October 16, 2005

The Coffey Family Settlers of "Coffeytown"

The following is one of a chapter in the new work pending editing and publication by John Taylor of Midlothian, Virginia. John and his wife own property in the Coffeytown area of Amherst Co., VA, and have been interested in the history of the area since about 1993.

John is intimately familar with the people of the Coffeytown area but he is not a Coffey descendant. He has generously given me permission to use this information, but asks that readers understand that it can be edited and/or amended before final release.

I am creating a family tree showing known descendants of Jordan Coffey. It will be based on John's work, and my own census research. That work is currently being reviewed by John, and will be made available to researchers when we are sure that it is as accurate as we can make it.

The Coffey Family Settlers of "Coffeytown"

by John Taylor

The Coffey settlers of Coffeytown are described by family legend as Hudson, Schylar, John Jack, William (“Billy”), Nelson, and Henry Coffey. Jordan’s three daughters were Jane, Susanna, and Elizabeth. After their marriage, some stayed in the general area for a while but never were involved in the settlement of “Coffeytown”, which we define as land along Staton’s Creek, which at one time (1894 map) was referred to as “Coffie Creek”. This chapter explores the emergence of Coffeytown and discusses the lives of the Coffey family settlers to the extent we can find written documentation in the public records.


The 1830 Census shows Jordan Coffey as the only Coffey in present day Amherst County. This was the first census taken after Nelson county was formed which shows any Coffey in Amherst County. Jordan and his wife and 9 children are shown. John Jack was the first in this group to marry, in January, 1830, and by the time the census was taken was probably not living with the family. He doesn't show as the head of a household but this could be because he was living with a different family, as a boarder, probably with her family. If John Jack was not at home in the summer of 1830, this would mean that 10 children existed. There is no proof that all of these were Jordan's, as the listing is only for the head of the household and others by age range. One boy child is listed as being between the ages of 0-5. None of the known Coffeys listed above were that young in 1830. If this was Elizabeth's child, she would have been between 47 and 52 years of age when the child was born. It is likely that such a child may have died before the 1840 census. No name is known. It could also have been visiting for the summer, which is just as likely, based on the information available.

In 1830, the Census shows Jordan Coffey living in the same basic neighborhood with Ambrose Rucker, Lindsay McDaniel, and Henry Ogden. A few doors away is William McDaniel, Benjamin Taliaferro, and Joshua Duff, with his family, probably including Betsey Duff and John Jack, Sr. who were married in January 1830. In what appears to be a different part of the county not too far away, the census reads like a who's who of Coffey family and Amherst County history: Anderson Sandidge, John Staton, Joseph Dodd, Garland Richerson, Willis White, Aaron Higginbotham, James Clements, John Allen.

By 1840, John Jack, Nelson, Schuyler, and William are listed in addition to Jordan as the heads of households. This leaves Henry and Hudson unaccounted for by name in 1840. There were two males, aged 20-30 in Jordan's household that year. This is strange because Hudson was too old (35) and Henry was too young (18) to fit into that category. Neither of them are listed anywhere in Virginia as the head of household in 1840; but in 1839, the following Coffeys paid their taxes on the same day at the courthouse: John, Schylar, Jordan, Henry F., Hudson, and William. It is likely that the census age range is incorrect and that both Henry and Hudson were living with Jordan in 1840. The first mention of Henry is in the Amherst County tax records for 1839 when he would have been 22 years of age. It was 1842 when he paid taxes the next time, for a silver watch. Throughout the next seven years he declares for taxes but owns nothing being taxed. In 1849, after he married the widow Elizabeth (McDaniel) (Ogden) Coffey, he arrives in style with four metallic clocks, 2 slaves and one horse, logging in at the staggering amount of $0.76 taxes for the year. Given all that and the fact that Henry shows nowhere else by name in any census report, it is likely that he was the ninth child indicated in the 1830 census as well, giving some credence to the family legend that Henry was thought of as Jordan's son. According to his death record, he was not Jordan's biological son, but he could have been and probably was informally adopted by Jordan prior to his leaving Nelson County.

Based on the listing in the 1840 Census, John Jack, William and Schylar were living in the same "neighborhood", Nelson was off elsewhere in the county, and Jordan lived between the two groups. Jordan lived between John Cash and Thomas Mahoney. We didn't recognize any of the other "nearby" names either. William and John were living next to each other, 3 doors down from Schylar who lived next to Meredith Allen, Jane Coffey's husband. Meredith and Jane had two young girls and one boy, all less than 5 years old in 1840. Patsy Cooper was a neighbor and 14 houses down the road was William W. Davis. Not too far away was the Methodist Reverend Pitt Woodroof with his wife and eight youngsters.

Reubin P. Coffey was living in a different part of Amherst County - just him and his wife. By 1850, he seems to have moved to Augusta County, and Joseph Coffee (59) and his wife Ruth (48) replaced Reubin P. as an "oddball" Coffey in Amherst.

In 1850, Henry, John, Jordan, Schylar, and William were living in the same neighborhood" while Frederick and Jesse were the oddballs, living in different parts of the county. Eliza Wilson lived next to John Coffey who lived next to William H. Ogden. Jordan, William, Schylar and Henry lived all in a row with James Dodd and Cornelius Clement at the end. Some 100 houses away, Frederick was living with Abram Clement and Rebecca, the widow of Nelson Coffey, along with her children by both marriages. William Hamilton (Hambelton), with James P. Hamilton living in, also lived next to Abram Clement.

Even Frederick Coffey joined the cluster by 1860. Rebecca and Pauline, with 15 year old Nelson were still living with Abram Clement, in the same neighborhood as William Sandidge, and next door to James Taliaferro. Charles E. Coffey, son of John Jack was living near 36 year old Edward Drummond who ended up with Pauline Coffey before 1870, and next door to John Whitesides and his family. The cluster which Frederick joined consisted of the following men and their families: Henry Coffey, John Coffey, William Coffey, Frederick Coffey, William W. Davis, Ben H. Davis, Hudson Coffey, and Nelson Clark flanking Hudson. This was all probably within the general area of present day Coffeytown. Meredith Coffey and family were next to James Taliaferro and Peter Lawhorne. Schylar Coffey was still further away from the cluster, but still in Amherst County, probably way up Rt. 634.

In 1870, Reubin C. Coffey and wife Margaret, sons Augustus (23) and Marcellus (27), along with her mother Martha Bolling (60) and a black cook named Victoria Briggs, lived in the Courthouse district of Amherst, probably near Thrasher's Creek since he and Edgar Whitehead bought 467-3/4 acres from John R. Haden in 1869 (DB "JJ"/pg 170). Meredith and his wife Martha, and four young children lived in the Temperance district of Amherst County. Pauline was living with Edward Drummond and her two children Moses (6) and William (2). They were also in the Temperance district. All other Coffeys seem concentrated in one area, which surely by 1870, was a bustling little "Coffeytown". It was in 1888 that Charles E. Coffey deeded land to the Methodist Church, and 1896 when the present church, in the process of restoration, was constructed of chestnut lumber cut from Coffey land. The schoolhouse (land deeded by Charles E. Coffey in 1899 to Pedlar School Board - DB "YY" pg 405/ 498) was located just up the hill from the church site, and the post office was down by the road, next to the church. This concentration of Coffeys continued through the 1910 Census report we reviewed, and no doubt continued well into the era of World War II.

We would like to get into more detail regarding Coffeytown itself, but we simply ran out of time. Perhaps in the next edition.

[Next: "Coffeytown"]

Click on the title link to view a Jordan Coffey family group sheet pdf.

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