Goodykoontz, Colin Brummitt, 1885-1958

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1885
Death 1958

Biographical notes:

Colin Brummitt Goodykoontz (1885-1958), was an accomplished scholar and a respected authority on the subject of the American West with numerous publications to his credit. He lived most of his life in Boulder, Colorado, arriving first in 1908 and thereafter pursuing an undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado. He completed his Master's degree at University of California, Berkeley and his Doctorate at Harvard. He was hired in 1921 by the University of Colorado as a professor of history. He embarked on a distinguished career that would span more than thirty years and contributed positively to the Boulder community beyond the confines of the college. Dr. Goodykoontz devoted considerable service to the First Congregational Church of Boulder and, because much of his academic study dealt with historical aspects of American Christianity, he accepted an appointment as the church's historian. He also worked extensively with church finances, constitution, selection of ministers, and numerous other concerns involving either committee or office appointment. Granted Professor Emeritus in June of 1954 upon his official retirement, Dr. Goodykoontz continued with part-time teaching, continued working with the First Congregational Church, and remained in Boulder until his sudden death in 1958.

From the description of Colin B. Goodykoontz Papers, 1857-1958. (Denver Public Library). WorldCat record id: 611175061

Colin Brummitt Goodykoontz (1885-1958), was an accomplished scholar in American history, a respected authority on the subject of the American West with numerous publications to his credit. He lived most of his life in Boulder, Colorado, arriving first in 1908 with his parents, and thereafter pursuing an undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado with great success. After a hiatus of nine years, during which time he completed his Master’s degree and Doctorate, he returned to Boulder hopeful of a productive future. Hired in 1921 by the university as a professor of history, he embarked on a distinguished career that would span more than thirty years, in the process raising a family and contributing positively to the Boulder community beyond the confines of the college.

But just as so many other Americans whom he would later study and seek to understand, Goodykoontz had traveled across the frontier, originally from eastern climes. Born in central Indiana, the rural town of Atlanta, both his parents had been teachers. His father, however, Marion Putnam Goodykoontz, was also an ordained minister, and it was the calling he preferred, and to which he devoted his life solely as he matured. His mother, Jennie Brummitt Goodykoontz, discontinued teaching after her son was born. Goodykoontz was an only child, somewhat unusual for the time, but this allowed his parents to devote that much more attention to his upbringing. Collection materials evidence that both parents valued and encouraged their son’s education from very early. He answered their encouragement and sacrifice with dedication and achievement. Certainly, it was not impossible to begin in a one-room schoolhouse and end with a doctorate, many did, but not without arduous work and support. Answering their efforts, Goodykoontz honored his parents throughout his life, caring for them generously in their senior age, just as they had done for him in his youth. (1)

As an undergraduate, his first collegiate mentor was Dr. James F. Willard of the University of Colorado. Willard was known as a meticulous researcher in Medieval English history and a careful editor of primary texts. As he regarded Goodykoontz to be an excellent student, and wrote such in his grade records(2), he likely supplied recommendations to Dr. Herbert Eugene Bolton (also a medievalist) at the University of California, Berkeley, where Goodykoontz ultimately pursued his Master’s degree. Willard may also have been an enthusiastic voice in Goodykoontz’s later hire at Colorado, but he would hardly have been alone in that regard. Before making his way to Berkeley, the young Goodykoontz accepted the voted honor of carrying the senior cane at Colorado, proof of a far greater respect for his achievements and abilities than could be bounded by one department.(3)

At California (1912-1914), under guidance from Bolton, Goodykoontz began narrowing the focus of his study. With his Master’s thesis, Spanish Exploration of Louisiana and the Adjacent Borders of New Spain, 1762-1800, he openly declared an academic interest in American history. Goodykoontz’s thesis reflected Bolton’s specific approach to an overall view of the Americas’ colonization and expansion, an approach articulated crucially in consideration of work by Frederick Jackson Turner (Turner, then at Harvard). Both Bolton and Turner were prominent historians of their moment, of different opinions, but related through their difference. Through study with Bolton, Goodykoontz surely encountered Turner’s writings and theories. But regardless how much he may have known of Turner beforehand, with his application and acceptance at Harvard, Goodykoontz discovered his second collegiate mentor in Turner, and dedicated study with Turner influenced Goodykoontz’s scholarly research and academic work for the rest of his life.

