Coats Histories

A number of Coats Biographies have been published for Callaway County, Missouri and Contra Costa, California. There are three histories for Contra Costa County. Felix Grundy Coats appears in two of them.

A History of the Pioneer Families of Missouri

William S. Bryan & Robert Rose Bryan, Brand & Co. St. Louis, Mo., 1876

COATS.- Rev. William Coats was born in South Carolina. When grown he removed to Smith county, Tennessee, where he married Nancy Baker, by whom he had – James, William, John, Wilson. Hiram, Lemuel B., Rachel, Frankie, Tabitha, Mahala, Nancy, and Laodocea. In 1817 Mr. Coats removed with his family to Callaway county, Mo., and settled on the prairie which has since borne his name. There was no minister in that part of the country at that time, and his neighbors appointed him to preach, which duty he performed at stated intervals until his death. He organized most of the Old Baptist Churches in that region. His son, James married Polly Callaway, of Tennessee, by whom he had two children - Matthias S. and Laura A. William Coats, Jr., was married first to Patsey Tracy, and second to the widow McLaughlan, whose maiden name was Celia Callaway. John married Nancy Smith. He was Sheriff of Callaway county for several years, and was a good auctioneer. Wilson married a Miss Phillips, and moved to California. Hiram married Permelia Walker, and was afterward killed by lightning. Lemuel B. married Elizabeth Maddox. Rachel married Robert Reade, and is now a widow. Frankie married a Mr. McLaughlan. Tabitha married William Callaway. Nancy married Joseph P. Callaway. Laodocea married Daniel Phillips.

CALLAWAY - Joseph Callaway, of South Carolina, married Polly Barrett, by whom he had - John, Nancy, Joseph, Jr., Polly, Elizabeth, William, Vinson, Cenia, and Thomas. Mr. Callaway removed to Tennessee in 1804, and in 1818 he settled on Coats' Prairie, in Callaway county. His sons John and Thomas served in the war of 1812. Thomas married Elizabeth Griffith, and settled on Crow Fork, a branch of Auxvasse creek. During the night of July 4, 1831, there came a very heavy rain, which raised the creek so that it washed away his stable and smoke house. He had a horse in the stable, which by some means, climbed into the loft, got out at the window and swam ashore. The smoke house contained some meat and a barrel of whisky, which Mr. Callaway succeeded in bringing ashore with a sugar trough, which he used as a canoe. Mr. Callaway died some time ago, but his widow is still living.

History of the State of California and Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California

Prof. J. M. Guinn, A. M., The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904, Pages 1355-1357

FELIX G. COATS. There are few men now living, in Contra Costa county whose residence here antedates that of Mr. Coats, who has made his home in Tassajara precinct since 1852 and during the intervening years has witnessed the settlement and growth of this part of California. He is a member of an old southern family descended from English ancestry and identified with America ever since the colonial period. His father, Wilson, was a son of Rev. William Coats, a native of Tennessee, and for years a pioneer preacher in the Baptist denomination. While farming afforded him a means of livelihood, he considered ministerial work as his life occupation and freely and without hope of recompense gave his services wherever a preacher was needed. On Sunday he preached the Gospel to congregations of pioneers. During the week he often was called from his plow to speak words of hope to the dying and of consolation to the bereaved. After about seventy useful years his life work came to an end.

In 1817, when Wilson Coats was fifteen years of age, he accompanied his parents from Tennessee to Missouri and settled in Callaway County. The immediate neighborhood where they settled later became known as Coats' Prairie. In 1849 He came overland to California making the journey in a prairie schooner drawn by oxen. Like the majority of Forty-niners, he began to work in the mines, and, like them, too, he soon found that other occupations afforded a more certain means of livelihood. Being pleased with the outlook in the west he determined to establish his home here. Accordingly he returned via the isthmus to Missouri and in 1852 brought his family overland, settling in Contra Costa county, where he spent the remainder of his life as a stock-grower and rancher on a tract of one hundred and sixty acres. While voting the Democratic ticket he was never active in politics and the only office he ever held was that of associate judge During the last years of his life he gave up manual work, but still maintained a supervision of his interests and did not allow advancing years to lessen his championship of movements for the benefit of his vicinity. At the time of his death he was eighty-four years of age.

By his marriage Wilson Coats became united with Mary Phillips, who was born in Tennessee in 1804, and died in Contra Costa county at seventy-two years of age. In early childhood she went to Missouri with her father, John Phillips, who was a native of South Carolina; her mother was a member of the old southern family of Allens and was born and reared in Tennessee. In religion the family were of the Baptist faith. Seven sons and three daughters were born of the union of Wilson and Mary Coats, but two of these died in early life: Etiline died in California in 1853; and Milam, a physician, who came to California ill 1852 and returned the following year to Missouri, died in that state in 1857. The other members of the family are as follows: Felix G., of Contra Costa county; William, who accompanied his father and older brother to California in 1849 and is now engaged in raising stock and in general farm pursuits in Inyo county; John, who accompanied the familv west in 1852 and now lives upon a ranch in Lake county, Cal.; Andrew deceased; Lemuel, a stockman and rancher in Inyo county; and James deceased, who was an attorney in San Francisco.

