pass through the fire though many passengers were frightened. They
then crossed Lake Huron, changed to another train, and went on to Chicago arriving on July 24th,
a Sunday. They remained there until the following day. Some army officers came on board the
train to search for deserters and made some trouble. They were given money to leave the Saints
alone. The trip then went from Chicago to Quincy, Illinois. They crossed the Mississippi River
and had to walk from the landing to the railway station over a very rough road. They had to stay
for two days waiting for a train. A heavy storm came up; there was not room for all in the station
so most had a miserable time. The second night they had to sleep on damp ground. The "new"
train proved to be a train of open cattle cars. Not very comfortable riding with no seats and the
cinders falling on them constantly. One car took fire. The train was stopped and the burning car
cut off. They finally arrived at St. Joseph, Missouri, tired, worn out and dirty. On July 31st they
went on board a river steamer for a trip up the Missouri River. Again, they were deck
passengers. All the water to drink was taken from the muddy river, so nearly everyone got sick.
They landed at Florence, Nebraska on August 2nd. They camped there for two weeks helping to
get the equipment ready for the trip across the plains.
On August 13th, everything was ready to go. The company was under the direction of
William Hyde. There were 12 passengers to a wagon which was loaded to the bows. Passengers
in name only for they had to walk. The first day out they made about ten miles. The distance
traveled each day varied because of the locations of watering places. If they had good going, they
sometimes made as many as 20 or 25 miles a day. Scouts were sent ahead on horses to locate
camping places. If a death occurred, the whole train could not be held up for burial services, and
so--three or four teamsters driving better and younger oxen would stay behind for the task of
disposing of the body. They would dig a crude grave, often hitting water. If that occurred, dirt
and brush would be thrown in the grave, then the body, wrapped in whatever could be spared,
was laid away with very little ceremony. Then those who had participated in the burial rushed to
catch up with the rest of the wagons.
At times buffalo would get among the cattle and stampede them. At night there was small
from that as a corral was formed with the wagons and the cattle driven in the center of the circle.
The tongue of one wagon was hooked onto the back of the next wagon and so on around, making
it improbable that the cattle would stray. After being settled for the night and their small portion
of food eaten, they would dance and sing, and have meeting and prayer before going to bed.
Come, Come, Ye Saints was sung heartily by the whole company to give them fresh
face the next day's hardships. Many Indians visited the camp and they made friends with them by
giving them food and various little articles.
Upon nearing the valley of the Great Salt Lake, they traveled down Weber Canyon and out
the valley. On November 2, they arrived in Salt Lake City. Of the original company, 52 died
along the way.
Alfred, no doubt, stayed with relatives upon his arrival in Utah. By 1868 his mother, Lydia,
step-father, Stephen Catt, had arrived in America. After living in Hyrum, Utah for a while, they
moved to Clarkston, Utah.
In 1869, the people of Clarkston decided to make a settlement to the south and east of town
where the land was more level and the snow did not pile so deep in the winter. They called it the
New Town which was later shortened to Newton.
It was in Newton where Alfred married Hannah Christine Jensen on July 25, 1870. Hannah
the daughter of Hans and Maren Jensen. They were married by Bishop William F. Rigby and later
sealed in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City.
In 1871 Alfred moved to Newton with his wife to a little log cabin on the south edge of town.
was here the first four children were born. They were: Charles Edward, born June 1, 1871; Lydia
Marion, born March 2, 1873; Frances Hannah, born March 25, 1875; and Alfred Stephen, born
July 1, 1877.
In 1875 Alfred and his family, along with all the people of Newton began to live the United
It worked successfully for a few years.
In October 1876, Alfred and Hannah were sealed in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City.
And, on the same day, with Hannah acting as proxy, Jane Isted was sealed to him. Jane was the
daughter of Michal and Elizabeth Isted.
Soon after young Alfred, who was called Stephen, was born, the family moved to Weston,
and stayed with Hannah's people for a short time. Then they moved to Snowville, Curlew Valley,
Utah where Alfred taught school. Here another son was born on August 3, 1879 and was named
John Hans. In 1880 the family moved back to Newton and lived in the Catt home.
Up until 1880, the towns people had worked hard and long with very little recreation. They
realized their need for something more. There were many talented people in the town but no one
with the initiative to lead out. Alfred, being a natural born leader, actor, singer, and comedian,
soon had a dramatic group organized and going strong. They built a stage in the old rock school
house that stood in the center of town. They hired Jonas Beck, the town artist, to paint some
scenery. While Jonas painted, the cast rehearsed and soon had their first play ready. The first
night crowd was not large but those present received a real treat. As word spread and the actors
improved, even standing room became hard to find in the little theater. Some of the boys sat in
the high windows where the view and sound were choice.
