Archiver > IADECATU > 2003-12 > 1070663382

From: "Nancee\(McMurtrey\)Seifert" <>
Subject: [IADECATU] LEWIS M. COFFEY AND HIS PIONEER FAMILY -- By Leonard N. Coffey (Segment 2)
Date: Fri, 5 Dec 2003 17:29:58 -0500

The earliest document upon which our ancestor appears is the First Marriage Book of Pulaski County, Kentucky. It notes that "Levi" Coffey and Delilah Turpin were joined in January of l8l8 by the Reverend John Black. Lewis "Levi" was two months past his nineteenth birthday and Delilah would not be l6 for another three months. The name "Levi" may have been due to the reverend's poor spelling or poor memory. The record was entered by the county clerk from a list supplied by the minister at the end of a circuit of several months and a few other marriages. The clerk may also have misread the notes or perhaps the name was "Levi" at the time. Later information, however, leaves no doubt that this was our Lewis.

The newly weds made their home in Pulaski Co. but exactly where is not known. Lewis cannot be found in the census of l820. He did appear on the county tax lists each year from l8l8 to l827. He appeared as: Lewis Coffey, Lewis Coffee, M. Lewis Coffey, and M. Lewis Coffee. In l827 he was listed as farming 50 acres of third rate land in the Cumberland River district. He owned no studs, jacks, or slaves and his evaluation was listed at $l50.00. In this ten year period, Lewis and Delilah became the parents of Nancy in l8l9, James in l822, Mary Ann "Polly" in l824, and probably Bettie who survived only a short while. They may have lived with Delilah's mother, farming a portion of Moses Turpin's estate. In l820 Magdelin completed settlement of the estate by paying Lewis $l4l.00 and Benjamin Roberts $45.00.

Magdelin Turpin continued living on her husband's land from l8l6 to l825. In l825 she married George Cundiff, who died in l826.

In l827 Lewis decided to move his family to Indiana and arrived in the fall, in Jackson Township of Morgan County. Exact details of the move are available in two versions: l. The family moved in the fall of l827 and settled on a farm of 101 acres. 2. Lewis moved to Indiana in l828 where he entered, cleared, and sold land. No record has been found where Lewis held title to land. some of the early settlers did arrive in the fall of the year, without their famillies. They would enter a claim, clear trees all winter, build a shelter and move their families in the spring. At least his family was in Indiana by September of l828, for John L. Coffey, the second son was born there. In l830 the U.S. census listed Lewis Coffee in Jackson Township, p. 236 with one male under 5 years, one 5-l0, one 30-40 and females: one 5-l0, one l0-l5, and one 20-30. In that year Lewis was 3l, Delilah 28, Nancy 11, James 8, Mary Ann 6, and John L. 2.

The year l83l held two noteworthy events for the family. In May a third son, Moses Turpin Coffey was born. Also that year Magdelin Cundiff came to live with them. It would seem that Lewis had as yet been unable to complete payment for any land he may have entered and someone had a spelling problem. Magdelin's name has appeared in various references as Magdelen, Magdelia, and Delia. The Morgan Co. Recorders office has the entry for the U.S. deeding one tract of 40 acres and one of 6l acres to "Magdilla Candep". The description places these joining tracts in Jackson Township on what is now the farm of the heirs of Clarence Clodfelter on Ind. 252 about 5 miles east of Martinsville. It is recorded that Magdelin gave Lewis Coffey authority to "purchase some land" for her which he did for $l27.50. But in Magdelin's name. This apparently led to problems and confusion in the family which arose at a later date.

Little is known of the next five years except: l. The family greeted another son, Philip B. in April of l834. 2. In July, l834, Nancy married Robert Jones. 3. In l836 another baby was born, but the infant Delilah would not remember her grandmother, for Magdelin Cundiff died that year. Her son-in-law, Benjamin Roberts was made administrator of the estate and began settlement procedures. Before settlement could be completed, a rather puzzling thing happened.

Robert Jones filed suit on behalf of the minor heirs of "Magdelia Cundiff" versus the "other" heirs of same. Jones named the children of Lewis Coffey as plaintiffs. Delilah's brothers, sisters, and their spouses were named as defendants. Jones' claim was that the administrator was about to divide and sell Magdelin's land. He claimed that the land rightfully belonged to himself and Lewis' children because Magdelin had "often said she would give it to them in return for Lewis helping her on the farm, and because Delilah had not received the full share of her father's estate". Benjamin Roberts and Delilah's brothers protested that "Lewis was hard run and frequently in distress for money to support his family". They also testified that Lewis had full run of the farm rent free and without any accounting which was more than enough to compensate him for any services to his mother-in-law. In addition, Magdelin frequently gave him money, and indeed Delilah had received her ful!
l share of her father's estate. Also Lewis had received his division of Magdelin's Personal Property".

Judge William Wick decided in favor of Robert Jones and the minor children in September of l828. Roberts requested permission to appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court. Permission was granted providing Roberts furnished bond in the amount of $250.00 No record has yet been found that the appeal was in fact carried through. Neither has a record been found indicating the disposition of the land. James W. Coffey stated that his mother lived on the "family farm" until her death in l873. There was no record in the court records that Lewis or Delilah took part in the case mentioned.


