July 25, 2014

Rice & Sarah Bradford Coffey

Rice was the son of a Baptist preacher.

Rice Coffey was the ninth of at least 11 children born to the Rev. James Coffey and wife, Elizabeth Cleveland.  James was the oldest son of John and Jane Graves Coffey; John the eldest of Edward and Anne Powell Coffey.

We know little about his early life until he married Sarah Bradford in about 1790.  He appears in very few North Carolina records which indicates that he and Sarah moved early in their union to Wartrace, at the time the second largest town in Bedford Co., TN.  According to Worth S. Ray in his huge work Tennessee Cousins, A History of the Tennessee People¹, the town of Wartrace was built on land donated by Rice and Henry B. Coffee.² [sic]  I personally do not know of a Henry B. Coffee/y associated with Rice until the birth of his son, Henry Bradford Coffey in 1796.

The first tax record in which Rice appears in Bedford Co. is one created in 1812.  An account written c1890 by a grandson, Rice Abner Coffey, reports that Rice moved from NC to Bedford Co. in 1808 and all but the last three of his children were born in NC.  If that is true, migration to TN would have been a bit earlier that 1808.  The 7th of his and Sally's children³, Martha D., was born Dec. 24, 1806 in TN.

Sally was born to Bennett and Margaret White BradfordJuly 22, 1770 in Bedford Co., perhaps in the same area of Wartrace Creek that later became the incorporated town of Wartrace.  She died there on Sep. 3, 1840 and was buried at the Old Salem Cemetery at Bell Buckle in Bedford Co.5   Rice died on Jul. 24, 1853 in Bedford Co., and was buried in the Coffey family cemetery at Wartrace.

Their children were:

Jerusha, a daughter born May 4, 1792 in Wilkes Co., NC; died Mar. 10, 1810 at Old Salem.

Elvira, born May 14, 1794, in NC and probably Wilkes Co., died Jul. 20, 1849 in Bedford Co.  She is also buried at Old Salem.

Henry Bradford, born Jul. 12, 1796 in Wilkes Co., died Apr. 11, 1864 at Jackson, Clarke Co., AL.  I have no independent information that Henry died during the Civil War,  After all, he was at least 67 years old when he died, a bit old to have taken up the cause, but I wonder what was he doing 300+ miles south of Wartrace in that year.  He was buried in Jackson at the Cross Cemetery.

His spouse was Sarah Rial Edmondson, born in Halifax Co., VA in 1809, died Mar. 31, 1892 in Wartrace.and was buried at the Coffee Cemetery.  She was the mother of ten:  Wiley Daniel; Elizabeth A., Richard E., Jane; Elvira; William Edmondson; Mary; Martha; Garland Rice and Isham.

Following Henry Bradford was Mary G., born 1797 in Wilkes Co., died Oct. 22, 1878 in Wartrace.  She married John Kendall (var) on Mar. 4, 1821 in Bedford Co.  They had a number of children, including Arcena who married a Prewitt, but I have not researched all of this family.Mary is buried at the Coffee Cemetery in Wartrace.

Weightstill Avery was next, born 1801 in NC, died 1837 in Bedford Co.  No known marriages.  He is buried at Old Salem.

Alexander Hamilton, born Jan. 19, 1803 in NC, died Apr. 5, 1864 in Jackson Co., AL.  His wife was Nancy E. Weatherly to whom he was married on Aut. 2, 1828 in Rutherford Co., TN.6  He was buried at Fackler in Jackson Co. at the Roach Cemetery.  Nancy died in 1841 and was buried at Old Salem.7

Their children were Rice Abner, 1833-1896; Michael A., c1837-? and, Weightstill Avery, 1837-1898.  Rice and Abner apparently migrated to Scottsboro in Jackson Co., AL.  They each died there and were buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery.  Rice Abner married Mary Ann Coffey, his first cousin, daughter of Benjamin and Mary E. Roach Coffey. Benjamin and Alexander Hamilton were brothers. Weightstill Avery married Mary Elizabeth Harris on May 2, 1866 in Jackson Co.8  Their children were Alexander Harris; Rice Abner; Eula Lee; Weightstill III, Mary Hudson and Vivian.

Rice and Sally's seventh child was Martha D., born Dec. 24, 1806 in TN, died Mar. 25, 1849 in Benton Co., AR.  Her spouse was Col. Alexander Curry Yell, born Nov. 12, 1805 in Rutherford Co., TN, died Oct. 24, 1881 in Benton Co.  Their children were Sarah J., Mary E., Martha E., Elizabeth, Marna and their only son, Archibald Yell.  Martha and Col. Yell are buried at the Yell Cemetery in Siloam Springs, Benton Co.9

Benjamin B. was next born.  His birth date was Aug. 16, 1809 in TN and death on Apr. 6, 1864 in AL.  He married Mary Elizabeth Roach, bor Sep. 4, 1824, died Sep. 8, 1850 in AL.  They are buried at the Roach Cemetery in Fackler.  I know of only one child, Mary Ann, born 1842, died 1864,  She was the wife of Rice Abner, above.

