Rice wrote a letter* to his nephew Thomas Jefferson Coffey - son of Ambrose, a younger brother to Rice - from Shelbyville on Nov. 15, 1844 which reads:
Dear Jefferson:Sarah Bradford Coffey was a daughter of Bennett** and second wife Margaret White. She is said to have been born in TN on July 22, 1770 and died on Sep. 3, 1840 in Bedford Co. A sibling to Sarah was Henry Bradford, born Dec. 24, 1766, died May 10, 1871, married Rachel McFarland on Jan. 17, 1799. Rachel was born Aug. 28, 1783 and died Aug. 26, 1852. Their daughter Mary, born Mar. 22, 1809, died Oct. 20, 1893 in MO, was the wife of Asbury Madison Coffey***, thought by me to be the son of Eli and Hannah Allen Coffey.
I received your letter of the 16th of September and have read it with entertaining interest. Indeed, it is always a source of gratification to me to hear that my friends are doing well.
You request some information respecting the history of our ancestors. I have no written biography of the Coffee family and therefore can only relate to you such facts as have come within my own recollection and such as have reached me by tradition.
I remember to have seen my paternal grandfather. His name was John Coffee, and he was raised in one of the lower counties of Virginia and died in Albemarle. My grandmother's maiden name was Jane Graves, and my father's name was James Coffee. He also was raised in the lower part of Essex and from thence to Albemarle, where your father Ambrose Coffee was born in the year 1762. From this county my father (James) removed to Amherst and here his children grew up to manhood. My mother's maiden name was Elizabeth Cleveland. My maternal grandfathers's name was Alexander Cleveland. He was a descendant of the English and was an own cousin of Oliver Cromwell, a gentleman who figured conspicuously in the sixteenth century. He was raised in Virginia and born in the year 1663 and died in 1775, at the age of 112 years.
My father was born in 1729 and died in 1786. His children were nine sons and two daughters. My brothers names were John, Archelaus, James, Reuben, Ambrose, Eli, Joel and Lewis Coffee. They are all dead save Eli and Lewis, the first of whom resides in Missouri and the other in Kentucky.
I became acquainted with your maternal grandfather Jesse Moore about the close of the revolutionary war. He then lived in Burke County, N.C., where you were born. He was born in Virginia, and many of his descendants now live in Kentucky.
I am still living at the same place you last saw me, but cannot expect, in the course of nature to remain much longer. I am now in my 80th year.
May God bless you.
Rice appears in very few North Carolina records meaning that he and Sarah moved to TN quite early in their marriage. Their homeplace was near Wartrace, and he is on the 1788 and 1789 tax lists, and again from 1796 to 1799. He has not been found in the 1790 or 1800 census. This could indicated that he was gone during the period 1790-95, and that they moved permanently around 1800, or soon thereafter.Mary, a daughter of Rice and Sally, was born c1798 in NC and died Oct. 22, 1878 in TN, probably Bedford Co. She is said to have married John Kendall on Mar. 4, 1821 in that county and to have divorced him before 1850.+
The first tax list in TN in which he appears in 1812 in Bedford Co. A short account of the family written about 1890 by Rice Abner Coffey, a grandson, says that Rice moved from NC to Bedford Co. in 1808. It also says that all of the children, except the last three were born in NC. That would put the migration date a bit earlier.
He and Sally had 9 children. Some discrepancy exists in various lists. The 1820 census lists 5 male children and 3 female, which would be correct because Jerusha died in 1810.
Source‡ names children of Rice and Sarah as: Jurusha, d. age 16; Elvira; Henry B., m. Sarah Edmondson; Mary G., d. 1878, m. __ Kendall; Weightress (1801-1837), unmarried; Alexander Hamilton, d. 1864, m. Nancy Matherly; Martha (1805-1845), m. A. Yell; Benjamin B., (1809-1864), m. Mrs. Mary E. Beach; John R. (1815-1896), m. Mary A. Cross (Benjamin was Gen. in Mexican War). Marvin Coffee reports birth date for Sarah as Jul. 22, 1770 and death date as Sep. 3, 1840 in Bedford Co., TN.
She and Kendall had at least one child, a daughter named Arcena, born c1825. In 1850 when Mary appeared in the census with her widower father in Bedford Co., she was enumerated as Mary Kindle, age 42 with Hanna Kindle, age 25 and Nancy Bell Kindle, age 13. Also in the household was a physician, Dr. William Pruett, age 24, born in TN.
We know that Arcena married a Prewitt but are unsure if William was her husband. They are close in age and place and certainly had the opportunity. Prewitt apparently died or otherwise disappeared sometime after 1859 and may have died in the Civil War, although I have not found a record of his service. Mary and Arcena, along with Arcena's two chidlren, Nanny and Willis Prewitt, appear together in the 1860 and 1870 Bedford Co. census. Arcena was found there in 1880 with her still unmarried children.
I would like to know who was Arcena's husband and, who was the 13-year old Nancy Bell Kindle in the 1850 census.
*Sometimes referred to by Coffey researchers as "The Said Rice Letter."
**All information about Bennett comes from: Genealogical Publishing Co., Reprinter, Genealogies of Virginia Families: From Tyler's Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2007)
***Read more about Asbury here and here.
‡Lost Links, Elizabeth Wheeler Francis, Southern Western Historical Quarterly, LXIX, 1945, pps. 98, 156, 157 and Descendants of James Bluford Coffey by Dr. Marvin Coffey
+Mary G. Kendle (Kendall) vs John Kendle for divorce. Mary G. Kendle and John Kendle were married in Bedford Co on 4 Mar 1821. Source: Page 600, Chancery Court Records 1837-1845 by Marsh; call no: 976.858 M366ch