Biography of William Harry Coffman

William Harry Coffman, justice of the peace, is one of the old timers of Champaign County, went from this locality into the War of the Rebellion, from which he returned a captain, and for more than half a century has been a farmer, business man and public official. Though his years now number fourscore, he is still looking after the duties of his office as justice of the peace and also handles considerable insurance.

He was born in Fairfield County, Ohio, June 13, 1837, a son of Noah B. and Elizabeth (Lamb) Coffman. His father was a native of, Virginia and his mother of Ohio. Noah B. Coffman spent his life as a farmer. In 1852 he removed with his family to Piatt County, Illinois, and on March 1, 1861, arrived in Champaign County, where he continued farming until his death in 1863. His widow died in 1872. Of their nine children William H. was the oldest. The others are: Aaron F., deceased; Mary C., who has never married and lives at Champaign; David H. of Champaign; Lucinda F., Elizabeth and Peter J., all deceased; Samuel C. of Fullerton, Nebraska; and Thomas D. of Oakland, California.

Judge Coffman was fifteen years of age when the family came to Illinois, and his education was acquired in district schools both in Ohio and in this state. He lived on the home place with his father until he was twenty-four years of age. He had managed the farm for his brothers and sisters until he was twenty-two and then farmed it on his own account for a couple of years.

When his country needed him he did not hesitate to break home ties and business associations, and in September, 1861, he enlisted in Company I of the Tenth Illinois Cavalry at Champaign. He went out as a private, but on September 23d was promoted to sergeant; on October 24, 1862, to second lieutenant; on March 15, 1863, to first lieutenant, and on May 10, 1864, was given his commission as captain. He was always in the same company, going out as private and coming back at its head. He was mustered out at San Antonio, Texas, and was given his final pay and discharge January 6, 1866, more than four years after his first enlistment.

His record as a soldier is one in which he can take due pride and satisfaction, and hrs descendants after him will always cherish that part of his record.

Captain Coffman returned to Champaign County from the war and began farming. He followed that actively until 1872, when he removed to Bondville and became a merchant. He also acted as agent for the Illinois Central Railway Company at that place. He was a business man at Bondville for eight years, and on selling out he returned to his farm. In 1893 Captain Coffman gave up farming as his active vocation and removed to Champaign. In 1894 he was elected to the office of justice of the peace, and besides the duties of that office he at one time conducted an extensive real estate and insurance business. He has gradually given up real estate dealings and now only writes insurance and attends to his official duties.

Captain Coffman has been a loyal Republican almost throughout the life of that party. He is an active and well known member of the Grand Army post and his church is the Methodist Episcopal. In February, 1868, he married Miss Margaret M. Allen, who was born in Hardin County, Kentucky, and died there April 30, 1909, after they had been married more than forty-one years. There were two children: Birch D. of Chicago; and Jessie C., widow of George Gregg of Champaign County.


Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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