Family Folklore of Colonel William Goffe

Family folklore is often the most exciting and intriguing in our family history. Did the story arise somewhere along the line, or did it actually happen? No matter which way, it captures the imagination. Grayson Goff, age 11, chose to write about such a story. His father's uncle, who first told her the story, did a great deal of genealogy work before his passing, and he passed the story down to his sons. The story Grayson wrote, in newspaper article form, is from the Goff families of Appalachia – they claim to be of the Colonel William Goffe’s line who sentenced King Charles I to death – and they came to the mountains to hide from the King’s soldiers. This is the story of Colonel Goffe as told by his possible descendant, Grayson Goff.


Sussex, England 1680


Drawing by Grayson Goff 

Drawing by Grayson Goff 

Colonel William Goffe was one of 13 judges, or Regicide, in Sussex, England that signed the death warrant of King Charles I. The King was sentenced to death on 27 January 1649. Three days later, Charles was beheaded on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall, London.

Colonel Goffe was also a member of the High Court of Justice, Parliamentary Army, and appointed one of the major generals under Cromwell. He married Frances Goffe and had one son and three daughters. Col. Goffe had six brothers.

Colonel Goffe and his father-in-law, Gen. Edward Whalley, fled to New England to escape the wrath of King Charles II. Col. Goffe and his father-in-law arrived in Boston on 27 July 1660. From 1660-1664 they wandered about hiding in old mills, cliffs, rocks, and caves in the New Haven, Connecticut area.

In 1664, a minister in Hadley, Massachusetts granted Col. Goffe refuge in his parish until his death in 1679.

Col. William Goffe, the “Angel of Hadley” led the villagers of Hadley that had been worshipping in the chapel to victory against raiding Indians in 1675. The villagers believed that this “strange, old man with long, white beard in ancient garb” was an angel sent by God. He had disappeared from the scene as mysteriously as he appeared.

Very few details of Colonel William Goffe’s life in New England are clear, probably because of his desire not to be captured and executed. One tradition has him living in Hartford, Connecticut under the name T Duffell. Another traditional account has him living and dying in Stow, Massachusetts where his sister lived.

Clearly, Col. William Goffe’s life was a mystery, but it sounds like he wanted to keep it that way. Did his descendants decide to hide out in the mountains like their ancestor to avoid punishment as well? Were they really his descendants? It makes one wonder. An exciting story, Grayson – thanks for sharing!

Do you have an old folk story in your family? Share with us!  

Grayson is a 11 year old home schooled boy.  He likes to play basketball and soccer. Rocket League and Minecraft are his favorite video games.  Grayson swims for Lebanon Swim Club.