Godshall Family

1625 - 1996

The Godshall family origins are in Germany. There are various spellings of the original version of the name Godshall. For several generations, it was spelled Godshalk but even earlier versions can be found spelled Gottshalk or Gottschalk. As with many names going back to colonial times, the different spellings were used interchangeably since spelling, even of names, could be very fluid. The origins of the name can be traced back to patriarch Gottschalk Theunissen (or Thonis). His son, Jacob, adopted his father's first name as his family name which was not uncommon. Gottschalk means "God Servant" in Middle High German.

Gottschalk Theunissen, born in 1625, was originally from München-Gladbach, Duchy of Jülich but settled in Goch, Ducy of Cleves which was in the Lower Rhine of Germany. He married a woman named Lehntger Henrichs. In 1666, their son Jacob was born but was not baptised until April 7, 1686 when he was 20 years old. They likely had other children who are unknown at this time.

On February 20, 1689, Jacob married Aeltien Hermans in Goch. They had five children:

  1. Godschalk (making his name Godshalk Gottschalk, with various spellings, b. 1693)
  2. Herman (b. 1698)
  3. John
  4. Ann
  5. Magdalene

It's believed all the children were born prior to the family's immigration. Ann married a man named Peter Küster and Magdalene married Peter Nash.

In 1701 or 1702, the family immigrated to Germantown, Pennsylvania where Jacob was ordained as a preacher for the Mennonite congregation on October 8, 1702. At this time, the only other Mennonite preacher in Germantown was the famous William Rittenhouse, who founded the first paper mill in the colonies and whose family name is immortalized with the Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia (named after William’s descendant, David Rittenhouse). When William died in 1707, Jacob served as the sole Mennonite minister in Germantown until 1708 when others were ordained and at the request of the congregation, Jacob then assumed the title of first bishop of the Mennonite Church in America. As bishop, he conducted the first baptisms and communions in America.

When a new settlement called Skippack was established in 1712, the family moved to a farm in the new area. Here, Jacob died in May 1763 at the ripe old age of 97.

Despite the amount of information known on Jacob, not much is known about his son, Herman. He was born in 1698, died in 1795 when he was 97 years old, the same age as his father when he died, and is buried in Doylestown Mennonite Cemetery. His wife Agnes Johnson was born in 1700 and died when she was only 46. Their son, John Johnson Godshalk was born on November 8, 1737 in Towamencin Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. On August 15, 1762, he married a woman named Christina Hendricks who was born in 1741, also in Towamencin Township. They had one known child together named John Hendricks Godshalk. It was common for children to use their mother’s maiden name as their middle name as we can see with these two generations.

By 1790, John Johnson had moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He died there, in Doylestown, on July 15, 1814 at the age of 77. His wife Christina had died on September 30, 1801 when she was 60.

John Hendricks Godshalk was born in New Britain Township on March 28, 1775, only one year before the Declaration of Independence. He spent his entire life here, probably working as a farmer, as most Mennonites did.

He married a woman named Barbara Kratz in 1798 and they produced nine children:

  1. Christiann (pronounced Christy-Anne, b. August 13, 1799)
  2. Enos (b. 1802)
  3. Samuel (b. 1804)
  4. Anna (b. September 14, 1806)
  5. Mary (b. August 15, 1807)
  6. Frances (b. January 3, 1809)
  7. Abraham (b. April 27, 1811)
  8. Margaret (b. 1814)
  9. Barbara (b. 1816).

Enos died when he was only 28, before he married and therefore had no children. Samuel also never married, though he lived to be 54 and so had plenty of time to marry and have children. It is unknown why he never did.

John Hendricks died on September 25, 1858 and is buried in Doylestown Mennonite Cemetery with his wife Barbara who died September 19, 1850.

