This is another case of too many questions, and not enough answers. Samuel Goodnight's claim to fame today is that he was the father of Catherine Goodnight, who was married to Jacob Dunham. Catherine and Jacob, of course, are ancestors of President Barack Obama. I wonder what Samuel would have said to us in his last days, looking back on his life? What would he have said were the most important accomplishments in his life?
He was born in Germantown, Pa in 1761, the son of Christian Gutknecht (Americanized to Goodnight when the parents arrived in Philadelphia in 1752) and Mary Magdalena Grunholtz. The Gutknechts were from the Alsace region of France or Germany, depending on the time period, and can be traced back to the village of Ried bel Kerzers, near Bern, Switzerland. It's a German speaking village to this day. Germantown was largely a service oriented area which became swallowed up by Philadelphia, and Christian became a "tobacco preparer" there. Samuel was one of 7 children. We don't know how he got to Montgomery County but one possibility was that he was set up in an apprenticeship there. This was common among families with many children, especially if they didn't own enough farmland to support adult children.
Samuel worked, then, at some sort of trade or business, but we don't know what it was. He married Magdalena Berkheimer about 1785 in Montgomery County. He is found in tax lists for Worcester Township, Montgomery County in 1786 and 1788, and is on the Septennial census there in 1793.
He is noted as having had military service in the Montgomery County Militia from 1785-1786, in the 7th Co of the 6th Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Robert Curry, but perhaps this is incorrect. According to what I've been able to learn, the 6th Battalion disbanded at the end of the Revolutionary War. Lt. Col. Robert Curry was in command from 1775 to at least 1777. So either Samuel served in the Revolutionary War at a very early age, or the facts are wrong concerning his dates of service. DAR says anyone trying to prove this ancestor must prove his service. I didn't find him on the Pa Digital Archives listings, nor did I find him on Fold 3.
By 1810, he and his family had moved to Berkeley, Va. Samuel and Magdalena were each over 45 years of age, but by now they had a full house. There were two males aged 10-15, 2 males 16-25, one female aged 10-15, and one 16-25. The names of five of their children are known: Martha, Samuel, Christopher, Catherine, and Leonard. We may be missing the name of one son, or perhaps there was a boarder in the household. Another problem I have is that I have the birthdate for Samuel Jr. as being 1819. This would be much too late for him to be a child of this couple, although he could be a grandson, perhaps.
The 1820 census shows them in Bath Township, Morgan County, WV but it is unlikely that they moved. Morgan County was formed in 1820 from part of Berkeley County. Of course, this was actually Virginia and not West Virginia during this time period. The 1820 shows one male under the age of 10, one male between the age of 26 and 44, one female between the ages of 26 and 45, and then Samuel and Magdalena, each over the age of 45. This looks like it could be one of their children, plus a spouse and grandson, who are living with them, but that is just a guess. In 1830, the family is still in Morgan, Virginia. It is now composed of Samuel, a free white female 50-59, and a male aged 10-14. The female aged 50-59 may not be Magdalena, or she may simply not have "aged" as much as Samuel did during the 10 years between the censuses.
One other possibility is that I saw one record, undocumented, that said Samuel and Magdalene weren't married until 1819, in Berkley County, Va. I have not seen a source for that. However, because Leonard Berkheimer, Magdalena's father, is found in Worchester Township, Montgomery County at the same time as Samuel, I think the likelihood is that the Montgomery County location and date of 1785 are likely correct. We need to keep looking for those records.
It is believed that Magdalena died about 1830. Samuel then went on, probably with family, to Fayette County, Ohio, where he died about 1833.
I'll keep looking for answers about this couple. I don't know their religion, or his occupation, and I may be missing the name of one child. When was Samuel Jr really born? Was our Samuel in the Revolutionary War? And what would Samuel have thought that his greatest accomplishment was?
The line of descent is:
Samuel Goodnight-Magdalene Berkheimer
Catherine Goodnight-Jacob Dunham
Samuel Goodnight Dunham-Eliza Matilda Reese
Margaret Catherine Dunham-Harvey Homer Aldridge
Cleo Aldridge-Wilbur Beeks
Beeks children, grand children, etc.