Joseph Coatsworth (1750-1799) and Tamar Kidd (1751-1817) had numerous sons who emigrated either to Canada or the United States in the early part of the 19th century. However, our story involves two of the sons, Thomas, born on 28 February 1779, and his younger brother, Caleb, born on 20 November 1789, who both married ancestors of mine. Thomas (1779-1883) married Jane Graham (1782-1862) on 26 July 1806 and they had eight known children. Caleb (1789-1858) then married Jane’s younger sister, Mary (1795-1863), on 22 April 1815, and they had at least nine children.
The Coatsworth and Graham families were from Durham, although the younger Coatsworth children were born in Yorkshire. I believe Caleb and Mary were the first to emigrate as all their children apart from the first child, Tamar, were born in Canada or the United States. Caleb must have also taken his widowed mother with him as Tamar Kidd died in Canada in 1817.
After Caleb emigrated, his brothers, Thomas, John (1784-1819) and Robert (1786-1855), followed suit, although the latter two settled in Canada while Caleb and Thomas moved across the border into Buffalo, New York. While both families appear to have prospered in farming, it was Caleb’s son, Thomas (1821-1887), who left his mark on the area.
Thomas, who was born in Ottawa on 21 February 1821, worked on the family farm which was valued at $3,500 on the US 1850 Census. Within ten years, Thomas had married his wife, Electa Weller, and had taken over the family farm which was now valued at $11,200. Thomas had also started selling wood to shippers traveling across the Great Lakes and it proved to be an extremely profitable business as he eventually bought his own freight ships. After the end of the Civil War, the increased need for wood led to further expansion, and Thomas was quick to establish rail and shipping links. Thomas was also a very generous man who gave parcels of land to the city forefathers whenever new roads or rail links needed to be built.
In 1860, Thomas built a large mansion for his wife on Cottage Street where he liked to stand on the top floor of the tower and watch his ships come into the harbour. The tower was also high enough to see the Canadian border where the Coatsworths spent summers with extended family. In 1886, Thomas drew up plans to build a large grain elevator on the waterfront capable of holding 1,200,000 bushels and established the adjoining Coatsworth Slip. The construction of the elevator was beleaguered with problems from the start due to misunderstandings with the builders and a delay in permission being granted by the alderman. When the building was finally complete, it was discovered it was too heavy for its foundations which were defective.
The Coatsworth Elevator was finally opened the following year but the scale of the project and the fight to get the plans approved took its toll on Thomas’s health and he soon became seriously ill with pneumonia. While his family prayed for his recovery, Thomas was beyond help and he died on 9 December 1887. Thomas’s passing was mourned widely in Buffalo because he had been a valued member of the community and a great humanitarian as well as a remarkably successful business man.
Thomas and Electa had four children, two sons and two daughters, however the eldest son, William Thomas Coatsworth, born in January 1861, would have a particularly hard time filling the very big shoes his father had left behind. William tried to maintain his father’s legacy but a destructive fire in the grain elevator led to him having a nervous breakdown. In August 1893, a fire broke out in the roof of the Coatsworth Elevator in the early hours of the morning and quickly spread, putting other businesses in the area under threat. The elevator had been out of production over the summer months as William attempted to repair some of the defects plaguing the structure but it was to no avail as the fire destroyed everything.
The strain of the repairs and the extent of the damage caused by the fire was too much for William and he was admitted to a private clinic on the advice of his doctor who maintained he would make a full recovery. It was initially thought the insurance wouldn’t be enough to cover the full value of the building, however further policies were discovered for higher amounts. By the end of the year, plans had been drawn up to rebuild the elevator at a cost of $300,000 and a slightly reduced capacity. Tragedy struck again when a young carpenter fell to his death during construction, however the elevator finally opened for business again in July 1894.
Sadly, William never did get over his mental affliction and suffered from bouts of depression over the years. William finally retired in 1904 and spent most of his time travelling in an effort to recover his health to no avail. In April 1912, William died instantly when he shot himself in the head with a .32 calibre pistol. William was survived by his wife, Ida Mawitt Reid, and his two daughters, Margaret Reid, born on 6 June 1890, and Elizabeth Jane, born on 31 May 1893. Elizabeth Jane Coatsworth would eventually become an award winning writer of fiction and poetry for children and adults.
Thomas’s youngest son, Caleb James Coatsworth, born 21 August 1866, had a plumbing business called Coatsworth & Eddy before filing for bankruptcy in 1900, afterwards he worked in real estate and was an investment broker. He married his first wife, Grace Van Vleck, in 1889 and they had two children, Ruth and Caleb Jr. After Grace’s death in 1895, Caleb married Ruth Alice Ward Larrabee who died in 1912. Caleb married his third wife, Winifred Sweet Cook, in 1915.
Thomas’s eldest daughter, Mally Graham Coatsworth, was born on 27 March 1861 and she married Herbert Gardiner Lord after studying in Paris for a year. Herbert Gardiner Lord was an American philosopher who graduated from Amherst College in 1871 and the Union Theological Seminary in 1877. He served as pastor of the Church of the Redeemer in Buffalo from 1877 to 1895. From 1895 to 1898, Herbert was a professor of philosophy at the University of Buffalo and was principal of Franklin School from 1890 to 1900. In 1900, he was appointed a professor of philosophy at Columbia University. Mally and Herbert had four children: two sons and two daughters.
Thomas’s youngest daughter, Jane Electa Coatsworth, known as Jennie, was born in 1864 and never married. She died in Canada on 26 May 1899.
- 1850 US Federal Census [Ancestry]
- 1860 US Federal Census [Ancestry]
- 1870 US Federal Census [Ancestry]
- 1880 US Federal Census [Ancestry]
- 1900 US Federal Census [Ancestry]
- 1910 US Federal Census [Ancestry]
- Newspapers.com [Newspapers]
- New York, New York, Death Index, 1862-1948 [Ancestry]
- New York, Wills and Probate Records, 1659-1999 [Ancestry]
- Ontario, Canada Deaths, 1869-1934 [Ancestry]