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Prominent Burke Family: Coffer (Copher)

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Presentation on theme: "Prominent Burke Family: Coffer (Copher)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Prominent Burke Family: Coffer (Copher)

2 Coffer: A Prominent Family
In the early 1660s, John Coffer was the first Coffer of this line to arrive in the new world. In 1728, Francis Coffer, John Coffer’s son, received a 378-acre land grant from Lord Fairfax in the area now known as Burke, Virginia. Thomas Withers Coffer, son of Francis Coffer, was a well-known vestryman of Truro Parish. Other well-known vestrymen of Truro Parish included George Washington, George Mason, Thomas Wren, and the Fairfax’s. He voted, had accounts at Colchester, and was on the rent rolls for 600 acres from During the War of 1812, Thomas Coffer, grandson of Thomas Withers Coffer, was a Captain in the 1st Battalion, 60th Regiment, Virginia Militia. In August 1814, His unit mobilized to defend Washington, however, militias back then were seen as notoriously unreliable, so a US military supply clerk in Washington refused to issue them arms and ammunition. The unit spent the night bivouacked in the US Capitol building and then left the city before the British forces arrived and burned the city.

3 Joshua Coffer Tree Branch (and selected Burke-area family stories)
Mary Littlejohn Withers Francis Coffer Francis Coffer received a 378 acre land grant from Lord Fairfax in 1728 in the area now known as Burke, Virginia Thomas Withers Coffer was a well-known vestryman of Truro Parish, along with George Washington, George Mason, Thomas Wren, and the Fairfax’s. Ann Shapleigh Neale Henry Wishart Katherine. O’Daniel Henry M. Gunnell Mary Ferguson Thomas Withers Coffer When Francis Coffer died in 1863, his will freed from slavery Charles T. Pearson, his three brothers, and mother. The proceeds from the sale of Coffer’s property went to the Pearson family also. Charles Pearson built a home, farmed and later set aside a plot of land in Burke for the Pearson Family Cemetery (located on Burke Lake Road). Jean Wishart William B. Simpson Catherine Gunnell Francis Coffer Thomas Coffer was a Captain in the 1st Battalion, 60th Regiment, Virginia Militia during the War of 1812. Siblings married siblings: Hannah Coffer married Silas Burke, and Jane Coffer married Levi Burke. Thomas Coffer married Jane Selecman, and Elizabeth Coffer married George Selecman. Exodus of the three oldest brothers: John and William Coffer moved to Wood County, West Virginia. Thomas Coffer moved to Andrew County, Missouri. Ella Coffer allegedly commits suicide by throwing herself under a train in Burke. Ann Simpson Thomas Coffer Francis Coffer 17__-1863 Joshua Coffer Armistead Thompson Mason Coffer John Henry Coffer Thomas Withers Coffer Hannah Coffer Huldah Virginia Simpson William Francis Coffer Elizabeth Ann Coffer Jane Coffer Silas Burke A Civil War Mystery: In April 1861, Joshua Coffer voted for Virginia’s succession from the Union. In February 1862, however, he is allegedly captured by JEB Stuart’s men and put in a Confederate Prison in Richmond where he died in March 1962 Milton Hall Ella Ann Coffer Joshua Coffer Jr.

4 “Locust Hill” The original Coffer family house, called “Locust Hill”, was probably located at or near the present site of the Woods Community Center located at Wards Grove Circle The house on the site today is most likely a second construction of the Coffer house and possibly dates from about 1876, based on inspections of the foundation, building techniques, and materials, as well as tax records Francis Coffer reportedly purchased the land from John Arundell (Arundle) in 1803

5 Using Forensic Evidence to Date the Coffer House
The house design, materials, construction methods, and building technology are appropriate for a house constructed during the last quarter of the 19th century. During a physical examination of the house, various components of the house were studied to determine the likely construction period. These components included the nail types, mortar composition, roof construction, saw marks, newel post style, firebox construction, door trim style, interior door transom panels, etc. Land tax records suggest that the existing house was constructed ca The house may have replaced an earlier house, possibly even at the same site. Perhaps an earlier building was destroyed and rebuilt. In 1874 and 1875 there were no values assessed for buildings; however, the following year there was a substantial amount assessed for buildings. An analysis of aerial photographs, topographic maps, and 19th century maps indicate that a residence existed on or near the current site of the present structure, but does not provide sufficient information to demonstrate that the structure on the 1862 McDowell map is the present structure.

6 Pre-Civil War “Snapshot” of a Successful Family
By the mid-1800s, the Coffer family was deeply interwoven into the fabric of prominent Fairfax County society by marriage into families that included Burke, Simpson, Gunnell, Selecman, Neale, and others. In 1858, Joshua Coffer (aged 44) appears to be head of the Coffer household at Locust Hill. Joshua marries Huldah Virginia Simpson (aged 18), who we suspect (but have not confirmed) is a cousin from his mother’s side. By 1860, tax records show that Joshua Coffer’s father, Thomas, owned about 290 acres of land in what is now Burke, Virginia and raised livestock and cultivated corn, hay, potatoes and oats. A large portion of the land was timber. In 1860, census records suggest three generations lived at Locust Hill: Thomas Coffer, Joshua and Huldah Coffer, Joshua’s invalid brother, Armistead Coffer, Joshua’s daughter, Ella Coffer, and Joshua’s nephew, Francis Coffer. The 1860 census also indicates the Coffers had 5 slaves

7 Virginia Succession Vote
On 23 April 1861, in the Virginia Succession Vote at Sangster’s, records show that Joshua Coffer voted “Yes” in favor of succession from the Union Note: Among the Burke area landholders, the only person on record as voting against Virginia’s succession was subsequently driven out of the community and fled to Alexandria, VA

8 1862 –Tragedy for the Coffer Family
3 February 1862 – Joshua Coffer’s son, Joshua Coffer Jr. is born in Burke, VA 15 February 1862 – Joshua Coffer’s father, Thomas Coffer dies in Burke, VA 22 February 1862 – Joshua Coffer allegedly is taken prisoner by Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart and taken to Richmond, VA and put in prison 8 March 1862 – 16,000 Union soldiers occupy and denude the Coffer farm 22 March 1862 – Joshua Coffer reportedly dies at a Confederate prison hospital in Richmond (which we have been unable to confirm from prison records)

9 In 1862, Union Troops Occupy Locust Hill
On 8 March 1862, 16,000 Union soldiers occupy the Coffer farm for eight days and reportedly used fence rails on the property for their campfires and to build temporary mud houses. Brigadier General Louis Blenker, 8th Infantry (1st German Rifles), uses the Coffer house as his temporary headquarters in Burke, Virginia Example of a Union Civil War camp in Virginia. This picture shows A Civil War camp of the 6th N.Y. Artillery at Brandy Station, Virginia Br. Gen. Louis (Ludwig) Blenker

10 Coffer Cemetery Sleuthing
A short walk from the Coffer family home is a small family cemetery (located off Wards Grove Circle) The original headstones were damaged by vandals in the 1990s and have been replaced by a single modern stone that simply lists names and dates of birth and death Joshua’s original headstone showed his DOB as 21 October and included: “Born in Fairfax Co., VA” and “Died in Richmond”


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