August 4, 2010

Bennett Coffey and Sarah Ferguson

While plowing through my Edward Coffey files today I ran headlong into Enoch Jordan whose wife is either Alice "Allie" Mills or Alice "Allie" Coffey.

If Mills, then I have no idea who she belongs to.  I have touched base with a couple of Mills researchers who tell me she was Alice Coffey, a daughter of Bennett Coffey and his wife Sarah Ferguson.

Some researchers believe but cannot prove that Bennett was a son of Benjamin and Mary "Polly" Hayes Coffey.  He - Bennett - is said to have been born in 1779 in Wilkes Co., NC which fits with the speculative birth year of 1747 for Benjamin and 1760 for Polly.  They are thought to have married c1773 in North Carolina.  That year would have made Polly a brand new teenager while Benjamin would have been twice her age.

Tax lists, witness to deeds, etc., show that Bennett and Benjamin had more in common than a shared surname.  Is it coincidence that while in Wilkes Co., Benjamin and his family resided in Ferguson's District and that Bennett married a Ferguson girl?

Laurence H. Coffey, researcher of the book Thomas Coffey and His Descendants* wrote that Bennett married Sarah "Sally" Ferguson on Feb. 5, 1805 in Wilkes Co.  Marriages of Wilkes County, North Carolina, 1778-1868** by Brent Holcomb, reports that the groom was Bengiman [sic] Coffey and Benet [sic] Coffey was the bondsman.  I believe Holcomb's book inadvertently transposes the names.  In both compilations, Thomas Norman was a witness.

One would think that having married so early and fathering a number of children well before 1830 Bennett would have shown in early census records.  I made a search for him from 1787 (NC state census) through 1830 and he appears only once, and then in 1830 Hawkins Co., TN.  I did find a number of Benjamin Coffeys, and a few Bens but, only one Bennett.  It's impossible - for me anyway - to figure out if one of those might have instead been Bennett.

I know that his name appears on a document dated Feb. 9, 1812 in Hawkins Co. in which he was witness to an indenture*** involving John Claxton of Grainger Co., TN and Hezekiah Stratton of Hawkins Co.  The tract was 75 acres on War Creek.  In addition to Bennett, William Stuart and James Byrd were also witnesses.  Patrick Donihae [sic], Hezekiah Stratton and Joseph Claud [sic] [Cloud] were mentioned as owning adjacent property.

Bennie Coffey Loftin in her book Clinch Mountain, Tennessee and Beyond,**** wrote that Bennett and his sons Joel and Caswell lived near Benjamin on Big War Creek.  Bennett sold to his son Joel, 94 acres for $300 on Feb. 10, 1834.  That part of Hawkins Co. later became part of Hancock with was created in 1844.  Bennett was also involved in some sort of land dispute with Shadrach Epperson in May of 1835 ending with a judgment for Epperson in which Bennett had to pay him $121.44 for a tract of land that Bennett was then residing on.

The 1840 census for Hawkins county show only four Coffey families in the county:  Bennett, Caswell, Jesse and Jane.  I am not certain who Jane is.  She appeared there in 1830 as well, and with children.  Jesse was her neighbor in 1830 and 1840 but I have not identified him either.  He could be Bennett's son.  Caswell is believed by me to be Bennett's eldest child.  By the time of the 1850 census, Bennett was a widower and a Jesse, age 22, and Louisa Coffey, age 19, were living with him.  By 1850 Bennett was dead.****

The thought that Jane might be Jane Graves, wife of John Coffey and mother of Benjamin, briefly crossed my mind, but she died in Wilkes Co. in 1792.

In addition to Caswell, Joel and Jesse, it is speculated that William Carrol Coffey, born c1824 in Hawkins Co., and Louisa Coffey, born c1831 are his as well.  It would seem likely that we have not yet identified all of his children.  In 1830 there were seven people under the age of 20 in his household and two aged 20 to 49, which would account for him and Sally.

In all likelihood Benjamin is Bennett's father.  He may also have been named Benjamin and called Ben or Bennett to distinguish one from the other.  It would be a plus if it can be documented that Alice Coffey, wife of Enoch Jordan was also his daughter.

Tips and discussion are welcomed.

Aug 4 Update: One important thing I left out:  Marvel Jordan was enumerated in the 1880 Rockcastle Co., KY census with his "cousin," Thomas Jefferson Coffey, Jr.  This becomes more puzzling as Thomas Jefferson's father was not Thomas Jefferson, Sr.  His parents were Ausburn and Matilda Dalton Coffey.  I need to work a bit on T.J, Jr. to see if I can gain a bit of insight as to how he might have become a cousin to Marvel.

*Chattanooga, TN: N. Sanders, 1931, Page 85
**Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1983, Page 41
***Joyce Martin Murray, 2921 Daniel, Dallas, TX 75205, compiler, Hawkins Co. TN Deed Abstracts 1801-1819; Deed Book 3, Page 329
****Privately published by Loftin, 1984 [Hawkins Co. Deed book 14, pages 406-410]

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