COFFEY HILL, north of Griggsville, at the breaks of McGee, and Porter Hill, southwest of Detroit, in Newburg, Section 24, are landmarks of frequent reference in early Pike county history. Here were the pioneer settlements of the Nathan Coffeys and the David Porters. In the middle of the last century these two families were united by the marriage of Eliza Coffey, daughter of Nathan, to John Porter, son of David.
Coffey Hill received its name from the first white settlement thereon. Before the white settlers came, it had been a favorite camp site of the Indians and had been known in territorial days as Indian Hill. Legends of Indian occupancy still clung around the place in the early days of white settlement. The early French called it Femme Hill and among the first settlers there was a sort of dim tradition, of Indian origin, that an Indian maiden had met some tragic fate on or near this locality and had been buried on the hill. The legend may derive from another tradition of the first settlement, that of an Indian girl who was drowned when she attempted to ford what is now known as McGee Creek in a time of freshet and was swept from her pony. The creek was called Femme Creek by the pioneer French or French-Canadians and was quite likely linked with the legend of the hill.
Coffey Hill was still known as Indian Hill as late as 1825, when the site of present Griggsville was known as Bateman's Gap. The Abraham Scholl family, coming up from Kentucky, settled that year at a point a short distance south of the later Coffey settlement. The site of Griggsville was known prior to 1825 as Sackett's Harbor, bearing the name of a wild hunter who had a rude shelter there before the first permanent white settlers came.
On November 28, 1850, at the bride's home at Coffey Hill, John Porter, son of Pioneer David, married Eliza Emeline Coffey, daughter of the Coffey Hill pioneers. The Reverend Burton B. Carpenter, noted pioneer pastor at Griggsville, performed the ceremony.
Eliza E. Porter was a daughter of Nathan and Sarah (Meredith) Coffey, who settled at Coffey Hill in 1829, coming to that location from Simpson county, Kentucky. Nathan Coffey was born in North Carolina, January 10, 1788. On November 3, 1806, in Adair county, Kentucky, he married Sarah Meredith, who was born in North Carolina October 26, 1789. She was a daughter of David Meredith, son of William. Her mother's maiden name was Hannah Cook. Sarah Meredith's brothers were William (Detroit pioneer), James and Thomas; her sisters were Kizia, Elizabeth and Thurza.
Nathan Coffey was a son of Joel and Martha (Step) Coffey, she a daughter of Joseph and Katherine (Spoon) Step. Nathan's brothers were Joel, James, Cleveland and Nebuzaradan; sisters were Katherine, Jane and Celia.
Nathan and Sarah (Meredith) Coffey were among the most noted of the Griggsville pioneers and their children were long prominent in the affairs of that section of Pike county. They had thirteen children, as follows: Martha Bagby Coffey, born January 8, 1808, married Charles M. Benbrook in Kentucky May 18, 1826; Woodson Rickets Coffey, born October 1, 1809; Elizabeth Graham Coffey, born April 27, 1811; Meredith Washington Coffey, born March 3, 1813, married in Pike county Eliza Hutchinson, July 24, 1836; Joel Woodson Coffey, born March 5, 1815; Daniel Franklin Coffey, born April 18, 1817, married, in Pike county, Elizabeth Conner, August 4, 1842; Hannah Jane Coffey, born March 19, 1819, married in Pike county William Wells, April 12, 1835, with the pioneer preacher of Boone descent, Jesse Elledge, officiating; Kizia Katherine Coffey, born January 9, 1821, married in Pike county Archibald Campbell, March 19, 1840, with John E. Roberts officiating; Thomas Chelton Coffey, born December 18, 1822, married, first, Rebecca J. Daigh, June 11, 1848, and second, Helen L. Brower, October 7, 1851, with James Ward, probate justice of the peace, performing the first, and the Reverend Charles Harrington the second ceremony; Eliza Emeline Coffey, born in Simpson county, Kentucky, March 10, 1825, married John Porter November 28, 1850; James Cleveland Coffey, born May 31, 1827; Sarah Ann Coffey, born February 4, 1829 (year of the Pike county settlement), married Charles Tomlinson November 15, 1863; Nathan James Coffey, born January 12, 1831.
David F. Coffey, sixth of the above children, was the Whig candidate for constable at Griggsville in 1838, in which campaign his Democratic opponent was Marshall Key, relative of Francis Scott Key of "Star Spangled Banner" fame. The exciting contest between these two colorful figures precipitated the abolition melee of 1838, which was one of the most exciting episodes in Griggsville's history, the incident of which have been chronicled in an earlier chapter.
David F. Coffey married Elizabeth Conner, daughter of Francis Conner, 1832 settler in Franklin county, Illinois. David F. was a captain of Company B, 68th Regiment, Illinois Infantry, in the Rebellion, but he was detailed to hospital service during the second Battle of Manassas. He had ten children, among them Sarah E., Nathan F., J. Hardin, Delitha M., Daniel F., Burton B. (named for the Reverend Burton B. Carpenter, who was for 25 years pastor of the pioneer Baptist church at Griggsville), Thomas M., Mary J. and Grace L. Coffey. David died September 22, 1867, aged 50.
