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Mina Keyes Goddard Biography

(Revised 25 Nov 2006.) I was curious who the artist Mina Goddard was, what was her connection to Nantucket, why she was inclined to paint with such respect for historical detail, and how her paintings came to be in a Reading, Vermont attic. I've learned a little about her. She was born in Lexington, Mass. on November 2, 1864. She was the only child of Solomon Keyes Goddard (b. 1832 in West Windsor, Windsor Co., VT, son of Asahel Goddard and Nancy [Keyes] Goddard) and of Melvina Elizabeth (Keyes) Goddard (dau. of Solomon Keyes (b. 1796) and Sophronia [or Sophronea] [Darby] Keyes of Reading VT). Mina's father Solomon and mother Melvina had been married on May 31, 1858 in Reading, Vermont, where there is a Keyes Mountain. (See link to big panorama here showing Keyes Mountain.) The 1867 atlas of Reading shows there were Keyes and Goddard families (including a "M.E. Goddard") as neighbors on the Cavendish Road above South Reading. Mina was somehow related to Mrs. Everett Stephen Locke (nee Goddard) of Lexington MA and "Lexington Farm," Reading VT, which may explain how Mina came to live in Lexington.

I have learned from old records that there was sadness in Mina's life. When she was four, her father died in Lexington MA, leaving a widow, daughter Mina, $300 and a $15 silver watch. The widow became a dressmaker and raised Mina alone. The BPL told me about a reference to Mina as boarding in Lexington MA in 1890 (Ref: Ms. Gardner, BPL Fine Arts Dept). The research department at the Museum of Fine Arts has no record of her as being part of the interesting Boston community of woman artists of the time, but the staff notes that much of this activity was dispersed in studios throughout the city.

Genealogists to this day owe Mina Goddard a debt of gratitude for her work on the 897-page genealogy volume of the 1913 edition of Charles Hudson's "History of Lexington" (Boston: Houghton Mifflin). The preface includes this sentance: "Acknowledgment is also due to Miss Mina K. Goddard for the very painstaking and accurate manner in which she has revised the entire manuscript and corrected the proof." This is consistent with the meticulous attention to detail in her paintings.
During the year this volume was published, Mina became curator-custodian of the Lexington Historical Society's Hancock-Clark House on the Lexington Battle Green. She help this position until her death, unmarried, in 1924, age 60. The Historical Society's current archivist tells me that there is no mention there of any of her paintings.

Her paintings are the only record I have found of her summer days on Nantucket, probably in 1889. A Nantucket friend of mine, reading these notes, adds that the facts of her life are "somewhat sad, though the beauty of her watercolouring suggests that there was light and happiness somewhere in her life." I have two other watercolors of hers--one a sketch of a farm in South Woodstock VT (the adjacent town to Reading) and one of Camel's Hump in the Green Mountains. Any further info would be appreciated.

Steve Ells

[P.S. I had thought the Phillips Library at PEM had found a lead to her artistic career, a promising entry in Chris Pettys' Dictionary of Women Artists: An International Dictionary of Women Artists Born Before 1900  (1982). The entry reads as follows:

"GODDARD, M. L. (Miss) Amer. watercolorist. EXHIB.: South End Free Art exhib., Boston 1893". [REF: info courtesy Janice Chadbourne, Boston Pub. Lib.]

Was this Mina, even though Pettys had recorded a different middle initial (L vs. K)? I wondered if the exhibited painting has been her watercolor, "Steamboat Wharf," which had been stiff-mounted as if for an exhibit. Unfortunately, Ms. Gardner at the BPL later told me that the watercolor of Miss M.L.(sic) Goddard exhibited in 1893 had been titled "Feathers." But it is still is a possibiliy that it was Mina's work in this exhibit.