Transcribed by Larry Fearneyhough
Few men are better known in Scott county or were more closely identified with the business interests of Winchester than Elder Coats. He was born at Petersburg, Pike county, Indiana, September 23, 1843. His father, Wm. T. Coats, came to Pike county, Illinois, in 1844, and thence to Scott county, where he died in 1855. John Coats was the youngest of six children and after the death of his mother, in 1862, was left at a tender age with absolutely no resources save his brave spirit and willing hands. He managed to secure a common school education, but was denied the privileges of a higher education. He was, however, studiously and religiously inclined and in 1860 he united with the Baptist church. On account of doctrinial differences, in 1869, he left the Baptist and united with the Christian church, and was at once ordained and began preaching. His work was so successful that in twelve years he baptized into the church over 1,400 persons. His throat became affected and, much to his regret, and the regret of the people, he was compelled to give up his ministerial work and turn his attention to the business world.
In 1861 Mr. Coats entered the army as a private soldier in Company A, 68th Illinois Volunteer Infantry (three months service under a call from President Lincoln), and afterwards became a member of Company K, 14th Illinois Regiment, and faithfully served until the close of the war. He participated in the battle of Champion Hill; in the campaign at Atlanta, and in other engagements, including the battle of Big Shanty. At Big Shanty his regiment was captured by the confederates under General Hood, and as a consequence, Mr. Coats had a good taste of prison life at Andersonville. While there he made two unsuccessful attempts at escape, the third, however, proved effectual. He was detailed by Capt Wirz, who was in command at the prison (and who aftewards paid the penalty of his many misdeeds at the end of a rope) to make out exchange rolls and by answering to the name of a dead man, flanked his way out, managed to get over to Vicksburg and was there allowed to go free. The hardships endured at Andersonville will remain green in Mr. Coats memory so long as life shall last.
At the close of the war he returned to Scott county, resumed his ministerial labors and engaged in merchandising at Glasgow, and there remained during the years of 1866 and '67.
In 1873 he was elected assessor and treasurer of Scott county and served until 1880. In 1880 he was a very prominent candidate before the republican state convention, for the office of state treasurer. During the years of 1881-82 he represented Scott county in the state legislature, and to almost every republican state convention held in Illinois since the war has been chosen a delegate. He has served upon the republican state central committee, and was a presidential elector in 1893. He has always been an active republican and is an enthusiastic party worker. He was engaged in the grocery business in Winchester until August, 1897, and since that time has given his attention to caring for his landed interests and other business matters.
October 8, 1865, Mr. Coats was married to Miss Tamme McEvers, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James McEvers of Glasgow, and to them have been born three children, two of whom are living - Mrs. Lillie Coats Biernbrauer, and Harry; Charles B. having died in 1879, at the age of twelve years.