“I like my father and Mr. Jocelyn better than any other men.”

Lavinia Goodell, 1865

Reverend Simeon S. Jocelyn and his family were good friends of the Goodells for many years. Both Lavinia Goodell and her father benefitted from Rev. Jocelyn’s advice.

Rev. Simeon S. Jocelyn

Simeon Jocelyn was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1799. He came from a long line of New England Congregationalists who were deeply opposed to slavery. Jocelyn was an engraver by trade, but his true calling was the ministry. By the age of 25 he had become the leader of a church of free Black people, the Temple Street Congregational Church, in New Haven.

In the 1840s, Rev. Jocelyn became a founding member of the American Missionary Association. (Learn about his daughter Carrie’s experiences teaching in Freedmens schools under the auspices of the AMA here.)

 In the mid 1840s, Rev. Jocelyn and his family moved to the  Williamsburgh section of Brooklyn, and he became the pastor of the First Congregational Church. The 1851 Williamsburgh village directory had an ad for the church that said, “The seats of this church are free. Caste, on account of complexion, in this church, not allowed. Slaveholders and their apologists not fellowshipped, nor those who sell or use intoxicating drinks as a beverage. Simeon S. Jocelyn, Pastor.” In addition to his pastoral duties, Rev. Jocelyn also worked as an engraver in lower Manhattan. In December 1851, while Rev. Jocelyn was out of town on business, William  Goodell, who lived in upstate New York, travelled to Williamsburgh to stay with the Jocelyn family and preach at two Sabbath services.

The Goodells moved to Williamsburgh in the mid 1850s. The two families saw each other frequently. In February 1861, Lavinia Goodell accompanied the Jocelyn family to Manhattan to watch President-elect Lincoln’s carriage procession pass on the way to his inauguration. The following January, Lavinia wrote to her sister, reporting that she had gone to the Jocelyn home and met “a colored woman of whom you may have heard, who has been down to the south nine times and brought up fugitive slaves, and who interested and amused us much with some stories of her adventures.” Could the unnamed woman have been Harriet Tubman? We do not know, but it is possible. Tubman did speak at various gatherings in the north during the Civil War. Because there was a bounty on her head, she was often introduced under a pseudonym. We are attempting to find out if Tubman was in the greater NYC area in early 1862. If any of our followers are Tubman scholars and can help us out, please leave a comment, here or on Facebook, or send us a message as we would love to be able to confirm a Lavinia Goodell – Harriet Tubman meeting.

In 1867, when Lavinia’s employment as a school teacher ended abruptly, Rev. Jocelyn apparently put in a good word for her with the Harper brothers. Lavinia had written to Rev. Jocelyn in May 1867 discussing the salary she would need “if I could obtain the position of which you speak” and asking him to “please do the best you can for me.” On July 18, 1867, Lavinia wrote him again:

I am greatly indebted to you for your efforts in my behalf. Do you know whether Mr. Fletcher Harper has returned from Europe? I think I told you that he gave me some encouragement that he might have an opening for me in the Fall. Perhaps if you should mention knowing me to him, sometime when you chance to see him, and it comes convenient, it might be of value to me. You can judge best of that.

Lavinia did in fact get a job at the newly minted Harper’s Bazar magazine and worked there from the fall of 1867 until she moved to Wisconsin in 1871. In addition to assisting Lavinia in her job search, on more than one occasion, Rev. Jocelyn gave William Goodell advice on where to publish his writings.

Simeon Jocelyn died in 1878.  The New York Times described the memorial service held for him at his Williamsburgh church:

Coming in 1844 because he could not speak freely in other churches without giving offense, he again and again occupied the pulpit in days when to be anti-slavery was to excite the bitter hate of a large part of the community. He assisted in buying the church and giving it to the colored members who now worship in it regularly…. [A]ll spoke in glowing terms of the unwavering fidelity, courage, wisdom, and generosity of the dead man in his work for the black race. The remarks of the speakers were listened to with close attention, and some of the passages appealed to them so powerfully that they provoked them to warm expressions of approval

Sources consulted: Lavinia Goodell’s letters to Maria Frost (January 18, 1862; 1865 letter fragment;)  Lavinia Goodell’s letters to Simeon Jocelyn (May 18, 1867; July 18, 1867); Mary Emma Jocelyn diary, 1851-52 (University of Pennsylvania libraries, Ms. Codex 1770); 1851 Williamsburgh village directory; New York Times (September 22, 1879); https://blogs.loc.gov/headlinesandheroes/2020/06/harriet-tubman-conductor-on-the-underground-railroad/; http://www.yaleslavery.org/Abolitionists/jocelyn.htm.

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