July 30, 2008

Austin Julian Coffey

Austin Julian Coffey, born Jan. 6, 1878 in Alexander Co., NC was a son of Thomas Clingman and Mary Ann Julian Coffey.  Austin was the second of three sons born to Thomas and Mary.  The first child was Calloway, born c1876, and the third was James Marcus, born Feb. 13, 1879.

The following is from Prarie Fire, a Pioneer History of Western Oklahoma, 1978, Oklahoma Historical Society.  The author is unknown:


Austin Julian Coffey was born Jan. 6, 1878 near Hickory, North Carolina, to Clingman and Mary (Julian) Coffey. He had an older brother Calloway, and a younger brother James Mark.

His mother died when he was about 5 or 6 years old. His father then married Julian's Aunt Rose (Julian) and to this union one daughter, Fannie, was born. His father died soon after this.

At the age of 17 Austin and James Mark accompanied their Uncle Frank Coffey by train to St. Jo, Texas where his older brother and two uncles, Uncle Milton and Uncle Jim Coffey then lived. They worked as day laborers on farms there and in Chickasaw Nation in Southern Oklahoma.

In the fall of 1899, Austin, Calloway, Uncle Milt (who was a Baptist Minister) with 1 or 2 of his sons came to Oklahoma to scout for land to homestead. They all filed or took up on land: Austin SE-1/4 5-11-25, Uncle Milt SE-1/4 17-11-25, and Calloway SW-1/2 9-11-25. Middle Buffalo Creek ran through Austin's and Milt's claims. This land was near Sweetwater, Oklahoma. Austin's land joined his future brother-in-law, Purcy Marion Yell, on the west. Yell established a post office called Pilot which existed for only a few years. Their first homes were all in dugouts. There were very few people who lived here at this time, mostly cattlemen and nesters.

On January 1, 1900, Austin woke to find his horses had strayed. While looking for his horses he found a family of settlers on a nearby claim who had a beautiful daughter. He name was Nancy Luettie Yell, who, after a courtship of several months, became his wife on August 1, 1900.

Austin and Luettie lived on their claim several years and in surrounding communities the rest of Austin's life except for a short time spent in Serra Blanca, Southwest Texas and the Farmington area of New Mexico. All their children were born in western Oklahoma near what is now Sweetwater.

Their first born, a son Loyd, was born September 11, 1901 and died June 20, 1902. He was buried in Brookside Cemetery. The land was given for the purpose of a cemetery by Loyd's Grandad Yell in the Southwest corner of NW-1/4 9-11.25. Loyd's cousin Archie Yell was the first to be buried there and Loyd was the second.

The second child Raymond was born April 9, 1904 and died January 9, 1965. He is buried in the same cemetery. Virginia, the only daughter, was born May 11, 1906, near Meridian Corner. She is now Mrs. C. D. Douglas, a housewife living in Stratford, Oklahoma.

Thurston was born September 3, 1908 one and a half miles north of old Prentiss, Oklahoma. He lives on the old family home place 3 miles east of Sweetwater. Burl was born February 26, 1915 and now lives in Fritch, Texas. Winston was born February 27, 1918 and now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Doyle, the baby, was born May 26, 1921 and now lives in Fasa Grande, Arizona.

The Coffey experienced the hardships as well as good times as did most pioneer families. Living in a dugout, they were plagued with fleas, from coyotes on the prairies, rattlesnakes, and always the danger of prairie fires. They experienced storms, hail and grasshoppers. There were quail and prairie chickens which were so plentiful they ate lots of grain of the Kaffir corn shocks.

Each fall they butchered several hogs for meat and lard, using the waste fat to make lye soap. Several families butchered together and helped each other sharing work and tools.

Besides gardens, the women gathered wild plums and grapes for jams and jellies. They helped each other sew, and helped in times of illness and other difficulties. Older women served as mid-wives when no doctor was available. Luettie helped deliver several babies on the prairies.

Usually on the Fourth of July everyone met to celebrate with a picnic with plenty of food for dinner on the ground with lemonade and home-made ice cream. The men played baseball and checkers; the kids had corn cob fights, foot races and wrestling matches. All had a good time.

On August 15, 1953, Austin sold the home place to Thurston and his wife Ruby who still live there. Austin and the family lived on this farm from 1919 till his death on January 16, 1963 at the age of 85 years. He is buried in the family plot in Brookside Cemetery less than one mile from his original homestead.

Luettie is presently living in the Erick Nursing Home at the age of 95 years.
Austin died in Roger Mills Co., OK on Jan. 16, 1963 and was buried at Sweetwater in the Brookside Cemetery.  Nancy died in 1977 and is also buried at Brookside.  Their son Virgil Raymond died in 1965 and is buried there as well.

Thurston died on Jan 1, 1997 at Elk City in Beckham Co., OK, and Burl died on Nov. 5, 1988 at Amarillo, Potter Co., TX.

Please contact me if you can provide any information on the Julian sisters, or the ancestors of Nancy Luetta Yell.

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