Henry L. Goodwin: A Man For the People

A Monopoly of ’49.

Mr. Henry L. Goodwin, of East Hartford, Conn., made a good share of his large fortune by a curious sort of monopoly. He was a California “forty-niner,” and in those early days, when San Francisco and its vicinity had a wretchedly poor supply of drinking water, he was one evening charged half a dollar by a man who owned a well for a drink for his oxen. That made him mad and he resolved that he too would become known as Man-Who-Owns-a-Well. With the aid of his partner, an engineer, he bored eighty feet deep on his town lot and there struck an inexhaustible supply of the best water yet found on the whole coast. Then he established a free drinking fountain for all passers by, but for all other purposes he sold the water, six gallons for a cent. Cattle owners could have their stock watered for fifty cents a yoke per week. For a long time everyone who wanted pure water had to go to Goodwin’s well for it, and a handsome fortune was realized therefrom.
Hartford (Conn.) Current.

Richwood Gazette (Richwood, Ohio) Feb 1, 1883

Father of Rural Deliver.

We again find Tom Watson described in newspaper print as the man to whom the country owes rural free delivery. We are not aware that he ever made such an unfounded claim for himself. The real father of American rural free delivery died some years ago in East Hartford. His name was Henry L. Goodwin, he left a shining example of faithful, useful citizenship behind him.

–Hartford Courant.

The Indiana Democrat (Indiana, Pennsylvania) May 10, 1905

Mr. Henry L. Goodwin, a citizen of Connecticut, has addressed a memorial to congress, praying for the general extension of the free-letter delivery system, and the repeal of the law which forbids its establishment only in connection with post offices supplying a population of less than twenty thousand inhabitants, and the passage of a law leaving it discretionary with the postmaster general. Mr. Goodwin shows that we are far behind Great Britain, France, Prussia and Switzerland in the free delivery business, and refers to the fact that every step for the reduction of postage and the extension of postal facilities to the people has been followed by a large increase in the revenues of the postal departments.

The Weekly Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa) Jan 25, 1883

From the Robert A. Seigel Auction Gallery:

The California Penny Post Company was established on June 25, 1855, by Henry L. Goodwin (sometimes reported as “J. P.” Goodwin). The Penny Post advertised service in several larger California towns and cities, offering to carry letters to and from the local post office, to bring letters to one post office and deliver them to the addressee from the receiving office, and to run an express service between towns after the government mails were closed for the day.

A specific rate was charged for each service, and these rates are reflected in the stamps and entries issued by the Penny Post.

Almost immediately the Penny Post incurred the wrath of the San Francisco postmaster, and Goodwin became involved in protracted litigation trying to fight the government.

A DAY’S DEATH ROLL

Henry L. Goodwin, of East Hartford, Conn., one of the gold pioneers to California in ’49, aged 78 years.

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) Mar 18, 1899

HENRY L. GOODWIN DEAD

Succumbed to Pneumonia at 3 O’clock This Morning.

HAD BEEN ILL ONLY SINCE LAST FRIDAY.

Stricken While at the Capitol — Unconscious for Several Hours Before Death — Sketch of His Useful and Honorable Career.

Henry L. Goodwin of East Hartford, well known throughout the state, died from a severe attack of pneumonia at his home at 2:55 o’clock this (Friday) morning. Mr. Goodwin was stricken while in the hall of the House of Representatives last week Friday, having a fainting fit, from which he recovered in about half an hour, so as to be taken to his home in the Burnside district. Pneumonia developed and Mr. Goodwin has failed rapidly since then, principally because of his feeble condition and advanced age. His brother, George Goodwin, was with him at the time of his death. It was seen yesterday afternoon that Mr. Goodwin had not long to live. At 6 o’clock he recognized his brother George, and then relapsed into unconsciousness, from which condition he did not recover.

Henry Leavitt Goodwin was born in Litchfield November 25, 1821, and was the son of Oliver Goodwin, a native of Hartford, and his wife, Clarissa Leavitt of Bethlehem, Litchfield county. Oliver Goodwin was for some years engaged in the publishing business in Hartford as a member of the firm of Hudson & Goodwin, at one time owners and publishers of “The Courant.” He afterwards removed to Litchfield, where he carried on a book and stationary business, and where Henry L. was born. Henry L. Goodwin began his business career as bookkeeper for his uncle, who was in the paint business in Brooklyn, N.Y. He did not remain very long with his uncle, however, for upon the discovery of gold in California he joined the pioneers in 1849 and became an “Argonaut.” He did not, however, go to the gold mining region as a miner but with an eye open to opportunities for business. He established, shortly after his arrival in the mining regions, a letter post  or pony express for carrying letters and messages from one camp to another, and in this was very successful, making some money. The government, however, put an end to the profit in this private letter carrying and took the mail service into its own hands. Mr. Goodwin was then interested in a system of water supply for miners’ camps and in this he was also successful. He did not remain on the coast a great many years, but returned to Connecticut. His father was a man of competence and had retired from business, and Mr. Goodwin did not interest himself in any particular business.