Likely by the late thirties, and possibly earlier, Lewis not only farmed and raised stock, but in the spring of each year piloted flat-boats of produce from Martinsville to New Orleans. These sturdy craft were built of native timbers on the banks of the White River during the winters. They were usually l4-20 feet wide and 80-100 feet long. As the boats were being built, settlers were rounding up their hogs that had foraged freely in the forests, driving them to the slaughter houses on the river. Here the hogs were butchered and packed in white oak barrels for the journey down river. When the spring floods came the pork and any grain surpluses were loaded on the boats. Normally manned by a steersman, oarsman, and pilot they would begin the l800 mile journey down the White, Wabash, Ohio, and Mississippi to the Crescent City. Reports say on nights when the boats pulled to shore, songs of the boatmen could be heard across the river as they visited from craft to craft. It!
is possible that Lewis and young Abe Lincoln encountered each other in l83l when Lincoln made the trip from Illinois. Lincoln talked of walking nearly a mile across moored boats to reach shore at New Orleans.

After weeks of hard labor, avoiding shoals, drifting logs, and other traffic, they would arrive at the destination, sell the cargo, then break up and sell the timbers and start home. One report says the homeward trip could be made for as little as three dollars. This was deck passage on a north bound steamer with the passenger responsible for his own food and shelter.

The traveler often faced more danger during his return than on the down river trip. There were frequently thieves, con men and gamblers who made their livelihoods separating the unsophisticated from their money. If successful, the Hoosier boatmen would leave the paddlewheel at Madison, Indiana. From there it was only 85 miles to walk home. In later years this was cut to 20 miles when the railroad was built from Madison to Franklin.

Other than the testimony in the court case it is not known how the family fared in those years. It did grow numerically with the arrivals of Elizabeth in l839, and Robert Washington in l84l. James W. was now a young man and had been on some of the river trips with his father. In l842 he left the river and married Louisa T., the daughter of James and Sarah Norman. Also in l842, Polly married John Cook, son of Christopher (Christian?) Cook. Lewis was also required to pay the new poll tax of that year. Information for the years l842-l844 conflict giving us two versions. James W. is quoted as saying in l887 that "they" (James and Lewis?) abandoned flat-boating in l842 when the cholera epidemic broke out in New Orleans. However the MEMOIRS OF NOAH MAJOR OR THE PIONEERS OF MORGAN COUNTY said that Lewis Coffey, one of the early flat-boaters died on the return trip in l844. No other details of the cause or place of Lewis' death are available. We have speculated that the ca!
use of death could have been from disease or foul play encountered on the trip. Too, if he died "on the return trip", he may be buried somewhere between Martinsville and New Orleans.

James W. Coffey was appointed administrator of Lewis' estate in April, l844. Apparently, in the latter part of l844, Delilah gave birth to Lewis Martin Coffey. Attorney John Eccles had represented Jones and the Coffey children in the l838 court case and was an appraisor for the estate in l844. Yet he unaccountably missed listing the family in l840 when he was census taker for the U.S. in the area. The census for l850 and l860 lists Delilah as the head of household with the then minor children. She has not been located in the l870 census but was reported to have died on the "family farm" in l873. Where was the "family farm" referred to by James W.? Some of his descendants believe it was the 101 acre tract purchased by Magdelin. County records, however, show that in l845 Delilah was the original purchaser from the U.S. of a forty acre tract about three miles from the 101 acres. In l854 she sold the 40 acre farm to James W. Coffey. In l857 James sold it to John L. Cof!
fey. John L. sold to brother Robert in l864. Robert then sold to Moses in l866, when Robert moved to Illinois.

Many questions about the family remain unanswered. This compiler has found that the whole of the story develops from piecing many small bits of data together. While seeming unrelated, when viewed together they begin to form a picture of the lives, struggles, and successes of the family.

The remaining pages will be devoted to extracts and copies of public records from which the Lewis Coffey story was developed. While much of it could be considered "dry" it can reveal much about the lifestyle of our pioneer ancestors.


James W. Coffey qualified and gave bond as administrator of the estate June l9, l844, and August 10, l844 filed the following inventory of Lewis Coffey's personal goods with the assistance of John Eccles and Redmon Dorrell, appraisors:

l bed and bedding and stead - $7.00
l bed and bedding and stead - 7.00
l trundle bed and bedding and stead - 4.00
l flax wheel - 1.50
l spinning wheel - 1.25
l candle stand - 1.00
l check real - .l2
l trunk - 2.00
l lot cupboard ware - 3.00
l shovel - .50
2 shovel ploughs - 2.00
3 clevises - .75
l lot hoes - l.75
3 axes - l.50
l lot shoe tools and lasts - 2.50
l two-horse wagon - l5.00
l dark red cow with bell - 8.00
l red and white steer - 3.00
l black steer with white face - 3.00
l pieded steer - 5.00
l red, white backed heifer - 7.00
2 two-years old - 4.00 - 8.00
l red calf - l.00
l handsaw and auger - l.00
l looking glass - .l2
l iron square - .25
l lot of chains - .75
l grindstone - .50
l lot carpenter tools - l.25
l clevis and open ring - .25
l lot barrells - l.00
l cutting box - 2.00
l lot harness - 7.00
l saddle - 3.00
l lot of castings - 7.00
l Cary plough - l.25
l lot singletrees and doubletrees & neck yoke - 2.00
l mowing scythe - .50
l water bucket - .25
l black cow with white face and calf - 7.00
l red heifer - 2.00
l pieded heifer - 2.00
l lot wheat - 6.25
l6 head of sheep @.75 - l2.00

On August l7, l844 the administrator filed the results of the sale listing the items sold and to whom they were sold. While most items brought pretty much their appraised value one item seemed unusual. The steer that had been appraised at $5.00 was sold to Delilah Coffey for $l.00. Is it possible that the auctioneer and crowd had compassion for the widow with 6 youngsters at home and another on the way or newborn? The remaining buyers included most of the family and neighbors. Such as Christopher Cook, James Coffey, Robert Jones, John Cook Jr., and others.

On February l4th, l846, James Coffey filed his final report showing his outlays for expenses and the payment of $l50.00 to his mother.

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