Colin Goodykoontz was an individual of engaged Christian faith. During his time at Harvard (1915-1921), he kept a detailed record of living expenses, both receipts and expenditures. Of particular interest are his frequent contributions to relief charities, religious groups, and churches. His concerns were both global (such as the War Fund Campaign and famine relief for China) and local (such as various church subscriptions). At Harvard, Turner’s views on the significance of the American Frontier provided Goodykoontz with the possibility to combine his faith and academic abilities in a scholarly and powerful way. The Home Missionary Movement and the West, 1798-1861, the dissertation he produced under Turner’s auspices, provided a foundation from which further research ensued, culminating eventually in Goodykoontz’s detailed work, Home Missions on the American Frontier, published in 1939, eighteen years beyond his doctorate.(5)

When Dr. Goodykoontz returned to Boulder in 1921, hired as an assistant professor by the University of Colorado, he had already taught at Harvard, Bowdoin, and Yale. He and his fiancée had also made plans patiently while he diligently concentrated on the credentials to begin his career. In December of 1921, he married Susan Blakey in Shelbina, Missouri, although they had met many years earlier in Boulder.(6) Fortunately for the newlyweds, Goodykoontz was promoted rapidly: associate professor in 1922, professor in 1924. In August of 1924, Susan gave birth to their daughter, Anna Louise, the Goodykoontz’s only child.

During his professional career at Colorado, Goodykoontz contributed significantly to the university in many ways. In 1925, he accepted a temporary position as Dean of Arts and Sciences, allowing then Dean F. B. R. Hellems a rare sabbatical. Three years later, Goodykoontz again assumed the deanship (1928-1929), but on that occasion Hellems was seriously ill and did not recover. Correspondence and materials in the collection suggest that Dr. Hellems’ death presented Goodykoontz with a significant personal as well as professional loss. It is also of interest that Dr. Goodykoontz did not pursue such a level of administrative service to the university subsequently. And yet, he served on myriad university committees through the years, whether concerned with curriculum, faculty promotion, university finances, or presidential searches, to name but a few examples.

Teaching, research, and writing represented Goodykoontz’s strongest priorities. Many of his extensive lecture notes show multiple revisions and rewritten versions, with illustrative enclosures added throughout the span of his teaching career. As to academic study, early on, in joint editor/authorship with his mentor Dr. Willard, the pair produced two books: Experiments in Colorado Colonization (1926); and The Trans-Mississippi West (1930), the latter resulting from the inaugural Trans-Mississippi Historical Conference which Willard and Goodykoontz organized for the university in 1929. Scholarly articles under his own name also appeared concurrent to his collaborations with Willard, both in edited compilations and academic journals, as well. Such articles continued frequently throughout his career, along with sundry book reviews and contributions to academic dictionaries and encyclopedias.(7) His first major work, Home Missions on the American Frontier, appearing in 1939, as remarked above, represented the deliberate product of years of extended study. His second major book, Papers of Edward P. Costigan Relating to the Progressive Movement in Colorado, 1902-1917, published in 1941, suggests Goodykoontz’s supportive attention to the ideals of a political movement unique in Colorado history. But it surely provided a visible display piece, in book form, arguing for the university to serve as a repository for important historical collections and documents, an idea actively begun by his early mentor Dr. Willard, and carried forward mutually with his History Department colleagues, Drs. Carl. C. Eckhardt and Percy Fritz. (8)

In addition to his academic career, Goodykoontz devoted considerable service to the First Congregational Church of Boulder. He was not unique to the university in that regard. Review of Congregational Church membership lists contemporary to his time presents many prominent university names: Frank Wolcott, George Norlin, George Reynolds, A. Gayle Waldrop, Harl Douglass, Carl Eckhardt, James Willard, Warner Imig, W. B. Pietenpol, Earl Swisher, Percy Fritz, Mabel Van Duzee, Frank Walz, and Albert Bartlett, among others.(9) Because much of his academic study dealt with historical aspects of American Christianity, Dr. Goodykoontz likely accepted an appointment as the church’s historian as a matter of course. He produced two church histories for publication: The First Congregational Church of Boulder, 1864-1939: An Historical Sketch (1939), and A Short History of the Congregational Church of Boulder, Colorado (1954). But he also worked extensively with church finances, constitution, selection of ministers, and numerous other concerns involving either committee or office appointment.