Their son, Abraham Kratz Godshalk was born April 27, 1811 in New Britain Township. On February 23, 1834, he married Mary Boyer Reiff (b. December 12, 1811 in Pennsylvania) at Tohickon Union Church in Bucks County. They had nine children together:

  1. Oliver Reiff (b. February 8, 1835)
  2. Daniel Reiff (b. November 1837)
  3. John (b. abt. 1838)
  4. Abraham Reiff (b. abt. 1841)
  5. Angeline Reiff (b 1843)
  6. Jacob Reiff (b. January 2, 1846)
  7. Sarah Ann (b. August 23, 1848)
  8. Enos (b. January 1850)
  9. William Henry (b. May 6, 1853)

In 1850, Abraham was a 39 year old farmer in New Britain Township, living next to his father and with all nine of his children still living at home. By 1857, he had been farming for at least 16 years and during that time had seen his farm increase from 49 acres with only one horse and four cattle to 60 seeded acres with three horses and seven cattle. However, sometime between 1857 and 1860, he decided to move to the Fairmount area of Philadelphia and become first a grocer and then salesman. He died not long after on September 12, 1865. He is buried in Doylestown Mennonite Cemetery. His wife died 35 years later on October 26, 1900.

Abraham had died somewhat prematurely at the age of 54 when his two youngest sons, William Henry and Enos, were only 12 and 15 respectively. After his death, his wife Mary lived with their daughter Angeline, who had married her second cousin John S. Kratz and settled back in New Britain Township, Bucks County. In 1870, William can be found living with neighbors of Angeline's, a family by the name of Barndt. He was probably apprenticing with John Barndt, a wheelwright, since William is also listed as a wheelwright. Another boarder by the name of Jonas Hange was living there and working as a carriage builder, the occupation William would take up later in life.

Abraham's older sons, Daniel and John, converted to Methodism during the Third Great Awakening, despite a long ancestry with the Mennonites. It seems they had an influence on the younger, more impressionable brothers because Enos and William both converted to Methodists too. Brothers Abraham (Jr.) and Jacob joined the Civil War so it's possible they also left the Mennonite religion. Mennonites are committed to nonviolence and therefore serving in the war was in direct conflict with their beliefs, despite the fact that Mennonites were strongly anti-slavery and probably morally supported the abolitionist cause of the Union. Abraham (Jr.) enlisted on August 22, 1862 but was "mustered out" or discharged on April 26, 1863, three days before he died "from effects of service in the army". His regiment (15th, Pennsylvania Cavalry) was not involved in a battle during that time so he probably died from disease. More soldiers died during the Civil War of disease than during battle. Jacob also died from effects of service in the army, more specifically of pneumonia on April 2, 1864 when he was only eighteen years old. He served in the 106 Pennsylvania Infantry, Company C as a Private. They were both buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but in 1950 the cemetery was removed for housing. The interments were moved to Mount Peace Cemetery and Lawnview Cemetery.

Daniel had been a clerk in his early twenties, perhaps at the grocery store his father worked at because later he was a grocer as well and even later, a druggist. Jacob, before serving in the army, had worked as a clerk at the same grocery store as Daniel on 1525 Germantown Ave and they also lived together at 411 Jefferson Street. Oliver started out as a grocer too but later became a conductor before finally working in real estate, owning a business with Jacob E. Schiedt called Godshalk & Schiedt which had two locations (one in Philadelphia and one in Germantown). Oliver sadly suffered the same fate as his father, dying prematurely at only 43 years old. He left behind a wife and three children. John was a slate roofer and Enos a carpenter.

With William, we finally see the last conversion of the spelling Godshall, though his brothers seemingly continued to use Godshalk. William was born May 6, 1853 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As an adult he became a carriage builder and owned his own carriage business. He married a woman named Idella Williams in 1876 and they had five children:

  1. Viola G. (b. July 1877)
  2. Carrie M. (b. April 1881)
  3. Chester Harold (August 3, 1883)
  4. Irene L. (b. 1885)
  5. Leon Williams (b. January 13, 1889).

