“It is very proper for a man of fourscore to be so honored.”

Josiah Cady to Lavinia Goodell, July 14, 1854

Deacon Josiah Cady, Lavinia Goodell’s maternal grandfather, was born in Killingly, Connecticut in 1774. He lived in Providence, Rhode Island much of his adult life. An 1830 census listed his occupation as shoemaker.

Josiah played a prominent role in the Goodell family. William Goodell, Lavinia’s father, was boarding with Josiah in Providence in 1812 when he met – and became smitten with – Josiah’s daughter Clarissa. William and Clarissa married in 1823. William Goodell’s father died when William was young, and Josiah Cady became a surrogate father to him. Scores of letters between the two men survive, and they always referred to each other as “Father” and “Son.”

Sometime before 1850, Josiah had moved to Lebanon, Connecticut and was living with his daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Peleg Thomas, and their children, one of whom was Lavinia’s close confidante, Sarah Thomas. Although there is scant record of communication passing between Lavinia and Josiah, a letter from 1854 recently came to light that indicates a true affection existed between fifteen year old Lavinia and her seventy-nine year old grandfather.

Josiah Cady’s letter to Lavinia Goodell July, 1854

Lavinia had apparently written to her grandfather to report the happy news that her older sister Maria Frost had given birth to her first son, William Goodell Frost. on July 2, 1854. Josiah responded, “I received your kind letter yesterday morning and thank you for it. And rejoice with you all in the interesting news from Maria.” He then made a joke about the infant’s name:

The name will be Wm. Goodell undoubtedly. It’s no time to have Frosts. This hot weather. Let that be for the next when the season will be more suitable. I shall be anxious to know how Maria gets along with my great grandson. It is surely very proper for a man of fourscore to be so honored.

Lavinia must have invited Josiah to visit the Goodells in New York since Josiah responded:

You say I must come and see you now you are housekeeping. Well there is no want of inclination to see you. I think my pleasure in the society of my children rather increase,… I shall not leave home till after the 1st of Aug…. After that I may go to Hartford and possibly to N.Y. if we should all be in the enjoyment of usual health.

Josiah closed by telling Lavinia, “We have had 2 or 3 wet days but think this morn the storm is over although tis foggy. The storms affect my nerves unfavorably. Perhaps my letter is less sprightly in consequence.”

Read the entire letter here.

Josiah was not able to make his planned August journey. He died on July 26 and is buried in Goshen Cemetery in Lebanon, Connecticut along with many members of the Thomas family.

Josiah Cady’s grave, Lebanon, Connecticut

Sources consulted: Josiah Cady’s letter to Lavinia Goodell (July 14, 1854); In Memoriam: William Goodell (Guilbert & Winchell, Printers, Chicago, Illinois 1879); 1830 United States census.

Leave a Reply