In late 1952, Colin Goodykoontz suffered medical difficulties with his heart, the fact and consequence of which brought considerations of retirement. The university, in reflection upon his significant contributions to the campus, honored him with the Robert L. Stearns Award in June of 1953. Granted Professor Emeritus in June of 1954 upon his official retirement, Dr. Goodykoontz continued with part-time teaching, continued working with the First Congregational Church, and remained in Boulder until his sudden death in 1958. Among the generous bequests in his will was a $20,000 contribution for the Board of Regents to administer to the University of Colorado at Boulder Library to improve its holdings in American History. (10)

___________________

(1) Materials specific to Dr. Goodykoontz’s young life, his parents, and extended family are available in respective folders in the Colin B. Goodykoontz Papers, Sec. I, Bxs. 1-3, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries. Additional information can be located in Papers, Sec. II, Bxs. 3-4, and Papers, Sec. V, both photographs and postcards.

(2) James F. Willard Collection, Bx. 8, Fd. 8, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries. Goodykoontz was also an assistant in history to Dr. Willard in his junior year.

(3)For additional detail on the breadth and scope of Goodykoontz’s active undergraduate participation within the CU community, see The 1913 Coloradoan, pg. 51, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries.

(4) Colin B. Goodykoontz Papers, Bx. 4, Fd. 1. The surviving account record covers specifically the period July 1918 – July 1921.

(5)A copy of Home Missions on the American Frontier is available in Papers, Bx. 6, Fd. 4. Turner’s importance to the work is discussed in the preface, and can also be observed through references and citations throughout the text.

(6)Supplementary material concerning Susan Blakey Goodykoontz, particularly respecting her young life, can be obtained from the pamphlet file, A Missouri Farm Boy Gets an Education: Memories of Roy G. Blakey, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries.

(7)In addition to publications, Dr. Goodykoontz’s academic interests also found expression in his membership and service to various professional organizations: Mississippi Valley Historical Association, Colorado-Wyoming Social Science Association, American Historical Association, American Association for State and Local History, State Historical Society of Colorado.

(8)Costigan Information Files, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries (also, Papers, Bx. 10, Fd. 1). According to records, Eckhardt and Fritz negotiated personally with Mrs. Mabel Costigan to secure her husband’s papers with one of the contracted conditions being that a book would result, though no author was specified. Such mutual energies are also reflected in Papers, Sec. III: Political and Social History, Pamphlet and Broadside Collection . Respectively, collections of Willard, Goodykoontz, Eckhardt, and Fritz each possess sections of such materials, with much overlap. These sections, as a group, were certainly conceived to be part of the University of Colorado Historical Collection, an effort commenced by Dr. Willard and carried forward after his death in 1935. For more than a quarter-century thereafter, efforts to collect anew while preserving the valuable holdings of previous years centrally involved the History Department and its faculty, with the result being the Western Historical Collection and present-day Archive, later administered by the University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries. For a detailed history of the WHC and Archive, see, John A. Brennan, “The University of Colorado’s Western Historical Collections,” Great Plains Journal, vol. 11, no.2, pp. 154-160; and, David M. Hays, The History of the Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries, unpublished article, Departmental Files, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries.

(9) Papers, Bx. 20, Fd. 4.

(10) Papers, Bx. 3, Fd. 5.

From the guide to the Colin B. Goodykoontz Papers, 1857-1958, (University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries. Archives Dept.)

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Subjects:

  • History teachers--Colorado--Boulder
  • College teachers--Colorado--Boulder
  • History teachers
  • College teachers

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • First Congregational Church of Boulder (Boulder, Colo.) (as recorded)
  • Colorado--Boulder (as recorded)