COFFEY COUSINS, North Side of Clinch
Mountain, Tennessee and Beyond
by Bennie Lou Coffey Loftin
©2000 Bennie Coffey Loftin
(The following is not released to the public domain, and remains the property of the author. It may not be used for any purpose without permission of the author)
Contact the Author
Ausburn "Ausbon" or "Aus" Coffey 1846-1923 told his grandson, Ted B. Coffey, our name was originally O'Coffey. Grandpa Ausbon told his grandchildren one of his grandfathers, being old and senile, would embarrass the family with his "Hail to King George". The family tried to keep him hidden because they were afraid someone might hear him supporting the King of England.
this grandfather to be Colby Rucker. Research since 1984, by Katherine Hayes
Johnson supports this theory. I believe this didn't take place in Revolutionary
times, but near the time of Colby Rucker's death in 1852. Uncle Ted believed
it to be a grandfather that was known to Grandpa Ausbon, who was born in 1846.
Colby Rucker was the only grandfather living when Ausbon was born. His grandfather,
John Coffey, had died in 1845.
Marvin D. Coffey (1930-2001) published JAMES B. COFFEY, VOLUME II, ANCESTORS, 1984 and a second printing of the book which includes his supplement. It is a well written, analytical work on the early Coffey families. I consider Marvin the "authority" on ancestor Coffey genealogy.
Another very good source of help on Coffey Genealogy is our newsletter "Coffey Cousins Clearinghouse". It is published four times a year, March, June, September and December, by a Benjamin Coffey descendant, Bonnie Flanigan Culley; 1416 Green Berry Road; Jefferson City, MO 65101-3620. It is a newsletter originated in 1981 by Leonard Coffey to collect and disseminate information about the Coffey/Coffee families of North America.
Most of my research has been concentrated on Benjamin Coffey 1747-1834, my Revolutionary Soldier Ancestor, and his descendants. I have not researched Benjamin's ancestors to any extend. Marvin had already done. I will include here, the other Coffey families living on the north side of Clinch Mountain in Tennessee. Some are undocumented descendants of Benjamin Coffey. Cleveland and Jesse T. Coffey are documented sons of Jesse Coffey, grandsons of Rueben Coffey. Rueben was a brother to Benjamin. This Coffey family intermarried with other Coffeys, who are believed to be descendants of Benjamin Coffey.
Cleveland's first wife was Susan Hayes, possibly from the same family as Nancy Hayes, wife of Benjamin Coffey 1808-1867. Nancy was the daughter of Thomas and Sarah Hayes, both born in Virginia. This is not the same Thomas Hayes who married Sarah Rucker and lived in Grainger County, Tennessee.
The first Coffey we find a record of in Grainger County was Meredith Coffey. He was on that county's tax roll in 1798. We assume Meredith to be the son of John Coffey and his first wife Dorcus Carter. He lived near this older John in the 1810 Grainger County, TN Census. This John Coffey is a brother to Benjamin Coffey 1747-1834.
Meredith and this family of Coffeys all live on the south side of Clinch Mountain, some distance away from the descendants of Benjamin Coffey, who were living on the north side of Clinch Mountain. Benjamin, Reuben and John were sons of John Coffey and Jane Graves, grandsons of Edward Coffey and Ann Powell.
