Wilson Broadway Coats

Material and pictures furnished by Linda Ring great, great granddaughter of Wilson B Coats

John Coats, father of Wilson B. Coats, was born 15 Jun 1817 in Tennessee and died 15 Mar 1865 in Tennessee. He married Mary Womack abt 1841 in Bedford County Tennessee. Mary Womack was born abt 1829 in Tennessee and died 1853 in Tennessee. She was the daughter of John Hawkins Womack and Jane Cooper.

Wilson Broadway Coats, son of John, was born 1 Jan 1845 in a log cabin near Shelbyville, Bedford County Tennessee and died 18 Aug 1918 near Sterling, Logan County, Colorado and was buried in Akron Cemetery, Washington County Colorado.

He was married to Matilda J. Howton 24 Dec 1865 in Hopkins County Kentucky. Matilda was born 15 Feb 1852 to Henry Howton Howton (b.11 Jun 1820, d. 11 Nov 1904) and Mary H. (Polly Ann) Smith (1824-1898) both of whom are buried in Dawson Springs, Hopkins County, Kentucky.

Wilson Broadway Coats
Wilson Broadway Coats

Kentucky to Colorado

Following is a first-hand account of Trudy Finn, grand-daughter of Absalom Coats (son of Wilson) and Mary Jane of the the grueling migration of the Wilson B Coats family from Dawson Springs Kentucky to Logan County* Colorado in 1887.

Ed note: 1887 was the year Akron, Washington County was founded as a work camp on the Burlington, Missouri River Railroad line being contstructed from Lincoln Neb to Denver Colo.

Wilson B. Coats, wife Matilda, and seven children; Absolem Phelps, wife (Mary) Jane, and six children; Whit Etheridge, wife Rebecca, and one child; Eli Coats, wife Laura, and one child.

23 was the number of souls that composed the caravan. How many head of livestock or the number of vehicles that composed the caravan I an not positive, but I think there were four covered wagons and a light spring wagon which might have been covered to provide more sleeping quarters.

It was late in the summer of the year (according to William Phelps, son of Absolem, the starting date was July 4, 1887) that this small group of kinfolks bid a tearful good-by to their sorrowing friends and relatives and departed from their old homeland in the rolling hill country in Hopkins County, Kentucky, and headed for that wondrous land of the far west, soon to become rich farmers. But sadly enough, they soon learned the truth of that old proverb: "all that glitters is not gold".

On their 1,000 mile long trip trip they suffered many hardships, getting stuck in muddy trails, bouts of disease (typhoid fever), and poor food availability. Not only was the trip hard, but after arrival in Colorado they had to prepare shelter for the winter.

From Homesteading Haxtun and the Hight Plains: Northeastern Colorado History by Jean Gray:

Elbert Coats

That first winter was a hard one for the new settlers, with its blinding blizzards** and intense cold, scanty fuel supplies and inadequate housing.

Real tragedy visited them only once, that of the death of Uncle Tap (Absolem Phelps). It was a terrible shock to Aunt Jane and she was ill-prepared for such a loss. (From Wilson B. Phelps Story).

Jane P. Freytag prepared this estimate of the essential items to be included for the journey from Dawson Springs, Kentucky to Bryant, Colorado.

After several years working on our genealogy I became intrigued with the trip in the covered wagon. Having been a camper for long time and knowing something about the country they traveled I thought about what one would want to take on a journey such as this.

I started doing research on the Internet and found some books I could order about such a journey and decided to make a list of the things they could or would like to include while trying to remember about what was available and realizing that there wasn't much cargo space.

The floor was limited to the size of the wagon usually about 10ft or 12ft by 6ft or rarely, up to 8ft. The side board was about 2 1/2 ft. tall. They alloted about 50 lbs of stuff¯ per person and there were usually five or more people per wagon. Many times they would take 2 wagons. We are going to assume that our family only took one wagon.

The storage was under the benches along the side and pockets were put in the canvas covering for handy storage etc., kitchen tools, towels and wash cloths, handkerchiefs, etc.

Ed. Here follows a long list of supplies the wagon train brought with them. Please refer to the following website for more details. http://cogenweb.com/logan/images/Pioneers/6N48/Coats.htm

Wilson B Coats was a member of GAR Post 25, Akron


Source: Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War 1861-1865, Springfield, Illinois

Wilson B Coats died 18 Aug 1918 and was buried in Akron Cemetery.

Wilson B Coats

*Logan County was formed by an act of the Colorado State Legislature on February 25, 1887. It was named after former Union general and Republican politician John A. Logan, who had died the previous year. The town of Sterling became the county seat of Logan County. Also in 1887 the Burlington Railroad completed a line from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Holdredge, Nebraska that passed through Sterling. By 1890 Sterling had a population of 540. In 1889 both Phillips and Sedgwick County were partitioned from eastern Logan County.

According to the 1890 US Census of Agriculture, "settlers flocked" to Logan County to take advantage of unusually wet years in 1885 and 1886 and they were "fairly successful in raising crops". The Blizzard of 1887 changed all that.

**Blizzards hit the Great Plains from two winters starting in November 1886. By January 1887, the blizzard had buried the plains, inflicting huge losses on the cattle industry. On January 12, 1888, what came to be known as the Schoolhouse Blizzard or the Schoolchildren`s Blizzard struck. It arrived without warning and caught many children between their homes and schoolhouses, with many deaths.

The 1887 Blizzard That Changed the American Frontier Forever from Smart News by Smithsonian.com

A blizzard hit the western open range, causing the “Great Die Up” that transformed America’s agricultural history

Many who quested out from the east (including the grand adventurer himself, Theodore Roosevelt) came for the beef business. The fenceless open range meant grazing land was easy to come by, so ranchers could own massive herds of cattle. Between 1866 and 1885, around 5.7 million cattle were driven to market or northern ranges, Modern Farmer reports.

Through much of the late 1870s and into the 1880s, cooler summers and mild winters meant that feeding the animals was relatively easy. Grass and feed was typically pretty plentiful. But everything changed in the disastrous winter of 1886-1887.

A blazing hot summer had scorched the prairies, so when snow started falling in early November much of the frontier’s livestock were already starving and ill equipped for a hard winter. The problem became a catastrophe when on January 9, 1887 a blizzard hit, covering parts of the Great Plains in more than 16 inches of snow. Winds whipped, and temperatures dropped to around 50° below zero.

Few farmers had hay stored for their cattle, so many cattle that weren’t killed by the cold soon died from starvation. When spring arrived, millions of the animals were dead; around 90 percent of the open range’s cattle were rotting where they fell.

Those present reported carcasses as far as the eye could see. Dead cattle clogged up rivers and spoiled drinking water. Many ranchers went bankrupt and others simply called it quits and moved back east where conditions appeared less punishing. They called the event “The Great Die-Up,” a macabre play on the term “round-up.”

Ultimately, the disaster altered not just the development of the west, but also the direction of America’s agriculture. Ranchers stopped keeping such gigantic stocks of cattle and began larger farming operations in order to grow food for the animals they had. Most also quit the open range, where livestock could roam far from grain reserves, in favor of smaller, fenced in grazing territories. The winter of 1886-1887 signaled the beginning of the end to the days of roving cowboys and the untamed western wilderness.

While the great blizzard of 1887 was probably the worst, on January 12, 1888, what came to be known as the Schoolhouse Blizzard or the Schoolchildren`s Blizzard struck. It arrived without warning and caught many children between their homes and schoolhouses, with many deaths. - From http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h4284.html