Troy's Genealogue

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Our Roots in Coulterville & Greeley Hill

by Troy B. Goss


Mariposa, 1914 Coulterville is a quaint little gold mining town located in Mariposa County at the junction of Highways 49 and 132. In 1850, George W. COULTER set up a tent store to supply the miners on Maxwell Creek and other creeks in the area. The miners called the settlement "Banderita" ("Little Flag") for the flag that flew over COULTER's store, but in 1853, the town post office was established and the township was officially dubbed "Maxwell Creek." The next year the town was renamed "Coulterville."

Coulterville residents, John CONVERSE, Andrew GOSS, Daniel WAGNER, Jonathan MENTZER, and others also served as directors of the Coulterville and Yosemite Turnpike Company, which was established in 1859 to build the first stagecoash road into the Yosemite Valley. Under the company presidency of Dr. John T. MCLEAN, the Turnpike Company first extended its road to Crane Flat and then successfully won exclusive rights to build and maintain a toll road from the north into the Yosemite Valley floor. Beginning in 1870 the road was extended to the Merced River and during its survey the Merced Grove of 50 giant Sequoias were discovered and the road diverted to capitalize on this wonder. The turnpike was completed on 17 June 1874, the first to convey wheeled vehicles to the Yosemite Floor.

However, only a month after at the completion of the Coulterville Turnpike, the Big Oak Flat and Yosemite Turnpike Company completed their road and five other roads competing for Yosemite tourism deminished the significance of the Coulterville Turnpike.

Thanks to "One Hundred Years in Yosemite," Carl P. RUSSELL, 1947


John CONVERSE Among the early settlers were some of my grandparents. The first to arrive was John CONVERSE. John, the firstborn of six children, was born in Pennsylvania on 14 October 1829. His family moved to Rockdale, Crawford County, Pennsylvania and later on to Green Township, Iowa County, Iowa in 1842. John's father died in 1847 and in 1850, John followed the Gold Rush to California, leaving the family homestead and care of his mother, Elizabeth (VAN WERMER) CONVERSE to his younger brother, William.

After arriving in Mariposa in 1851, John first mined along the Merced River at Horseshoe Bend. He and a partner, "Poker" JOHNSON, later homesteaded in an area overlooking Coulterville and was among the seven original settlers of the area which included the GREELEY brothers, Orchard Cook and Burnham T., the DUDLEYs, SMITHs, and OLNEYs. The name of "Greeley Hill" was attached to the area where the GREELEY brothers set up their lumber mill. This area is also known as "Red Cloud."

Susan M. POOLE In 1859, Susan Maria POOLE moved from Fall River, Bristol County, Massachusetts with her family: her father, (Charles) POOLE; sister, Caroline (POOLE) OLNEY, and younger half-brother, Jacob POOLE. The POOLEs crossed the Isthmus of Panama and caught a boat into San Francisco. The night the POOLEs arrived, October 19, 1859, Coulterville caught fire and burned to the ground. The following year, John and Susan married and set about having 13 children, all born at the CONVERSE Ranch on Greeley Hill.


Andrew GOSS Our GOSS family starts with Andrew GOSS, born 1840 in Sweden. Andrew followed the 1849 California Gold Rush to the United States by way of Sardinia when he was about 12 years old, probably jumping ship in San Francisco around 1853-1854. Upon arrival he "Americanized" his name to Andrew GOSS (the original name is unknown but suspected to be Anders GUSTAFSON).

Elizabeth (GOODWIN) GOSS After settling in Coulterville, Andrew worked as a saddler, farrier, and gold miner in Coulterville. During the Civil War he served in the Coulterville Rifleman Third Brigade. After the Civil War he was naturalized as a U.S. citizen on 4 September 1865 and married a daughter of Scottish immigrants named Elizabeth GOODWIN from Bear Gap, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. She was probably as young as 15 at the time; he, about 27. They soon had their first of six sons, James Albert on 7 May 1868.

During the 1870's, four more sons were born to the GOSS family: Charles A., William A., Benjamin Roland, and John Charles. On 10 September 1874, Andrew filed an application for a land claim for 133.29 acres in the southeast quarter of Coulterville. The homestead was finalized in 1883.

The 1880's, however, were mixed with fortune and misfortune: John Charles died in 1882 at the age of 3, but Jesse N. was born in November 1883. Soon thereafter, about 1886, Andrew and Elizabeth's approximate 19-year marriage ended and Andrew later married Theresa (FERRETTI) GARBARINO, an Italian immigrant who was nearly half his age, around 1899. She was also previously married and already had four daughters, Pauline, May, Louisa, and Rosa GARBARINO. Within a year of their marriage they lived in Big Oak Flat, Tuolumne County where Andrew worked as a farmer and Theresa's father, Frank FERRETTI, boarded with them and helped as a farm hand.

After Andrew and Elizabeth's divorce, Elizabeth and son Jesse N. moved to Tuolumne, Tuolumne County where she was a hotel keeper.

The 1890's brought more misfortune to the GOSS family: sons William and Charles died, and following this, four grandchildren were born, two of whom died soon after.

