Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Sad Demise of the Marriage of Joseph Goodwin and Sarah Miller

Im still keeping up with my challenge of a page a week and this week I continue with the Goodwin family.  Todays page actually turned into 6 pages in my quest to tell the story of Joseph and Sarah.

Joseph Goodwin, youngest son of William Henry and Jane Goodwin, married Sarah Miller, daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth Miller in Drury on January 31st 1900. It appears that the marriage was not a happy one from very early on.
The first we hear of the troubles comes via a court case in July 1913 where Sarah is suing Joseph for maintenance.
The article reads as follows :
WHY SHE LEFT HOME. An application by Sarah Goodwin for an order of maintenance against her husband, Joseph Goodwin, was opposed by the husband. The complainant said that she had been working as a cook, but was prevented by a nervous breakdown from working further, and she wanted maintenance for hereelf and her adopted child. In cross-examination by Mr Mowlem (for defendant), she admitted that she had left her husband and had been working in Auckland, Ngaruawahia, Hamilton, and Rotorua. When she was with her husband they lived in two rooms, up the creek from Ngaruawahia, and she shifted to Ngaruawahia and started a boardinghouee because she wanted to get clothes for herself.  '"Haven't you forgotten, to mention Taumarunui among your little expeditions asked counsel. “The complainant thought that that had nothing to do with the case, but counsel persisted, and she replied that what happened at Taumarunui between her and a man named Francis was a matter for the Supreme Court, not for the present proceedings. Asked if her husband had not several times offered her a home, the witness replied that she wished the Court could see the home he gave her. "I'll tell you the sort of home I went into when I was married. I went into a two-roomed house up the creek from Ngaruawahia. There was not even a mattress for mc to sleep on, and I had to stuff one with fern for myself. There wasn't even a chair to sit on —two bare rooms—and because I thought such a lot of him I put up with it, and lived with him for six  years. Then it was impossible for me to live with him any longer, the way I was  tortured by his family. I don’t blame him;' I blamee his family." Counsel suggested that the wife's trips I caused the trouble. In answer to him, she admitted that her husband had offered to make her a home at Rotorua, or Pnukekohe, or near Ngaruawahia, but she was doubtful of the sort of home. Mr Mowlem submitted that the husband was the person who was sinned against, and that it would he unnecessary for him to call evidence in defenese, .His Worship came to the conclusion that the husband ought to make some provision' for the wife and child, and an order for 7s 6d and 5s per week for the wife and child respectively was made.
The next chapter in this sad tale can be found in a letter to Joseph dated 2nd September 1914
from an Mrs M Coker, who  ran a maternity home in Rangataua which is a small village near Ohakune.

The first letter from Mrs Coker reads as follows:
Rangatuaua 2.9.14
Mr J Goodwin
Dear Sir
You will excuse  me in taking the liberty of writing to you but under the present circumstances I find that I am compelled to do so. Your wife Sarah Goodwin has contracted a debt of 7 pounds, part of confinement fees and will not pay it. She was with me three months . Two months before the baby was born and the month after and I looked after the baby for one month after she went to Wellington and she has treated  me with contempt.Of course I do not know if you are at fault of this debt as your wife told me you were dead so of course I do not know. She is not worthy of being called a woman as she expects to have everything done for her and no money attached to it. We are only working people & cannot afford to keep anyone else's wife for nothing. Hoping you will please answer this letter with as  soon as possible as such a woman requires to be kept up to the mark. Of course if you are not responsible for the debt or child, I shall take proceedings against your wife
I am yours sincerely
M Coker

This may not have come as a surprise to Joseph, as the mention of the “events at Taumaranui” in the preceeding court case have definite relevance here as can be seen in the 2nd letter from Mrs Coker to Joseph.

14th October 1914
Mr Joseph Goodwin
Dear Sir
Yours of the 18th inst. Thanks and was pleased you took my letter in the proper light. I took in all your wife had to say about being a widow and quite believed her as often people are left now. But Dr Nelson of Ohakune told me you were alive, and where you were, but to find out for sure I wrote to the Court at Auckland and this is the result of it. She was with me for a period of three months two before the baby was born and one after the baby was born on the first day of July 1914, and when it was a month old she went to Wellington and is present at the Egmont Private Hotel but she is not much good whereever she is. I have put the matter into the solicitors hands and am just going to show her the way to be straight and honest. She is as full of lies as she can hold and badness along with it. She also went to Ohakune and registered the child as Iris Coker Goodwin which she is committing herself as she is making a false declaration of birth as she did not give the child its own fathers name and made use of ours and yours. I believe she has the little girl age 9 years staying with her sister in law at Pukekohe and it is hoped she will learn a few of the land doings of her mother. Mrs Goodwin had a considerable amount of money when with me and had money wired to her from Hamilton and gave me letters to post to some man there but I cannot think of the name and you are a foolish man to pay to keep another mans kid
I am yours faithfully
Margaret Coker

I can find no evidence that Joseph ever remarried and he died intestate in 1955. His age at death was registered as 81 however according to his birth record he would have in fact been 87.  His estate was claimed by a Cecila Sutcliffe.  I suspect Cecilia was the adopted child of Sarah and Joseph mentioned in both Sarahs maintenance  claim on Joseph in 1913 and also in Margaret Coker’s 2nd letter to Joseph. There is a death registration of a Cecilia Sutcliffe in 1976 which gives her date of birth as 1904 which ties in with the age of the child in Margaret Coker’s letter.
She states in her affidavit that she was the lawful child of Joseph and he had no other children or dependents, and that he was married only once to Cecilia’s lawful mother and to that end Cecilia was made the beneficiary of Josephs estate which at the time of his death was worth approximately 600 pounds.

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