Alfred's dramatic and musical activities went on and on as he wrote and directed as well as
in many plays. He usually played the hero's part and William F. Rigby played the villain. He took
his shows to surrounding towns so the whole valley enjoyed them. The following is a direct copy
of a newspaper clipping from a correspondent who sent in a few news items to the Editor
during the first week of February, 1890. "Newton does not very often tread upon your carpet so
allow me to put my foot thereon. Saturday nite last the Newton Dramatic Co. gave us an
entertainment for the benefit of the Y.M.M.I.A. which was a great success. The drama was one
written by our lively manager, Alfred Goodsell, entitled "Trapped at Last, One in Love." It was a
three act drama. It was well rendered and gave everyone satisfaction. Mr. Goodsell showed
himself master of his play and was ably supported my Miss Lily Barker and W.F. Rigby and other
members of the troupe. In short, the whole company did their best, which was the cause of the
success of the piece. The drama was followed by the laughable farce, "The Artful Dodger."
Messers Goodsell and Rigby showing they were capable of impersonating more than one
character. The Young Mens Associating feel grateful to the Co. for giving them the benefit and
wish the troupe success in the future. Being an eye witness and having seen lots of plays, I say,
(as) most of the onlookers said, "It is a play Mr. Goodsell and his Co. might play anywhere and
the people will learn a lesson from it, it having a good moral. We are all well over here. We are
having a good thaw at present, wood is scarce but snow is plentiful."
A third daughter, Veroka Jane was born April 10, 1882. In 1883 the dreaded diphtheria
out in Newton. Five of the Goodsell children took it and on September 5, 1883, little John died
and five days later, on September 10, Stephen followed his little brother. The other three children
The following year on March 31, 1884, Albert Eugene was born. Alfred owned a quarter
of land north of town and did some farming there, perhaps just enough to keep his young family
clothed and fed. In 1884 the valley was having a very dry season and plenty of grasshoppers. J.
Senus Johnson writes how he and his brother, Carl, helped Alfred Goodsell thresh wheat: "We
used clubs and flayers as it would be a long time before he could get a thresher. Getting it clean
was the hardest job. We would stand on a chair with a bucket of wheat and let it run slowly down
on the wagon cover, repeating this several times and the wind would blow away the chaff and
Alfred's interests were varied. From a radio script used during the 1947 centennial on
men in the early history of Cache Valley, we quote: "Alfred Goodsell, school teacher, notary
public and surveyor; helped to survey part of the town of Newton and much of the surrounding
farmland, was a civic leader and farmed on a small scale."
Alfred also helped survey Trenton and part of Southern Idaho. He had chosen to make
his vocation and was just beginning to make a success of it at the time of his death. He was also a
good carpenter and a very dependable person.
At one time Alfred and two companions started out to seek employment. When they reached
Clifton, Idaho, they stopped at a store to purchase some food. Alfred asked the owner if he had
any kind of work they could do. "Well," he replied, "Goodsell, you could stack those boxes on
the other side of the room and then I'll see if I can find something else." One man was set to
fishing in a wooden tub. He soon became discouraged and left. The third was given some other
trivial job. When Alfred had moved all the boxes, the man said, "Now carry them back," and he
did that without a question. When his companion asked what he thought the man was doing,
Alfred said, "just be patient and we'll soon see." When the boxes were back in their place the
owner asked the two if they could build him a shanty. They thought they could and did so in such
a short time and so well the owner could hardly believe it. They had proved themselves capable
and dependable. They sent home for their carpenter tools and had work in Clifton most of the
On February 12, 1885, Grandmother Lydia Ballard Goodsell Catt passed away and was
the Newton Cemetery near her two little grandsons who had passed on. The following year, on
January 13, 1886, the eldest son, Charles, a lad of 15, died with typhoid fever. The next month,
on February 21, 1886, Joseph Franklin was born. In those days, as now, they had their joys as
well as their sorrows.
Also during the year of 1886, Alfred built a home for his family in the northeast part of town.
recall they had been living in his mother's home since they returned from Snowville. This new
home had shingles. Until now most of the homes in Newton had dirt roofs, so the town was
Little is known of Alfred's church activities other than his music and drama in M.I.A., except
is found in a few notes salvaged from his journal. The following is a tithing record for 1885:
cash, $1.00; pork, 4 lbs.; wool, 2 1/2 lbs.; grain, 913 lbs.; cash, $.50; Eggs, 6 doz.; potatoes, 5
bushel; 1 load of lumber from Richmond; pork, 5 lbs.; eggs, 7 doz., Nov. 27; chicking, 4 lbs.;
wool, 4 lbs.; and hay, 1 ton. The following baptism record was written: "Baptized by Alfred
Goodsell September 2, 1877: Josephine Lindsay; Caroline Burkstrum; Catherine Anderson; Annie
Maria Jensen; Peter Anderson. In Trenton, Cache County, Utah, January 15, 1882: Lydia Frances
Kemp (his neice). Newton, Cache County, Utah, March 25, 1884: Frances Hannah Goodsell and
Lucy Barker. Newton, July 20, 1892: Albert Eugene Goodsell.
