Early Wagoners

Story by Fred Gahimer


Godfrey Waggoner (deceased)

In the name of God, Amen.

I, Godfrey Waggoner, of Washing County and state of Pensylvania farmer being weak of body but of sound memory and calling to mind the mortality of my body and knowing it is appointed once for all men to die think proper to constitute and ordain this to be my last Will and Testament and first of all I commend my soul to Almighty god that gave it to me and my body to the earth after the manner of Cristian Burial. And as for such Worldly things as the Lord hath been pleased to bless me with I give and bequeath in the following manner. Viz. I give and bequeath unto my well beloved wife Catharine Waggoner the plantation I now live on together with all my household furniture goods and Chattles and all Dues Debts and demands and all and everything in any ways belonging to me to be freely possed [possessed] by her during her natural life or so long as she shall remain my widow. Item it is my will that at my wifes Death or marriage that my plantation be Equaly divided between my sons and all such moveable effects that I am possed [possessed] of it is my will that they be Equally divided between my wife and Daughters and it is my will that if my wife should marry and her husband should die before her and she should come to want that my boys be oblidged to take her and maintain her well as they can afford and that my above mentioned estate be not unessecarily destroyd. I do nominate and appoint my wife Catharine Waggoner and Nicholas Christ and James Frye my Executors of this my Estate and do hereby revoke and disallow all former wills and covenants Constituting and ordaining this and no other to be my last Will and Testament given under my hand and seal this second day of December 1782

Godfrey Waggoner Signd seald and pronounced in presents of us.

Benjamine Frye, Jacob ….., Philip Fryman, Thomas Bape, Catharine Frye.


A scedule of the Will, whereas I have mentioned in my last will that my wife should have my plantation no longer than till she was married if in case she should marry I so hereby revoke that and it is my will that if she should mary that she is to have my plantation untill my live sons shall be of age and then to be divided as before mentioned it is also my will that my wife shall have my grey mare or her first colt.

Witness my hand and seal this twenty eighth day of December 1782. Godfrey (mark) Waggoner (seal) signed and pronounced in presents of Benjamin Frye and Philip Fryman.


Washington County, ss on the 31st day of January 1783.

Before me James Marshel Register for the probate of Wills in and for said County personally came Benjamin Frye and Philip Fryman two of the subscribing witnesses within named and on their Solemn Oaths did depose and say that they were present and saw and heard Godfrey Wagoner the Testator within named sign, seal, publish, pronounce and declare the Within Annexed Instrument in writing as and for his last Will and Testament together with the schedule or Codicil thereto Annexed and that at the time of doing thereof he was of sound and well disposing mind, memory and understanding to the best of their knowledge observation and belief Sworn before James Marshel – Reg. Be it remembered that on the 31st day of January – Anna Domini 1783 the last will and Testament (together with the Codicil thereunto Annexed) of Godfrey Wagoner, late of Washington County deceased was proved in due form of law, and letters Testamentary thereon were granted to Catharine Wagoner, Nicholas Crist and James Frye the Executors therein they being first sworn – well and truly to administer the Estate of the said deceased and to Exhibit a true and perfect Inventory thereof into the Register’s office at Washington and to render a true and just account of their said Administration when legally thereunto required.

Registered this 31st day of January Anno Domini 1783,

James Marshall, Reg.

John Jacob Waggoner (wife unknown) is thought to have been the son of Godfrey, and father of John Waggoner whose family immigrated to Orange Township, Rush County, Indiana from the Cynthiana, Kentucky area. The pattern of migration seems to have been from Germany to Rotterdam, Holland; to Pennsylvania; to North Carolina; to Kentucky; and then to Indiana.

The only two children of John Jacob’s about which anything is known are Jacob and John. Jacob Waggoner was born October 30, 1784. He was buried in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Lawrence County, Indiana. Two of Jacob’s sons were Civil War soldiers. Logan, born in the 1830s, died in a Pest House in Kansas in 1862.


John Waggoner, Sr. was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on March 31, 1776. He married Mary Catherine Ritchey on July 13, 1797 in Bourbon County, Kentucky. Their children were: John, Peter, Polly, Mahala, James, Milton, Wesley, Ariss, and Asburry.

John Waggoner was a Methodist Episcopal circuit rider in Bourbon, Harrison, and Nicholas counties in Kentucky, and in Rush and Shelby counties in Indiana. He performed many marriages in Kentucky, including some of his children. The Nicholas/Harrison County line ran through his property near Cynthiana, Kentucky. There is a Wagoners Chapel Methodist Church and Cemetery 12 miles east of Cynthania on Wagoner Chapel Road. A J. J. Waggoner donated the land for the church.

In the fall of 1826, John and Mary Catherine and their extended family moved to Orange Township, Rush County, Indiana with a large group of relatives. Those included Gilbert Ritchey (Mary Catherine’s father), Matthew and Susan (Ritchey) Busby, John Ritchey and family, Eve and John Ritchey and Adam Ritchey, along with brothers Robert and Gabriel McDuffie and their families.

When they arrived in Orange Township, the whole region was covered with primeval forest and nearly destitute of the appliances of civilization. The nearest cabin was seven miles away, the mill so distant that a trip for meal or grain was quite an undertaking, and little to console the incomer except the abundance of game and the fine fish that wriggled in the clear, unpolluted streams. John, with his sons, had to clear a trail through the dense forest between his newly entered land and St. Omer, a distance of seven miles straight south as the crow flies. John spoke no English.

His eldest son John, Jr. had already married Robert McDuffie’s daughter Nancy in Kentucky the year before, and they had brought their newborn son William A. Waggoner with them in emmigrating to Indiana.

One of the earliest school houses was built in the southwest corner of the Philip Reddenbaugh farm. Having no glass, the windows were made of paper greased with coon oil, to let in some light, but protect from weather. At one such township school in 1829, the teacher, George Winbro, gave his students whiskey on their last day of school. At another such school, an irate parent of a student who had been punished by the teacher the day before marched into the schoolhouse and started shouting at the teacher, causing the students to jump out the windows through the oiled paper.

John and Mary Catherine Waggoner were buried in a small plot on the Reddenbaugh farm near the schoolhouse, John in 1827, and Mary Catherine in 1841. Both the schoolhouse and the small cemetery have long since disappeared into the earth’s bosom.


John Waggoner, Jr. was born in Harrison County, Kentucky on September 15, 1803, the eldest child of John and Mary Catherine Waggoner. He married Nancy McDuffie, daughter of Robert and Rachel (Murlie) McDuffie, in Harrison County on September 20, 1825. Nancy had been born in Harrison County on January 17, 1805.

Their first child, William A., was born two months before they emmigrated to Rush County, Indiana in the fall of 1826 with their parents and other relatives. Their children were: William A., John, Sarah, Ellen, and Aris.

John had very little property, but a great deal of pluck and good common sense made great stock in trade, and a good investment of both made him a comfortable home in what was the “green timber” land. John lived a long and useful life, and was universally respected by all who knew him.

John died in 1881, and Nancy in 1877. They were buried in the Moscow, Indiana cemetery at the inset corner in the northeast part of the cemetery.