Margaret A. Gould

Margaret A. Gould | 1848-1904 …

image for margaret a. gould by doodleduncanMargaret A. Gould holds a special place in my heart.  At the age of 21 she journeyed from her small New England town to start a new adventure in California.  I don’t know if she made the journey by the Overland Route, or if she travelled by sea around Cape Horn.  Either way, I can imagine the excitement she must have felt seeing so many new places, the fear she had to overcome during such a dangerous journey, and the hope she held in journeying to a new land of opportunity.  Did she know she would stay in California forever, or did she plan to return to Vermont as her older brother had done?

I would have loved to have known Margaret.  Strong, smart, independent, and full of goodwill. These traits still run deep three and four generations later.

The Early Years | Cabot, Vermont

Margaret Gould grew up in the small New England town, Cabot, Vermont.  Her father, Daniel, and mother Betsa Smith, moved from Brookfield, Vermont to Cabot in 1836, after the birth of their eldest son.  I’m not sure why they settled on Cabot. Was the move a result of  search for heartier farmland and open space to raise their growing family, or was a more concerted effort by civic-minded families to populate new regions?

After living in Cabot for several years, Daniel and Betsa had four more children.  Margaret was the youngest of the five, and the family seemed to enjoy a respected status within the community.

The Gould’s also seemed to take in others in need.  In the 1850’s Amanda Gould (born about 1836) and James Gould (born in 1827) lived with the family.  Perhaps they were a niece and nephew. But who they were, and whatever happened to them, I’m not sure.    James was listed as a farmer in the 1850 census.

By 1860 Amanda and James were no longer living with this Gould family, but it appears these Goulds took in another neighbor, 19-year old Zera Colburn, a farm laborer.  Zera lived next door with Sarah (possibly a mother), and Mary (likely a sister) in 1850.  Both Sarah and Mary died before the 1850 census according to the Colburn genealogy.  It seems this Zera (Zerah Frank Colburn) was the cousin of the mathematical child prodigy, Zerah Colburn, also of Cabot.  Also living with them in 1860 was Elener Hopkins, domestic help. She married Henry Atkins a year later.

Tragedy Strikes

Despite the Gould’s seemingly good fortune, tragedy first struck the family in 1863 when they learned their eldest son, David, had died in California, perhaps in a mining accident.  He and brother George, the second oldest, had become miners near Sutter Creek in 1860.  A year later, when Margaret had just turned 16, her mother died of breast cancer.

A New Direction

Formation of International Organization of Good Templars in Cabot, Vermont. 9 Sept 1864.

With David gone, and George still in California, the family in Cabot became more involved in the temperance movement.  In 1864, the family was active in Cabot’s formation of the International Organization of Good Templars.

Formation of Cabot, Vt. I.O. of G.T. - 9 Sept. 1864
Formation of Cabot, Vt. I.O. of G.T. – 9 Sept. 1864 |

[Note who is listed as officers: Margaret’s brother William. D. Gould, future sister-in-law Olive Stone, and sister Lavina Gould. Margaret may have been too young to hold and office, but would certainly be part of this movement.]

Heading West

George returned from California in 1867.  Whether George returned to fight alongside his father in the Union Army during Civil War, I don’t know.  But with mother Betsa gone, and fresh tales of California from George, the Gould family seemed ready for its next adventure.

In 1870, Margaret’s sister, Lavina, married a Civil War soldier named George Paine in Cabot.  The two set out to California later that year, presumably with Margaret.  There is no record of Margaret, Lavina, or her husband George in the 1870 census records, but it would make sense that Margaret would head out West.  By this time, her widowed father was living with her brother George, and his family.  Her other living brother, Will D. Gould, was attending law school in Michigan.

What prompted this Western migration? Was it from the urging of George? Or perhaps it was the opportunity to settle in a new land, maybe as part of the Homestead Act.  Did the propaganda of mild weather and the promise of better farming influence their decision?  Or was it a calling to help spread the Temperance Movement?

Hopefully one day we will uncover their reasons, but for now all we know is four out of the five of the Daniel and Betsa’s children lived the remainder of their lives in California, with only George remaining in Cabot.

