Those Goff Reunions

The Goff reunions were part of my childhood. They were held at Springbrook Park north of Guthrie Center, Iowa, which was a WPA project during the Great Depression. We enjoyed all the food and getting to play in the water. The adults enjoyed the food and talking, talking, talking.

Children of Nathan P. and Elizabeth (Norris) Goff: Back: Jane Powell, Emma Barnes, Alfred Goff, Martha Van Arsdol. Front: (inset) Adeline Anderson, John Broderick Goff (father of Milton Sheridan “Sherd” Goff), Mary Simmons, Sarah Clements, Milton Goff. Milton is the oldest, born in 1840, and Martha the youngest, born 20 years later. All born in Indiana.

I only knew a few people there, but my Grandma Leora knew all of them! They were related through her father Sherd Goff’s grandparents, Nathan P. And Elizabeth (Norris) Goff.

Nathan and Elizabeth had 11 children, all born in Indiana. One died as a child and one never married. The family came to Madison County, Iowa, in 1863.

While staying with my folks right before Guy left for Vietnam in July of 1969, we attended a Goff reunion. It was held at the park in Winterset, which is the seat of Madison County. Grandma Leora rode there with us.

As the caretaker of the family photos, letters, and clippings, I learned that one year there was a mini-reunion of Goffs, and that it was held at the Sherd and Laura Goff home in Dexter, which still sits along the highway and directly across from what is now the Dexter Park.

The B.J. Black and Ed Taggart families and Frank Barnes. All cousins. Lucille Black in the picture was chosen as Iowa’s Healthiest Girl at the Iowa State Fair one year. Dexter, Iowa, August 14, 1927. (Ones I recognize in the front row are Dale, Danny, Darlene, and Doris Wilson, with their dad Clabe behind Darlene. Sherd Goff at right with white hair. His wife Laura in is next, then Leora Goff Wilson. The smallest boy is Junior Wilson, who is looking at his cousin Merrill Goff.

Frank Barnes, Clarence Taggart, Wayne Black, Gladys Taggart Root, Lucille Black (Iowa’s Healthiest Girl this year at the Iowa State Fair), Aunt Mary (Goff) Bonine, M.S. Goff and Therma Black sitting.

As I combed through the letters and clippings of the Clabe and Leora Wilson family, working on Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression, I noticed that nearly every summer, one of Leora’s brothers would drive to Dexter from Omaha, pick up his mother (Laura Goff) and whoever else wanted to go to the Goff Reunion at Springbrook Park north of Guthrie Center. In 1931, Doris (about 13) and her cousin Maxine Goff (about 10) went with them. Grandmother took bananas and cut them in half to serve at the potluck. Mostly the kids chose them, and one of them ate so many he got sick. Doris had never tasted a banana before.

It was there that Doris was taken aback when her younger cousin broke the news that Doris’s mother was going to have another baby. In those days, pregnancy was not discussed with children. Doris should have noticed her mother’s growing girth, but she hadn’t.

But Doris and Maxine very much enjoyed visiting at the Goff Reunions when they were adults.

I wish there were a date on this clipping, when the Goff reunion was held in the Winterset Park. Leora Goff Wilson (from Guthrie Center) attended as well as her brother Merl Goff (then living in Minneapolis), her brother Clarence Goff (Omaha). Clarence didn’t marry until 1954 so it was after that. Merl remarried in 1961. I believe he moved to Minneapolis after that, so this could have been during the 1960s.

Clarence Goff was elected president and his great niece, Darlene (Wilson) Scar, was elected secretary and treasurer. Curtis Clements beat out Leora Wilson as the oldest member present.

The History and Genealogy of The Nathan P. Goff Family of Randolph County, West Virginia, Delaware County, Indiana, and Madison County, Iowa. Complied by one of his great grandsons, Colonel Joseph Philip Barnes, 1972.

Are large family reunions part of your memories?



  1. I’ve only been to one large family reunion, on my dad’s side. (After the Victorian era, the families on my mother’s side were quite small.) What I remember about that reunion was that on the way there on the Massachusetts Turnpike, my dad ran out of gas in a torrential rain storm. He left my brother and me in the car and trudged off down the highway for help. The reunion itself wasn’t much better. ‘Nuff said about that!

  2. My father’s family left South Dakota in 1942. There were a couple trips to visit family, but long before I came along. The closest we got to a reunion was my dad and two of his brothers and families at Grandma’s house for Christmas. My first-ever planned family reunion (where I knew almost no one) was in 2019!

  3. Our family reunions are quite haphazard. If we met on a lake fishing and the fish were biting, most of them would come. They are mostly the rugged old west style individualistic personality types.

  4. I so enjoyed reading this! Family reunions are a wonderful thing. You do such a marvelous job of pulling all the little details together, like the information about the bananas! 🙂

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