Edward Coffey and Ann Powell are the paternal grandparents of Benjamin Coffey (1747-4 Jan 1834). Edward died before October 20, 1716 in Essex County, Virginia. His will and a deed are recorded in Essex County Records (Book 14, page 669). He listed a widow, Ann Cofey, and six children, John Cofey, Edward Cofey, Marther Cofey, Ann Cofey, Austes (probably Austin) Cofey and Elizabeth Cofey. (Spelling of the above names are as they appeared on records.) Edward is our immigrant Coffey ancestor. Marvin Coffey checked the original Virginia Land Patents and Grants. He found George C. Greer to have made a mistake in EARLY VIRGINIA IMMIGRANTS, 1623-1666 when he transcribed a John Coffee, who came to Elizabeth City County, Virginia as an indentured servant, the patentee being Nicholas Hill. Nell M. Nugent in CAVALIERS AND PIONEERS, ABSTRACTS OF VIRGINIA LAND PATENTS AND GRANTS, VOLUME 1-III, 1969 transcribed as John Coffin or Scoffin. Marvin viewed the original records and found that Greer had made an error and Nugent had made a correct copy. The name is given as Coffin at first and then at the end the name is repeated but appears to have an old style "S" in from of it so as to make it Scoffin. See Marvin D. Coffey' book, JAMES B. COFFEY, VOLUME II: ANCESTORS, 1984, for research on the ancestors of Ann Powell, daughter of Thomas Powell and Mary Place. Ann's will tells us that she married again and had two sons, William and Thomas Dooling. She also mentioned a grandson named James Coffey, son of her daughter Annister.
John Coffey, son of Edward and Ann (Powell) Coffey, was the father of Benjamin Coffey's 1747-1834. John's will was made on March 31, 1774 and was recorded in Albemarle County, Virginia at the March Court in 1775 (Will Book 2, page 321). His will names his wife, Jane Coffey (Gaelic version is Jean, English version is Jane) and nine children, James Coffey, William Coffey, Thomas Coffey, John Coffey, Edmond Coffey, Rubin Coffey, Benjamin Coffey, Winifred Moran and Betty Field. Thomas Coffey and Benjamin Coffey were named as executors. Land transactions, John's will and information on the pension applications of their sons and grandsons record John and Jane (Graves) Coffey as having lived in Essex, Spotsylvania and Albemarle Counties in Virginia.
North Carolina tax and census records indicate that after John Coffey died, Jane, with her seven slaves, moved to Wilkes County and lived near her children. Jane (Graves) Coffey could be of the same family as Captain Thomas Graves. Captain Graves help settle Jamestown, Virginia in 1607-1608. Marvin D. Coffey's Supplement To JAMES B. COFFEY, VOLUME 2: ANCESTORS, sites research by Kenneth Graves and Sue Davis that she is the daughter of John Graves (died 1820) and his wife, Johanna "Hannah", granddaughter of Francis Graves, great-granddaughter of Captain Thomas Graves and Katherine Crosher. Captain Thomas Graves of the Jamestown Colony 1608 and his descendants were in the right place at the right time to be Jane/Jean Graves ancestors.
Marvin D. Coffey, in his book on Coffey ancestors, list their children in the following order:
James Coffey born 1729, died Sept/Oct 1786, married Elizabeth Cleveland.
William Coffey born 1731, died abt 1828, married Elizabeth Osborne.
John Coffey born 1733, married #1 Dorcas Carter, #2 Nancy Richardson.
Edmund Coffey born 1735, died 25 July 1808, married Nancy ______.
Winifred Coffey born about 1739, married Nicholas Moran.
Thomas Coffey born 1742, died April 1825, married #1 Elizabeth Smith, #2 Sarah Fields
Reuben Coffey born 1744, died 1818, married Sarah Scott
Benjamin Coffey born 1747, died 4 Jan 1834, married Polly Hayes.
Elizabeth Coffey married Thomas Fields, son of Richard Fields and Elizabeth Murrell.
BENJAMIN COFFEY 1747-1834
We know from Benjamin Coffey's application for a Revolutionary War Pension, filed in 1833, that he was born in 1747 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. His pension records gives his death date as January 4, 1834 in Hawkins County, Tennessee, Pension Number S-1655.
According to family tradition, Benjamin Coffey married Polly Hayes. Mary was probably her name, but she was called "Polly". Their son, John Coffey, was born in 1776 in North Carolina, it would have been in either Rowan or Surry County, before Burke County was formed from these two counties in 1777.
Benjamin served twice in the fight for independence from England. First while living in the area that is now Burke County, North Carolina, he did volunteer on April 1, 1776 and served five months. He was sent to the frontier, to scout and to help build Crider's Fort, because of "mischief being done by the Cherokee Indians." In 1984, the site of Crider's Fort is Lenoir High School in Caldwell County, North Carolina. The second to serve was after the moved to Wilkes County in 1780.