Nathan Coffey, the pioneer of Coffey Hill, died September 19, 1834, in the fifth year of the settlement. His wife died December 26, 1853.
Numerous descendants of William Porter and Joel Coffey intermarried here in Pike county in the period of pioneer settlement. The first such marriage of record was that of William Porter (grandson of the elder William) and Sarah Coffey (granddaughter of Joel), November 26, 1840, with the Reverend William Gale of the early Montezuma region officiating. The second marriage between the two families was that of Stephen Porter and Catherine Jane Coffey, September 1, 1844. The next was the marriage of John Porter and Eliza Emeline Coffey in 1850, of which mention has been made. Still another inter-family marriage is recorded in Porter and Coffey family histories, that of William Porter and Patsy Coffey, October 4, 1849.
Much of the foregoing Coffey family history is taken from the handwriting of Eliza Emeline (Coffey) Porter, in records preserved by her granddaughter. Miss Eunice Porter of Detroit.
John Porter, son of David and grandson of William, following his marriage to Eliza E. Coffey in 1850, continued for a time in the mercantile business in the village of Detroit. On October 1, 1851, he moved to the location known in Porter family records as Porter Hill, at the edge of Newburg and near Detroit, where he engaged in farming. Later he secured a man to take care of the farm work and he himself engaged in teaching school, continuing in this profession for several years.
John Porter and Eliza E. Coffey had five children, namely: Emma, Sarah Agnes, Jane P. (Jennie) who married Edwin O. Goldman November 18, 1877, and John David. One child, the second born, died in infancy, Emma, born January 8, 1852, died June 5, 1932; Sarah Agnes, born October 6, 1856, died January 22, 1925; the two sisters, who never married, lived in the same home in Detroit for many years, beloved by all.
Jennie (Porter) Goldman died at Detroit March 28, 1928. She left surviving her husband, Edwin O. Goldman, and her children, Flora B. (Mrs. Leo E. Johnson), Lela (Mrs. Loren H. Moore), Sarah Emma (Mrs. Floyd Sanderson), Lyda (Mrs. Fredrick E. Johnson), and Charles Goldman (who married Ethel May).
John Porter died May 27, 1895; his wife December 9, 1901. Both are buried at Blue River.
John David Porter, their son, born September 23, 1860, married Margaret Jane Hall, November 5, 1890, she a daughter of Calvin Leonidas Hall, whose parents in the summer of 1830 emigrated from their native North Carolina and traversed for nearly a thousand miles the almost pathless wilderness to settle in what is now Detroit township in Pike county, Illinois. With them on the long and perilous journey came their two elder sons and the infant Calvin.
Calvin Hall, father of Mrs. Porter, was born in North Carolina February 14, 1830, of Scotch-Irish descent. His great grandfather, Colonel John Hall, came from Scotland, while his great grandfather on his mother's side, Moses Linster, was born November 1, 1740, in County Cavan, Ireland, and died July 2, 1817. Margaret Linster, daughter of Moses, born November 11, 1771, married Joseph Hall, son of Colonel John Hall, August 22, 1790. She died November 1, 1840. Thomas Linster Hall, son of Joseph Hall and Margaret Linster, and father of Calvin Leonidas Hill, was born August 14, 1802.
The Hall family in Pike county derives from Colonial days, when Colonel John Hall, great grandfather of Calvin, distinguished himself in the War of the Revolution. Joseph Hall, the son, born 1764, spent his life in North Carolina where he owned two large plantations and over a hundred slaves. He also owned and operated two cotton gins, a large mill, and a toll bridge over the Yadkin river.
Calvin Hall's mother, who was Angelina Clemmons (or Clemens), born September 14, 1804 in North Carolina, was of French and English extraction. In her mingled the patrician strains of the old Huguenot stock that reflected credit on the annals of the Piedmont district of the Carolinas and Georgia. To her family belonged Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain), the barefoot Mississippi river lad who later walked with kings. Some branches of the family spell the name "Clemmons"; others spell it "Clemens."
Mrs. Hall's English forebear Clemmons was a member of Parliament at the time of the trial of King Charles I of the Stuart dynasty, his being one of the names affixed to the death warrant of the monarch who was beheaded on January 30, 1649. This Clemmons ancestor was thus an associate of Oliver Cromwell and belonged to the company which made him Lord High Protector of England. That he was held in high repute by the Protector is gathered from the fact that Cromwell made him Minister to France.
