Obituary Details

Col. Charles Franklin Coffee

(03/22/1847 - 12/09/1935)
Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 12/19/1935

Col. Chas. F. Coffee, Pioneer of the West, Passes Away at His Home in Chadron After Long and Useful Life, at Age of 89

The activity behind the almost 89 years of Col. Coffee's life really calls for more than passing comment, and could his life's work be recorded just as he lived it, beginning with his service in the Confederate army, the few years he spent in Texas, the trips he made over uncharted courses with herds of cattle from Texas to Wyoming and Nebraska, would sound like fiction. But the Colonel lived in those days when it required courage and ruggedness to follow the life of that intrepid type of man who made the West, and he was truly one of the pioneers of the West.

Charles Franklin Coffee was born in Greenfield, Missouri, on March 22, 1847, the son of Col. John Trusdale Coffee and Harriet Weir.

In 1861, when the Civil War broke out, his father raised a regiment of cavalry, of which he became Colonel and joined the Southern army. Although only 14 years of age, Charles Franklin joined his father's regiment and went through four long years of war. At the close of the war the family moved to Georgetown, Texas, where he lived for a few years, and in 1871 he left Texas to drive cattle from that State to Wyoming territory. He trailed other herds from Texas in 1872 and 1873 and in 1873 established his first ranch on Box Elder Creek, about 65 miles north of Cheyenne.

In those days, although there was a treaty with the Indians, that the latter were not to cross the Platte river, the Indians roamed the country, depredations, running off cattle and horses and Colonel relates incidents where he lost heavily heavily in this way, and has stated that it was necessary to go armed at all times.

In the seventies that part of Wyoming was all open range country, and with other cow outfits coming in, Colonel Coffee decide to sell out there and in 1879 moved a bunch of cattle into Sioux County, Nebraska, and located a range on hat Creek, about 15 miles northeast of what is now Harrison, and since that time to a large ranch outfit, which is now held by the Coffee interest.

In 1879 he was united in marriage to Virginia A. Toney of Camden, Arkansas, and he and his bride established a home in Cheyenne. To this union four children were born, Arthur, John, Blanche, and Frank. Arthur and Blanche have preceded their father in death.

The family moved to the Hat Creek ranch in 1888, and lived there until 1900, when they moved to Chadron. Mrs. Coffee passed away there in the year 1906.

Besides his extensive cattle and land interests, Col. Coffee has been an important factor in the financial field of Western Nebraska. He first became interested in banking when he became president of the Commercial Bank of Harrison in 1888, and since that venture has bee identified with large interests in banks at Chadron, Gordon, where he was for years associated with D. H. Griswold, pioneer Sioux County settler, and also at Hay Springs. He has been president of the Sioux National Bank at Harrison since its organization in 1925. When moving to Chadron in 1900, Col. Coffee purchased stock in the first national Bank of that city, and since that time has acquired controlling interest in the institution, and was president of the bank at the time of his death.

In political life Colonel Coffee has always been a Democrat, and served in the State legislature in 1901.

By employment of sound business judgment, Col. Coffee had accumulated much worldly goods. Besides large ranch holdings in Sioux County, he owned what is called the Rawhide ranch near Jay Em, Wyo., and also considerable land in Dawes county and business property in Chadron.

In his ranching and banking enterprises he had been associated with his sons, John T., of Harrison, and Charles F. Jr., of Chadron.

In his business relations with fellow men, Colonel Coffee was considered a man of unimpeachable character, and while he was a "trader" of the old school and drove a hard bargain, his adherence to the rules of homes business dealings has never been questioned. He loved to live for the joy of living, and loved his fellow men, and it has been told to us that he has often made loans to his "pals" of the old trail days that he knew could never be paid.


Always active, the Colonel never knew fatigue and perhaps this characteristic was responsible for his illness of the past few years. About five years ago he drove from Chadron to his ranch on Rawhide, in Wyoming, a distance of about 120 miles, returning to Chadron that evening, and the strain evidently took its toll, for he suffered a light stroke of paralysis at the time. A little over two years ago he was stricken again, and since that time has been in failing health. Few men have lived the active life of Col. Coffee. He has been a power in developing a new country, and he has given much service to mankind and by making for himself he has helped others to make, too. His has been an abundant life and in coming to the end to the trail, he will earns that peaceful rest that is found in death.

Funeral services were held from the Methodist Church in Chadron on Tuesday afternoon at 2:00 o'clock, with interment in the Chadron cemetery. Services at the grave were conducted by the Masonic order, he having become a member of this fraternal society at Cheyenne in 1885, and at the time of his death held the Jordan medal as the oldest Mason, in years of membership, in the Chadron lodge. Business houses of Chadron were closed during the services, and a large number of people from Chadron, Sioux County and other communities in Western Nebraska and Eastern Wyoming attended to pay their last respects to a true friend and pioneer.

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