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BLUE BRANCH ROAD HISTORY, GILES COUNTY TENNESSEE

History of Isaac H. Coffee's Pennsylvania Long Rifle

An old Pennsylvania Long Rifle is in the hands & belongs to the descendents of Isaac Hamilton Coffee of Maury County Tennessee, born 1828, died 1868 of causes undocumented. It is likely he died from causes related to the Guerilla Warfare that strongly persisted in the Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee area, and largely the south after cessations of the fighting in 1865, between the Union and Confederates.

It has inscribed the name of Joseph Golsher as the maker and was likely built about 1840 or so. These weapons were made in Pennsylvania and Kentucky and were often called by either name as Kentucky or Pennsylvania Rifles.
Isaac H. Coffee also inscribed his initials on the gun "IC" at the back of the barrel.

The Pennsylvania or Kentucky Rifle shown above with the Gun Powder Horn, the Round Lead Musket Ball, and the Musket. It was mass produced from about 1840 to about 1865 and even after. The weapon was widespread, but during the Civil War it was becoming obsolete with more upgraded weaponry. Especially toward the end of the Civil War. Its obsolescence was a major reason the north won the war with the production of later improved rifles with faster loading and firing times. However, superior tactics with fewer but very intense fighters kept the south in the war for a time.


The Flintlock firing mechanism shown above.


The manufacturer’s name inscribed as JOSEPH GOLCHER on the decorative plate above.


Initials of I C for Isaac Coffee carved by Isaac Hamilton Coffee, a civil war fighter, on the back left side of the barrel.  Isaac Hamilton Coffee Cemetery record.


Three descendents of Isaac Hamilton Coffee from left to right: Paulene V. Barlar Thurman (4th generation, keeper of the  weapon for many years), Linda Stevens Munroe (5th generation, mother of David) and David Munroe (6th generation & son of Linda holding the Pennsylvania Long Rifle)


When Isaac Hamilton Coffee died in 1868 he and his wife Emma and only son William Fine Coffee lived at that time somewhere east of Enterprise in Maury County. His wife took the above gun with her when she moved back to live with or near her widowed mother and brother along Blue Branch in (northern) Giles County Tennessee. She would live another six years and die in 1874. At that point in their history William Fine Coffee, the only son of deceased Isaac Hamilton & Emma Frances West Coffee was an orphan, at 6 years of age. So the old gun was passed back a generation to the Minerva Samuels West family. The father Samuel West was already deceased at that time having passed in 1867. Ultimately we believe it passed into the hands of Samuel Markus West, a son or one of 11 children of Samuel & Minerva Samuels West or the parents of deceased (owner) daughter Emma Frances Coffee.

The old gun was then kept in good order by the West family until the orphaned son William F. grew up to become a pillar in the community, and a strong family man. When the West brothers started dying out they passed the rifle back to the orphan (then grown) William Fine Coffee, b. 1868 for his family archives since it was ultimately his father's Civil War weapon. William F. b. 1868 lived to be an old man and died at age 86 on 14 May 1954. The gun probably had by that time already been passed to his eldest surviving daughter Nell Coffee Chaffin Barlar & her husband Tom Barlar, living in the same house as William Fine Coffee. Lela died in 1950, of Pancreatic Cancer. This was four years before her father William Fine Coffee died. In 1951 her sister (the widow of Mack Chaffin) Nell Coffee Chaffin married widower Tom Barlar. William Fine Coffee continued to live at the Barlar home in his last years. He had a room that was built on the back of the house which was used for sleeping. My earliest childhood memories are of him sitting out in the yard in an old 1950s green porch glider. There is also a photo of him sitting out there in a rocking chair relaxing. In those days few people locked themselves up inside their homes at least in the summer. This home was surrounded by the cool shade of Sugar Maple Trees in the summer making that a pleasant experience.

William Fine "Bill" Coffee relaxing in the latter years of his life after church, in his Sunday suit, at the home of his daughter Lela & Tom Barlar. He was a retired store owner in the Bear Creek Pike Community. 
He had seen much death in his life resulting from the Civil War. Also both his parents and grandparents and many of his West Aunts & Uncles had died young. An old Brownie Camera was used to make this photo in the winter of about 1952. The leaves are dormant on the Maple Tree beside the house. 
This is also the only known surviving photo of the old Tom Barlar Home. Tom had bought the 120 acre tract of land this farm sits on in 1916. He had used his saw milling operation to saw up the lumber for this house. He then set about building the home with his own hands though he was not a trained carpenter. 
The Spring below this home was name Barlar Springs to memorialize his self sufficient style and his standing in the community.

It might have been that WF "Bill" reasoned there were many grandsons in that wing of the family that might be interested in the history of the rifle and maintaining it. At some point in the history of ownership the gun was restored by Marvin Young Coffee, the son of William Fine Coffee for his dad. We are unaware of how or if Marvin Young Coffee was paid for his efforts.

When Tom & Nell Barlar eventually passed away they left the gun to their three living daughters Ruby L. Barlar Austin, Paulene V. Barlar Thurman & Dolly A. Barlar Davis. These ladies decided to keep it jointly and pass it around among themselves. That happened for a time and then lost its appeal. Today most of the daughters of Tom & Lela Barlar have passed and the gun remains well kept in the hands of the second daughter Paulene V. Barlar Thurman. Paulene has a daughter Wanda and a son Royce.

We have also heard the name of Malcolm West, a grandson of Samuel & Minerva Samuels West come up and believe he may have had a hand in keeping this gun sometime in earlier years.

As written by Wayne Austin, great-great grandson of I.H. Coffee sometimes called Major Hamilton or just Ham Coffee, 9 Feb 2009.
By Wayne Austin writer, compiler & publisher 9 Feb 2009.