October 17, 2005

John Jack Coffey (bc1808-Dec. 14, 1888)

John Jack Coffey was born around 1808/9, according to the census reports. He was probably the second son of Jordan and Elizabeth Coffey, but he was third oldest. In 1827.28 when his family came to Amherst County, he was around 20 years old.

On 18 January 1830, John Jack married Elizabeth "Betsey" (Duff) Coffey, the daughter of Joshua and Besley Duff of Fluvanna County. His parents were not listed in that document, but Jordan and Elizabeth were listed as witnesses. Census records imply that this couple had 7 children, including Mark Coffey who appears as a 10 year old only in the 1850 Census. He probably died between 1850 and 1860, but his death does not appear in the County Death Records. Another possibility is that William Henry, who was also 10 years old at the time and is not listed by name in this report, could have been nicknamed "Mark". Or William Henry and Mark could have traded parents for the summer when the Census was taken, which was common practice in those days.

John Jack's sons Charles Coffey, John Jack Coffey, Jr., William Henry Coffey and Daniel Rufus Coffey all lived in Coffeytown proper and provided much of the population of the western and northern portion of Coffeytown. No record of marriage has been found for Mary Coffey, but Sarah Jane (Coffey) Davis married William Davis in 1859. They had two children and after she died, Davis married Avarilla Coffey, Henry Coffey's daughter. William Henry and Daniel Rufus married sisters in a double wedding on 6 April 1868. True to the old wives' tale, it was bad luck. Mildred (Lawman) Coffey died and Daniel remarried to Sallie Cole (Black) Coffey. Between the two of them, Daniel had 14 children. Charles, the eldest son, married Sarah Jane Ogden on Valentine's day, 1854. John Jack, Jr. married Patara Tyler (pronounced pay - tra), who was listed as a 24 year old "domestic" in Charles' household in the 1860 Census.

John Jack Coffey, Sr. was too old to be involved in the Civil War, but his sons were just the right age. On 22 April 1862, many of the Coffeytown boys were in Gordonsville, possibly selling tobacco or fruit (prices in Gordonsville were artifically inflated since it was a railroad center for the Confederacy and there were many soldiers hungry for non-military food). Up until this time they had stayed out of the war. As long as Stonewall was in charge, they weren't too concerned. Charles E., John Jack, Jr., Henry L. (son of Henry and Elizabeth Coffey, James (oldest son of Billy), and William (son of Billy) all enlisted as Privates in Co. E, 13th VA Regiment Infantry. Col Walker enlisted them, perhaps at gun point. The Confederate States instituted a draft in April, 1862 and these Coffeys stumbled into some serious recruiters in Gordonsville. The record shows that most attended one or a few of the drills and then disappeared, some being listed as deserters. Charles was AWOL on 1 June 1862 and there is nothing in their records until May, 1864 when he "re-enlisted". Family legend has it that they hid from the recruiters but were discovered, routed out of the bushes and drafted. Somehow, John Jack Coffey, Jr. and Charles E. Coffey were "transferred" to Co. F, 50th Regiment, VA Infantry. According to the Compiled Service Records at the Archives, Charles E. and John Jack were captured 12 May 1864 at Spottsylvania Courthouse (some records show the place of capture as The Wilderness, which coincides with family legend. The Wilderness Battle was over by 12 May, and it may have been only then that they were noted as missing. Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded 11 May 1864, a severe blow to the Confederacy). They were taken to Belle Plains, VA and shipped to Elmira, NY as Prisoners of War. The record shows John Jack shipped on 30 July 1864, but Charles was sent 2 August 1864. They were both released 23 June 1865, under General Order #109, after taking the "Iron Clad Oath" of allegiance to the United States. John Jack is listed as having auburn hair, blue eyes, 5'-9" tall, and fair complexion. Both Charles and John Jack, Jr. were married before the war began.

William Henry Coffey served longer and paid a heavier price. He enlisted 15 August 1861 at Millner's Store by Capt William Higginbotham and he was mustered into service 24 September 1861 in Staunton, VA. He was in the 2nd Corp, Co. F, 58th VA Infantry. On 28 August 1862 he was sent to the Richmond Hospital, but he was promoted to Corporal 1 May 1862. In March and April 1863 he was admitted to the hospitals in Staunton as well as in Richmond. By August 1863 he was a "1 Corporal", which he remained until he was captured 12 May 1864 at Spottsylvania Courthouse (or The Wilderness). From there he was sent to Fort Delaware from Belle Plain, VA on 21 May 1864. He was released after taking the oath on 19 June 1865, under the same general order. His complexion was dark, hair dark, eyes dark, and 5'-6" tall. Nicknamed Cripple Henry", he suffered as a result of his wounds during the war. Legend has it that he walked home from Fort Delaware and could barely make it down the road toward home. Some of the family had lost hope and given him up for dead but Betsey Duff, John Jack's wife, had never given up on old "Hen". She lived to see her faith fulfilled. In 1868 William Henry Coffey married Jenny Lawman who was a sister of Mildred Lawman who married Daniel Rufus Coffey. Henry and Jenny had seven children.

Daniel Rufus Coffey served in the local defense and is not known to have ever seen action. He was 15 when the war began.

In August of 1871, Betsey died of Cholera. Henry Coffey, same generation as John Jack, died in June of the same year of Colic. About 1-1/2 years later on 1 April 1873, John Jack took a young wife, 25 year old Virginia C. Campbell of Rockbridge County, called “Jenny”. Virginia had come to the cabin, so the legend goes, to take care of Betsey during her sickness. Apparently there were no children by the second marriage, but the couple is thought to have informally adopted some Staton children. In this marriage record, John Jack's parents are listed as J and E Coffey, Jordan and Elizabeth. At the time, he was 64 years old. A few months later, he and "Billy" bought the 1335 acres called "Cooper's Place" evidently named after John Cooper, an early trapper who lived in the area.

John Jack died 14 December 1888 at the age of 80, of cancer. We have no specific place of burial for either him or Betsey. They may be buried behind Elsie Coffey's present house in an unmarked grave, as some believe.

[Next: William "Billy" Coffey]

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