Friday, July 24, 2009

William Goates, Our Pioneer Ancestor

It is a long-standing joke in the Goates family that no one would ever think of naming one of their male children "William" to avoid the obvious references to "Billy Goat" that would surely arise. However, the first progenitor to join the Mormons was indeed named "William." To compound the seeming blunder, the surname "Goates" was originally rendered "Goats" and was not changed apparently until the family emigrated from England.

On July 24th, 2009, we gathered at the Ranch (most of us) for a quick picture as we were honoring our ancestors with our own family reunion. We are descendants of solid stock on the Goates side.
William Goates, Sr., was born according to his own handwritten statement, on 11 May 1817, at Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, England. He was the sixth of ten children born to his parents, James and Anne Goats, Wimpole.

William's father, James Goats, was christened at Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, England, on 2 February 1783 and died on 26 June 1843/44. James Goats was a professional landscape gardener by trade. William's mother, Anne Dockery [Docura], was born at Bassingbourne, Cambridgeshire, England, on 3 February 1785, and died on 4 August 1859.

William spent most of his boyhood days working with his father. The beauties of nature especially appealed to him while yet a small boy. He loved trees and fruits, as well as shrubs and flowers. Under the able tutorship of his father, he became expert in their care and cultivation.

His father worked on the estate of Lord Hardwicke at Wimpole, where the Wimpole Hall Mansion is located. The enormous grounds of the mansion covered some 300 acres of lawn, shrubs, and flowers. Since William was later to become one of the chief landscape gardeners of this estate, its present state is interesting.

Wimpole Hall Mansion was begun in 1632, by Sir Thomas Chicheley. Sir Thomas, however, was a firm Royalist, and his house and estate were sequestered by Cromwell during the English Civil War. Sir Thomas regained possession later, but was crippled financially in doing so. After the Restoration, he became Charles II's "Master of the King's Ordnance," and was knighted in 1670.

Later, Sir Thomas was buried at the Wimple Mansion. Sir Thomas sold the estate to Sir John Cutler in 1686, whose daughter married Lord Radnor. In 1693, they inherited the mansion and its 11,000 acres. Radnor spent an enormous sum of money altering and enlarging the house, and planted elm avenues which are such a feature of the whole grand setting.

Eventually, in 1710, Lord Radnor sold the Wimpole mansion to the Duke of Newcastle. This owner's occupancy was very short. He died the following year after falling from a horse. The estate was inherited by his daughter Henrietta, who married Edward Lord Harley, in 1713. It was this Lord Harley who subsequently became the second Earl of Oxford. The Oxford family owned much property in London, and Wimpole Street in London was subsequently named after Wimpole Hall.

Lord Oxford expanded the estate even further, but he was no businessman. By 1740, he was obliged to sell the house and the estate. He had an incredible collection of art and a vast collection of books and manuscripts that went to the British Museum. The estate was purchase by the first Earl of Hardwicke, the Lord Chancellor. It remained in his family for 150 years. The collection at Wimpole which was later set up by the Hardwickes carefully preserved a library which was quite typical of that earlier period.

Lord Chancellor Hardwicke further enlarged the house, but his son, the second Earl, made several internal alterations, including the domed Yellow Drawing Room, the Book Room, a large sunken bath, a great dome over the main staircase, and a new staircase at the west end of the house. Nineteenth Century additions to the house included huge east and west wings, and also a porch over the front entrance.

In 1843, young Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed at Wimpole, and a ball was given in their honor. The two-mile avenue with elm trees was named after her, as was also the drive on the Cambridge Road leading to the mansion.

The Hardwickes continued their long tenure until 1897, when the fifth Earl sold Wimpole to Lord Clifton, also known as Viscount Clifton, the name coming from Irish royalty. Clifton had two sons, and the younger, Victor was wounded during World War I. He invited his wounded comrades to convalesce at Wimpole, among them the only son of England's famed Poet-Laureate Rudyard Kipling.