Benjamin Coffey's family then moved over to Wilkes County, North Carolina. They may have been living there as early as November 2, 1779, Benjamin's name was marked through on a deed that was made on that date. On March 9, 1870, there was a land transaction from Lawrence Ross to Benjamin Coffey. While living in Wilkes County in 1780, Benjamin volunteered again and this time he served seven months.
Benjamin was at the famous Battle of Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780, as were several of his kinfolk, among them, brothers-in-law, Robert Whiteside and Mastin Durham and nephews, Reuben, Ambrose and Ely Coffey. His colonel, Benjamin Cleveland, was his cousin. Cleveland's parents were John Cleveland and Elizabeth Coffey. Elizabeth was the youngest daughter of Edward Coffey and Ann Powell.
Because Benjamin Coffey had lost his horse the evening before the battle and had to join the foot soldiers, he did not do any fighting in the battle that took place on Kings Mountain. The fighting was over by the time the infantry reached the battle scene.
Benjamin was sent to guard the prisoners taken in the Battle of Kings Mountain on their march to Moravian Town, "whereby, he developed pains in his ankles". He was furloughed home for the duration of the war.
Benjamin Coffey and family lived in that part of Wilkes County that is now Caldwell County, North Carolina for nearly thirty years. He sold a one hundred acre tract of land on December 15, 1808 for $1,200.00 in Wilkes County, that tract of land was conveyed to him October 6, 1785. Benjamin also received a grant from the state of North Carolina dated December 24, 1798 for land on the South Fork of the Yadkin River called Miller's Creek.
There were several land transactions for Benjamin in Wilkes County. THE COURT MINUTES OF WILKES COUNTY 1778-1784 VOL. 1, records Benjamin Coffey as over-seeing road up-keep from Buffalo Creek to the Burke County line January 3, 1789 and record him as resigning as road overseer on May 2, 1793. He also served as a juror in the Wilkes County Courts.
Marriage records in Wilkes County that could be some of Benjamin's children are the following:
__ Aug 1793, Joel Coffey married Jane Coffey; Bondsman, Benjamin Coffey
30 Aug 1794, James Coffey married Sarah Coffey; Bondsman, George Hayes
3 July 1796, William Coffey married Polley Coffey; Bondsman, Benjamin Coffey
5 Feb 1803, Benit Coffey married Sally Ferguson; Bondsman, Benjamin Coffey
I have some information on the parents of William Coffey (1774-1847), and husband of Polly Coffey, who was the daughter of Thomas Coffey and Elizabeth Smith.
John Hawkins sent me the information he had from Allan Poe.
I looked into the question of the parentage of the first William Coffey (ca 1774-1847) of Buffalo Creek and find ample circumstantial evidence that he was the second child and first son of Benjamin Coffey (1747-1834) and Polly Hayes (daughter of William Hays), who were married ca. 1771 in St. Anne's Parish, Albemarle County, Va., and moved to N.C. about 1775 in the vanquard of that large migration of Coffeys from Albemarle and Amherst Counties, Va., to the North Carolina frontier. He cannot be the son of Elder Cleveland Coffey. Elder Coffey sold out here on Smoky Creek in 1792 and left the state four years before William Coffey married his cousin, Polly, in 1796.
Benjamin Coffey lived about where Happy Valley School is located, directly across the river from his brother, Thomas Coffey, Polly's father, so William and Polly grew up within sight of each other's homes. Ben sold out in 1808 and moved to Hawkins County, Tenn., where he died. As he left no will, his children can be identified only by circumstantial evidence from the census returns, tax list, deeds, and marriage records, but these are sufficient to identify all except his four youngest children (who presumably married in Tennessee) and one son who died in infancy or early childhood. Most of the other children except William went to Tennessee with their parents which is probably why William's descendants lost sight of his origins and siblings.