Irene, nicknamed Rena, died when she was only about a year old. Viola married Roland Lynch and Leon married Amelia Hatcher. Carrie married Richard Chapman but not until she was 28, at which point she discovered she was probably unable to have children since the couple wound up not having any. Of course, her husband may have been the infertile one but in history, it was often blamed on the woman.

William and his family moved house frequently but stayed in the area around Germantown and Chestnut Hill. They first settled into 4830 Germantown Ave but by 1880, had moved to 385 Bambrey Street. Within two years they again moved to 5019 Adams Street while William’s carriage shop, named the Germantown Carriage Works, was located at 44 Rittenhouse Street. Within only another two years, they were living at 33 Maplewood Ave where they stayed for a little bit longer, until about 1891, when they found themselves at the crossroads of Highland Ave and Germantown Ave, where William also had moved his shop. In 1900, they yet again moved to 24 W Gravers Lane and within ten years they’d moved only just down the road to their final destination, 210 Gravers Lane (East or West unknown). By this time, William’s business was at 8444 Germantown Ave and renamed William H Godshall Inc. His Vice President was George Sauerwein but by 1915 he had left William’s company and moved on to Charles E Hopkins Company. Sadly, all of these addresses either no longer exist or have had more modern buildings replace them.

In 1900, the house on 24 West Gravers Lane was rented but by 1910 and through to 1920, they owned the home on 210 Gravers Lane. Around this same period, the rise of the automobile (particularly the Ford Model T in 1908) and decline of horse drawn carriages had a negative impact on William’s business and in 1915, he petitioned for decree of dissolution. William carried on as a carriage painter after the failure of his carriage shop.

At the age of 69, William died on December 19, 1922 in Chestnut Hill and is buried in Ivy Hill Cemetery with his wife and daughter Rena. Idella had died the same year, only one month prior on November 20th. Their daughter Rena was originally buried in Northwood Cemetery but in 1942, two years after the death of her parents, she was removed and reburied with them in Ivy Hill Cemetery.

Chester Harold Godshall was born August 3, 1883 in Philadelphia and seems to have gone by his second name, Harold, so we will refer to him as such here. He attended Bucknell University where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and later was involved in the construction of many bridges in Montgomery County. He also worked as a secretary for his father’s carriage shop until it went out of business in 1915. It had been William’s desire for Harold to take over the business but sadly, the automobile was the death of that dream.

While William had probably been muttering with bitterness over the growing popularity of the automobile, his son Harold was dating his future bride, Emma Sarah Fallows, whose family were somewhat controversially car enthusiasts, which must have rankled William.

Harold and Emma married on November 11, 1913 at Grace Lutheran Church in Wyndmoor. Harold was obviously close with his brother, Leon, for he served as Harold’s best man at the wedding. Emma’s maid of honor was a Miss Florence Sretd of Bucks County and one of her bridesmaids was her cousin, Pearl Aiman. After the ceremony a reception of 300 people was held at Emma’s parent’s home on East Willow Grove Ave. The couple left immediately for their honeymoon in the south and when returned, resided at 227 East Burham Street.

Harold and Emma had only two children together:

  1. Chester Harold Godshall Jr. (b. February 24, 1916 in Mount Airy)
  2. William H. (b. abt. 1924)

Harold was a director in the Wyndmoor Building and Loan Association in 1944. His father-in-law, Harry Fallows, was also a director and Harry’s brother-in-law was the President. Harold and Emma were on good terms with her parents and sometimes spent the summer at their home or vacationing with them in Atlantic City or Lake Hapetcong, NJ.

