A Goffigon Anecdote.

by Jim McLoughlin © 1996, 2003

The Goffigons and the Revolution

The Revolutionary War was a no-win proposition for at least one branch of the Goffigon family. Laban and Abel Goffigon were sons of Elizabeth Willett and Thomas Goffigon. At the outbreak of the war Laban became a bar pilot in the Virginia navy. While sailing in the West Indies his ship was captured by a larger and faster British man of war and he was held prisoner in Bermuda until 1783 when hostilities ended.

Meanwhile, Abel Goffigon had made his way to British West Florida where he began to homestead in Mandeville on Lake Ponchartrain across from New Orleans. British West Florida was settled largely by Tory sympathizers and was one of only two colonies to remain loyal to England during the revolution. In 1779 a force of American, French and Spanish raiders overwhelmed the small British water-borne detachment protecting the area and captured British West Florida. Thus, while brother Laban languished in jail in Bermuda, a prisoner of the British, Abel now found himself a captive of the Americans. The American leader of the victorious expedition, Captain William Pickles, acted quickly to prevent punitive and larcenous raids by revenge-bent opportunists in New Orleans. He arranged for a quick surrender and the speedy transformation of the former Tories into happy citizens of the new republic. Among the British settlers signing the surrender agreement was Abel Goffigon.

"We whose names or Marks are hereunto set and subscribed being settlers and Inhabitants on Lake Ponchartrain between Bayou LaCombe and River Tanchipaho, do hereby acknowledge ourselves to be natives as well as true and faithful subjects to the United Independent States of North America.

    And whereas on the tenth day of last month, William Pickles, Esq., Captain in the Navy of the said States, did arrive in this Lake and make prize of the English owned sloop West Florida who kept possession of the lake for near two years before; and the said William Pickles, Esq., did on the twenty-first of the same month land some of his People and take possession of this settlement and gave us all the protection against Indians and others that his force would admit of; and suffered us to remain on our possessions till further orders, We therefore consider ourselves belonging to the said States and are willing to remain here and enjoy our property and privileges under the said United States. October 16, 1779."

Paul Pigg
James Farris
Daniel Tuttle
Abel Goffigon
Mathew Mc Cullough

When the war ended Laban returned to Virginia and settled in Norfolk where he was appointed Keeper of the Cape Charles lighthouse by President George Washington. Abel died on his farm sometime before 1794, having spent his remaining days, not as a citizen of the new United States, but as a subject of the King of Spain. Spain laid claim to the former British West Florida and did not cede the area to the U.S. until 1810.

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