December 13, 2006

Waightstill Avery Coffey (c1801-c1837)

Wm. Weightstill Avery, grandson of Col. Waightstill Avery <-Wm. Waightstill Avery, grandson of Waightstill Avery

Waightstill Avery Coffey was a son of Rice and Sarah (Sally) Bradford Coffey. He was born c1801 in North Carolina and died in 1837, place unknown. It is said that he never married.

I have often wondered where the family obtained the name Waightstill. It is something of an unusual name, and not one that was continued for more than a couple of generations (based thus far upon my research).

While looking at various families who occupied the Watauga area of North Carolina, I ran across the name of Col. Waightstill Avery, born c1741 in Groton, CT. After obtaining an undergraduate degree from Princeton in 1766, he studied law for sometime before finally settling in Charlotte, North Carolina, "where he practiced law in the courtrooms of Mecklenburg, Rowan, Tryon and Anson."

According to the Avery Co. museum website, "
Before and during the Revolution, he was connected with most of the conventions held in North Carolina. He was one of the group which wrote the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence; of the Hillsboro Congress which formed a plan of government for the state; a member of the Halifax Convention of 1776 when it instructed its delegates to the Continental Congress to vote for independence; also a delegate from Mecklenburg County to the convention which drafted the State Constitution of 1776. He was appointed the first attorney general of North Carolina under the new constitution."

"In 1778 when Andrew Jackson was young, Col. Avery an avowed Presbyterian and a Puritan, accepted a challenge to fight a duel. This was in accordance with the ethics of the times. In a criminal case before the court of Jonesboro, Avery had been severe in his comments upon some of the legal positions taken by Andrew Jackson. Jackson wrote a challenge and gave it to his critic. The combatants met and a shot fired from each pistol well above the heads of the respective adversaries settled the matter and put everyone in a jocular mood. The two men left the ground very good friends."

Avery Co., NC was named for Col. Avery, and likely the source for the name given to Rice and Sarah's fifth child and third son.

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