The last child born to Rice and Sally was Gen. John Reid Coffey.  You can read more about the General in a 2005 blog, updated July 25, 2014.

Some few years ago, a visitor to Coffey Cousins submitted the following information,   It was not an original document but was represented to me as a document that should be accepted at face value, with no additional proof. I passed the document around to various long time Coffee/Coffey researchers, asking for help authenticating the claim that Rice Coffee was the father of William Berry Coffee. To my surprise, none of them had ever seen or heard about the document. None of them denied that it could be truthful, but none could authenticate with documentation the claim that William Coffee Berry was the illegitimate son of Rice Coffee and Elizabeth Fields Berry.

Here is the text as I received it:

"William Coffee Berry was the illegitimate son of Rice Coffee and Elizabeth Fields Berry. She was the widow of a Revolutionary War soldier who had died of rheumatic fever. She then moved down to Wilkes County, North Carolina, where a brother & sister had married into the Coffee family. Rice Coffee refused (or couldn't) marry Elizabeth, but apparently did acknowledge that William, and later Mary, were his. Elizabeth gave both his name and her married name to both children.William was an Elder in the Refugee Baptist Church in Henderson County, North Carolina in 1850 ..and also became a literal refugee later in June of 1863 when he, his second wife and teenage daughter had to flee their home ahead of advancing Yankee troops.

"In 1870 at Avery's Creek, North Carolina, when he was 74, he wrote out a detailed account of the family's history, from which many of the facts in this total computer file were drawn. Here is that account, deciphered as best was possible, given the condition of the document and his handwriting:"

By William Coffee Berry
January 30, 1870
"Richard Fields married Elizabeth Murrel, the sister of Drury Murrel ...all natives of Amherst County, Virginia. After marriage, Mr. Fields settled in Albemarle County, Virginia where Mrs. Fields became the mother of four children: Thomas, Joel, Elizabeth and Sarah. Mr. Fields died and his widow married a second time. Her second marriage was to John Gilliam, by whom she became the mother of three sons: Epaphroditus, Cornelius and John. Thomas (Fields), her oldest son, married Elizabeth Coffee and emigrated to Wilkes County, North Carolina, where he lived to an advanced age and died, leaving a large and respectable family behind him.

"Joel (Fields) died in the 21st year of his age and left no descendants. Sarah (Fields) married Thomas Coffee. They emigrated shortly after the close of the Revolution to N.C. and settled in Wilkes County. She became the mother of nine children, seven sons and two daughters. -Her second son, Reuben, was a distinguished Baptist clergyman. He emigrated with his family and two of his younger brothers and their families to the state of Indiana, and settled in Monroe County near Bloomington, where all those brothers have since died.

"Reuben, (along with) Lewis and Larkin Epaphroditus Gilliam, emigrated from Virginia to Wilkes County, North Carolina ....and married Sally Israel, daughter of Michael Israel, and moved with his family to Clay County, Missouri, where he has since died. He was a local Methodist preacher. Cornelius Gilliam married a Miss Wood and moved to Kentucky, where he accumulated a handsome property and died without any children. John Gilliam (Jr. ?) married, lived and died in Virginia.
Elizabeth Fields married Bradley Berry of Albemarle County, Virginia, by whom she became the mother of a son and called his name Franklin. After his birth his mother, Elizabeth Berry, moved with her infant son Franklin to Wilkes County, N.C. ... where she became the mother of Mary and William, the avowed and acknowledged offspring of Rice Coffee.

"(Several lines here were erased or obliterated by someone who [apparently] couldn't stand the idea of this ancestor being illegitimate. It was likely Ruth Parker, who was the custodian of this document in 1971. Her qualification as a DAR would be in question if she could not trace a direct bloodline back to a Revolutionary War soldier, and being a DAR was very important to her. She even gives her DAR registration number, 489910, along with her signature.)

"When William C. Berry was in his 13th year (circa 1809), his mother moved with Mary and William to Buncombe County, N.C., where she lived until her death. This aforesaid Elizabeth Berry was born March 12th, 1755 and deceased on Monday, May 24th, 1824. Mary was born February 5th, 1789 and was married in February 1810 to Mr. David Rodgers, by whom she became the mother of nine children: Three sons and six daughters. Named as follows: (Sarah), Fawniah, Hugh, Mary, Jane, Robert, Elizabeth Emily, Margaret Minerva and David. The oldest was born December 16, 1811 and the youngest January 21, 1830. All are still living at the present date, 1870. Mary Rodgers, their mother, died April 21, 1857. She lived beloved and died lamented.

