Biography of Capt. James J. Coats
Iowa County, IA Biographies





Captain James J. Coats is a prominent retired farmer of Hartford township, who is now making his home in Ladora, and for many years he has materially assisted in promoting the best interests of his home locality. He was born in Miami county, Ohio, on the loth of September, 1846, a son of John and Fanny (Roody) Coats. The paternal grandfather, James Coats, was of German descent and served in the War of 1812. He was a man of great physical vitality and his spirit was equally strong and hardy, as demonstrated when he emigrated from Pennsylvania to Ohio at the advanced age of ninety years. John Coats was born in the Quaker state in 1818 but in young manhood left there and became a pioneer settler of Miami county, Ohio. He settled upon land that was heavily timbered and began the task of clearing his farm. He built a log cabin and in the course of years made other improvements upon his place. In 1854, however, he again turned his face westward and located in Honey Creek township, Iowa county, Iowa, buying land at a dollar and a quarter per acre. He built a log cabin with a clapboard roof, floor and door and the chimney was made of sticks and mud. As soon as possible he broke the land with ox teams and planted crops and his was the life of unremitting labor and hardship that was common to the pioneer. Game was plentiful and he often killed deer which supplied the family with venison for some time. To obtain breadstuff it was necessary to go to Cedar Rapids, as the nearest mill was located there. In 1868 he left the farm which had been his home for fourteen years and went to Dixon county, Nebraska, locating upon land which he had previously purchased, and after residing in that county for two decades he passed away in 1888. In the fall of 1864 he enlisted in Company B, Twenty eighth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, for service in the Civil war, but on account of disease contracted in the army he was soon discharged for disability and returned home. He was highly respected, patriotic and progressive and was a man of considerable influence in the localities in which he lived. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Fanny Roody, was a native of Ohio of Scotch descent, her father, David Roody, having emigrated from Scotland and settled in Ohio at an early day in the history of that state. She passed away on the 23d of January, 1855. To her union with Mr. Coats were born six sons and a daughter, four of whom survive.

Captain James J. Coats was the fourth child born to his parents and accompanied the family to this county when about eight years of age. He was reared upon the home farm and did his share in the work of redeeming the land from the wilderness. His education was not neglected, however, and in the winter he attended the schools of the neighborhood, walking three miles each way. The schoolhouse was a primitive log structure and the seats, made of slabs, were crude and uncomfortable. However, the schoolhouse and its furniture was as good as the average in the county at that time and the early settlers thought little of inconvenience and discomfort.

On the 12th of August, 1862, when not quite sixteen years of age, Mr. Coats enlisted in Company B, Twenty eighth Iowa Infantry, and was immediately sent to the front. The first battle in which he participated was that of Port Gibson, Mississippi, on the 1st of May, 1863, and he subsequently served under General Grant in his Vicksburg campaign, participating in the engagements of Raymond, Edwards Station, Champion's Hill and Black River. During the siege of Vicksburg he was in the trenches for forty seven days and nights and after the fall of that stronghold participated in the fighting around Jackson. His command was then transferred and sent under General Banks up the Red river, taking part in the battles of Sabine Cross Roads, Pleasant Hill, Care River, Yellow Bayou and Alexander. In the last named battle Captain Coats was slightly wounded in the left leg by a minieball. He was next transferred to General Sheridan's command and fought in the Shenandoah valley at Winchester, Fishers Hill, Barryville and Cedar Creek. He saw Sheridan when he made his famous ride from Winchester twenty miles away and turned the tide of battle from defeat to victory. On the 14th of August, 1865, Captain Coats was honorably discharged from the military service of the United States with the record of having participated in fifteen battles, besides the sieges of Vicksburg and Jackson. From the Shenandoah valley of Virginia he had been sent to join Sherman's command and in 1865 was forwarded to Savannah, Georgia, where he mustered out. He served with distinction under Generals Grant, Banks, Sheridan and Sherman and rose from private to corporal and sergeant. He attained the rank of second lieutenant and captain as a state's guardsman. During the entire time of his service in the army he was never in the hospital, but at the battle of Port Gibson, Mississippi, a shell exploded near him and injured the hearing of his left ear. When the Spanish-American war broke out he tendered his services to his country by addressing a letter to Governor Shaw of Iowa, asking him to examine his military record and if possible give him a place where he could give service to his country. In due time the Governor replied, stating that Captain Coats' military record was exceptionally good and that if there was another call for volunteers from the state of Iowa he would commission Captain Coats to organize a company from Iowa county.

