COFFIN, Fletcher & Sylvester B.

1st Biography of Fletcher COFFIN
Past and Present of the City of Rockford and Winnebago Co., IL, C. A. Church.   Chicago: Clarke, 1905, pp 828-831

Fletcher COFFIN, whose beautiful home in Rockford [Winnebago County, IL], which he has owned and occupied since 1893, is the visible proof of his life of energy and enterprise through the long years of an active business career, was born in Roscoe, Winnebago County, IL, 06 Nov 1841, and comes of old New England ancestry.  His paternal great grandfather, born in New England, was the first of the name to leave that section of the country, locating in Deerfield, Herkimer County, NY, where in the midst of the forest he opened up a farm, upon which he made his home until his death.  It was there that Isaac COFFIN, the grandfather, was born and reared, and the occupation which claimed his labor in youth continued to be his life work, and he assisted in clearing [p 831] seven different farms of that locality.  He removed from Herkimer County to St. Lawrence County about the year 1839, and having purchased a tract of timber land, he and his sons began cutting away the trees, grubbing out the stumps, and preparing the land for cultivation, and in due course of time abundant harvests were gathered there.  He was wedded to Peggy PATTON, whose birth occurred in eastern NY and who passed away in St. Lawrence County [NY].  Her father was one of the heroes who fought for independence of the nation in the Revolutionary war.

Henderson W. COFFIN, a son of Isaac and Peggy COFFIN, was born in Newport, Herkimer County, NY, and there he spent his youth.  When a young man he went to Canada, where he learned the trade of brickmaking under the direction of his brother, Horace.  On leaving the Dominion he came to IL and located in Winnebago County in 1838.  Here he continued in the employ of his brother for a time, but later engaged in farming on his own account.  Subsequently he went to Beloit [Rock County], WI, where he established a brickyard, but previous to this time he had become the owner of land in Burritt Township, Winnebago County [IL], having entered a claim from the government.  In 1860 he took up his abode thereon and after cultivating and improving the place for several years, he removed to Winnebago Township, where he purchased a tract of land that was his home until his life's labors were ended in death in May 1876.  He was married in early manhood to Miss Mary H. KENEAR, who was also a native of NY.  They were farming people, energetic and diligent in business affairs, and at all times commanded the esteem of those with whom they came in contact.  So successful was Mr. COFFIN in his farming operations and so carefully did he invest his earnings that he was at one time the owner of more than 1,000 acres of land.  In his family were 11 children.

Like the others of the household, Fletcher COFFIN spent his boyhood days in his parents' home, acquiring a public school education and aiding in the farm work as his age and strength permitted.  Throughout his active business career he continued his connection with agricultural pursuits, and while he has now retired from business life, he is still the owner of 275 acres of valuable and productive land, lying in Burritt and Pecatonica Townships.  While on the farm he was also interested in dairying and stock raising, together with the cultivation of the fields, and all branches of his business proved profitable, owing to his keen discernment, marked sagacity and executive force.  

On 22 Dec 1874 Mr. COFFIN was united in marriage to Miss Harriet KEELING, who was born in Philadelphia, PA, 11 Jul 1853, her parents being John and Elizabeth (TAYLOR) KEELING, the former born near Liverpool, England.  His parents were William and Harriet KEELING, the former a tailor by trade.  On coming to America he settled in Philadelphia, where he engaged in tailoring for a number of years, but eventually moved to Rockford, where he resided up to the time of his death.  John KEELING also mastered the same business and followed it for a number of years in America, but eventually became a house decorator of this city.  His wife was likewise a native of England, and a daughter of William TAYLOR.  She came to the U. S. with a brother and sister.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. COFFIN have been born two children:  Gertrude May, who was educated in the Rockford schools, has now successfully engaged in teaching for ten years, while Alta Marie is the wife of Chester LANE, who is engaged in the insurance business in Rockford.  In 1893 the family left the farm and Mr. COFFIN purchased his beautiful home at No. 442 Oakley Avenue, where he has since lived a retired life.  In its rich and tasteful furnishings this home indicates the cultured and refined tastes of the inmates and the members of the household occupy a prominent social position.