One other child of Benjamin Coffey did not go to Tennessee with him. This was his daughter Jane who married (1793) her cousin Joel Coffey (born ca. 1773-____), son of Nebuzaradan Coffey and Elizabeth (Hays). Jane and Joel were first cousins on the Hays side and second cousins on the Coffey side. They went to Kentucky in 1794 with Joel's parents and lived in Madison County, Kentucky.
During his marriage to Polly, William Coffey lived on a small place on Solomon's Branch, the stream that flows behind Col. Davenport's house at Walnut Fountain. In 1829, after his marriage to Peggy Robins, he bought the place on Cove Branch of Buffalo from Gen. Lenoir and moved there, later selling his previous home to Col. Davenport. He died intestate in 1847 when his sons Aust and William administered his estate, with Dr. Larkin G. Jones as their surety. His principal property consisted of the farm, 125 acres valued at $170, and two slaves, a woman and a child who were sold the woman to James Harper for $455, and the child to Dr. Jones for $210 so even the child was worth more than the farm! Since Dr. Jones lived in Lenoir and Mr. Harper just outside the town, the woman and her child were not separated by any great distance. I believe the woman had a slave husband who belonged to Gen. Paterson at Palmyra.
The less valuable personal property belonging to the estate was mostly bid on by the widow Margaret Peggy, who gave a note for the amount of her purchases, with her neighbor William Pendley as her surety. As to the land, eventually Melvin Hawkins got it, after he married Nancy, but don't know just how, probably there is a deed to him, but I've never looked for it. Since a partition among all the heirs would have been impracticable, I expect a sale was ordered by the Court of Equity, but perhaps not until after the widow's death.
William Coffey's first wife Polly is said to be buried on Hulme Hill where all the early Coffeys of that neighborhood were buried. William and Peggy are presumably buried in the Reuben Robbins Cemetery on Lick Log Branch.
THOMAS COFFEY AND HIS DESCENDANTS, 1931, by Lawrence H. Coffey, list three sons for Polly and William Coffey, Austin married Betsy Hawkins, William married Margaret Robbins and Elijah married Elizabeth Robbins.
Benjamin Coffey was a bondsman in Wilkes County for the marriage of Mary Judith Mills and George Hayes on May 14, 1785. They were neighbors in Wilkes County and both previously had lived in Burke County. George Hayes stated in his pension application, that he had served the Revolution from Burke County, North Carolina. They all moved to East Tennessee. Hayes and Mills settled in Hawkins County next to Benjamin and Colby Rucker lived across the county line in Grainger County. They all lived in the same valley on the north side of Clinch Mountain. The area where Benjamin Coffey lived on Big War Creek in Hawkins County became Hancock County in 1844.
Benjamin Coffey purchased from Asahal Johnson two hundred acres of land for $1,500 on March 24, 1809 on the north side of Clinch Mountain in Hawkins County. His purchase was registered January 6, 1811, Book 6, Page 277. This land joined John Mills, John Bryant and Asahal Johnson. The deed was proven in open court by the oath of Thomas Johnston and Isham Mills, the two subscribing witnesses; the clerk was Richard Mitchell. Benjamin sold this same tract of land to William Lenoir of Wilkes Co. North Carolina for $500 on November 23, 1813. This transaction was sealed and delivered in the presence of William Hulm, W.R. Lenoir, Thomas Coffey, W.M. Johnston, Thomas Epperson, Peter Dodd and the clerk was J.D. Mitchell for the Court Term of May 1815. Benjamin signed his mark. Early tax records of Hawkins County in 1811 list Benjamin as owning two hundred and fifty acres of land.
Benjamin Coffey sold two more tracts of land at a later date. George Wolfe on April 2_, 1831 bought sixteen acres for $160 from him. This tract of land was described as being on Big War Creek near the Gap of the War Ridge path that led to Solomon Mitchell's. This transaction was recorded April 11, 1835 in Book 15, Page 220, Hawkins County, Tennessee by Clerk, Willie B. Mitchell, witnesses were Thos. Crawly, James McCoy and Joel Coffey, his mark.
