Conversation on history

It is not very often a piece of real estate in the old village of Chester comes on the market. They’re usually passed down from one generation to the next. When one does come along, history comes with it. This one particular acre-and-a-half has known at least four generations of the family who nurtured the land. It carries a love story of two sweethearts who lived in the cabin that sits on the top of the hill, at the corner of Percival and Gill streets. A cabin that became the symbol of their love, known as Goodruff, the home place of Hugh and Louise Goodwyn. Their son, Bill Goodwyn, has decided to sell the family’s home place. His reasoning is that he would like to see a new owner before he leaves this world.  He wants to make friends with a good neighbor and most of all, see a family enjoy Goodruff as much as he and his family has.  “It has always been family here,” said Goodwyn. “While I am still living, I would love to pass it on and have a good neighbor to enjoy it as much as we have.” Goodwyn and his wife Barbara have a home beside the property.

Hugh and Louise Goodwyn moved into their dream cabin during the spring of 1933.  The Goodwyns  were married in 1931 and always dreamed of building a cabin in the woods they loved so much. They both loved the outdoors and the site at the end of Gill Street was perfect.  It was convenient to the Ruffin and Goodwyn homes and they both had memories of playing in the creek with their brothers and sisters. The lot was full of dogwoods, wild flowers, owls and all sorts of wildlife.  Streets did not exist and the only way in and out was a wagon track up the hill from Gill Street.

The population of Chester was around 200 and there were nearly 40 houses in the community. Most of the land in the community was still in the Snead estate.  Joseph H. Snead and his partner, Charles Stebbins,  developed and drew the plans for the town in 1857.  Snead’s family inherited the estate, lived mostly in the South and only sold parcels when they needed money.  

Hugh Goodwyn’s father owned the general merchandise and grocery store, R. S. Goodwyn General Merchandise and Grocery, on Old Hundred Road next to old Doc Organ’s drug store as seen from Harrowgate Road. More recent generations knew the pharmacy as Magee’s Drug Store. The Goodwyns also owned the framed dwelling next to the store, which still exists on Old Hundred Road.  The store and house had around two acres of land where they had their barn and outhouses, raised chickens and pigs, as well as owning a cow and two mules.

Louise’s family were the Ruffins and many may remember the Ruffin farm that is the Village Green today. That was Louise’s Uncle Jimmy’s farm and she spent most of her childhood there.  Her family eventually settled on Richmond Street.  Today, the second house on the left up from the corner of Gill and Richmond Street is well-cared for and loved by its current owners.  

The Goodwyns had to purchase two lots at the top of the hill, a requirement by the estate holders, but the lot they really wanted was the one with the creek that sat by the road in front of the Snead property. It was owned by Charles Besecker and it was mortgaged by Chesterfield County Bank and could not be sold.  It was the height of the depression.  The Goodwyns eventually were able to buy the lot from the bank and over the years additional lots were purchased from the Snead estate, which completed their dream home place that was surrounded by three acres of woodland, dogwoods and wildlife.

The cabin was constructed with 1x5 lumber and then covered with building paper before the half logs were nailed on. The logs were chinked with regular mortar. The interior of the cabin was lathed with wooden lathes and plastered. The first winter, the fireplace was the only source of heat. A heating system was added the following spring. Their water supply came from the Chester Water supply system owned by O. K. Marquis, which came from the old Narrow Gauge Railroad tank on Werth Street located on the railway shop yards.  

The cabin was built in a manner in which it could be added on to at a later date and by the time their second child arrived in 1941, construction had been completed for a new wing.  Landon Perdue drew up the plans for the addition.  He also gave the Goodwyns a color rendering of their cabin with the addition that continues to hang above the original fireplace mantel in the main room. The addition would add two bedrooms, a small hall and a recreation room with a fireplace in a full basement under the new wing.

In 1956, another addition was added that included a complete remodel of the cabin, a new kitchen, dining room, rear entrance, large family room with fireplace, two bedrooms and full bath on the second floor.  Charles Besecker was the builder of the addition. Additional upgrades over the years include an electrical upgrade, adding an electric heat pump and central air.

Over the years many hours were spent enhancing their property. With permission to dig bulbs on the property where an old house had been torn down, thousands of jonquils and tulips were transplanted. Forsythia, azaleas  and more bulbs came from Louise’s grandparent’s home on Harrowgate Road.  A clay tennis court was added for recreation and there were plenty of rabbits to hunt in the woods.  The family grew up with ducks in the creek, ponies in a stable, friends on the tennis court and during big snow storms, sleigh rides and bonfires.

Hugh Goodwyn describe Goodruff best in 1981, when he presented a volume of history with Louise over 50 years to his wife, on the couple’s golden wedding anniversary, he wrote, “Spring of 1981 surpasses them all at “Goodruff.” Azaleas in full bloom have never been more beautiful, many varieties in brilliant colors; whites, pinks, salmon, reds and lavender, blending in with the white and pink dogwoods, bridal wreath, spiraea and gorgeous tulips of all colors. The fresh green leaves on the tall oaks with the green freshly mown lawn frames a scene that only God can create. To these beautiful grounds the chirping squirrels and the singing and whistling of the early birds of spring added much to the magnificent scene of nature. It is all a climax and realization of the hopes and dreams Louise and Hugh had for “Goodruff” fifty years ago. It has resulted from years of hard work, sacrifice, patience and above all the inspiration from love and never ending faith.”

William Hugh Goodwyn died in 1996 and Louise Ruffin Goodwyn died in 1998.  

A Chester investor and Besecker admired the Goodwyn’s log cabin so much that shortly after theirs was constructed, they built several on Lafoon Street as well as the two on Percival Street.

Goodruff is located at 12309 Percival St. and is listed for sale with Wells Realty in Chester.


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