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. Tamar and Caleb are names that feature prominently in the Coatsworth family tree.
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.