While the family were residing in Callaway county, Mo., Felix G. Coats was born, August 9, 1828. During the years of boyhood he alternated attendance at district schools with work on the home farm. Nothing occurred to break the monotony of life until he was about twenty years of age, when the discovery of gold in California caused his father to start for the west. In this eventful trip he was also a participant, together with another brother and two cousins. After a long journey with oxen they arrived in Grass Valley and from there proceeded to the mines on the American river. During 1852 he came to Contra Costa County and pre-empted one hundred and sixty acres when the land came into the market. The tract adjoined his father's ranch and the two were thus enabled to conduct their farm work together. In those days there was not a house between the ranch and Livermore. Neighbors were few. Scarcely any attempt had been made to improve land. The entire country was in its infancy, for no efforts had been made at cultivation during the years of Spanish domination. With keen foresight he realized that the soil was fertile and could be operated with profit, and his judgment was not at fault, for he has accumulated a competency from the land. The growing of grain and raising of cattle have been his specialties. By the purchase of his father's homestead he is now the owner of a ranch of five hundred and fifty acres, all under plow or in pasture. In addition, he owns a section of land four miles from his home place.

The marriage of Mr. Coats, February 23, 1860, united him with Miss Leola [Leona] Pearlee Doggett, who was born in Benton county, Ark. in 1841, and at an early age went to Oregon and from there to California. At her death she left six children, namely: William N., a rancher in the neighborhood of the Coats homestead; James L., who is also engaged in ranching here; Bethel R.[S.], who cultivates a portion of the home place; Susan Ella, wife of Charles Worth, of Livermore: May and Jennie Ethel, who remain with their father and have charge of the home. Politically Mr. Coats is a firm believer in Democratic principles. When Horace Greeley was in the zenith of his fame, Mr. Coats was one of his most stalwart adherents and admirers, and he has never ceased to regard that statesman as the greatest Democrat of his era. He is interested in educational affairs and has filled the office of school trustee. Since about 1890 he has been obliged to relinquish to other hands much of the detail work connected with the ranch, he having been a sufferer from rheumatism during all of this period. However, he maintains a constant interest in the improvement and cultivation of the property, and his long and practical experience enables him to aid his soils in their work. Among the people in the vicinity of Tassajara he is respected as all honored pioneer and upright man.

History of Contra Costa County, California

Historic Record Company, 1926, pages 460-462

BETHEL S. COATS – The son of an old California pioneer and himself a pioneer by birth, Bethel S. Coats is a fine representative both of the true Californian and of the rancher in the Tassajara section of Contra Costa County, where he was born on April 16, 1868. His father was Felix Grundy Coats, who was born in Missouri, there grew to manhood, and crossed the plains with ox-teams in 1849 with his father, Wilson Coats. Grandfather Wilson Coats was born in Smith County, Tenn., on August 10, 1802, and when fifteen went to Callaway County, Mo. On May 1, 1849, with his son and some others, he came across the plains to California, arriving on September 7, that same year. They mined in Placer and Nevada Counties till 1851. Wilson Coats went back to Missouri, via Panama, and joined his family; and they came back to California and settled in Contra Costa County, where he bought 160 acres of land. His was the only family in the Tassajara Valley for some time. His wife, whom he married on December 25, 1823, was in maidenhood Miss Mary Philipp; she was born in Tennessee, and died in California on November 27, 1875. Wilson Coats died aged eighty-four years. There were ten children in the Coats family. The great-grandfather was Rev. William Coats; he was born in Tennessee, was a Baptist preacher, and moved from Tennessee' to Missouri in 1817. He died at the age of seventy years. Coats Prairie in Missouri was named for the Coats family, as they owned almost all the land in it.

Felix Grundy Coats was born in Callaway County, Mo., on August 9, 1828, grew to manhood there, and came with his father to California in 1849. He mined till the fall of 1851 and then gave up mining to come to the Tassajara Valley, Contra Costa County, to engage in ranching. He took up 160 acres of land and added a school claim and later purchased 640 acres where Bethel S. Coats now lives. He added to his holdings until he owned about 1200 acres. This he devoted to stock and grain and during his many years of actual work made a decided success. He married Leona Doggett, who was born in Arkansas and rode horseback from her native State to Oregon when she was a girl of eleven, in 1852. They were married on February 23, 1860, at Tassajara, she having come south from Oregon with her people in 1859 and settled about one mile from the present Coats ranch. The house built in 1855 by grandfather Wilson Coats was burned, but Bethel S. Coats has the bricks built into a chimney in his own home, which he put up in 1917. Of the family of children born to the Coats family we mention Nolen, now deceased; James, living in San Francisco; Bethel S., of this review; Ella, who married E. Seiler of Stockton; May, the widow of Marion Horton, residing in San Francisco, and Jennie, the wife of Thomas White, also in San Francisco. Felix G. Coats died on June 9, 1916, aged eighty-seven years and ten months. The wife and mother died on December 25, 1893, aged about fifty-two.

