Godfrey Lewis Rockefeller

Godfrey Lewis Rockefeller (September 24, 1783 – September 28, 1857), was an American farmer and businessman. He was an early settler of Richford, New York and his personal characteristics and hard life have led him to be called "a most unlikely progenitor of the clan".[1] His son William Rockefeller Sr. was a con artist. He is the grandfather of Standard Oil co-founder John D. Rockefeller.

Godfrey Lewis Rockefeller
BornSeptember 24, 1783
Albany, New York, U.S.
DiedSeptember 28, 1857(1857-09-28) (aged 74)
Richford, New York, U.S.
OccupationFarmer, plantation owner and businessman
Lucy Avery
(m. 1806)
Children10 (including William Rockefeller Sr.)
Parent(s)William Rockefeller
Christina Rockefeller
RelativesSee Rockefeller family

Early life and marriageEdit

Godfrey Rockefeller was born September 24, 1783, in Albany, New York. His parents were William and Christina Rockefeller. William and Christina were third cousins; William's grandfather was Johann Peter Rockefeller II, a miller who migrated from Rockenfeld, Rhineland, Germany, to Philadelphia where he was a plantation owner and landholder in Somerville, New Jersey, and Amwell, New Jersey. Christina's grandfather was Johann Peter's cousin, Diell Rockefeller, who immigrated to Germantown, New York. In 1806, Godfrey married former schoolteacher, Lucy Avery (February 11, 1786 – April 6, 1867), in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, against opposition from her parents. Lucy's Avery ancestors were Puritans who had emigrated from Devon, England, to Salem, Massachusetts, in about 1630.[2]

Godfrey was said to be outmatched by his wife, who was taller, more confident, and better educated than Godfrey. Godfrey himself was said to have a "stunted, impoverished look and a hangdog air of perpetual defeat". He was also said to be jovial and good-natured, but his propensity to drink upset his wife. The pair would have ten children.[3]


Godfrey and Lucy first lived in Great Barrington, where Godfrey became sheriff,[4] and worked as a farmer and businessman with little success. He and his young family moved from Great Barrington to Granger, New York, and then to Ancram, New York, and then to Livingston, New York.[3] Between 1832 and 1834, the family moved by Conestoga wagon west. Various reasons for this move have been given. One account is that Godfrey and several neighbors lost their land in a title dispute. Another is that Godfrey traded his farm for a farm in Tioga County, a trade which Godfrey would have been ill-advised to make as the farm at his final destination had thin acidic soil that was poor for farming. Another is that the family intended to move to Michigan, but Lucy preferred the New England culture of upstate New York. Whatever the reason, they spent two weeks along the Albany-Catskill turnpike with nine of their ten children (all excepting William) travelling to their new home, a sparsely populated wilderness near Richford, New York. A family legend is that from the top of the hill on his new, 60-acre property, Godfrey said that "This is as close as we shall ever get to Michigan", and therefore named the spot, Michigan Hill.[5] At Michigan Hill, Lucy built a stone fence with two field-hands, and the family worked a farm. Their son, William, arrived in Richford in about 1835.[6]

Death and familyEdit

Godfrey Lewis Rockefeller died on September 28, 1857, and Lucy died April 6, 1867, both in Richford, New York.[7] Godfrey and Lucy had 10 children:

  • Melinda Rockefeller (September 12, 1807[8] – May 2, 1880), married to William Harris
  • Olymphia Rockefeller (April 20, 1809[8] – July 21, 1893),
  • William Avery "Bill" Rockefeller Sr. (November 13, 1810 – May 11, 1906). His son John Davison Rockefeller Sr. founded the Standard Oil Company in 1870.
  • Norman Rockefeller (October 27, 1812[8] – January 20, 1905)
  • Sally Ann Rockefeller (September 28, 1814[8] – March 3, 1884)
  • Jacob S. Rockefeller (July 14, 1816[8] – August 14, 1892)
  • Mary Rockefeller (February 18, 1819[8] – July 15, 1819)
  • Miles Avery Rockefeller (July 27, 1821[8] – ?)
  • Mary Miranda Rockefeller (June 17, 1824[8] – November 12, 1879)
  • Egbert Rockefeller (February 8, 1827[8] – September 20, 1878).


  1. ^ Chernow 2007, p3
  2. ^ Chernow 2007, p3-4
  3. ^ a b Chernow 2007, p4
  4. ^ Flynn 1933, p13
  5. ^ Chernow 2007, p4-5
  6. ^ Chernow 2007, p6
  7. ^ Nevins 1940, p31
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sweet 1894, p604-605