Nancy Goins

Nancy Goins

Halifax County, Virginia, USA
Death unknown
Grayson County, Virginia, USA
Burial Baywood, Grayson County, Virginia, USA
Memorial ID 184534441 · View Source
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Not much is known about Nancy Goins/Gowen/Going. We can only speculate at this time. She could very well be one of the two daughters that "free person of color", David Smith Goins/Gowen/Going/Goen (1757-1840) left behind in Virginia in his ambitious trek west into Tennessee in the early 1800's. (The other daughter was most likely Elizabeth "Betsey" Goins (abt. 1785-Unknown) of Wythe County, Virginia.) According to writer, Paul Heinegg in his book, “Free African Americans in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware”, Genealogical Publishing, 2005, chapter called “Gowen/Going Family”, 27th Generation: David Smith Goins was the son of Shadrach Going/Gowen (1737-1805). David Smith Goins was “born about 1754, head of a Halifax County, Virginia household of 2 persons in 1782, and 4 in 1785. He was taxable in Halifax County from 1782 to 1793 and from 1796 to 1806”. Heinegg goes on to say that David Smith Goins was “a planter in the list of 'free Negroes & Mulattoes' living on 'D.C.' (Difficult Creek?) with wife and two daughters over the age of sixteen in 1801…and “may have been the father of John and William Going”. The two daughters mentioned in David Smith Goins' free colored registration papers are described as "Manufacturers"--meaning that they were skilled workers who made goods for sale. Heinegg also says that David Smith Goins “registered in Halifax County on 11 October 1802: ‘aged about forty eight years, six feet and a half inch high, light yellow Colour, inclining to white, straight hair...born free’ [Register of Free Negroes, no.20]”.

In 1806 or 1807, David Smith Goins arrived in Grayson County, Virginia. We know this because he is listed under an 1807 entry in the Grayson County, VA Personal Property Tax Book found at The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia, Reel #139. We also know David Smith Goins also had a son named “David Going, Jr.” from the Wythe County, VA Personal Property tax records of 1818-1820. Heinegg writes that David Smith Goins “was head of a Wythe County [Virginia] household of 8 ‘other free’ in 1810. He was about seventy-six years old on 26 February 1834 when he appeared in Hamilton County, Tennessee court to apply for a pension for his services in the Revolution. He testified that he entered the service in Halifax County, Virginia, moved to Grayson County, Virginia, for three years, then to Wythe County for ten years, then to Grainger County, Tennessee, for fourteen years and lived in Hamilton County for one year”. David Goin's younger brother, "Laban Goen" [Laban Goins (1864-1850)], corroborated his testimony.

In his 1834 pension application, David Goen [Goins] states that he served three tours of duty as a private during the American Revolutionary War. In his last tour he served "under Captain Prigmore in Halifax County, Va. and marched under him (the field officers names this applicant has by old age and loss of memory forgotten) and joined General Washingtons army at Portsmouth where this applicant remained about two months before the surrender of Cornwallis [on 19 Oct 1781]".1

Again, we can only speculate as to why David Smith Goins was presented with the hard choice of leaving his two daughters behind in Virginia as he journeyed forth to Tennessee. It appears by the public record that his two daughters were not left alone in what was then considered the Virginia wilderness. They were surrounded by other Goins men—most likely their brothers, Absalom, Dudley, Joseph, William and David Goins, Jr.2 Nancy Goins first appears by name in the public record as "Nancy Going" as the single head of a household in the 1813 Grayson County, Virginia Personal Property Tax records found at The Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA, Reel #139. In the 1820 US Census for Grayson County, Virginia, "Nancy Gawen" [Nancy Goins] is the head of a household containing three small children, one girl and two boys, all under the age of 14 years old. One of the boys is most certainly her son, Albert Goins [1815-Unknown]. The young girl could possibly be "Polly", the child mentioned in a June 14, 1825 Wythe County, Virginia Court Order Book (Reel #21 at The Library of Virginia) entry that said: "For reason appearing to the court it is Ordered that the Overseers of the Poor--any two of them, do bind out Polly a poor child of Nancy a free woman of colour according to law". The fact that Nancy Goin's sister, Elizabeth gave birth to a child in 1825 in neighboring Wythe County lends credence to the idea that Nancy could have been there to give sisterly support, but somehow ran afoul of the court system there as well. But according to the 1820 through 1860 US Census reports of Grayson and Wythe Counties, neither Nancy Goins or Elizabeth "Betsey" Goins appear to have had a man or husband in their respective households, but appear to have been single mothers.3 Were their partners slaves and not free men? This would explain why these men do not appear in the public record. Again, we do not know. Either way, this may suggest why these two women were left behind by their father. For an ambitious adventurer such as David Smith Goins, the specter of two unwed mothers tagging along behind him in uncharted Tennessee territory in 1820 could have well been his undoing. So, the choice was made. His two daughters were to stay behind in Virginia.

The Goins family members who stayed behind in Grayson County, Virginia all identified as “free colored people”. Some of those who migrated into North Carolina, Tennessee, and then later Kentucky in the early 1800’s found it socially expedient to identify as “white”. Thus, the rise of what is called the “Melungeon” mythology which surrounds the Goins family even today. The “Melungeon” mythology was simply a way for folks to explain the occasional dark child that was produced between a Goins and a white husband or wife. The mythology promoted the concept that Goins family members were a mixture of Portuguese, Native American, white and Jewish ancestry. In other words, anything but African. “That’s why that baby looks so exotic!”, you can imagine them saying. But recent DNA investigations have debunked this myth, and revealed that Goins family members are a mixture of sub-Saharan African and British Isles peoples—something the good people of Grayson County, Virginia have known for years now.

