Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Coffee Cousins

    Cousin Don Dulaney shared a book with me recently:  Tennessee Cousins, A History of Tennessee People.   As I was thumbing through it late one night when I couldn't sleep, the name Coffee caught my eye.  Mike's GGGGgrandmother was Allie Coffey; she married John Mills in 1804 in Wilkes County, North Carolina and later moved with their family to the North side of Clinch Mountain in Hawkins County, Tennessee (later Hancock County).   Allie and John's grandson, William Orville Mills, came to Itawamba County about 1877.

Allie Coffey's (you'll find the surname spelled Coffee and Coffey) father was Ambrose, son of James Coffee and Elizabeth Cleveland.  In the Tennessee Cousins book, on page 560, there is a transcribed letter written by Ambrose Coffee's brother, Rice, to Jefferson Coffee, son of Ambrose.   Rice Coffee wrote the letter to his nephew in response to Jefferson's request for information about his ancestral history.  In the letter, Rice related that his parents were James Coffee and Elizabeth Cleveland, and that his grandparents were John Coffee and Jane Graves.   Rice stated that Jefferson's father, Ambrose, was born in 1762 in Albemarle County, Virginia, and in addition to Rice and Ambrose, there were brothers John, Archelaus, James, Reuben, Eli, Joel and Lewis.    Rice also remembered Jefferson's maternal grandfather, Jesse Moore, the grandfather of Allie Coffey Mills, who served in the Revolutionary War.

Curious about the Jefferson Coffee, Alley's brother, who wrote to his Uncle Rice, I did a little research.  It seems that Alley had at least four brothers who moved to Hinds County, Mississippi, and the surrounding area, in the beginning years of Mississippi's statehood.  
Thomas Jefferson Coffee moved to Mississippi where, in 1831, he served as representative for Rankin County.  By 1837, Jefferson had become a senator in the Mississippi legislature.  In addition to his political career, Coffee was a lawyer and planter, owning large plantations near Brandon and in the Mississippi Delta in Bolivar County.  Supposedly, Thomas Jefferson Coffee ran against Henry S. Foote for the Whig party's nomination for Governor, but lost by one vote.   After a duel in which he wounded his opponent, Thomas and his family moved to Texas and died there in 1858.

Another brother of Alley was George Washington Coffee, also a notable fellow.  He served in the Mexican War while a resident of Brandon, Miss., apparently earning him the title of Major.  Newspaper reports indicate that Major George Coffee was killed "justifiably" by his brother-in-law in 1840.  Although George lived at Grenada, in what was then still Yalobusha County, the town of Coffeeville was not named after him.

Hiram Coffee attained a great deal of wealth after his arrival in Mississippi.  At his death in 1836, he left his widow a legacy of $20,000 and left his half-brother $15,000.  A lawsuit involving the mismanagement of his estate wound up in the Supreme Court, and records indicate that Hiram's estate was possibly defrauded of  $65,000.  That's quite a sum of money for those days. 

The fourth brother of Alley Coffey Mills who moved to Mississippi was James Madison Coffee who supposedly died in 1873 in Mississippi, although I've not been able to find much about him.     Another brother, Holland Coffee, was quite well-known as an Indian trader on the Red River in the Texas frontier.  Holland served as the first representative from Fannin County to the Congress of the Republic of Texas.  He died in a duel/fight with his niece's husband.

Alley died in Hawkins (now Hancock) County, Tennessee between 1852 and 1860. 

I wonder if Orville knew about his great-uncles and their connection to Mississippi, the state that Orville adopted along with his new bride's family in the 1870's?  Did he know that his own uncles, Hiram and Thomas Jefferson and Holland, were named after his mother's brothers?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Are you sure you aren't descended from Foote, Hemingway, Melville (I hope my memory is right, but can't think today), any other intersting authors with MS roots? Yes, Mike, I do read! haha