"The three sons, Hugh, Robert and David and five of their sisters are living in Jackson County, N.C. and all are in easy circumstances. The other sister, Mary, married Mr. Jason Chasteaux. They are settled on Toccoa River, Fanning County, Georgia and are in affluent circumstances.

"William C. Berry was born October 19th, 1796, and on the 30th day of April, 1816, was married to Miss Letticia Woody, daughter of Jonathan and Mary Woody, by whom he became the father of 12 children, six sons and six daughters: Thomas F, Elizabeth, Mary, William M.C., Larkin M., Mariah Louisa, Lewis Franklin, Sarah Elviry Emily, Martha Ann, Ephriam Moor, Joseph Manning, and Letticia Minerva June.

"Thomas F. was born February 2nd, 1817 and died July 18th, 1878. Elizabeth was born October 29th, 1818. She married William Bishop of Spartanburg, South Carolina May 16th, 1844, and became the mother of nine children, five sons and four daughters. She departed this life on April lst, 1864, aged 46 years, 5 months, 2 days. Mary Berry was born March 22nd, 1820, and was married to James B. Sutton (?) January 13th, 1842. She became the mother of ten children, two of which died in infancy. She lived to see six grandchildren and died November 22nd, 1869, aged 49 years and 8 months.
William M.C. Berry was born February 27th, 1822 and was married to Clarisa Williams, daughter of Frederic & Martha Elizabeth Williams of Spartanburg, S.C., by whom he became the father of four children, two sons and two daughters. He yet lives and recently visited his aged father, who now resides in Jackson County, N.C. at the close of the year 1869.

"Larkin M. Berry was born April 12th, 1824 and professed religion in his 13th year. He became a preacher in the Baptist denomination at age 17, and was ordained to the work of the gospel ministry December 24th, 1848. He has attained the character of an able, popular, efficient preacher. He married Miss Martha Bishop of Spartanburg May 16th, 1844 and became the father of four children, three sons and one daughter. He located himself and his family in the city of Lacon, Illinois in the spring of 1869 where he now lives on January 30th, 1870.

"Mariah Louisa was born April 10th, 1826 and married John Bishop of Spartanburg, S.C. on August 31st, 1848, by whom she became the mother of seven children, four sons and three daughters. Her husband, John Bishop, died near Richmond in the Confederate army in the spring of 1864. She is now living in Jackson County, N.C. in 1870.

"Lewis Franklin Berry was born May 25th, 1828 and found the baptist church at Boiling Springs, Spartanburg, in October 1844. He married Sarah Lewis of Spartanburg, by whom he became the father of seven children, five sons and two daughters. He emigrated to Morgan County, Alabama and settled three miles north of Summerville (?). ...professed to be a preacher of the gospel.

"Sarah Elviry Emily Berry was born March lst, 1830 and married John Crook, Jr. She died December 28th, 1865, aged 34 years, 9 months, 27 days. She left but one child behind to perpetuate her name.
Martha Ann was born May 3rd, 1832 and died on Friday, July 5th, 1834.

"Ephriam M. Berry was born August 9th, 1834 and professed religion on October 27th, 1850, and was baptized into the fellowship of the Refugee Baptist Church in Henderson County, N.C. He married Miss Matilda Jenkins in the spring of 1853. His wife, Matilda, lived seven months after their marriage and died of consumption on Monday, December 24th, 1853. In the year 1863, said E.M. Berry emigrated to the northwest ... located himself in the state of Indiana, where he has attained some degree of notoriety as an M.D. and an Eldership in the Christian Church.

"Joseph M. Berry was born December llth, 1837, made profession of the Christian religion October 26th, 1850, and was baptized into the fellowship of the Refugee Baptist Church in Henderson County, N.C. on Friday, November 8th, by his father, Elder William C. Berry. After the death of his mother, Joseph M. located in Greenville, S.C. where he married Susannah Owens, by whom he became the father of one child, a daughter born January lst, 1861. In the spring of 1863, he emigrated to the northwest, locating at Bedford, Indiana. He became a student of the high school at that place and has since attained to high distinction and notoriety as a scholar and a clergyman in the Christian Church.

