December 10, 2014

Judge Silas DeMarcus Coffey

Contributed by
Kevin Coffey
"Silas D. Coffey was born on a farm in Owen County, Ind. on February 23, 1839.  His parents were Hodge R. [Rayburn] and Hannah [Wilson] Coffey, the former a native of Tennessee*, and the latter of North Carolina.

"Our subject's early education was acquired through the medium of common schools of that day, until, in the year 1860, he entered the State University at Bloomington, where he remained until the breaking-out of the late rebellion, when he enlisted, first in the three months' service, and then for a year.  When President Lincoln issued his 75,000 call, his regiment, the Fourteenth Indiana Infantry, responded, and was mustered in for three years, or during [sic] the war.  He remained on active duty until June, 1863, when he was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps, serving with it until the term of his enlistment expired the next year.

Judge Silas DeMarcus Coffey
"The Fourteenth Indiana Infantry won an enviable reputation in the field, and of its number none were more deserving that Mr. Coffey.  When he reached home, he determined to enter into the practice of the law, and for that purpose formed a partnership with Allen T. Rose, a prominent and influential member of the bar at Bowling Green.  In the autumn of 1868, this connection was dissolved by mutual consent, and another one formed with Maj. W. W. Carter, which continued until after Mr. Coffey was appointed Judge of the Circuit Court.

"In 1866, he was the candidate on the Republican ticket for Prosecuting Attorney for the district composed of the counties of Owen, Greene, Clay and Putnam, Ind., making the race against Hon. John C. Robinson, but the district being largely Democratic, he was of course defeated.  In 1873, he was candidate for Circuit Judge in Clay and Putnam Counties, and the same reason operated to prevent his election, although running far in advance of his ticket.  His opponent was Judge Solon Turman, of Greencastle, Ind.

"On March 25, 1882, Mr. Coffey was appointed by Gov. Porter to fill the unexpired term of Judge Turman.  In June, 1882, he was nominated, by acclamation of the Republican Judicial Convention for the same position.  The counties of Clay and Putnam being intensely Democratic, it was at the time supposed to be impossible to elect a Republican nominee, but in the fall he was elected over the Democratic candidate, James J. Smiley, by a majority of 655, carrying his own county (which gave a Democratic majority of 190 on the State ticket) by a majority of 128.

"November 1, 1864, Judge Coffey married Miss Caroline L. Byles, daughter of William and Sarah Byles, of Baltimore, Md., and to this union have been born one son and three daughters.  As an attorney he is possessed of find social qualities, is quiet and unobtrusive, and of undoubted integrity.  He also stands high as a member of the Masonic fraternity."

[Judge Coffey and Caroline Byles Coffey were parents of Ida L., born c1867 in IN; Emma J., born c1871 in Clay Co., who married Dr. Renos Harlan Richards in Clay Co. in 1898; and Nettie, born c1874 in Clay Co.  The were also parents of one son, Robert Wallace Coffey, born 1878 in Brazil, Clay Co.  Robert married first to Alice Louise Wright, in 1907 Clay Co. and, second to Hallie Audrey Steuerwald in Owen Co. in 1945.]

Source: Charles Blanchard, Editor, Counties of Clay and Owen, Indiana: Historical and Biographical. Illustrated. (Chicago, IL: F. A. Battey & Co., Publishers, 1884), Page 345.

*In census records he always reported his birth in NC.

See earlier blog announcing death of Judge Coffey at

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