When the war began, Stephen Goens was a free, mulatto, 23-year old boatsman, living with the family of 53-year-old boatsman Lawson and 50-year-old Sarah Goens. Stephen’s birth parents had moved back to Rockingham County in the 1840s. In the summer of 1840, Lawson and Stephen ferried high society types, who had taken a B&O train to Harper’s Ferry, then a MORE. . .
Winchester-Potomac train to Charlestown, where the owner of the fancy Carter House, across from the courthouse there, provided them with carriage services to this Isaac Carter’s other prize – the famous, President-studded, ring tournament-holding Shannondale Springs resort across the Shenandoah River from Kabletown. And to get there, no matter who you were – you needed Stephen and Lawson Goens and their ferry.
Shannondale Springs, with many social types coming and going from Washington or by train from Baltimore was suspected of being a facilitator of an underground railroad operation that required the ferry of the Goens. Strong indications are that the ferry and the freed black community, within a mile from the resort called Bushy Ridge, was a first stop on the dangerous journey to Canada. The freed families of the Halls (7), Newmans (8), Goens (13), Johnson (4), and Hart (4) made up this community.
He appears to have been impressed into becoming the cook for Company K of the 2nd Virginia Confederate regiment drawing its members from around Charlestown. Cleon Moore, later the County clerk and, other times, an employee for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad wrote later of the time Company K arrived in Winchester in the fall prior to a march – a fatal, disastrous affair – to Bath (today Berkeley Springs) in which the men under Jackson slept without tents and would awake to find themselves covered with snow, and cholera ravaging their numbers.
In a few days we were marched through Winchester and encamped near Stephenson’s Depot. Here we fixed for the winter, at least we thought so. We did not build huts but pitched our tents in a field. Joe Crane, Charlie Aisquith, Horace Gallaher occupied a tent together.
We had Steve Goens (a colored) man to cook for us and we lived well.