Benjamin Coffey also sold eight acres for $50 on August 15, 1831 to Peter Wolfe. This deed was registered August 25, 1831, Book 4, Page 451, Hawkins County, Tennessee and was described as being on Big War Creek and a part of the W. Brown tract. L.D. Mitchell was the clerk, by W.B. Mitchell, Deputy Clerk. A deed of conveyance from Benjamin Coffey and Joel Coffey to Peter Wolfe for eight acres of land proven in open court by the oath of James McCoy and Charles Wolfe, subscribing witnesses thereto and ordered to be registered. Again, Benjamin Coffey's name was signed and Joel Coffey signed his mark.
I believe these to be indentures our old Benjamin made, but was too ill to go to the county seat in 1831 and was already dead when the one was registered in 1835. The witnesses said it was true, Benjamin wasn't present, so the clerk signed his name. We know that Benjamin's grandson, Benjamin Coffey 1808-1867, signed his mark to later deed transactions. These deeds were copied into the records by the clerks and all of the hand writing on a particular deed is the same. These records may have been recorded a second time after Hawkins County records were placed on the court house lawn and burned by Union Soldiers during the Civil War.
I will write first about those Coffey families who lived near old Benjamin Coffey, that we assume to be his descendants or near kin, but offer no proof.
There was a Thomas Coffey that purchased eight acres of land for $50 on Big War Creek on the north side of Clinch Mountain on November 20, 1809 from John Slater. Benjamin was a witness when it was recorded in May 1810, Deed Book 4, Page 451, Hawkins County, Tennessee.
Bennett Coffey and his sons, Joel and Caswell, lived near old Benjamin on Big War Creek. Bennett Coffey sold to his son, Joel Coffey, ninety-four acres of land on Big War Creek for $300 on February 10, 1834. It was described as being near where the wagon road ran through the gap in the ridge, Deed Book 14, Pages 406-410, Hawkins Co. TN.
Joel and Caswell are the only two children we have proven for Bennett. There is no 1810 and 1820 census for Hawkins County. The 1830 census for Bennett's household shows seven young males and one young female living there. Caswell is already married and head of his own household. One wife is all we have a record of for Bennett, she is Sarah "Sally" Ferguson. Our approximate death dates for Bennett and his wife comes from two old Mitchell letters. Those letters are our proof of Caswell being Bennett's son.
Linda Lawhon; 1515 Meadow View Dr.; Richardson, TX 75080, a descendant of Lewis Mitchell, furnished the following excerpts from the old Mitchell Letters.
Letter dated 9 Mar 1848, Lee Valley, TN, John Mitchell to brother Lewis, McDonald Co. MO ...... (Note: John, a cousin, raised by Solomon Mitchell.)
Since I wrote the above I have thought of some things which I think will make you laugh. _____ John Mills has lately married Peggy Campbell and is living at Ransom Hayes old place and Ransom is living down the creek near Peter Agans in a kind of pocket in bend in creek, is married a second wife and is presented by the grand jury of Hancock for illegal marriage. Old Ben (Bennett) Coffey's wife died last fall and he is living with his son, Caswell, and not long since got drunk and fell off a log and broke one of his legs short off, and is just got so he can go about .....
Letter dated 26 Apr 1858, Sneedville, TN from Richard Mitchell to his brother, Lewis Mitchell, in McDonald Co. MO. ..... deaths of people in the country that you knew is vast owing to old age and affliction, Mae Baldwin is dead, John Cantwell, Bennet Coffey, John Day, Old Jim Hicks, Vardy Colins, etc, etc, I might fill a sheet of paper recording .....
(Note: but he didn't)
Letter dated 21 Oct 1858 from Richard to Lewis Mitchell .....We have had quite a sickly season. Typhoid fever has raged mortally in our country .....
The 1790 and 1800 census in Wilkes County, North Carolina shows Benjamin has five, maybe six, sons and four daughters. I think one of these daughters was Jane Coffey that married Joel Coffey in 1793. There is a Jane Coffey who is living near Benjamin in the 1830 census. She is head of a household, which contains three young females and no males. She may be the widow of Joel and a daughter of Benjamin's.
