JOHN H. COATS, the leading grocery merchant of Winchester, is a native of Petersburg, Pike County, Indiana, and was born Sept. 23, 1843. His father, William Coats, emigrated to Pike County, Ill., in 1844, thence to Scott County, where he died in 1855 at the age of sixty-one years. The maiden name of Mrs. Coats, the mother of John H., was Amelia Barrett. She died in 1862. Both she and Mr. Coats were natives of North Carolina, and they reared a family of four sons and two daughters, John H. being the youngest. It will thus be seen that our subject was left fatherless at a tender age, his mother an invalid, and he had no resources except a brave spirit and a courageous heart.
The subject of this sketch was educated at the common schools, advantages being denied him that would have aided him in procuring a higher education. Being of a studious and religious turn of mind, at the age of seventeen years, in 1860, he united with the Baptist Church. He remained a member of that church until 1869, when on account of certain doctrinal views of the denomination, he withdrew from that organization and became identified with the Christian Church. In that church he was ordained and began preaching at once. He was so successful in this, his chosen calling, that in twelve years he baptized into that faith over 1400 persons. Very much to the regret of himself and the members of his congregation, he was unfortunately forced by an irreparable failure of his voice and throat to abandon the pulpit in 1884, since which time, and for a year previous, he has been exclusively engaged in his present business at Winchester.
In May 1861, mr. Coats entered the army as a private soldier in Company A, 68th Illinois Infantry, which regiment was called out by President Lincoln for the period of three months. Afterward as a member of Company K 14th Illinois Infantry he served gallantly until the close of the war. He took part in the battles of Champion Hills, in the campaign in front of Atlanta, Big Shanty, and other engagements. At Big Shanty his regiment was captured by the rebel Gen. Hood and in consequence Mr. Coats partook of the overwhelming and consuming hardships of that prison-hell, Andersonville. During his confinement he made two unsuccessful attempts to escape, but the third attempt proved to be a success. Being detailed by Capt. Wirz, under whose immediate charge the prison was conducted, and who afterward paid the penalty of his many misdeeds at the end of a rope, to make out exchange rolls, Mr. Coats, by answering to a dead man's name, flanked his way out, and on to Vicksburg, where he was permitted to go free.
After his return to Glasgow, Mr. Coats engaged in the ministry as above stated, and afterward in the mercantile business, which latter occupation he followed for several years. In 1873 being elected County Treasurer, he removed to Winchester, which has ever since been his place of residence. He served three full terms as Treasurer by election, and held over one year by reason of a change in the law regulating the tenure. In 1880 he was a prominent candidate before the convention at Springfield for the office of State Treasurer, and in 1882 represented Scott County in the Legislature. In almost every State convention held since the war by the Republican party, he has been chosen as a delegate, and in 1884 he was the alternate delegate from this congressional district to the convention that nominated James G. Blaine. Mr. Coats has always been an active, influential, and conscientious adherent of the Republican party and an enthusiastic worker in its ranks. He is now a member of the Republican State Central Committee. He is a forcible and pleasing speaker in public; a man of the highest integrity and a citizen whose daily life reflects credit and honor upon his community. He is a Knight Templar; an Odd Fellow; an enthusiastic worker in the ranks of the G.A.R. and a member of the Mutual Aid Society.
Oct. 8, 1865 at Winchester, Mr. Coats was married to Miss Fannie McEvers, the accomplished daughter of James McEvers, Esq., of Glasgow. Of this union there have been born three children, whose names follow: Charles B., Lillie B. and J. Harry. The first named died in 1879 at the age of twelve years.