Mr. COFFIN is a republican in his political views, strong in his endorsement of the principles of the party, yet has never been an aspirant for office.  He stands today as a splendid example of what may be accomplished in the business world through force of character and honorable effort, his life record indicating that success is ambition's answer and also showing that a man of resolute will and determination, although unaided by inherited wealth or influence, can win simultaneously for himself an honored name and notable prosperity.

2nd Biography of Fletcher COFFIN
Portrait & Biographical Record Winnebago & Boone Cos., IL. Chicago: Biographical Pub. Co., 1892, pp 869-870

The agricultural element that has been so largely instrumental in the upbuilding of Winnebago County [IL] is well represented by this gentleman, who is one of the foremost farmers and stock raisers of Burritt Township, where he owns a large and valuable farm.   Mr. COFFIN was born 06 Nov 1841 in Roscoe, Winnebago County, IL, a son of Henderson W. COFFIN, born in Newport, Herkimer County, NY, and he in turn was a son of Isaac, who was born in the town of Deerfield, Herkimer County, NY.  His father, the great grandfather of our subject, was from New England, and was one of the first settlers of the town of Deerfield.  He cleared a farm from the wilderness and resided there until his death.  Isaac COFFIN was reared on a farm and always followed farming as a vocation, assisting in clearing seven different farms.  From Herkimer County he went to St. Lawrence County [NY], about the year 1839, bought a tract of timber land, and with the assistance [p 870] of his sons cleared it and spent his remaining days there.  His wife was known in her maiden days as Peggy PATTON [surname given as PETTEN in the biography of Sylvester B. COFFIN, which follows]; she was a native of eastern NY, and the daughter of a Revolutionary soldier.  She passed away in St. Lawrence County.

The father of our subject went to Canada when a young man and there learned the trade of a brick maker with his brother Horace.  From there they came to IL in 1838, and located in Winnebago County, Henderson still remaining in the employ of his brother.   Sometime later he started farming for himself and went to Beloit [Rock County, WI], prospecting for a short time, and then established a brickyard.  He had previous to this time entered a tract of Government land in what is now Burritt Township, and in 1860 settled on that land.  There he engaged in farming for some years, then removed to Winnebago Township, and bought a tract of land and made his home thereon until his death in May 1876.  The maiden name of his wife was Mary H. KENEAR [surname given as KANIER in biography of Sylvester B. COFFIN below]; she was born in NY State, and now makes her home in Rockford.  The father of our subject was a very industrious man, possessed of good judgment, and was one of the most successful farmers in the county, and at one time owned upwards of 1,000 acres of land.

Our subject is one of 11 children born to his parents, and he received his education in the public schools of ths county.  Reared to farming pursuits, he has always followed that vocation and is now the owner of a fine tract of land comprising 240 broad and fertile acres which are finely improved, and good and substantial buildings are erected thereon.

The date of the marriage of our subject and Miss Harriet KEELING was 22 Dec 1879.   Mrs. COFFIN was born in Philadelphia, PA, and is a daughter of John KEELING, who was born near Liverpool, England, and a son of William and Harriet KEELING.  The grandfather of Mrs. COFFIN was a tailor by trade and on coming to America settled in Philadelphia and followed his trade there some years.  From there he came to Rockford, and resided here until his death.  His son, John, learned the trade of a tailor and also followed it for some time after coming to America.  He is still a resident of Rockford, and is now engaged as a house decorator.  The maiden name of his wife was Elizabeth TAYLOR, a native of England, and a daughter of William TAYLOR, and came to this country with a brother and sister.  Our subject and his estimable wife have had born to them two children:  Gertrude May and Alta Marie.  Mrs. COFFIN votes the Republican ticket in politics.