In the 1800 census, Benjamin's household included three males in the 16-26 age group. They could have been John, Bennett and George. I am not sure George was a son of Benjamin, he or his descendants did not use Benjamin or John in naming their sons.
George Coffey married Margaret Rucker and John Coffey married Elizabeth Rucker. They were the daughters of Colby and Sarah Rucker. According to research since 1984 by Kathryn Hayes Johnson, Sarah's maiden name may have been Robbins, not Roberts as previously thought. Roberts came from the delayed pension application filed December 27, 1852 after Colby's death by his daughter Jane's husband William Hayes. Colby Rucker bought land on Indian Creek on the north side of Clinch Mountain. George Coffey and John Coffey both bought and sold land on the north side of Clinch Mountain. Colby Rucker's children's rejected pension application and his estate settlement name Margaret and Elizabeth as his daughters.
George Coffey was living near his father-in-law Colby Rucker in Grainger County, Tennessee in 1830. George and Margaret's son, William Coffey married Sarah Lucinda Coffey, daughter of John and Elizabeth Rucker Coffey. William and Lucinda's granddaughter, Rose Coffey Wood, told her children that her grandparents were first double cousins, if true, then George would be a son of Benjamin, but she could have said they were double cousins. Rose, also, told the story about two Irish Coffey boys married two Cherokee Indian girls. Some think that if there was Indian blood in the Rucker line it was through the mother, Sarah, but it could be from Colby's maternal line of Collins and Wisdom. We now know both of those surnames names to be prominent among the Melungeon people of East Tennessee.
There is a 1810 census (taken in May 1811) for Grainger County, it shows John Coffey and brother-in-law Thomas Hayes, living near their father-in-law, Colby Rucker. John has three males in the under five age group (Ausburn, Colby and Benjamin) and one female in the under five age group (Nancy). There are no 1810 and 1820 census for Hawkins County, nor a 1820 census for Grainger County. By 1830, John Coffey and his three older married sons are all living in Hawkins County near Old Benjamin 1747-1834.
Bennett Coffey and his son, Caswell, also live in Hawkins County not far away. I don't know who the young Jesse is that is living in the next household to old Benjamin. He is not the Jesse T. Coffey that married Lettie Collins on December 14, 1838 in Grainger County TN. Lettie's Collins family was recorded as being free colored in the early census, as were most people of dark complexion, which included Indians and Melungeons.
John Coffey 1776-1845 is the only one of Benjamin's children that we have documented. This was done from land transactions of John's children and a questionnaire that was returned in 1915 by "Stumpy" John Coffey 1845-1929; whereby he states his great-grandfather was Benjamin Coffey. He states that Benjamin came from Scotland and settled in North Carolina. We know by Benjamin's own pension declaration that he was born in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. The Scotland idea comes from a Scots gourd that has been handed down through the John in the Coffey family.
The story is that a friend gave the gourd that he had brought from Scotland to John Coffey 1776-1845 to carry his gunpowder in to keep it dry when he served in the War of 1812. Later generations got the story mixed up and thought John came from Scotland. John was born in North Carolina and his father and grandfather were born in Virginia.
Two other Coffey families living near John and Elizabeth (Rucker) Coffey and their children, on the north side of Clinch Mountain, were Cleveland and Jesse T. Coffey. They were John's cousins. We will include their family groups. They were sons of Jesse and Margaret Coffey, grandsons of Reuben Coffey. Reuben was a brother to our Benjamin Coffey 1747-1834. In 1846, Cleveland Coffey help establish the Cedar Springs Baptist Church near Thorn Hill, Tennessee. It is a church still in existence today.
Cleveland and Jesse T.'s father, Jesse Coffey, was dead by 1844, a land transaction in Ashe County, North Carolina names his widow and children, Caleb Coffey; Austin Coffey; Nancy Gragg, wife of Burton Gragg; Cleveland Coffey and Jessee T. Coffey, both of Grainger County, Tennessee; William Coffey; Reuben Coffey; Sally Green, wife of Nathan Green; Margaret Coffey, wife of Zacharias Coffey; and Mary Coffey. Mary married Reuben Dillinger.