September 27, 2005

The Coffey Family Settlers of "Coffeytown" - Part 2

Continuing with the work of John Taylor:


There seems to be some controversy as to when Coffeytown was actually settled by the Coffeys. The earliest deed in present day Amherst County which we could find relating to the Coffey family was the 1827 deed by Hudson to his father Jordan. This deed, and William the elder's will, set forces in motion which eventually led to Coffeytown.

The next earliest deed is 1842, when Nelson bought his father-in-laws property for $475 from the estate. Our guess at this time is that he was living with his wife Rebecca on or near this property on Thrasher's Creek in 1841 when Robert Hambelton, Rebecca's father, died. Census reports indicate that he was next door to Robert in 1840. Nelson died sometime between 1845 - 1847 (based on tax records). His wife Rebecca Hamilton married Abram Clement in 1849. Abram was killed in Harrisonburg in 1862 during the Civil War. It appears that Rebecca stayed on the property for some time, but Frederick and Nancy each sold their share of the land 20 AUG 1859 to James P. Hamilton. This land was related only to Nelson and his family and did not contribute to the overall development of Coffeytown. Had Nelson lived, however, Coffeytown would probably have been along Thrasher's Creek, which is more like rolling hills than the mountainous area around Coffeytown. Family legend has it that the Coffeys bought into Coffeytown land because the land they wanted was not available. If there is any truth to that statement, it was probably the land around Thrasher's Creek they would have preferred.

In 1848, William Coffey signed a deed of trust for $225.00 for Eliza White, his neighbor, who bought 230 acres with the money. This lien was released 12 April 1855. That same year William bought 105 acres from Meredith Allen and William's sister Jane, lying on the south side of Fork Mountain. This is probably the date the Allens left Virginia and eventually ended up in West Virginia, although they owned other property in the area which we have not tracked. He sold this to Willis White for a $10 loss on 6 October 1851. This land was adjacent to property owned by Aaron Higginbotham and Anderson Sandidge.

This was no doubt sold because Henry Coffey, freshly married to Elizabeth (McDaniel) (Ogden) Coffey, bought 340 acres on both sides of the middle fork of the Pedlar River (Staton's Creek) on 8 May 1851 (DB "BB"/pp 188-189), having paid $1000 to William McDaniel, Elizabeth's father. The deed had the will built-in, so that when Henry died, it went back to Elizabeth. Sort of a rubber string attached. McDaniel then wrote his will (5 JUNE 1851) leaving his plantation to his son Lindsay McDaniel, Elizabeth's brother. The property bought by Henry was previously purchased by McDaniel from Benjamin Sandidge in 1811. This is the earliest deed for Coffey land which mentions Staton's Creek, even in such cryptic terms. It is likely that Jordan, Hudson, John Jack, Schylar, and William, since they were living in the same "neighborhood" in 1850, may have been living on Ogden land, inherited by Elizabeth from her husband Zachariah Ogden at census time, as Henry married Elizabeth in 1848. And when Henry bought the McDaniel property on both sides of the middle fork, all his Coffey cohorts came with him, looking for similar property in the same area.

Cognizant of Henry's "rubber string" deed, in 1859 John Jack purchased land from Thomas, James, and R. Richerson (DB "HH"/329), which was probably northeast of Henry's property. This was later expanded in 1873 when William and John Jack jointly purchased 1335 acres along Staton's Creek for the sum of $4000 from the estate of Jesse Richerson. Jesse had purchased it from Richard and John Cooper; Captain Benjamin Taliaferro's heirs, and James Taliaferro. This land, which we believe became a larger part of Coffeytown, was known as "Cooper's Place". In 1874, William and John sold a small portion, 275 acres, to McDaniel Crawford, then split the remaining land between themselves, and John Jack sold portions to Charles E. and John Jack, Jr. By the time the land was split, each had already built a cabin. The next few years are filled with land deals among the children and with a few outsiders, no doubt all centered around Coffeytown. (See Deed book "JJ" and later in Amherst County Courthouse.)

From several different indexes, these are the earliest deeds we have been able to find. Since other researchers seem to have the same problem with earlier Coffey property in Coffeytown area, we assume that 1851 was the first Coffey foothold along Staton's Creek but 1859 was the first year Coffeys freely owned land at Staton's Creek. Jordan and Elizabeth were most likely dead by this time, but they did get to see Henry's land and probably saw the general area before it was developed. Henry, we believe, lived south of Bridgehill Cemetery, in the general area of Embree Crawford's present house but probably up the hill off the roadway. The other Coffeys no doubt crowded around and saved their money until 1859. It was more than 30 years since Jordan had left Nelson County. The strong family ties which developed between the six Coffey boys, probably as a result of so much difficulty they faced together, left them and their families determined to stay close together so they could support each other in a way which had not occurred previously. These Coffeys understood what it meant to be essentially abandoned.

Having reviewed the evolution of Coffeytown from a census perspective, and then as a real estate transaction, we turn attention now to each of the six Coffey boys whose relationships throughout these years held the family together and finally culminated in a community. The family charts for each of these is located in the next section on descendants.

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