He took up his residence in East Hartford in 1862, but never carried on business there except to engage in what farming was necessary to keep a small place in condition. He married Susan Leavitt Goodwin, July 30, 1873. She died the succeeding April. There were no children. Since his wife’s death Mr. Goodwin had lived in the Burnside section of East Hartford in the midst of park-like grounds, several hundred trees being near to his home, which in connection with the grounds of his brother-in-law, the late George H. Goodwin, make one of the most attractive home parks in this vicinity. He was very fond of trees and took great care of them and the grounds about them and was particularly interested in a fine spring of water on the grounds. His habits were of the simplest and he lived quietly and unostentatiously devoted in his later years to the children of his brother-in-law.

As a citizen of East Hartford he was public-spirited and deeply interested in the welfare of the town, and its people. He was always at town meetings and generally pointed out something in a proposed action that ought not to be sanctioned by the people, or, more frequently introduced legislation embodying his own views. Some years ago he called attention to the inefficient system by which the books of the collector was kept, and the people indorsing his idea a new system upon lines laid down by himself was adopted, much to the benefit of the town. Upon the completion of the trolley roads east of the river he was instrumental in getting a five-cent fare to Burnside and called attention many times to the shortcomings of the trolley companies in caring for their patrons. His most signal success was in fighting the battle for the people in the matter of the now famous $35,000 appropriated by the towns interested in the Connecticut River bridge, for the “legal expenses” of the old bridge commission in placing the care of the structure on the state. After the order for the payment of East Hartford’s share was passed by the selectmen, Mr. Goodwin sued out an injunction restraining the treasurer of the town from paying an order for $5,000. The matter went to the courts and the supreme court of errors decided in favor of the injunction and it remains permanent. He was greatly interested in the bill before the present Legislature providing for the payment of the $5,000 by the town, the supreme court to the contrary, and had within a few days, been in consultation with prominent men in East Hartford in an effort to defeat its passage. In other matters in the town Mr. Goodwin was in many ways a benefactor. He was often called upon to settle estates for widows, orphans and persons who could ill afford to pay fees for the work and in many such cases served without charge. In one case where there was a chance of very little coming to the beneficiaries of an estate he asked for an allowance for services by the probate court and turned the amount in for the benefit of the beneficiaries. He was generous, but in his own way, following the scriptural injunction not to let his right know what his left hand was doing. Many poor people in East Hartford, and many a public benefaction was aided by Mr. Goodwin in a modest manner and if he was to have told the story it never would have been told. A prominent citizen of East Hartford said of him recently, “Mr. Goodwin was a man whom I greatly admire. He was conscientious in all that he did, worked for what he believed was the people’s good and wanted people to be better than they wanted to be themselves. He has been a useful citizen to the town; none more so.”

Mr. Goodwin was elected to the General Assembly from East Hartford for the years 1871, 1873 and 1874, serving on the committee on roads and bridges and on a committee in 1874 on “Inaccurate legislation,” the last named committee being one in which he would naturally take special pride. If any one could closely scrutinize an act of legislation to find what was in it that ought not to be in it, Mr. Goodwin was pre-eminently the man. His terms in the General Assembly were marked by efficient work as a legislator. For many years Mr. Goodwin has been best known by his appearance before successive legislative committees and at meetings of the stockholders of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company pointing out what he thought were delinquencies in the management of the finances of the road, in its bookkeeping and in its returns to the state for taxation. The state treasurer in 1886 brought suit against the railroad company to recover $137,000 in taxes, for returning supplies on hand as cash, and the supreme court found for the defendant upon the ground that, “As the board of equalization acted upon the return with the best information they were able to obtain, their decision is final, however mistaken as to the real facts that decision may have been.” The action of the state treasurer was taken on account of the discoveries made by Mr. Goodwin.

The public will remember a controversy that arose at one of the meetings of the board of equalization in which Mr. Goodwin questioned the figures put in as related to the improvement on the “Portchester” road and was invited by Vice-President John M. Hall of the New York, New Haven & Hartford railroad to inspect the improvements via special train, under his personal escort. This inspection took place some months later, but all that Mr. Goodwin would say of it was that he was “much interested” in what he saw.

