Volume 7, No.
Buffalo County Historical
LETTERS OF SALLY COFFMAN TO HER
DAUGHTER MARILLA, 1877, 1879, 1880
Sally Coffman was
the wife of Henry Coffman who homesteaded in Buffalo County on the W
SW 1/4 of Section 14 in Grant Township. There were two sons,
H., who married Rena Hollenbeck, George W., who married Lillie A. Hunt,
and a daughter Marilla J., who was married to William Wilbur Grant.
of Buffalo County, Vol. I, lists William Grant, G. W. Coffman,
J. H. Coffman and Rena Hollenbeck among the settlers who arrived in
County in 1874. Lillie A. Hunt was the daughter of Miles B.Hunt, who
in 1873. Rena Hollenbeck taught in the Huntsville school before
marriage to James Coffman in 1875.
From the letters
of Sally Coffman it appears that Marilla and William Grant moved to
in the summer of 1877 with their baby Warren Albert. It was when
Warren Albert Grant sought a delayed birth registration of his birth in
Buffalo County on September 18, 1876 that these letters of Sally to her
daughter Marilla were used as evidence of Warren's birth date.
were recently sent to the Buffalo County Historical Society for their
The letters of Sally
Coffman give a vivid picture of the hardship and struggle of the early
settlers as they sought to make a home in the new and unsettled land
the Wood River in Grant Township. All of the Coffmans eventually
moved to Washington Territory and lived in what is now Pierce County,
Their neighbors, the Hunts and the Koughs, also left Buffalo County and
settled in Washington.
An early sod house north of Kearney.
A. T. Anderson Collection
Map of mail services in Buffalo
1875, showing once a week mail from Kearney Junction to Huntsville, to
Prairie Center to South Loup (present Pleasanton)
Huntsville, August 26,
Marilla, Dear good
We received your
welcome letter the
17th. Warren was 11 months old that day and my pretty playful baby was
sick, and is now perhaps. It is not as healthy there as here. The
was too hard for the little darling. Take good care of him and yourself
too. You would be so lonesome without him.
I hope you are
all well now and happy.
Your father and I were most sick for several days, the same as we were
a year ago but not so bad. He is well now but I am not as well as
I keep around and do the work with Mr. Conn's help. They have been
hay the past week. Have put up 14 large loads for us, got it up without
any rain on it after it was cut. We had 15 large loads of wheat. When
is thrashed will tell you how many bushels. No hoppers yet. We have had
several showers since you were here. Everything looks well. The cabbage
is heading well now. Conn has mastered the worms. Plenty cucumbers and
good sour pickles and tomatoes and all the sweet corn we want, and have
dried two boilings and have been feeding it to the pigs more than two
And we boil potatoes for the pigs, near a bushel per day, so we don't
corn for them now.
Mrs. Brown's health is very poor,
some of the time she is sick in bed. They hired Bunnel's oldest girl to
teach this school. She can get no place to board, wants us to board
I would if I was able to do the work rather than stay alone. We kept
3 weeks. Conn did not like her, told Pop he would help me more than he
did and it would not cost him anything. Mrs. Midge wanted her. Their
very bad with the whooping cough. They had to be up with it nights for
weeks, it is better now. Mag went there so I have been alone since.
White's family have got into Idaho, have stopped at a ranch, dare not
on now on account of Indians. They were all well and the boys had got
I will send you George's and James' letters to read and you can send
back when you write to me, which I hope you will do soon for I want to
bear how my poor baby is. If he had stayed here he would be dancing and
laughing so one could hear him ten rods. That is my opinion.
George's P.O. is Steilacoom,
W.T. (Washington Territory). We have not heard from Allamakee since you
left here. Write, I want to hear if you have got your goods all right
not. Some have had thrashing done. Their wheat turns out 19 bushels to
the acre, good plump wheat makes good flour. Plenty of everything in
that farmers can raise. I presume as much or more fruit in this state
in Illinois. Grant will have to chop a great many cords of wood to get
money enough to buy eighty acres of land there and the land no better
than it is here. It is not as healthy there as here, so what has gained
by leaving his homestead and all that he had done on it, but that is
of my business, is it? I want Grant to review the last seven years as
as the Coffmans are concerned, his talk about them and all and the way
they have done by him, and see if he has done as he would wish to be
You see I cannot write very well.
You write if I do not. I will write as often as I can. So goodbye for
time. That God will bless and prosper you is your mother's prayer
Marilla J. Grant
Marilla, Dear Girl:
Stanley, Dec. 17th, A.D. 1879
We got the
letter you wrote the 5th of Oct.
in a few days after you wrote it. Glad as we always are to hear from
if you could come home and stay with us this winter how glad I should
We live alone and expect to all winter. George cuts the wood and brings
it in when it is bad weather. I help him all I can. He has 2 stoves to
get wood for now and it takes all day to get one load. Have to go
and it is not as plenty. More folks here than used to be. We should
had corn for fuel if the hail had not destroyed it. The storm come from
the northwest and kept that course as far as I know. The corn on James'
was not hurt much and half a mile south of his it was cut down almost
We had 20 bushels of wheat besides what
was raised this year that is ground for bread. The other will do for
We have twelve dollars and a half money. That is all. We owe two years
tax. Have wrote to Jep to sell that Forty for what he can get and stop
paying taxes on that, and Bush will sell them lots if he can. We hope
get something for them to help us through the winter. Charley Wandell
two of our hogs to fatten. We have half. We are wintering two. Our cow
gives a quart of milk a day. I make butter - what we need.
