Westin Arthur Goodspeed, 1852 – 1926 (Monograph 33)

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Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

By Dr. William “Bill” Ambrose

Westin Arthur Goodspeed, 1852 – 1926, recognized a need for preserving and sharing general histories of various states, regions, and counties.  He was a successful Nashville, Tennessee publisher seeking more material that would be of interest to a broad audience to put into print and sell.  He developed a basic template for his series of state, region, and county histories that included general history, geography, settlement patterns, early political development, economics, and other topics including Native American history.  He set a new standard in describing the Native American local history by avoiding common previously used derogatory references, instead, just sticking with the facts of their occupation of the land and the civilizations they created.  Remember that many writers in and out of government prior to Goodspeed used references to “uncivilized savages” commonly, for example.  Goodspeed’s telling of the Native American footprint on these lands gave their story a “matter of fact” feel, a genuineness, a human purposefulness that transformed the “Indian Epic” into a human story.  Effectively, he elevated the Native American occupational history by “uncivilized savages” to a human story of various forms of “civilization,” albeit, very different from that and prior times perceptions of “American civil society.”  His fresh approach to the telling of Native American history was not, unfortunately, popular or re-engaged until the 1940’s.

Significantly for Trail of Tears researchers, he included biographies of many important residents of the focus areas of his histories.  Most of the people Lt. Cannon, leader of the first Cherokee Detachment through this region, bought food and supplies from were leaders in agriculture and business across his route in Missouri, and would have been subjects of his biographies.  Very few of those leaders were still alive after the 50-year time-lapse between the 1837 – 1839 Trail of Tears and Goodspeed’s writing and publishing of his histories, but their families were still in the area, many occupying the same farm or business.  Goodspeed’s era biographies, however, often include biographical information about those subjects’ ancestors who did do business with Cannon selling him essential supplies for his detachment of Cherokees on what became known as the Trail of Tears.

Goodspeed’s histories became very popular during his lifetime, and have continued that popularity with contemporary readers and researchers as they provide a snapshot of Missouri and several other states’ social, cultural, commercial, educational, and religious conditions in the 1880’s.  His volumes have been reprinted many times, many being available on the internet today. 

Goodspeed’s Pulaski County, Missouri, history is included in his “History of Laclede, Camden, Dallas, Webster. Wright, Texas. Pulaski, Phelps and Dent Counties, Missouri.”  It was published by THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO. in 1889.  As mentioned, Goodspeed many times included Native American historical information in his books, which he did for Pulaski County in this volume.  As the Missouri Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association is in pursuit of the congressional goals of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail across Missouri, it is surely important to recognize the significant Native American history and story of Missouri. 

To showcase that, the following is a long, direct quote under the heading of “Settlement and Pioneer History” in the Pulaski County section of the volume previously mentioned above.  Several of the individuals named here are early Pulaski County inhabitants and descendants of subjects of other vignettes in this website’s monograph series.   Enjoy! 

CWD: Insert Monograph 35

If you have any suggestions, comments, or critiques please email Chris.Dunn@GeoVelo.com

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