In many other railroad matters prior to the long contest with the “Consolidated” Mr. Goodwin was active and always interested in what he believed to be for the benefit of the people. There was never any suggestion of anything or anybody behind what Mr. Goodwin was engaged in in public affairs. He entered upon his work in these lines conscientiously, convinced that he was right as a matter of principle, and used his own money to further his plans, in legitimate ways, by printing arguments and results of his investigations, and oftentimes he employed an attorney to aid him before a legislative committee and never to anyone’s knowledge asking aid from the pocketbook of any other person. Mr. Goodwin was a man of slight physique, and not in the most robust health, but his will was dominant over his ailments and he pushed ahead with great energy. He was in manner almost timid, careful of the rights of others and appreciative of assistance whenever it came to him through the newspaper press. He was well known to newspaper men of the state and in newspaper offices, and well liked, even though it was not always possible to agree with his propositions, which were often a matter of expert bookkeeping, clear to him, he said, but not always so easily understood by others.

The efforts of Mr. Goodwin in behalf of town and state reforms include many things which cannot be recalled, but among other things he was the originator of the present system of the legislative calendar a great assistance to the work of the General Assembly.

While in California Mr. Goodwin became interested in the postal affairs of the country and had a contest with the then postmaster of San Francisco on a matter of principle, which was taken up by Congress and called forth much discussion. From that time forward during the remainder of his life Mr. Goodwin became a student of the postal system of the country and of other countries and had official reports from abroad sent to him regularly. He urged many important reforms in the postal service, was a promoter of free delivery, suggested the carrying of mails by trolley cars, and penny-post he was seconded by the Rev. Dr. Leonard Woolsey Bacon, who was greatly interested in the penny-post system for rural towns. Members of Congress from this state often received from him useful suggestions for better mail facilities. In the matter of the penny post he was seconded by the had but recently taken many documents from Mr. Goodwin’s house to work up the reform, while Mr. Goodwin was busy with his work before legislative committees.

Hartford Courant, The (1887-1922)  Hartford, Connecticut  17 Mar 1899

From Wiki

DEATH LIST OF A DAY.

Henry L. Goodwin.

Henry Leavitt Goodwin of East Hartford, Conn., died of pneumonia at his home, in that town, yesterday after a short illness.

Mr. Goodwin was an active citizen, serving as a member of the lower house of the Legislature in 1871, 1872, and 1874, when he devoted much attention to the affairs of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in opposition to its consolidation first, and later to its absorption of rival lines. It was he who for many years appeared at the annual meetings of the company and made a series of fruitless fights against the incorporation of the cost of the Port Chester branch of the road in the capitalization of the company, charging that this branch had been largely overcapitalized by illegal watering at the time of its construction. For more than a dozen years he advanced his views, both before the Legislature and at the stockholders’ meetings, but legislative investigations that never amounted to anything were all that he accomplished. He did, however, succeed in having the tax laws of the State so amended as to secure the taxation of much railroad property that has previous to his agitation escaped its share of the burden. He was also largely responsible for the defeat of the thirty-five-thousand-dollar appropriation for “legal expenses” which the Legislature had sanctioned in connection with condemnation proceedings by the East Hartford Bridge Commission.

Mr. Goodwin was born in 1821, and in 1849 went to California, where he made a comfortable fortune in a pony mail and express route which he conducted between the mines and San Francisco, and which the Government finally acquired. Then he supplied water to miners’ camps, and was one of the pioneers in the State’s irrigation schemes. He inherited another fortune from his father, at the time of whose death, in 1862, he returned to East Hartford.

New York Times (1857-Current file)  New York, New York  18 Mar 1899

FUNERAL OF HENRY L. GOODWIN

Words of Eulogy by the Rev. Dr. Leonard Woolsey Bacon.

The funeral of Henry L. Goodwin was attended at his late home in Burnside yesterday afternoon at 2:30 o’clock, a large gathering of friends and relatives filling the rooms of the old farm house. The services were conducted by the Rev. S.A. Barrett of the East Hartford Congregational Church, who offered prayer and read selections from the Scripture. the Rev. Dr. Leonard Woolsey Bacon of Norwich, an intimate personal friend of Mr. Goodwin, delivered words of eulogy, saying that out of an overflow of personal love he had come to pay a tribute to his friend of forty years. Long remembrance of a dear friend had made it impossible, at such a time, to say just the word that should be said, but here had lived a righteous man, if ever a righteous man did live. It would be impossible to speak words of praise in his presence, even his dumb lips might protest. He was not used to them in his modest life, but he had become well accustomed to obloquy and scorn, and his efforts had often been met with sneering and contempt. He had, however, the approval of God, speaking through his own honest conscience, and with that he was content. He moved about among the ways of men, his calm, quiet personality carrying a rebuke to unrighteousness. For many years his mind was active in enterprises for the benefit of his fellow men, fearless, tenacious, making it easier for us all to stand faithfully in our lot, doing our duty because we had seen his example.