Building a New Life

Whether they came by the newly formed transcontinental railroad, or by ship, Lavina and Margaret settled into Susanville and Johnstone in Lassen County.  Margaret became a school teacher in Susanville, California.  In January of 1872, her father, Daniel, joined them for a short time.  He had journeyed cross-country with her brother Will, and parted ways with him in San Francisco.  Will went south to make his mark in Los Angeles, and Daniel visited Lavina and Margaret, staying long enough to register to vote in Johnstonville in October of 1872.  It’s unclear how long he stayed, but by the 1880 census, Daniel had returned to Cabot, and was living with his son, George.

Growing up, Margaret and her family belonged to the Congregational church, and it only made sense for her to attend services at the church in Susanville.  A Scotsman, name Andrew Cunningham Duncan was the pastor.  The  two fell in love and married in 1874.  By all accounts she was a noble woman, and a steadfast partner with Andrew.

“She was a noble woman and the home thus established was beautiful in the love and sympathy that sanctified it. These were sweet and blessed, and ‘in death they were not long divided.’ The two were co-laborers in every worthy enterprise.”  – Willsie Martin

Raising a Family

Maggie and AC, as they were called, had their first child in Susanville, Susan Lavina Duncan.  Presumably Susie was named for the place her parents met, and the sister who brought them to this place.  Sadly, she died of diphtheria in Soquel, California before she turned 3 years old. Susie is buried with another family in the Soquel Cemetery in Soquel, California.  A year later, in 1878, Maggie gave birth to her second child, named Will, perhaps named in honor of own brother, Will D. Gould.

Over the next 30 years AC relocated to several different parishes in Sacramento, Amador, Lassen, Mendocino, and Santa Cruz Counties.  The life of a pastor had the family moving approximately every two or three years.  Margaret’s sister Lavina eventually moved to Los Angeles, living near their brother, Will.   Margaret stayed quite active in the temperance movement in Northern California, seemingly making a positive impact wherever she lived.

Declining Health

Margaret’s health started failing her in her mid-thirties, and she often took trips to visit her brother in Southern California in the hopes that the change in climate would help her recover, sometimes staying months at a time.  I often wonder if young Will went with her on these visits, or if he stayed back with AC.

Maggie was a valued member of the community, despite her extended illnesses.  She taught Sunday school, was part of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), and was an organizer of the “Young Missionaries” in Hayward, CA.

Oakland Tribune  21 Mar 1885, Sat |

The impact of Maggie on the Hayward community was evident. In 1885, upon learning she and AC would be transferred to a new assignment, the W.C.T.U published this resolution in the Oakland Tribune.

In 1904, at the age of 55, Maggie died in Willits from a hemorrhage of the lungs.  Her son, Will, was 26 years old and a medical student at the time.  The loss of Margaret took a big toll on AC.  He retired from ministry life later that year, and died two years later in his home in Alameda, California. I have not determined where Margaret is buried.  Mendocino County and the State of California do not have a record of her death certificate, and I’ve not been able to find any record of her at the cemeteries in Willits.


Ukiah Dispatch Democrat | Willits News 12 Aug 1904 part 1

Ukiah Dispatch Democrat Willits News | 12 Aug 1904 part 2

Ukiah Dispatch Democrat Willits News 12 Aug 1904 |

Many Unanswered Questions…

Newspaper articles and online publications tell the story of the little we really know of Margaret Gould Duncan.

I would have liked to have seen her picture.  Would I see my own children in her face?

I would have liked to learn more about who she was.  Was she a school teacher before she moved to California, as was her maternal grandfather in Cabot?  What were her dreams for her life in California? Did her middle initial “A” stand for Abbott, Betsa’s mother’s maiden name?  Or was she named for Amanda, a relative who was 15 years older and lived with them around the time she was born?

What about the family’s interest in the Temperance Movement that began in 1864?  Was this interest somehow as a result of David’s death in 1863 or a reaction to behavior witnessed in the “Wild West”?

Sadly, we know of nothing of Margaret’s that has survived to help tell more of her story…yet.  If you have any information on Margaret Gould of Cabot, Vermont, please share in the comments box.  We would love to hear from you.

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