Emma had been a successful elementary school teacher and assistant principal before her marriage but by the time she was in her thirties, right around the time of Prohibition, she had become a full time alcoholic and sold off her her belongings for “gin money”. Harold was also an alcoholic but what was called a “weekend alcoholic”. Presumably, he and Emma continued to drink through the Prohibition which took place between 1920 and 1933. Emma still managed to be involved in the community though, by substitute teaching, acting as treasurer for the parent-teacher association, and becoming a representative for the Wyndmoor Service Organization, which sent goods and news to soldiers overseas during WWII. She was also politically active, hosting several Republican meetings and serving as the secretary for the Springfield-Whitemarsh League of Women Voters as well as the corresponding secretary and later president for the Eastern Montgomery County Council of Republican Women. But by 1940, her alcoholism may have been so bad that all financial matters were kept from her (she did not know her husband’s or son’s income), possibly so she wouldn’t spend too much money on alcohol. This may have been why she wound up selling her personal belongings for “gin money” despite her husband having a good, secure job throughout the depression. Her positions in community and political organizations were mostly volunteer work and didn’t provide her with any income.

On Tuesday, October 26, 1943, at the age of 60, Harold was involved in a serious car accident which nearly killed him while driving from his home in Wyndmoor, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania to work at the Norristown Court House. There were no other cars involved but somehow he lost control of his car while on Wissahickon Ave (now Northwestern Ave) near where it met Germantown Ave and hit several posts by the side of the road before slamming into a stone wall which launched him from the car through the windshield. Fortunately, the accident had caused the car horn to persistently sound, which attracted the attention of the sisters of a nearby Convent, Mount Saint Joseph's (now Sisters of Saint Joseph in Philadelphia) on Germantown Ave. The sisters called the Whitemarsh Country Club (now Whitemarsh Valley Country Club), which was located on the opposite side of Wissahickon Ave, and they sent over two men, Harold Lawton and Charles Fleisher, who rushed him to the Chestnut Hill Hospital. He had punctured a lung, broke several ribs, and was in critical condition at the time the Ambler Gazette reported the accident two days later. Fortunately, he recovered and lived for another ten years.

Harold died November 27, 1953 at the age of 70. Emma died a year later on December 18, 1954 when she was 66.

Chester Harold Jr. was nicknamed "Buddy" when he was growing up and the name stuck, for he was always known as "Bud" even later in life. He graduated from Springfield Township High School on June 14, 1935 and much like his father, went on to Bucknell University for Electrical Engineering. Later in life, he graduated from Temple University with an Associates Degree in Technology.

On March 22, 1941, he enlisted in the military when he was 25 years old, though in his service he did not see any action. Four years later, he married Julia Lee Fries on July 4, 1945 in Grace Lutheran Church in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania.

Bud and Julia had four children:

  1. Judith Rayme (b. May 23, 1949)
  2. Removed for privacy
  3. Removed for privacy
  4. Removed for privacy

Tragically, Judith was born severely mentally disabled but Julia refused to put her into a care home until Bruce began mimicking her movements. Fearful that Judith's behavior and mannerisms would negatively influence Bruce's development, Julia finally conceded to enlisting Judith into the care of others. It was thanks to Bud’s mother Emma and her family ties to prominent members of the community that helped get Judith into an excellent care home. But it broke Julia’s heart to give Judith up and after a few attempts, she could no longer bear to visit her in the care home.

When he was 80 years old, Bud died in Doylestown, Pennsylvania on September 26, 1996. His ashes were scattered on his favorite camping ground. Only a few months later, on December 10, his wife Julia followed him. Her ashes are residing in the home of her daughter.

© Robin Bauer 2010-2013


Godshall Photos and Documents

Old Mennonite Church in Germantown, Philadelphia, where Jacob Gottschalk served as minister and first Mennonite bishop in America.

William Henry Godshall

William Henry Godshall’s wife, Idella Williams

Chester Harold Godshall Sr.

Chester Harold Godshall with a woman who might be one of his sisters.

Chester Harold Godshall and Emma Sarah Fallows outside Emma’s parent’s house.

Image of one of the many bridges Chester Harold Godshall Sr. engineered in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Emma Sarah Godshall (nee Fallows) with her son, Chester Harold Godshall Jr.

Chester Harold Godshall Jr.

Chester Harold Godshall Jr. in his army uniform.

Chester Harold Godshall Jr. and Julia Lee Fries