If Nancy Goins is indeed the daughter of David Smith Goins/Gowen/Going/Goen, (and I believe she is) then the Goins family line of Grayson County, Virginia can be traced all the way back to 1635 to a newly freed slave/indentured servant named “Michael Gowen”. If Nancy Goins is not the daughter of David Smith Goins, and she is instead the descendant of the Goins family line that migrated out of Tidewater Virginia, through North Carolina, and then back into Southwest Virginia, (which is possible, but not really) then the family can still be traced back to 1635, because it is just another branch of the same family line. Paul Heinegg has charted the family tree of the Goins/Goings/Gowen family all the way back to one Michael Gowen, who was born in 1635, and lived in York County, Virginia. And that is amazing.

Heinegg says: “Michael1 Gowen, born say 1635, was the ‘negro’ servant of Christopher Stafford who gave him his freedom by his 18 January 1654 York County [Virginia] will after four years of service. Accordingly, Stafford's sister, Anne Barnehouse, discharged ‘Mihill Gowen’ from her service on 25 October 1657, and she gave him his child William, born of her ‘negro Prossa’ [DWO 3:16]. Since nothing further is said of Prossa, she probably remained a slave. If she and Michael had any more children, they too would have been slaves. Perhaps Michael married a free woman - most likely white since most branches of the family were very light skinned. Also, there may not have been any eligible free African American women in York County at that time. He patented ‘30 or 40 acres’ in Merchants Hundred Parish in James City County on 8 February 1668 and died before 11 September 1717 when this land was mentioned again in James City County records.”

Is Nancy Goins actually buried in The Goins Cemetery? Maybe. Maybe not. No one knows for sure. But this is where her people are buried, and that is good enough for me. Nancy Goins last appears in the 1840 US Census, Grayson County, VA, and the "1840 Grayson County, Virginia List of Free Negroes & Mulattoes" found at The Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA.4

--Christopher Walker, October 23, 2017

1. See entire application folder for "David Goen/Goens" at: Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (NARA microfilm publication M804, 2,670 rolls). Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

2. See Grayson County, Virginia Personal Property Tax Book, Reels #139 & #140, the years 1807 & 1809, "David Goin/Going"; and the years 1813, 1834, 1835 & 1839, "Nancy Goins", at The Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA; and the Wythe County, Virginia Personal Property Tax Book, Reel #351, Years 1811-1820, "David Goins, Sr." & "David Goins, Jr.", also at The Library of Virginia.

3. Elizabeth "Betsey" Goins may first appear in the public record as simply "Betsey" in a Dec. 10, 1832 entry in the Wythe County, VA Court Order Book, Page 436, Reel #22, found at The Library of Virginia, in which she was hauled before the court so that they could peruse her registration papers as a free colored person in the county. She next appears as "Elizabeth Gowens" in the 1840 US Census for Wythe County, VA with three young girls in her household. In the 1850 US Census she is known as "Elizabeth Goen" and has moved to neighboring Smyth County, VA. In this census her three daughters are revealed to be "Rebecca Goen", age 25, "Sophronia Goen", age 21, and "Betsey Ann Goen", age 20. Also in the household are two young boys named Charles and Canaro Goen, both aged two, who must be the children of one of her daughters. By the 1860 US Census, Elizabeth "Betsey" Goins lives with her eldest daughter, Rebecca Goins, and Rebecca's five children in Wythe County, VA. She and Rebecca make their living as "Washerwomen". Early life for Elizabeth "Betsey" Goins and her children must have been extremely hard and uncertain. On June 12, 1832 the Wythe County Court ordered that "the Overseers of the Poor of this County or any two of them do bind out Rebecca & Emily Goings free persons of color according to law". Which basically meant that Elizabeth "Betsey" Goins' young children were taken from her, and put to work under the supervision of a person appointed by the court. On Aug. 11, 1840, the same thing happened again, this time with Elizabeth Goins' youngest child, Betsey Ann Goins. "Ordered that the Overseers of the Poor of this County or any two of them do bind 'Betsey Ann Goin' a free girl of colour to William W. Hanson and the Court consider the services of the said 'Betsey Ann Goin' after she arrives at the age of twelve years to be worth the sum of five dollars per annum and it is ordered that the said sum of $5-per annum be paid by the master to the mother of the said girl..." (See Wythe Co., VA Court Order Book, Page 11, Reel 23, also at The Library of Virginia.) It must be noted that Elizabeth "Betsey" Goins consistently maintained that she was born in North Carolina (and not Virginia) in two US Census reports, and gave her birth date as anywhere from 1785 to 1802 in other records.

4. See "1839 & 1840 Grayson County, Virginia List of Free Negroes & Mulattoes" - "Nancy Goins, A Spinster", found in the Documents Room at The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

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  • Created by: Christopher Walker
  • Added: 23 Oct 2017
  • Find A Grave Memorial 184534441
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Nancy Goins (1784–unknown), Find A Grave Memorial no. 184534441, citing Goins Cemetery, Baywood, Grayson County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Christopher Walker (contributor 48377626) .