"Letticia Minerva June Berry, the youngest of her father's family, was born March 4th, 1840 and professed religion October 25th, 1850, and was baptized into the fellowship of the Refugee Baptist Church in Henderson County, N.C. on Friday, November 8th, 1850 by her brother, Elder Larkin M. Berry. She remained at home with her parents until her mother's death, and she was then placed under the care & control of her Aunt Mary Rodgers. After the death of Mrs. Rodgers, Minerva returned to her father, who married Miss Charlotte Osbourn, daughter of Jermiah & Ann 0sbourn. She remained with her father and stepmother until June 23rd, 1863, when all were driven to the necessity of leaving home as refugees to seek a destination of safety in the state of South Carolina. Minerva then went to East Tennessee, where she was still living when last heard from by the writer, her father and her mother (Letticia Woody was married April 30th, 1846 and died April 14th, 1855, aged 56 years, 10 months, 22 days. She had lived many long years a pious and exemplary Christian life, and died in the full triumphs of the Christian faith. Jonathan Woody, her father, was the son of William Woody, a native of England. He married Sarah Persel, an English lady. They immigrated from England and settled on the Potomac River in the state of Virginia, where Jonathan was born. After his birth, the family moved to South Carolina where Jonathan married Mary Lovel, by whom he became the father of eight children, four sons & four daughters. Three died in infancy. Their father, Jonathan Woody, moved when nearly 100 years of age to the state of Iowa, and died at his youngest son's place, Berry Woody. Jonathan Woody had three brothers and four sisters: William, Talton, James, Elizabeth, Nancy, Sarah and Mary.

"William married a Miss Watkins. Nancy married John Slaton. Sarah married Abner Norrce and Mary married John Davice, nicknamed "Jack of Diamonds". William Woody, brother of Jonathan, had 13 children, nine sons and four daughters: John, Talton, William, Killis, Silas, Nicholas, David, Joseph, Washington, Nancy, Elizabeth, Kizzias (Polly) and Mary. Nancy married William Miller. Elizabeth married John Gasperson. Polly married a Mr. Cook.

"NOTE: William C. Berry wrote this account for his son, Joseph M. Berry, who carried it to Oklahoma, where it passed to Joseph's daughter, Lillie Belle Berry Clark in 1917. In 1951, Lillie entrusted it to Ruth Hope Parker Lessley, her niece whom she had raised from infancy. Ruth is the daughter of Laura Berry Parker, Lillie's sister, who died in 1907. In January, 1971, Ruth lived in Paducah, Kentucky."

[On Feb. 23, 2007, DNA testing confirmed that a direct descendant of William Berry Coffey is a Coffey, and likely the illegitimate son of Rice Coffey.  See Coffey Cousins' DNA website for details.]


¹Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, MD, Jul., 1950
² I do not know of a Henry B. Coffee/y associated with Rice until the birth of his son, Henry Bradford Coffey in 1796.  According to a TN State Historic Marker, Rice donated 8 acres to the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad on which the town was build around.
³ Some discrepancies exists in various accounts of the number and names of children.  The 1820 census lists 5 male children and 3 female, which agrees with the account presented here.  The oldest of their children, daughter Jerusha died in 1810.
Genealogical Publishing Co., Reprint, Genealogies of Virginia Families: From Tyler's Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2007), Page 212.  Margaret was Bennett's second wife.
5 I've wondered why she was buried at Bell Buckle, some two hours north of Wartrace on horseback.  Perhaps the Coffey Cemetery at Wartrace had not yet been established?! The oldest grave at Wartrace appears to be that of Rice who died in 1853.
Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002", index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VNXX-3CM : accessed 05 Mar 2013), Alexander H Coffey, and Nancy E Weatherly, 1828 and Zella Armstrong, Author/Compiler, Notable Southern Families, with Janie Preston Collop French, Author/Compiler (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1974), Vols. 5-6, Page 14.
Nancy E Weatherly, 1828 and Zella Armstrong, Author/Compiler, Notable Southern Families, with Janie Preston Collop French, Author/Compiler (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1974), Vols. 5-6, Page 14.
"Alabama Marriages, 1816-1957", index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FQDR-V2Q : accessed 10 Jan 2013), W. Avey Coffey and Bettie L. Harris, 02 May 1866.
9 This came to me several years ago and the source is unknown:  "We omitted to mention last week, the death of our old-time friend, Col. Yell. He was a well-known and prominent citizen of this [Washington Co., AR?] and Benton counties. The name of Aleck Yell in Northwest Arkansas was a household word. Always the friend of the oppressed, none knew him but to love him. Now that his earthly career is ended, the memory of his good deeds will outlive the cold marble that covers his ashes. Friend of our early days, sorrowfully we pronounce the word that makes us linger farewell."  Col. Yell was a son of Moses Archibald and Jane Curry Yell.  

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