Biography of Sylvester B. COFFIN
Portrait & Biographical Record Winnebago & Boone Cos., IL.  Chicago: Biographical Pub. Co., 1892, pp 321-322

Sylvester B. COFFIN is a native-born resident of Roscoe Township, Winnebago County, IL, his birth occurring 06 Jan 1844, and almost his entire life has been identified with the growth and evolution of social, poltical, and natural life in this State.  He is the son of Henderson W. COFFIN, and the grandson of Edward COFFIN [name given as Isaac COFFIN in biographies of Fletcher COFFIN above], who was born in NY, and who followed the occupation of a farmer all his life.  The latter was married in his native state to Miss PETTEN, a native of NY State, and they became the parents of five sons and six daughters.  Both grandparents died at an advanced age.

Henderson W. COFFIN was born in Oneida County, NY, in 1813, and was married in that State to Miss Harriet KANIER of Buffalo [Erie County], NY.  [This surname is given as KENEAR in the above biographies of Fletcher COFFIN.].  There they remained until the fall of 1837, when they determined to seek fame and fortune in the Far West, and with teams they made the journey to IL, which State was then but sparsely settled.  Mr. COFFIN had but very little means to assist him along, and he and his thrifty and economical wife experienced many hardships and privations in getting a start.  The first night he spent in Winnebago County, Mr. COFFIN purchased one half section of land, giving his only cow, which he had driven from [New] York State, his gun, his watch, and $320 in a note for this tract.  Mr. and Mrs. COFFIN had a great struggle to deep and pay for this land but they finally obtained a government lease for all but about 80 acres.   This farm of 240 acres is now owned by their son Fletcher. 

Mr. Henderson W. COFFIN was a brick maker by trade, and his first brickyard was started in 1840, west of Beloit [Rock County, WI].  He subsequently purchased more land for brickyards, becoming the owner of 28 acres in Roscoe where the depot new stands, and this land is now owned by his daughter.  He gave the land for the depot.  He and Thomas BALDWIN, an early settler, walked from Rockford to near Beloit, carried their tools, and built a house, taking four trees standing for posts.  Three days later they had finished it and were back in Rockford.  Mr. COFFIN had men working for him for 50 cents a day and two meals, some walking six miles to and from their work.   Many of them owned their own farms but wanted ready money.  Mr. COFFIN's trade was more to him than wealth, and men of means, able to buy him out several times, worked for him at 50 cents a day.  At that time men cradled grain for 25 cents an acre.   Mr. COFFIN died in Aug 1875, when not quite 63 years of age.  His widow is now residing in Rockford, on Morgan Street.  He built the first elevator at the Roscoe depot.  This worthy couple reared eleven children:  Agnes, Julia M., S. B. (our subject), Esther, William Henry, Horace A., Fletcher, Mary Jane, E. B., Alfred H., and Ruby H.  Of these, Horace died at the age of 40 years, and Mary Jane, Mrs. W. B. SCOTT, died when 36 years of age.  The remainder are living and well informed people, although they had but common school advantages. 

Sylvester COFFIN remained at home, engaged in business with his father, until 29 years of age, when he married Miss Anna  ADDEY, a native of England, and the daughter of Thomas ADDEY, [p 322], who came from his native country of Canada in 1851, and from there to IL the following year.  In 1878 our subject sold out his grain elevator at Roscoe and began tilling the soil on his first farm, one of the many his father had owned, the latter being the owner at one time of 1,100 acres.  Sylvester has since erected a good frame house, larege and comfortable outbuildings, and is progressive and enterprising.  In connection with farming he is also engaged in stock raising to some extent.  Of his marriage has been born two daughters, now 14 and 10 years of age, respectively.  Mr. COFFIN has been a Prohibitionist for the past 22 years, and he and his wife are members of the Methodist Church.

Submitted by Cathy Kubly.