May 26, 2007

John Wilkerson Coffey (Update 11-24-07)

The problem that I have had in placing John Wilkerson Coffey into the proper family has likely been solved with an e-mail received yesterday from John Coffey of Raleigh, NC.

This is what John wrote:

"I do still want to quibble about your placement of John Wilkerson Coffey in the family of William Coffey Jr. and Margaret Robbins Coffey. For one, John Wilkerson is listed in the family Bible record of William Coffey Jr., which lists the children beginning with Elbert (b. 3 Jan 1837). According to that same Bible record William and Margaret were married 2 Jan 1836—well after the presumed 1830/31 birth date of John Wilkerson. Another, tangential piece of evidence is a letter written by John W[ilkerson] Coffey to Elijah Coffey during the Civil War in which John reports that “I was at your fathers to day & they was all well.” This indicates to me a close but not father-son relationship.

"What makes more sense is that John Wilkerson is a half-brother to William. After the death of Mary (Polly) Coffey ca. 1828, William Sr. marries ca. 1830 another Margaret Robbins—the aunt of the Margaret Robbins who married William Jr. By this union two children are born: John Wilkerson (b. ca. 1831) and Nancy E. (b. 13 Aug 1832). The widow Margaret and her two children are enumerated in the 1850 census as neighbors of William Jr. Jack Hawkins ( has done much to unravel the Robbins-Coffey confusion."

"John Wilkerson Coffey appears to have been regarded almost as an older brother by William Jr.’s son Elijah. He was, after all, far closer to Elijah’s generation than that of his half-brother William, Jr. During the Civil War, John Wilkerson apparently remained at home while Elijah and his brothers joined the Confederate army. John Wilkerson sent Elijah the lyrics for patriotic ballads and on at least one intriguing occasion advised Elijah on the legal limitations of habeas corpus protection in cases of desertion or harboring deserters. And it is well to note that John Wilkerson named his first son Elijah and Elijah named his first son John W[illiam]—my great-grandfather and namesake."

The Caldwell County, North Carolina Register of Deeds website lists an 1855 marriage record for John William Coffey to Linsey Robbins. Although not found in any census with his family, I believe he was a son of William (Jr.) and Margaret Robbins Coffey.

John was born c1830 in North Carolina and Mary Lindsey Robbins was born c1823 in Wilkes Co., NC. They had a son named Elijah M. Coffey, born Sep. 28, 1856, died Mar. 2, 1933.

Elijah married Caroline Amanda (Carrie) Dobbins, born Apr. 25, 1862, died Nov. 12, 1951. Elijah and Carrie had at least six children:

John Hilliard, born 1882, died 1958
Julia Ann, born 1888, died 1971
James Franklin, born Jun. 14, 1891, died 1965
Margaretta Elizabeth, born Aug. 29, 1894, death date unknown
Joseph Dobbins, born 1896, died 1972
Mary Lindsay, born 1898, died 1977

It appears that the child Mary Lindsay was named for Elijah's mother. Joseph was apparently named for his mother's family. Carrie was the daughter of Eber and Minerva McCall Dobbins. Eber Dobbins was born c1818 in New Jersey; Minerva was born c1834 in North Carolina.

James Franklin Coffey was born in Buffalo Cove, Caldwell Co., and married Margaret E. LNU c1917 in North Carolina. It is believed that Margaret was Margaret Elizabeth and called Bessie. The birth records for one of their children names the mother as Bessie Coffey.

Their known children were:

Wallace E., born about Sep., 1917 in Caldwell Co.
Millard Lafayette, born 1922, also in Caldwell Co.

It appears that Joseph Dobbins Coffey married Nellie Blanche Robbins in 1922, Caldwell Co. I believe that Nellie was the daughter of Thomas S. and Mary L. McGuire Robbins, and that she was sister to Caroline Amanda (Carrie) Dobbins. This means of course, that Joseph Dobbins married his mother's sister.

Joseph and Nellie had at least nine children, two of which were born and died unnamed in 1931. Two other named children were born and died in the same year. One was Howard Dalton, born and died in 1927, and Margaret Evaline, born and died in 1934.

Their other children were:

James Ward, born 1925, died 1991
Robert Earl, born 1929, died 1983
Betty Ruth, born May 23, 1932, died Mar. 31, 2005
J. D. Devon (Toby), born 1939, died 1985
Carl Gabriel, born Dec. 26, 1941, died 1996

Other children of John Wilkerson (William?) and Mary Lindsey Robbins Coffey were:

Margaret, born c1859
Jethro, born c1861
James, born c1864
Julia, born c1869

Please contact me at the e-mail address below with additions and/or corrections.

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