Bethel S. Coats attended the Tassajara school and for a short time went to the Livermore College conducted by J. D. Smith. He began his career as a rancher on the old home place and remained there until his children were ready for an advanced school and the family moved to San Jose, where he conducted a store for three years and carried on an orchard for about four. He continued to look after his property in Tassajara, where he has 320 acres. Since returning to the ranch after his stay in San Jose, he has resided here, raising bay, grain and cattle; and he also carries on dairying on a small scale. Mr. Coats is a member of the Woodmen of the World, Neighbors of Woodcraft, and the Grange.

On December 30, 1891, Bethel S. Coats and Miss Phoebe Bowles were united in marriage. She was born in San Luis Obispo County, a daughter of Caleb and Ellen (Patton) Bowles, both natives of Missouri. Caleb Bowles came to California and mined for a time, after which he settled in San Luis Obispo County and engaged in ranching, later moving to Tassajara, where he continued farming. Mr. Bowles was related to the late Senator George Hearst, and Mrs. Bethel S. Coats was named for Mrs. Hearst. Three children have been born of this union: Eunice, Mrs. William Rowe of San Gabriel, and the mother of four children: Phyllis E., Doris E., W. Bethel and Roberta E.; Bernice, a professional nurse in Stanford Hospital in San Francisco; and Doris, Mrs. Victor Morton, who lives near San Jose and is the mother of two children, Victor J. and Marcia B. Mr. Coats is a Presbyterian. The family enjoy motoring, and each year take an extended trip for their vacation. In 1923 Mr. and Mrs. Bethel S. Coats took an automobile trip back East over practically the same route as that covered by his father in six months with ox-teams in 1846. They spent seventeen days on their journey, and had a very enjoyable time.

History of Contra Costa County, California

W. A. Slocum & Co., San Francisco, 1882, pages 543-544

WILSON COATS. – This old and respected pioneer of Tassajara valley, now reachd the venerable age of four score years, is a native of Smith county, Tennessee, and was born August 10, 1802. When fifteen years of age he moved with his parents, to Callaway county, Missouri, and resided in the State until his coming to California. May 1, 1849, our subject started with ox-teams to cross the plains to the Golden State, arriving in Placer county September 7th of the same year, and there engaged in mining until 1851, when be paid a visit to his old home in Missouri, proceeding via the Isthmus of Panama. Remaining, but a short time be again returned with his family to this coast, this time, as before, crossing the plains with ox-teams, and, coming direct to Contra Costa county, located on his present farm of one hundred and sixty acres, at that time being the only family resident in the now well populated and highly cultivated Tassajara, valley . Was married in Callaway county, Missouri, December 25, 1823, to Miss Mary Philipp, a native of Tennessee. She died November 27, 1875. By this union they had ten children, of which he has four sons living: Felix G., William L., John R. and Lemuel A.

FELIX G. COATS. -- The subject of this sketch, whose portrait appears in the body of this history, is a native of Callaway county, Missouri; was born August 9, 1828, and resided in his birth-place until seven years of age. His parents then moved to Miller county, same State, and there abode for ten years, at the end of which time be moved to Johnson county, where our subject dwelt and attended the common schools until his removal to California. May, 1849, he, with his father, (now a resident of this county) equipped and provisioned a " Prairie Schooner," and, with ox-teams, joined a train that was then making up at Independence to cross the plains to seek their fortunes in the gold fields of this State, arriving in Grass Valley, Nevada county, after a pleasant trip of six months, in September, 1819. He immediately embarked in mining on the American river, which he followed for a short time. Mr. Coats then purchased some mules and started a pack-train from Sacramento to Stony Bar. This he continued for about three months, when he again engaged in mining, which he followed until the Fall of 1852, when he came to Contra Costa county, sojourned for a short time, then returned to the mines, and in the Spring of 1853 again came to this county and purchased his present farm of three hundred and ninety acres, where he now resides, in the Tassajara valley. Mr. Coats also owns six hundred and forty acres, three miles east of his residence. Was united in marriage, in Tassajara, February 23, 1860, to Miss Levina [Leona] Doggett, a native of Arkansas. By this union they have six children -- Nolen, James L., Bethel S., Ella, May, and Jennie.