Thomas Linster and Angelina (Clemmons) Hall are reckoned among the great Pike county pioneers. Subduing the wilderness which surrounded them on every side in what is now Detroit township, they gave to that community the benefit of their sturdy characters. They knew the hardships of pioneer times, practiced the utmost economics under the compelling influence of the wilderness. One pair of shoes a year was alloted to each child and in order that their children might enjoy such luxury the father took green hides to Fielden Hanks' early tannery at Milton, where they were tanned for one-half the leather. The remaining half of the leather was taken to the shoemaker's where it was made into shoes at a cost of fifty cents per pair. The mother took wool and with her spinning wheel spun it into yarn and then with her loom wove it into cloth and thus clothed her brood.
During their first winter in the wild land the great snow of 1830-31, epochal in the story of the Illinois prairies, added terrible hardships to their mode of life. When the little settlement in Detroit township was on the verge of starvation the father, with his father-in-law, Peter Clemmons (who came from the Boone country of the Yadkin in North Carolina and located in the Detroit settlement in 1829), and one other man whose identity is not now remembered, on horseback, each holding to a long rope so that they might not become separated or lost from one another in the great winter storm, started across Pike county to Atlas, a distance of some thirty miles, to procure meal and salt. When one horse became almost exhausted from breasting the deep snow to make a path, he was allowed to fall behind and another horse was put in the lead. Thus, after several days of hazardous journeying, they at length reached the Atlas settlement, where they secured supplies to carry back to the beleaguered settlers near present Detroit.
Thomas Linster Hall died January 5, 1872; his wife July 31, 1887. Among their twelve children and latest survivors of the family were Thomas N. Hall, Mrs. Margaret Hall McCrudden, Mrs. Louisa Hall Shastid and William C. Hall.
Calvin Hall was educated in the subscription school and later in the pioneer log school house. Desiring a business education, he attended a business school in St. Louis. On his return from school he and his brother-in-law, John Underwood, with the financial help of his father, bought the store of B. F. Beasley at Florence and entered the mercantile business. Florence was then one of the leading business points in western Illinois. Their business increased so rapidly that the following year they built a large store building in this Illinois river port.
Mr. Hall later sold his mercantile interest and being a natural mechanic gave his attention to carpentering and contracting. Later he spent three years as a ship's carpenter on the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.
On March 16, 1853, Calvin Hall married Malissa Thomas, a native of Scott county, born there June 12, 1835, daughter of Hiram and Mary (Hamilton) Thomas.
Mrs. And Mrs. Calvin Hall had nine children, three of whom, Mary, George and Sarah, died in childhood. Those who reached mature years were Charles Otis Hall, who married Martha (Mattie) Burns; Dr. Frank L. Hall of Hannibal, who married Emma V. Dorsey; Thomas H. Hall, who married, first, Fannie Williams, and second, Mrs. Minnie (Foley) Manker; Miss Minnie M. Hall; Mrs. Maggie (Hall) Porter; and Mrs. Anna (Hall) Foreman. Mr. and Mrs. Hall also opened their home to two other children, whom they raised and educated, namely, Cade Selvy, later an official of the Santa Fe Railroad at Los Angeles, California, and Miss Minnie Sackett.
In 1864, Calvin Hall purchased 80 acres adjoining his father's farm and again began farming and stock raising. Following his father's death he purchased the interests of other heirs and settled at the old homestead where his father built his first little log abode in 1830. Adding to his landed possessions he finally accumulated some 800 acres, and in 1883, on the site of his father's original log cabin, on the high knoll commanding a wide view of the countryside, a short distance northeast of Toll Gate school house, he built the beautiful home in which he spent the rest of his days. Here, on March 16, 1903, he and his wife celebrated their golden wedding. Mrs. Hall's bridesmaid and four other persons who attended the wedding were present on the 50th anniversary.
At the instance of Mr. and Mrs. Hall, on February 10, 1876, in the village of Detroit, the Reverend R. M. Moss and the Reverend J. W. Miller instituted a religious work that developed into the present Detroit Christian church. At the inception of the organization, Mr. Hall was made an elder in the church, a position he held until his death. He died in the late afternoon of his 55th wedding anniversary, in his 79th year. His body was laid in a concrete tomb in Blue River cemetery.
Malissa (Thomas) Hall, the widow, died at the family home December 26, 1916, at the age of 81. She is buried beside her husband at Blue River.
John David and Margaret (Hall) Porter had the following children: Marion J. and Eunice Porter of near Detroit, Agnes Porter (wife of A. B. Caughlan of Pittsfield), the Reverend Reese Porter of Niantic, Illinois, and Marguerite Porter (who married Alonzo H. Sloan of Detroit). A. B. (Bentley) Caughlan, present Pittsfield postmaster, is a son of the late Editor Charles W. Caughlan and Anna M. (Long) Caughlan of Pittsfield. Alonzo H. Sloan is a son of the late Nathan Sloan and Jane (Sanderson) Sloan, a resident of Detroit.
John David Porter died August 30, 1933, aged 72 years, eleven months and seven days. He is buried at Blue River. His widow resides near Detroit.
Nancy E. Wilson, wife of James D. Porter (some of whose family history has been recited), died December 28, 1874.