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Mason County Memories

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History Column David K Petersen

The Life of B.J. Goodsell

According to his obituary, Bennet J Goodsell came to Michigan as an 8-year-old boy in 1839 from Germany and settled into a farm in Hillsdale County Michigan with his parents. He learned the Tinner's trade and when the Civil war came about it brought him into service as an employee of the Locomotive works in Nashville Tennessee. He was in Pentwater Michigan on the day that Lee Surrendered preparing to open the first general and hardware store north of Muskegon.

His brother Major George Goodsell who had taken part in the surrender of Lee at Appomattox joined B.J. Goodsell as his partner. When B.J. moved north to Ludington George remained in Pentwater for a time. George opened a Foundry and machine shop there in 1867 and in 1875 moved to Ludington, naming his business the Ludington Iron Works. George Goodsell like his brother was active in the political, business and social affairs of the City and also served a term as Mayor of Ludington.

B.J. Goodsell was engaged in the hardware and machinery business for about 40 years in the city of Ludington. He was described as the Pre-eminent pioneer businessman of the city. He came to Ludington to build and open his first Hardware business here in 1873 at the corner of Charles (Rath) and Ludington Avenue at a time when the population of the city was only 2000. This effort also gave him the distinction of building the second brick building in the city.

He would have in a sense grown up with the city. The 1882 History of Mason, Manistee, and Oceana Counties states that he was prominent in the effort to remove the County seat from Lincoln to the City of Ludington. That was an important issue and the success of that effort certainly helped him find a place in his newly adopted home.

In 1873 he was involved in the Ludington Boiler works. Being in such an important businesses of the time and having had contact with so many of the county's residents it's easy to see how a person such as B.J. Goodsell could have won the seat of Mayor four times between 1876 and 1902 when he was last elected to that post.

After the Great fire of June 11th 1881 when over 100 buildings representing most of the business section of Ludington was leveled, and the merchants having no place to set up shop he jumped into the fray. He erected a 6,800 square foot building at a cost of 16,000.00 on the block of Ludington and Charles St that had a 70-foot L on James St as well. This was the second largest block of buildings in the city.

The fire was devastating but the storefronts of B.J. Goodsell, Cartier and Filer, George Stray, Goodenough's shoe store, W.C. Starr and the Fayette-Johnson Block were spared from the fire.

He was also involved in many other aspects of city government, serving as supervisor and first chief engineer of the fire department in 1873. In 1886 he was elected Judge of the Probate by 98 votes and defeated Judge James B McMahon, the Republican candidate. It's really a testament to the person that he was able to win over an incumbent Republican Judge in a Republican county where that party had a 700 vote majority over the Democrats. Going to show that a competent, popular person of good character could run a campaign for public office and win without switching parties to gain an advantage.

Goodsell served as second ward commissioner for 17 years and held a seat on the board of education, was a director on the Epworth League Railway in 1895, and was involved heavily in the building and growth of the City of Ludington in it's early years. At the time of his death it was noted that he had outlived most of his contemporaries and all but the most distant of his relatives. His wife had passed away the year before and only one daughter Mrs. George Ackersville survived him.

His obituary goes on to say, " A faithful and unwavering friend, the deceased seemed void of that other quality said to abide in such minds, a good hater. Hate had no place in his mind he was forgiving and generous. Few men who have been of the present generation in this city or county have possessed the quiet energy and persistent vigor that have been wrapped up in the life that has just passed from our sight."

If you have any photos or stories you would like to share with our readers please feel free to contact me at 757-3240 or davep@blackcreekpress.com

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