February 28, 2015

Dr. Laurence Henry Coffey and Finley Hezekiah Coffey

I have written previously about Dr. Coffey's parents, Henry Clay and Sophronia Tate Coffey.  Much of the information about Finley was produced in an earlier blog.  Daniel, Finley's younger brother can be found here.

Laurence was born Dec. 23, 1875 in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina.  His first cousin, Finley Hezekiah¹ was almost 15 years older, born in the Yadkin Valley on  Apr. 20, 1861 to Drury Robbins and Harriet Elizabeth Collett Coffey. When Laurence was about 13 years old, the 22-year-old Finley owned and operated his own business in Caldwell Co.  In 1887 he came to Lenoir and opened a general store.

The following article, written in 1942 describes Finley and once appeared on the website of the Caldwell County Department of Social Services
“Finley H. Coffey, president of the Kent-Coffey Manufacturing Company, prominent in the manufacturing, banking and government interests of Caldwell County, was born in this county, the son of the late Drury D. and Harriet Collett Coffey, both of whom were natives of Caldwell....When he was twenty-two he opened his own store in this area, operating it until 1887 when he came to Lenoir and established a general store where Efird’s is now located.
"About seven years later Mr. Coffey went to Kansas and took over the management of a farm owned by his father.  In 1907 he returned to Lenoir, and he, with others, founded the Kent-Coffey Manufacturing Company.
"Active in the civic affairs of Lenoir and Caldwell County , Mr. Coffey has served a number of terms on the board of aldermen of the city of Lenoir ; was chairman of the county draft board during World War I, and was for many years a member of the Board of County Commissioners, serving as chairman for some time.  He was a member of this board until 1928 when he entered the State Legislature where he served on the Finance Committee.
"At present Mr. Coffey is president of the Kent-Coffey Manufacturing Co., president of Union Mirror Co., president of Union National Bank, vice-president of Mutual Building and Loan Association, chairman of the County Welfare Board, Vice-chairman of the State School for the Deaf and chairman of the building committee.  He is also a member of the Knights of Pythias and the Kiwanis Club and an active member of the Presbyterian Church.
"To Mr. Coffey, perhaps more than any other living citizen, Caldwell County is indebted for much of the progress made during recent years.  During his term as a member of the county Board of Commissioners he was instrumental in establishing the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Caldwell County and in doing away with the indebtedness of the county and placing it once more on a sound financial basis.  When he became a commissioner there were only two jobs in the county outside the actual operating force in the courthouse, and these were a Farm Demonstrator and one Welfare Worker.  During his administration the county was given a well-rounded administrative force.
"The wide diversity of Mr. Coffey’s interests are well demonstrated in the offices which he holds today, and Lenoir and Caldwell County are indeed fortunate in having such a citizen as Mr. Finley H. Coffey.”
"Mr. Coffey was still in office at the time of his death at age 82 in 1943.  Minutes of the Caldwell County Welfare Board meeting after his passing refer to him as 'the beloved Chairman.'"
Finley married Miss Rose Frieze ca 1893 when Finley was 32 and Rose was 27.  The couple lived with his parents in Geary Co., KS in 1900.  Their children then were Mable, Herbert, and Howard.  Rose was expecting their fourth later that year which they named Ethyl. Daniel came along in 1904 while they were still living in Geary Co. The family, including Finley's parents came back to North Carolina before 1910.  Drury died in Caldwell Co. on Aug. 16th, 1913; Harriet in 1921.

Meanwhile back in 1900 Caldwell Co., Lawrence was preparing to leave his parents home and move to Richmond, VA where he would attend the Medical College of Virginia. He graduated from medical school on Mar. 10, 1906³ and returned home to practice medicine.  In 1909 he married Adah [sic] Mae Costner of Mecklenburg Co., NC, a daughter of William A and Sarah Frazier Costner.  Adah was born in that county and city of Charlotte on May 12, 1885 and died there on Dec. 5, 1973.  She outlived her husband by nearly 30 years; Laurence died of a stroke at the age of 59 on Sep. 3, 1944 at Lincolnton in Lincoln Co., NC.

In the intervening years, Laurence and Adah became parents of three children, a daughter Alda in 1910, named for Adah's sister; Jack Wilson, born 1912 and William Henry, born in 1914.

Over the years Laurence and Finley conspired to define the descendants of Thomas Coffey and his wife Sarah "Sally" Fields, from whom they both descended. Thomas was the sixth of the nine children born to John Coffey and Jane Graves.  They succeeded in their work with Thomas doing most of the research.  In 1931 Finley paid to have it published.  Since that time the book,  has become a proven tool that Coffey family researchers have come to rely on for its accuracy.4  

Sources include census records and archived newspapers. 

¹Sophronia Tate Coffey was the younger sister of Drury Dobbins Coffey, children of Daniel Boone and Clarissa Estes Coffey

²As of Feb. 28, 2015 the website still existed but the Finley story was no longer present. Finley was the first chairman of the Caldwell County, North Carolina Board of Public Welfare.  He was also one of the county's most prominent citizens.

³The Richmond Dispatch, (Richmond, VA), http://bit.ly/1Al9XX3, May 10, 1906, Page 12, Col. 7.

4Coffey, Laurence H., editor, Thomas Coffey and His Descendants (Chattanooga, TN: N. Sanders, 1931)

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