Voices from unexpected quarters were now testifying to the dignity of his manhood and the usefulness of his life. But men may be simply righteous, and just, and not attain to goodness. Our friend was a good man. We shall know him better now that he has passed away, and little by little tales of his gentleness, of his acts of kindness and charity, shall be told. Even since coming to the house of mourning the speaker had learned what he had never heard Mr. Goodwin allude to in his long friendship of forty years — of his patient, fearless nursing of cholera patients on the Isthmus of Panama, when he made with his own hands the coffins for the dead and placed the dead in them while physicians and authorities had abandoned them. There was the gentleness and the goodness of the man. And there shall be many here who shall remember what good things he has done for the benefit of us all. The blessing of those who in their poverty were aided and in their distress were comforted will follow him even into the land of light.

This life had been a wonder to many. They were perplexed to find an explanation of its persistent dealing with those things that interested him in behalf of the community. there was an idea that there was something behind it, that it might possibly be a love of notoriety. There was no understanding that faithful service could come from the purest motives. People did not, could not, understand this sort of human nature, that could serve God by serving man.

Dr. Bacon offered the closing prayers. It is his intention to prepare a memorial sermon to be delivered in the East Hartford church, of which Mr. Goodwin was a member, at a later day, and also to prepare a sketch of Mr. Goodwin for publication.

The body of Mr. Goodwin rested in a casket in the east room of the house, surrounded with a profusion of flowers. At a later hour in the afternoon the burial occurred in the old North Cemetery in this city, beside his wife. The bearers were chosen from among relatives.

Special cars took friends and relatives from this city and from Glastonbury to the funeral.

Hartford Courant, The (1887-1922)  Hartford, Connecticut  21 Mar 1899

The Dead-Head System.

That very sensible and practical newspaper, the New York Journal of Commerce, takes the following logical view of free passes to the legislators and high officials in their travels over railroads:

Mr. Henry L. Goodwin, of East Hartford (Conn.), deserves something better than the insolent slur cast upon him by the president of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad for having sued out an injunction to restrain that road from giving free passes to members of Legislatures and of Congress, and all public officers, from the President of the United States downward. “His real object,” says president Bishop, “is probably to make himself distinguished.” His real object, we should more charitably say, is to cut off a useless waste of money and thus to enhance the profits of the road in which he is a stockholder, and to terminate a public nuisance so far as that line is concerned.

The whole traveling public, still more than the stockholders, have a direct interest in the discontinuance of “dead-headism” on railroads. Nothing is given in this world without a value received or expected; and when the New Haven line distributes free passes to the Connecticut Legislature, it only pays in advance for benefits it hopes to receive. By such means railroads stave off investigations, or procure favorable legislation. The public, going to the Legislature and petitioning for laws to restrain or regulate railroads, find that body already bought over to the other side. It is not consistent with human nature that a man should feel unfriendly to a road whose yearly free pass for himself and family he carries in his pocket-book. To the average legislator, unambitious of “heavy strikes” and great spoils, this bit of pasteboard is an immense favor, and only to be recompensed by blindly voting for all that the donors want. Shrewd railroad managers well understand this, and distribute the tickets plentifully at the opening of sessions, and so secure the defeat of possible hostile legislation. The companies can never be depended on to abandon official “dead-heading” voluntarily. They pretended to try it at the West a year or two ago, but it was soon ascertained that every company broke its own rules, and the agreement was openly abandoned; and the old plan of controlling legislatures with free tickets is now in vogue everywhere except on this one Connecticut road, where a judicial injunction has stopped it temporarily. Mr. Goodwin merits the public thanks for invoking the intervention of the only power equal to the suppression of the evil.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) May 1, 1875

“What will Henry L. Goodwin do when the Legislature adjourns sine die?” is a question asked by every visitor at the Capitol. He has not missed a session since the Legislature convened and has been in attendance upon every hearing before the railroad committee. His aim and ambition in life appears to be, to harass the Consolidated road and he has succeeded in having bills introduced that caused the attorneys for that corporation many hours to labor of hunt up arguments and questions of law. If Mr. Goodwin was a member of the Legislature he would be of great service to the state if appointed upon the railroad committee but that day will never come. The Consolidated road has a great deal at stake and they take an important part in the state politics. They would do their utmost to defeat Mr. Goodwin if he were nominated and he must always remain a private citizen, content to introduce bills that are always reported on adversely.

Sunday Herald (Bridgeport, CT) – Apr 7, 1895

From:

“Men of Mark in Connecticut: Ideals of American Life Told in Biographies and Autobiographies of Eminent Living Americans”
Editor:    Norris Galpin Osborn
Publisher: W.R. Goodspeed, 1904  (Google Book LINK – pg  275)

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