more about her
The Portal to Texas History
of Sophia Porter's early home at Frontier Village
NOTORIOUS WOMAN CARVES FRONTIER LEGEND
Described variously as a prostitute, a heroine, a nymphomaniac or
a devoted religious woman, Sophia Suttenfield-Coffee-Butt-Porter may not
have fit all the characteristics, but the legends have turned her into
the most colorful woman in the history of Grayson County.
One of the first white women in the area, Sophia came to Preston
Bend in 1839 after marring "Col." Holland Coffee, operator of the first
trading post, which was on the Red River.
Coffee had come to the territory in late 1836 and gained notoriety
by trading whiskey and guns with the Indians.
His neighbors elected him to the third congress of the Republic of
Texas in 1838. It was at the congress at Washington-on-the-Brazos
that he met Sophia.
Sophia was the reported to be Mrs. Jesse A. Aughinbuagh, the wife
of a German officer who took her away from Indiana and then abandoned her
The officer eloped with Sophia in 1835 when she was 20-years-old.
Although no records have ever been found that the pair was married, Sophia
was awarded a divorce from Aughinbaugh by the Republic of Texas a few months
before she married Coffee.
Sophia always said she was born Dec. 3, 1815 at Ft. Wayne, Indiana,
to Col. and Mrs. William Suttenfield. She described her father as
a dashing young officer from a distinguished Virginia family, and her mother,
Laura Taylor Suttenfield, as coming from a genteel Boston background.
She said her parents had been captured during the War of 1812 and
held captive in Canada until paroled. Then, her father was to have
gone to Indiana, where the military was rebuilding Ft. Wayne and he took
over the restoration construction.
In Ft. Wayne, the colonel build the first house, and there, Sophia
grew to womanhood with all the advantages that a good background can give,
she told people.
Although the dates, persons and places were generally correct, Graham
Landram in his book "An Illustrated History of Grayson County," said the
rest of Sophia's stories are exaggerated.
Landrum said the colonel was really a "non-commissioned officer of
the foot." He was a small man, who had married Laura Taylor, who
was born in Boston, but not to a genteel family.
"In later life, she (Mrs. Suttonfield) bragged of having entertained
non-commissioned officers in the same way that her daughter bragged of
generals," Landrum wrote.
Suttonfield did work on the rebuilding of Ft. Wayne, however he was
a laborer, not the overseer. But research does show him to have built
the first house in that town.
After Sophia was abandoned in Texas in 1836, she probably resorted
to prostitution. She followed the Texas army during the revolution,
and she said she nursed Sam Houston after he was wounded at San Jacinto.
Also, she later bragged of friendships with other military men from
the Texas revolution.
:Her absence from the memoirs and histories of these figures is amply
explained by her reputation at that time," Landrum said.
Sophia lived with Coffee before they were married, and after their
marriage, they returned to the trading post. Again, Sophia boasted,
this time of the long "600-mile" trip and the "company of rangers" which
protected them part of the way. But these tales were also thought
to be stretched.
At first, Sophia lived with Coffee in his stockade sometimes called
Ft. Holland. Their house at the stockade was crude, and boxes which goods
were shipped in were used to make furniture.
"The first quilt I had in Grayson County, I picked the cotton out
with my fingers and I quilted it. I then made me a rag carpet and
put it on the puncheon floor. A goods box nailed up to the house
for my wardrobe - and on viewing my quilt, carpet and wardrobe, I was the
happiest woman in Texas," Sophia said.
The Coffees worked the land with the help of slaves and Coffee acquired
more land. In 1842, Ft. Washita was built and the soldiers became
company for Sophia, who also got to visit with the travelers and traders
at the post.
The, in 1845-56, Coffee built one of the most famous houses in North
Texas - Glen Eden. The plantation house was named "Glen" for its
location in a bend of the river, and "Eden" for the couples' happiness.
Glen Eden was a luxurious two-story house with a central dog trot
and a brick ell containing the kitchen and dining room, and was built of
white oak logs.
Long galleries went the length of the front and back, and two large
white chimneys were at either end of the house.
Over the years, Sophia developed the house and surrounding gardens
into a mansion of which many people of the county were proud.
