Biography of John B. Coffinberry
Cuyahoga County, OH Biographies

JOHN BEACH COFFINBERRY. The Coffinberry family, of which John Beach Coffinberry of Cleveland and Lakewood is an honored member, has been in Ohio for almost a century and has given to the state several of her most distinguished jurists, business and professional men. The family is of Holland Dutch extraction and its founders in America settled long before the Revolutionary war, in Berkley County, Virginia.

George L. Coffinberry, the pioneer of the family in Ohio, was born near Martinsburg, Virginia, February 10, 1760, son of a Baptist minister, but not imbued with such peaceful principles that they interfered with his serving as a brave soldier under General Greene, in the Revolutionary war. He married Elizabeth Little, who was of French-German descent, and in 1794 removed to Wheeling, now in West Virginia, and in 1796 came to Ross County, Ohio. Later he went to Lancaster, Ohio, where he bought the Olive Branch, which was the first newspaper published in Fairfield County. In the spring of 1809 he removed to the village of Mansfield, where he erected and conducted the first hotel, but he resided in one of the blockhouses that were erected on the village site during the War of 1812 - 13 when the Indians menaced the place. Both he and wife lived into old age, her death occurring in her ninetieth year, and when he died on August 13, 1851, he was almost ninety two years old.

Andrew Coffinberry, son of George L. and Elizabeth (Little) Coffinberry, was born at Martinsburg, Virginia, August 20, 1789, and died at Findlay, Ohio, May 11, 1856. He learned the printer's trade in his father's newspaper office at Lancaster, Ohio, and later published a paper of his own at St. Clairsville, after which he went to Philadelphia, where he worked as a printer for a time and then shipped as ordinary seaman and served two years in the Federal navy under Commanders Brainbridge and Hull, on the old frigate Constitution. He returned then to his parents' home at Mansfield and read law from 1811-1812 and was admitted to the bar in 1813 and became distinguished in his profession. According to the custom of the time, he traveled on horseback over the circuit, its era extending from Mansfield to Lake Erie and on the west to the Indiana state line. His son James M. adopted his profession and became a celebrated judge at Cleveland.

Abraham Coffinberry, youngest son of Andrew Coffinberry, was born at Mansfield, Ohio, in 1812. He followed farm pursuits until 1849, when he crossed the plains to California in company with others, but reached no farther than Sacramento, where he was taken ill and soon died. In those days it took a long time for news of any kind to be transported, and many weary months went by before his family learned that he would never return. The maiden name of his wife was Eliza Beach, who was born near Mansfield, Ohio, and died at Springfield, Ohio. Her father, the maternal grandfather of John Beach Coffinberry of Cleveland, was Jonathan Beach, who came to Ohio from Scotland and settled early in Richland County. To Abraham and Eliza (Beach) Coffinberry eight children were born. The youngest of these, John Beach Coffinberry, was born at Spring Mills, a few miles distant from Mansfield, Ohio, on April 7, 1847. He attended the common schools, and leaving the farm at an early age went to Mansfield. From there the family moved to Bellefontaine, Ohio. At the age of eighteen he came to Cleveland. He then went East for three years, engaged with a sewing machine company in Pennsylvania and New York. In 1870 he came back to Cleveland, where he read law in an attorney's office and attended law school; He then went to Tennessee and met with much business success in that state. He remained there for two years, at the end of that period being admitted to the Tennessee bar. He was a member of the Cleveland City Council in 1882, ran for Congress in 1896 on the democratic ticket for the Fourteenth District.

Mr. Coffinberry returned then to Cleveland, but shortly afterward visited Texas and during his stay there was much impressed with the vast possibilities of that state, and the need of modern transportation facilities for the development of her business centers. His interest along this line continued and at a later date he returned to Texas and, representing eastern capital, he built the line of interurban railway from Dallas to Fort Worth.

For a number of years Mr. Coffinberry was a prominent citizen of Lorain, Ohio, serving as mayor of that city and identifying himself with its most important enterprises. He was one of the builders and was president of the Lorain & Elyria Interurban Electric Railway, and was instrumental in having the Johnson steel works removed from Pennsylvania to Lorain. He was serving as mayor at the time a military company was recruited here for the Fifth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and helped raise the necessary funds for the same and entered its ranks as a private. When the war with Spain came on the company was called out. On account of his age he was advised to resign, but this recommendation was entirely distasteful to him, his reply being that he had belonged to the regiment in time of peace and as a good soldier could not resign in time of war. Therefore he accompanied the organization to Florida, where he was transferred to the commanding general's headquarters to be given the rank of captain. When it became evident that his regiment would never be needed in Cuba, he accepted a furlough and returned home, where he later was discharged. He had, however, set an example of patriotism and devotion to duty that is not forgotten and may well be emulated.

Mr. Coffinberry was married in Ohio to Miss Bertha Shotter, who was born in Connecticut, her parents being natives of the Dominion of Canada. They have two sons: John, who attended Harvard University and the Iowa State Agricultural College, then went to South America and spent two years there in the cattle business; and Arthur S., who is a student, taking special courses in the Case School of Applied Sciences at Cleveland.

After establishing his home at Lakewood, Ohio, Mr. Coffinberry was elected mayor, later served on the board of education and in other capacities of civic importance. He was one of the organizers of the Colonial Savings & Trust Company of Lakewood and is vice president of the same, and also was one of the organizers of the Lakewood State Bank and was a member of its board of directors when that bank was taken over by the Guardian Savings & Trust, and a director for another year. He still is active in the business world, extensively interested in real estate in Ohio and Michigan, and since 1918 has been treasurer of the R. C. Products Trust Company of Cleveland. He is a man of modest pretension who, nevertheless has great reason to be proud of his life's achievements. Mr. Coffinberry was a member of the war board during the World war and served until the war was over.

A History of Cuyahoga County
and the City of Cleveland
By: William R. Coates
The American Historical Society
Chicago and New York, 1924

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