Rhode Island Reading Room
These documents are made available free to the public by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project

History of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations: Biographical

NY: The American Historical Society, Inc. 1920



p. 460 - 461:

WILLIAM DAVID GOFF  --  The name Goff has figured prominently in the early identity and development of New England.  Thomas Goff, wealthy merchant, of London, England, Matthew Craddock, John Endicott, Sir Richard Saltonstall, and others were among the leading men in laying the foundation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  The vital records of Rehoboth, Mass., the mother town of many in its vicinity, in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island, begin with the families of Richard, Samuel and Robert Goff, and from these men descend many of the name here.  Many served in the military service of the colony during the Revolution.

William David Goff, son of Colonel Isaac L. and Ada Jeannette (Richards) Goff, and grandson of David F. and Clarissa D. (Stacy) Goff, was born in Providence, R. I., September 27, 1876.  His preliminary education was acquired in public and private schools of Providence, and supplemented by a course in Mowry & Goff's Preparatory School, thus qualifying himself for an active business career.  After completing his studies, he became associated with his father in his various extensive enterprises and continued with him for many years, the firm being known as the Isaac L. Goff Company. In the meantime, having determined to extend his field of knowledge and usefulness, he became an expert in real estate values, also became familiar with the insurance business in its different phases, thus laying the foundation for his future successful career.  In 1907, he severed his connection with his father and entered into the real estate and insurance business under the name of the William D. Goff Company, conducting his operations in Providence, and during the intervening twelve years his business has increased to a large extent, he being now recognized as one of the leading men in that line in the State of Rhode Island.  He takes an active interest in everything pertaining to the welfare and development of his native city, is public-spirited and enterprising, unassuming in manner, congenial in his tastes, and although his career has been quiet and uneventful, he has manifested those sterling qualities that ever command respect and are at all times worthy of emulation.  He is a Republican in politics, but has never cared for political preferment, and devotes his leisure time to out-of-door life.  He is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and the Sons of the American Revolution, gaining admission through the services of four of his ancestors in the Revolutionary War.

Mr. Goff married, December 14, 1899, Alice Pauline Strahan, daughter of Thomas and Esther (Lawrence) Strahan, natives of Scotland, and now well known residents of Chelsea, Mass.  Mr. and Mrs. Goff are the parents of one son, William David , Jr., born Dec. 15, 1902, now a student of Phillips Exeter Academy of Exeter, N. H.



p. 461 - 462:

JOHN OLDFIELD  --  When man emerged from that stage of civilization where his intellect approximated that of a beast, and became a thinking being, the first pursuit to which he turned, beyond that necessary for self-preservation, was the cultivation of the soil.  On this stage of development depended the later evolution of the race.  Rome drew by far the greater proportion of her famous statesmen, soldiers, generals, poets and other writers from that sturdy class which formed the very sinews of the Nation, the agriocolae or farmers, Pompey, Cicero, Marius, Cato, Cincinnatus, men whose names are synonymous with the prestige of the Roman Empire, came from the farming class.  We Americans are essentially a nation of farmers on a grand scale, and our greatest men have been sons of the soil.  From the land we have drawn the source of our greatness, and it has provided us with a virility which placed us easily at the head of the nations in this respect.  Despite the fact that the city yearly draws its toll from the rural districts, we find an amazingly large number of men who instinctively turn to the soil for their amusement and recreation, if only for a short time, and find in it rest, inspiration, vigor. Many men find in it their life work, still others find in it an avocation.

Love of the soil was perhaps the chief characteristic of the life of the late John Oldfield, business man of the city of Providence, where he died on January 8, 1880.  Although in later life he entered the world of business, he still retained the desire for nearness to the soil and to nature which were vital factors in his youth.

John Oldfield was a native of England, the son of parents of good standing and a descendant of one of the oldest established families in the United Kingdom, and which bore arms:

Arms  - Argent, on a bend gules three crosses pattee fitchee, of the field.
Crest - Out of a ducal coronet or, a demi-wyvern wings displayed argent.
Motto - In cruce vincam.