In May of 1846, Coffee was killed. There are three different
versions of the story, with various records and statements to verify all
One story said he was stabbed by an Indian at his trading post and
it has been reported the murderer was a nephew-in-law. Another version
said he was killed in a duel with a soldier with whom Sophia had been
playing "fast and loose." Although Sophia never married him, the soldier
married her sister.
Charges were filed against Charles A. Galloway for the murder of
Coffee. Galloway was acquitted by public sentiment because several
witnesses of the killing said it had been a case of self-defense, the Clarksville
Sophia had a brick tomb built for her husband, and his remains stayed
at Glen Eden until Lake Texoma was formed over the state.
By 1848, she was married again. to George N. Butt (as he spelled
it) or Butts (as she preferred to spell it). Butts had come from
Norfolk, Va., and was given the frontier rank of "major."
When the Civil War first began, Union blockades of Southern ports
made Texas cotton abnormally valuable. In February, 1863, Butt took
a load of cotton to Sherman for sale.
On his way back, he was murdered in a grove of trees about a mile
and a half out of Sherman. When he had not returned at the designated
hour, Sophia set out with some slaves to hunt for him. His body wasn't
found until a week later.
Years, after the murder, Sophia claimed Quantrill's men killed Butt.
Although one Quantrill man confessed to the murder, records show the gang
wasn't in the state at the time.
Sophia became a heroine during the Civil War after she captured
a band of Yankee scouts in her wine cellar.
The scouts were searching for a group of Confederate fighters, and
Sophia was able to delay the search with her charm and hospitality.
After the Yankees were sidetracked and locked, she swam across the Red
River to warn Col. Jasper Bourland and his Rebel troops.
The Confederates were saved, and a historical marker at Preston Point
on Lake Texoma, calls Sophia the "Confederate Lady Paul Revere" and credits
her with helping to prevent the invasion of North Texas.
With the death of Butt, she moved to Waco to live with friends.
There, she met Judge James Porter of Missouri, a disabled Confederate officer,
and they were married in 1865.
When the couple returned to Glen Eden, Sophia took advantage of her
slaves and began planting cotton. By the time the slaves were freed, the
crops were already growing, and the slaves stayed with her of their own
At the end of the war, cotton was drawing top prices, and in the
winter of 1865-66, Sophia had a large raft built, and she went with the
cotton to market in New Orleans.
With the large profits from the crops, she went to visit her mother
in Ft. Wayne, Ind., and then returned to her plantation, where she began
remodeling. She changed the line of the porch roof, enlarged the
windows and replaced the wooden posts of the galleries with mill work.
She also covered the logs with siding.
By that time, Sophia had started to settle down, but her sense of
fashion, particularly her gowns from New Orleans, kept her apart from the
average Grayson County resident.
One story about her dress is as follows:
"When she got religion at a camp meeting at Shawneetown several years
later, she was dressed in an orange satin dress trimmed with rows of black
velvet and open in front over a handsome embroidered white skirt, which
showed as she shouted up and down the aisles of the arbor and over the
"The preacher, Rev. McKenzie, did not want to take her in the church
until she had served God for 12 years. He said from the pulpit that
the sun, moon and stars were all against her being a Christian."
However, J.M. Binkley admitted her to the Methodist Church in 1869,
and from that time on she was described as a "consistent member." which
meant she didn't' drink, smoke or dance.
About this time in her life, she took on a new image, and she became
one of the more respected citizens of the more respected citizens of the
county. She was particularly popular at the Old Settlers meetings
where she entertained the gatherings with her tales of the frontier life.
Many people began to call her "Aunt Sophia."
Sophia brought a sophisticated beauty to the to the rough land.
At Glen Eden, she planted many flowers, including the first roses in the
region. She also planted Catalpa trees on the property, and peacocks
roamed the grounds.
Judge Porter died in 1886, and was buried in the Preston Cemetery,
which Sophia had established. On his headstone, Sophia had the phrase
"He always made home happy" carved.
Sophia died Aug. 27, 1897 at the age of 86. On her tombstone
was written "Pioneer of Texas since 1835," and "I know that my Redeemer
A fire hit Glen Eden, but some of the original logs were salvaged
and have been reassembled at Pawpaw Hill east of Denison.
Now, Lake Texoma covers the land that Sophia and Holland Coffee originally
settled. Two historical markers stand at Preston Point.