Andrew's original homestead, the GOSS Ranch, was 160 acres, although an unfenced mining claim runs through it leaving about 138 acres. After Andrew's and Elizabeth's divorce, they split the estate. Andrew's half eventually became his son's, James Albert's, who later turned it over to his youngest daughter Eloise. When Eloise moved to Oakdale, she sold it to her niece Billy.

Elizabeth ended up defaulting on her taxes and the estate was bought out by a local cattle rancher, Tim CARLON. Later he sold the property to the Merced Gold Mining Company from whom granddaughter, Ila GOSS-BARRETT bought it. Ila later sold the property to her daughter Billy so that now much of the original homestead remains in Billy's hands.

Andrew sold his home in Coulterville in 1904 after he let it go delinquent on his taxes. It was at this time that he moved to Stockton, San Joaquin County.

Andrew is remembered to have loved music. His sons played a wide range of musical instruments which attracted the attention of many townfolk who came to hear the GOSS boys play. In addition to being a saddler, gold miner, and rifleman, Andrew was also a teamster, constable of Coulterville, an apprentice Mason, and is said to have been a director of the construction of the Yosemite-Coulterville pike, the first major road into Yosemite.

On the evening of 8 December, 1912, Andrew is said to have been sitting at the diner table in his home in Stockton with his eldest son, James Albert. He took out his pocket watch, placed it on the table and slumped over from a heart attack. He died the following morning at 8:00 a.m., 9 December, 1912, survived by his wife, Theresa; ex-wife and mother of his sons, Elizabeth; three sons, James Sr., Benjamin, and Jesse; and six grandchildren, Stella, William, Zelda, Ila, Eloise "Bussie", and Lloyd. Andrew is buried at the Coulterville Cemetery.


Coulterville's GOODWIN line originated around Kilbirnie and Ayrshire in Strathclyde, Scotland, and is probably part of the small GOODWIN clan that is centered around Ayr. The name GOODWIN traces back to pre-Norman conquest days as the Old English GODEWYN which means "Good friend."

Our GOODWIN clan descends from two brothers, James GOODWIN (born 1829) and John GOODWIN (born c. 1830). James married Jane (or Jean) MCNEIL of Ayrshire in 1849 at the St. Thomas Methodist Church in Kilbirnie, Strathclyde, Scotland. They had one son who died in infancy there and then set sail for America. A second son died at sea on the journey and the family settled around Bear Gap, Cumberland County and Minersville, Schuykill Co., Pennsylvania where two daugthers were born.

During the California Gold Rush, James followed the wave of gold prospectors to California. He went ahead of his family and set up a store along the Kern River which runs through Sequoia National Park in Tulare County. He stayed there until the store was destroyed during an Indian massacre and then moved to the area of Coulterville, Mariposa County. Once settled, he sent for his family around 1857. They went by way of boat from New York to the Isthmus of Panama, crossed and then took another boat to San Francisco.

Once the family was reunited, four more children were born, probably around Coulterville near the Banderita Mine. James and his brother, John Sr. first worked at the Banderita Mine which was established in 1856. In 1861 the GOODWIN family moved down into Coulterville and John Sr. eventually had a ranch at Dutch Creek in the Red Cloud area (present day Greeley Hill).

Just years after settling in Coulterville, James GOODWIN died at the age of 34 on 2 January 1864 leaving his wife and six children. He is buried at the Coulterville Cemetery. Given the early age of his death and his earlier profession of coal mining, it is likely that James GOODWIN died of "black lung" disease.

Following James' death, his widow filed for a homestead declaration on Friday, 24 February 1865. On 26 September 1866, Jane remarried to Peter JOHNSON, either himself a Belgian immigrant or son of Belgian immigrants. She had three more sons by him: John A., Daniel N., and Peter N. JOHNSON II.

After Peter's death, Jane remarried for a third time in 1888. This time to James OPIE, an English immigrant about 30 years her junior! Jane died two years later in 1890 at about the age of 58 and is buried at the Coulterville Cemetery.

John GOODWIN, Sr. applied for citizenship 21 July 1860 in Schuykill County, Pennsylvania. A month later he was living with his brother James in Coulterville working as a quartz miner, his family probably still waiting back in Pennsylvania. In September 1865 he received his citizenship certificate in Mariposa County, California.

John GOODWIN, Sr. probably worked at the Banderita Mine first. He later set up a ranch at Dutch Creek in the Red Cloud area. In the early 1870's he moved to Bear Valley, 17 miles south of Coulterville. There his son John Maurice, Jr. married Margaret M. BIGLER / BUERKBUECHLER.

By the late 1870's, John Sr. and family were on the move again, searching for more fortunes in gold. They moved to Bodie, Mono County and eventually to Jerome, Yavapai County, Arizona. He died in 1896 near Peck's Lake in the Upper Verde valley in Yavapai County.


The GREELEY clan originated with Stephen GREELEY (born 1772 in Newcastle, Lincoln County, Maine) and his wife, Hannah NELSON. The couple had as many as 11 children, among them were Burnham T. GREELEY (b. 1806) and Orchard Cook GREELEY (b. 1806) who both followed the Gold Rush to California. They were among the seven families that homesteaded on the hill overlooking Coulterville. The area was commonly called "Red Cloud" but finally the name "Greeley Hill" won out.