Delbert lives 6 or 7 miles from here
his wife's mother and step-father. I hear they have everything nice.
will be Pa before spring, but his money is going and he has no feed
Mrs. Thompson has another boy, weighed eleven pounds, all well.
Lillie wrote to her folks for some
Forest and Emmel sent her five dollars apiece. She has not got her
quilted yet and won't very soon unless they hire it done. She got mad
I cleaned up the dish cloths, said I did it to impose upon her. I did
best to help them. The baby is here every day, stays 3 or 4 hours and
We take lots of comfort with him. He talks some, I can understand most
all he says. Mira Kough has a girl baby born 9th of Oct.
It has been cold since the 6th of
this month, not much snow but real cold most of the time. I have to
every fire. Your father can't do anything, I have to wait on him. He is
not sick, his appetite is pretty good for one that don't exercise any
than he does.
We made a bee and got our house
up, part of it to the roof. Could not get it all done then, but will if
it gets warm enough to lay the sod. It is much better than it was
Has Grant got home? How is little Warren? I dream of him every night
am afraid he is sick. Three years and 3 months old. Sweet, dear baby.
good care of him. This cold weather don't let him get hurt.
I hope you are well and enjoying life
one of your age ought to. Write and tell me all about it. What is Grant
going to do next year. Have you a cow? I think you have heard from Mary
or I would send you her last letter. Please write soon, not be slow
your Mother if you can help it: I am not as lame as I was, I can work
but have to be careful.
Farewell. God bless and protect
is your Mother's Prayer.
Marilla J. Grant
July 26th, 1880
I received your very
letter a week ago. I had began my washing, a large one. I had been near
sick three weeks with a bowel complaint and fever. Am not well yet,
weak and tired all the time. Was three days washing, 2 days churning,
and baking and repairing to do. So you see I have just sat down to
on this poor paper, and so many flies.
Your father is well, only more
George and his family are well. Delbert's baby is dead. It was buried a
week ago today. Cholera Infantum caused its death. It was near 6 months
old. Mrs. Clark has a girl baby 8 weeks old. Mrs. Seaman has a girl 7
old. Mrs. Majors has her 3rd boy, 6 or 7 weeks old. Lots of babies, and
folks too. There is from 25 to 30 scholars in school this term.
We had a dry winter, very little
a great many windy days, and so little rain all the spring until June.
Seed laid in the ground and did not sprout. Garden seeds planted early
and nothing came, in June a few come up but there is no gardens and no
potatoes now and I think there will be but few if any raised this year
in this part of the state. The 3rd of this month there was a heavy
It blew away our little house and tore it to pieces and broke some of
boards, and broke my ash tree that Grant set out, took the roof off
several houses. I think the wind blew the hardest I ever heard it. Wood
River was so high they had to tie the bridge to keep it. There is quite
a large nice house built south of the schoolhouse, another one on the
side of the river on that level pretty ground. The families living
are sending their children to school - smart and well off.
The Koughs have all gone,
They started near the last of May for W.T. Mag was married two weeks
they left to Franklin Crawford. He is near her own age, how smart I
know. Mag's man has no property. They were going through with a span of
mules and John had two yearling colts. I don't know how much money.
expected to be 4 months on the road. We have not heard from James since
Your father or George has not sold yet. The man that talked of buying
land last spring bought R.R. land east of here. The season not good -
buyers. Our cow come in 13th of May. I fed the calf until it was 7
old, sold him for 5 dollars cash. I have sold 3 dollars worth of
have some on hand now, it is cheap now.
Marilla, dear girl, I am sorry
have got to suffer so much again. Take care of yourself, do not work
hard, and don't worry. Do not drink cold water. I think drinking cold
when her child was young killed Del's wife. Now he is alone and very
Take good care of my little Warren. I expect he is most a man, helping
his Mother pick up chips as his Mother used to for me. Tell him his
in Neb. loves him. I see him, the sweet ten months old baby. Three
tomorrow since I saw him and his mother. Cruel separation, long dreary
years. This is the 27th. Do you know anything about your Aunt Marilla.
I wrote to her in March, have not heard from any of them.
Write please, do not wait for me.
Goodbye, God protect you.
Marilla J. Grant
Back to Buffalo Tales Home Page
to Buffalo County Historical
Society Home Page
3-1-01, 1:42 p.m.