While visiting her wounded brother, Kipling's only daughter, Elsie Kipling, met George Bainbridge. They fell in love, married, and she persuaded her husband to purchase the estate. George reportedly died on the estate, when he contracted influenza in opposition to his doctor's orders not to go out on the estate to hunt birds.

Elsie Kipling Bainbridge, later known as Lady Bainbridge, was the next owner of the Wimpole Hall Mansion. She was a millionairess even before she collected on the full royalties from her famous father's poetry and writings. At age 60, she was required to go to America to retrieve the fortune from her father's estate. She demolished the two wings, retaining the main structure, and sold off thousands of acres surrounding the estate, reducing it to the 300 acres that remains.

What happens next is a sad story. The estate was conscripted by the American forces for use as a base to launch an invasion force across the English Channel when World War II broke out. The mansion was used as a base hospital. When the war ended, Lady Bainbridge grew embittered and sued the Americans to have the estate restored to its original condition, thus adding to her unpopularity in Wimpole and the neighboring town of Orwell. Eventually, she donated it to the National Trust before her death.

She was a bitter old woman by the time my father, mother and I approached the front door of the mansion in February 1969, following my mission in the North British Mission. She still displayed her violent dislike for Americans, and was indignant at the violation of her privacy when she opened the door to us. She commanded us to leave the premises at once, and watched our retreat through her binoculars until the American strangers were out of sight. That unwelcome greeting, however, did not deter us from visiting the graveyard on the estate where we located the headstones of some distant progenitors before we departed. When we later met some of our local cousins who still remained in Wimpole and we told them of our approach to Lady Bainbridge and her rebuff, they were visibly shaken that we would be so audacious. Her reputation as a curmudgeon was well entrenched in local lore.

It is believed that William Goates' conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints probably happened as a result of a street meeting in Wimpole where he likely encountered missionaries for the first time. He was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church in England in December 1840, by Elder William Pierce. On the same day, he was ordained an elder and sent on a mission to Cambridge to preach.

He established the first branch of the Church in Cambridge, under the direction of the Bedford Conference president, over which he was appointed to preside. Through his earnest labors and untiring efforts, Cambridgeshire afterwards became a conference. William no doubt found his most important convert living there, Susan Larkin, whom he later married on 7 June 1844, then baptized her a member of the Church in July 1844. They had eight children, the youngest of which was my great-grandfather, George Hyrum Goates, born 12 May 1863, in Lehi, Utah.

At the time of his death on 23 October 1895, William Goates' posterity numbered 408.

My grandfather, Lesley Goates, was the ninth of fourteen children.


  1. Hi Cousin!! William Goates is my 3rd Gr Grandfather. We come thru the Wing line.

  2. Another cousin just read this amazing story! I, too, am a descendant of William Goates and I come through the Wing line. Thanks for writing this up. It is well-written and very interesting.

  3. Always nice to hear from the cousins - welcome aboard, take off your shoes, settle in and stay awhile. . .

  4. Hello David.
    I too, am a distant cousin and found your brief bio on William Goates very interesting.
    William had a brother, Edward. Whereas William emigrated from Wimpole, Cambridge to Utah, Edward emigrated to Newstead, Victoria, Australia. My family line descends directly from there. Edward came out here to Australia in around 1852, during the gold rush. I was wondering if you or any members of the extended family may have any broader information re William and his siblings, prior to their separate journeys?
    Brett Coates,
    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

    1. Hi Brett,
      I am from the William Goates clan- still living in Utah. I do not delve into the genealogy much but stumbled across your post. I am fascinated to see you spell your last name Coates (many of who's name I have known over the years). I do wonder if, similar to the spelling changing from Goats to Goates upon American landing, the Australian landing resulted in Coates. This would lead me to think other Coates in the may be Goats cousins...

      Jonathan Goates
      SLC, Utah