Upon his return from the Civil war Captain Coats gave his attention to the peaceful pursuits of agriculture and cultivated land in Honey Creek township until after his first marriage, which occurred in 1871. In the spring of 1873, however, he removed to a farm of one hundred and twenty acres on section 2, Hartford township, which he had purchased. The farm was unimproved when it came into his possession, but, as he was a carpenter, he personally erected a frame house which was for many years the family residence. He petitioned for a public road across the then trackless prairie near his home and succeeded in having the highway established. It was also largely due to his efforts and influence that a schoolhouse was built within sixty rods of his home and it still bears his name. The farm in Hartford township remained the family home for forty years and there all of his children were born. Although he met with many reverses by reason of sickness and death, he prospered financially and became one of the substantial men of his locality. He made excellent improvements upon his farm, and his energy and foresight was regarded by good crops annually.

On the 27th of August, 1871, Captain Coats married Miss Emma Lupher, a native of Pennsylvania and a daughter of David and Mary (Badger) Lupher. The family removed to Honey Creek township, this county, many years ago and Mr. Lupher was a well known farmer. On the 14th of September, 1884, Mrs. Coats died and left to the care of a bereaved husband four children: Mae, now the wife of C. E. York, a stock merchant of Ladora; Clyde C., justice of the peace and real estate agent of Riceville, Iowa; Lake L., deceased; and Fanny, now the wife of W. D. Shaull, a prominent farmer residing near Le. Roy, Minnesota.

On the 1st of February, 1888, Captain Coats was married to Miss Rebecca Noaker, a native of Honey Creek township, this county, and a daughter of Henry and Isabelle Noaker, natives of Pennsylvania, who emigrated to Iowa county in 1858. To this marriage were born three children: James H., who is a prominent agriculturist and stock feeder of Hartford township; Laota P., the wife of H. C. Sather, a trusted employe of the First National Bank of Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Amy B., who is a stenographer but is now keeping house for her father. On the 14th of April, 1894, the beloved wife and mother was called by death and again Captain Coats was left with three small children to care for alone. He kept his family together and was to them both father and mother until the 6th of September, 1903, when he married Mrs. Ella Mumby, the widow of A. C. Mumby, of Seymour, Iowa. She was born at that place and was a daughter of Patrick and Susie Carey, of Irish descent, who removed to Wayne county, Iowa, in 1865 from Illinois. Captain and Mrs. Coats became the parents of a daughter, Kathryn B., and their home life was a very happy one. On the 14th of April, 1914, when the daughter was but six years of age, the wife and mother was called by death. Captain Coats has given his children good educations and three of his daughters have taught school. All of his children are prosperous and are highly esteemed in the localities in which they reside.

Captain Coats is an active republican and has ably served in county, state and congressional conventions of his party and has also held a number of local offices of trust and honor. He has served as clerk and trustee of his township and for the last thirty three years has been secretary of the school board. During the time that he has held this office he has written orders on the teachers', contingent and schoolhouse funds to the amount of one hundred and twenty thousand dollars without the loss of one cent to the township. Some of the teachers for whom he first wrote orders are now grandmothers and he has seen great changes brought about in the public school system as it has grown to meet the demands of changing conditions.

Fraternally Captain Coats is a member of Ladora Lodge, No. 622, I. O. O. F.; and the Knights of Pythias Lodge at Victor, Iowa. He is justly proud of his military record and wears the bronze button of the Grand Army of the Republic and also affiliates with the Sons of Veterans. He has now retired from active work and resides in a beautiful home in Ladora, which town did not exist when he came to Iowa as a boy sixty years ago. At that time both the town and the railroad were but the dreams of a few of the most progressive and farsighted pioneers and the county was but sparsely settled, while but little of the land was under cultivation. Today there is scarcely a waste acre in the county and its residents enjoy all of the comforts of twentieth century civilization. When he bought his land forty years ago he paid twelve dollars per acre but so great has been the advance in land values that when he sold his farm a few years ago he received one hundred and seventy dollars per acre. He loaned the money on real estate and on the 3d of March, 1913, took up his abode in Ladora, where he is now living in the enjoyment of a rest and leisure earned by former years of unremitting industry. He finds much pleasure in motoring and runs his own machine, and his energy and activity belie his sixty eight years, as he seems a man still in his prime. He has always been a good citizen, willing to place the public interests above his individual affairs, and he has never in the slightest degree betrayed a trust that was reposed in him, either in a private or official capacity.

From:
History of Iowa County, Iowa
And its People
By: James C. Dinwiddie
Vol II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chiago 1915


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