Alfred served as ward clerk for a time. From early church records, minutes have been found
which recorded a fast meeting held Thursday, September 1, 1884, signed A.Goodsell, clerk.
In 1886 Alfred built a log home on his farm north of the town and moved his family there. It
a well built home one step off the ground with a good floor and shingles on the roof. There was a
window in the west and one on the south near the front door. When Hannah died, the door was
too narrow to get the casket through so he cut out the logs between the door and window. When
he rebuilt it, he made a cupboard there. He later built a room onto the east with an outside door.
This room was used as a bedroom in the winter and as a summer kitchen. The boys moved their
beds outside on the south side of the house by the trees.
On May 20, 1888, Clarence Edmond was born. But once again joy and sorrow were close
one month later, June 17, 1888, Hannah died leaving several young children. Her mother took
baby Clarence home to Weston to raise. Soon after, Alfred took the rest of the family and went
to Weston to be near his wife's people and his tiny son. We must remember, in those days, all
traveling was by horse and wagon and it took days to travel where it now takes hours.
On May 29, 1889, Alfred married Julia Ann Lovisa Jensen of Clifton, Idaho in the Logan
She was born in Amager, Copenhagen, Denmark, a daughter of Ole and Benta Olsen Jensen. She
came to America with her mother when she was 8 years old.
Alfred and Julia moved back to Newton bringing three year old Joe with them. The rest of
family stayed in Weston. The eldest daughter, Lydia was married (to Francis William Gill) by this
time. To Alfred and Julia five children were born: Leonard Lawrence, born March 30, 1890;
Alfred Walter, born February 19, 1892; Ruth Lovisa, born April 7, 1894; Grover William, born
January 21, 1896; and Betsy Josephine, born December 28, 1897.
Grandfather spoke several languages. One of these was Indian and the Indian people loved to
with him. Each summer they came over the mountain from Washakie to camp at the edge of
town. They gleaned wheat from the fields and begged for food from the townspeople. They
picked choke cherries to trade for food. One summer a papoose was born to a family camped in
grandfather's back yard. He was the only one given the honor to be invited out to see the new
baby. Of course, Alfred spoke Danish, having married two Danish girls. He also spoke Swedish,
Norwegian, and German.
The time came when baby Betsy was old enough to travel so he put the four older children in
back of the wagon, placed Grandmother and the baby on the spring seat beside him and off to
Logan they went. Here they had a family picture taken as he had done with Hannah and her
children a few years before. At this time a very good dinner could be purchased at the cafe for 25
cents but Julia felt they could not afford it for all of them so she lined the children up on the
wagon tongue and gave them sandwiches while Alfred went to the cafe. It was well they made
the trip when they did for soon after Alfred took seriously ill and after two days of extreme pain
and suffering, he died of what was then called "inflammation of the bowels." Today we would
recognize it as a ruptured appendix. A doctor was called from Logan but he was too late. When
he reached Newton, he learned Alfred had passed away so he turned around and went back
without going to the ranch. He sent the family a bill for $10.00 but it was never paid.
Alfred passed away July 29, 1898 and was buried in the Newton Cemetery. He left a 27 year
wife with a family of small children. Betsy was just seven months old.
Of all the plays and other things Grandfather must have written, I can find only one poem in his journal which he follows with this note: "Composed from a moments reflection." Perhaps it was written after losing a loved one or some other trial.
A MOMENT'S THOUGHTS
Oh why does God in Heaven give such strong
And stern commands
That makes his children to live
In sorrow in the land.
Oh God we know that thou desires
That we should faithful be
And test us like it were by fire.
Ere we return to thee,
Could there not be a way O Lord
For all thy saints to live
To receive, obey, Thy Holy Word
That would no suffering give.
We know there is a great reward
To all the faithful given,
A crown of peace and glory too
To all that enter Heaven.
We would not fain to serve thee Lord
And thy commands obey
Our Life we'd give to seal thy word
In realms that are far away.
But we are weak, of mortal clay
And our eyes are blind to see
By Satan oft we are led astray
From paths that lead to thee.
Could we thy spirit always feel
And it our bosoms burn,
We would not to pain and sorrow yield
And from they commandments turn.
But feed us, feed us Lord we pray
Of thy spirit pure and free
And help us all thy laws obey
Till we return to thee.
Today, Alfred's descendants are many. Most of them still true to the Church and good honest citizens. Many have filled missions, some are serving a present and I'm sure many more will serve. Many hold responsible positions in the Church. A goodly number have college degrees and hold responsible positions in states across the nation.