Update July 25, 2014
|Gen, John Reid Coffey|
Rice Coffey* was born in Pennsylvania [sic] [Amherst Co., VA] in 1766. When a young man he removed to North Carolina and became a gunsmith. He married and again removed to Tennessee about 1801, and settled on a farm of a thousand acres of land which he bought of General Jackson, and on which his son, John R. Coffey, was born. He died in 1853, and his wife in 1840. He was a son of James Coffey, of early times, who raised a large family, all of the older sons of whom served as soldiers in the Revolutionary War. The Coffey family are Baptists.
John R. Coffey spent his early days on a farm attending the common old-field schools. When he was thirteen years of age he went to a high school at Shelbyville, Tenn., and remained there twelve months. After this, he came to Bellefonte without an acquaintance in the county or a dollar in his pocket, and became a clerk in a store. At the age of twenty-two, he established a mercantile business of his own in that village, and continued it until 1846. In 1840, he was elected Sheriff of Jackson County. At the breaking out of the Mexican War, he enlisted in the army in a company commanded by Capt. Richard W. Jones. He afterwards acted as lieutenant, lieutenant-colonel, and major-general in the militia; went to Mobile and organized the First Alabama Regiment and was elected its colonel, and as such, participated in the siege of Vera Cruz. After the war with Mexico, he became a general of the militia. He had now returned to his farm and devoted his attention to its cultivation until 1853, when he moved to Stevenson and engaged in the mercantile business, which he prosecuted with considerable success until the beginning of the late war, when he again closed his store and returned to his farm of 4,000 acres, on the banks of the Tennessee River.
In 1861 he was elected a delegate to the convention which passed the ordinance of secession. He was bitterly opposed to that ordinance, but, being overpowered, he submitted with the best possible grace, and thereafter gave moral and substantial support to the Confederacy. (General Coffey's grandmother was a sister to Col. Ben, Cleveland, who commanded a regiment at the battle of King's Mountain.)
|Mary Ann Cross Coffey|
General Coffey is the father of six children, of whom four grew to maturity, namely: Eliza, wife of Wm. J. Tally; Sallie B., wife of C. W. Brown, chief clerk in the office of the State Superintendent of Education; John B. and Clark Maclin. General Coffey's wife died September 6, 1887. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Masonic order. General Coffey is a man of commanding presence, being over six feet in height and having apparently the vim and energy of a youth. He is one of the best known men of the State and one of the most influential men in Northeastern Alabama.
[Both the General and Mary Ann are buried at the Cross Cemetery just a bit north of Scottsboro in Jackson Co., AL]
Source for this biography: Smith & De Land, Editors/Publishers, Northern Alabama: Historical and Biographical (N.p.: n.p., Alabama, 1888), Transcribed by Veneta McKinney at http://genealogytrails.com/ala/jackson/. Other sources for information on the General and his family are: TN, Davidson Co., Coffey Collection, file: "Biography of John R. Coffey," Coffey Family 324, Bio, John R. Coffey, 26 December 1894; Coffey Family History, Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville, TN and, Thomas McAdory Owen LL.D., Compiler, History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, 4 Volumes (Chicago, IL: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1921), Vol. III, Page 368.
November 15, 1844
I received your letter of the 16th of September and have read it with entertaining interest. Indeed, it is always a source of gratification to me to hear that my friends are doing well.
You request some information respecting the history of our ancestors. I have no written biography of the Coffee family and therefore can only relate to you such facts as have come within my own recollection and such as have reached me by tradition.
I remember to have seen my paternal grandfather. His name was John Coffee, and he was raised in one of the lower counties of Virginia and died in Albemarle. My grandmother's maiden name was Jane Graves, and my father's name was James Coffee. He also was raised in the lower part of Essex and from thence to Albemarle, where your father Ambrose Coffee was born in the year 1762. From this county my father (James) removed to Amherst and here his children grew up to manhood. My mother's maiden name was Elizabeth Cleveland. My maternal grandfathers's name was Alexander Cleveland. He was a descendant of the English and was an own cousin of Oliver Cromwell, a gentleman who figured conspicuously in the sixteenth century. He was raised in Virginia and born in the year 1663 and died in 1775, at the age of 112 years.
My father was born in 1729 and died in 1786. His children were nine sons and two daughters. My brothers'names were John, Archelaus, James, Reuben, Ambrose, Eli, Joel and Lewis Coffee. They are all dead save Eli and Lewis, the first of whom resides in Missouri and the other in Kentucky.
I became acquainted with your maternal grandfather Jesse Moore about the close of the revolutionary war. He then lived in Burke County, N.C., where you were born. He was born in Virginia, and many of his descendants now live in Kentucky.
I am still living at the same place you last saw me, but cannot expect, in the course of nature to remain much longer. I am now in my 80th year.
May God bless you.
* From Tennessee Library and Archives:
**Jefferson was Thomas Jefferson Coffey, born 1805, Burke Co., NC, died 1858 in Brazoria Co., TX. He was the son of Ambrose and Mildred Moore Coffey, both of whom died in Pulaski Co., KY in early 1800s.