John Oldfield received his early education in the rural schools of England, and upon completing it apprenticed himself to learn the profession of landscape gardening.  The term of his apprenticeship was of seven years' duration, and upon the completion of it he was a skilled workman, of recognized ability, and commanding excellent wages.  He was possessed of the spirit of the adventurer, and desired to travel and more particularly to see America. He came to America solely for the purpose of visiting the country, on a pleasure trip, bringing with him a considerable supply of money, Mr. Oldfield visited different parts of the country, and during his stay in Philadelphia, Pa., received news of his mother's death in England.  Although he had originally determined to return to England, he decided then to stay in America, and for a considerable period made the city of Philadelphia his home.  He entered the employ of a gentleman of that city, and remained there for several years.  Mr. Oldfield then went to Charleston, S. C., where he passed one year in the capacity of gardener, at the end of which time he returned North, not liking the climate of the South. He next entered the employ of a New York gentleman, and was given the care of an extensive estate along the Hudson river in that State. Upon coming to America, Mr. Oldfield had brought with him a letter of introduction to Mr. Grant Thorburn; this he presented to Mr. Thorburn, who was instrumental in securing for him the position of head gardener on the estate of Thomas P. Ives, of Providence, R. I., whither Mr. Oldfield went immediately. Mr. Oldfield was given full charge of the Ives estate, and given the power to act on his own initiative in the development of the gardens and grounds. He was especially interested in the latter, and skilled in landscape work, but his work in vegetable and flower gardening was more notable. He introduced to the table of Mr.Ives vegetables which had never before come to that gentleman's notice, notably the cauliflower, tomato, and egg plant.  He also introduced to Providence the famous 'Rose of Sharon', hitherto unknown there.

Mr. Oldfield, however, decided to enter the business world independently, and found an advantageous opening in the field of lumbering.  He became a lumber merchant, and from the very beginning met with a high degree of success in this venture.  The business grew rapidly, and at the time of his retirement from active business cares he was operating two lumber yards - one on Canal street, in the city of Providence; and the other at Fox Point, R. I.  The enterprise was a financial success, and at the time of his death Mr. Oldfield was substantially wealthy.  After his retirement he traveled extensively in the United States and abroad, making several trips to his old home in England and to the Continent.  He was a lover of art and literature, and a man of much culture and refined tastes.  Much of his fortune he invested in real estate in Providence.

John Oldfield, who was the son of William and Mary (Harrison) Oldfield, was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, April 9, 1796.  He married, June 22, 1834, Martha King Sampson, daughter of Earl and Martha (King) Sampson, of Assonet, Mass.  She was born in Middleboro, Mass., and was a granddaughter of Dr. John Sampson, one of the foremost physicians of Middleboro, Mass.  The lineage of the Sampson family is traced to the 'Mayflower'.  The children of Mr. and Mrs. Oldfield were six in number, four of whom attained the years of their majority, namely: 1.  Mary H., who resides at the Oldfield home, at No. 99 George street, Providence, R. I.  2.  Henry H., died aged about fifty-five, a graduate of Brown University.  3.  Charles T., a resident of Norton, Mass.; married Sarah S. Drake; children:  i.  Martha S., deceased, was the wife of Joseph Bowden, and the mother of two sons, Joseph, Jr., and Horace Winton Bowden;  ii. John Oldfield;  iii. Mary, wife of Dana Chapman, and the mother of three children:  Dorothy, Charles and Howard Chapman; resides in Norwood, Mass.;  iv. William Charles Oldfield, born in Norton, Mass., lives there, married Lettie Gertrude MacKenzie, born in Tryon, Prince Edward Isle; children:  Victor, Harold, Frederick, Gertrude H.;  v.  Marjorie Louise, wife of Ralph Buck, and the mother of three children:  two sons, Ralph and Charles O., and a daughter, Muriel, resides in Norton, Mass.  4.  Martha K., died aged 27 years.



p. 465:

ADDENDA -- ERRATA.

Arnold, p. 64, 2nd col.  Alfred B. Arnold died May 15, 1919.
Jennings, p. 227, 1st col.  Richard W. Jennings was appointed State Treasurer by Gov. R. Livingston Beeckman to fill the unexpired time of Walter A. Read, who died in December, 1918.
Orrell, p. 96, 2nd col.  William Orrell married (third) in Boston, Massachusetts, April 28, 1909, Mrs. Emily P. McConville.  She had three children:  Lucile, Brenda B., and Elsie B.
Peck, p. 389, 1st col.  Mrs. Louise (Ginand) Peck was born March 15, 1867, died April 8, 1891.
Peterson, p. 302, 2nd col.  Since sketch was printed George P. Peterson was made a member of the Mayflower descendants, and his son, Earl C. Peterson, was made a lieutenant in the navy.


These documents are made available free to the public for non-commercial purposes by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project. Transcription and pictures 2003 by Beth Hurd
Mail e-mail