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COFFEY, William F., 28 Jan 1830 - Killed 24 Aug 1864. " by Major Howell and Sam Morrow two "local self styled Federals", Mason. (Co. B, 48th Term., C. S. A., married Priscilla Howard on 24 Dec 1850, She was the daughter of Willoughby & Frances [Cochran] Howard). Pricilla removed with her family of six or so children to Collin County, Texas where she lived there with her family until her death in 1899. Photo & info by Wayne Austin 4/10/04.
William F. Coffee's wife's gravestone in Farmersville, Texas at

E-mails regarding the murder or death of William F. Coffee, 1864, Samuel Morrow, 1870; and information about the life of Major Howell the third party involved in the killings.

Subj: RE: Murder of William F Coffee 
Date: 6/6/03 10:01:45 PM Central Daylight Time 
From: (barbara) 
Sent from the Internet (Details) 

Hi Wayne, 

The magic of internet truly dumfounds. I think it remarkable that myself a descendent of Sam Morrow, and you a 1st great nephew of William F. Coffee, and Don Howell a descendant of Major Howell can all converse on the internet about historical events that occurred 140 years ago in light of the fact that we are all related to these individuals. Thanks for your reassuring response. I will share with you what I have.

In late 1981 and early 1982 my mother corresponded with Mrs. W. H. Elliott, Route 1, Columbia, TN 38401 (both now deceased). Mrs. Elliott retrieved the transcript of the court martial of Samuel Morrow, who eventually was acquitted, and the settlement of his estate after he was murdered. 

Two accounts of the murder and one of Samuel's death appear in Naomi Morrow Hailey' Five Morrow Men with Some Descendants and Allied Families, 1975.

Naomi writes: 

We have several versions of the same incident probably based on widely varying court testimonial:

Columbia Herald, April 13, 1870
The case of Morrow is a little different. He never belonged to the Federal army, and merely commanded a squad of desperadoes. Lieut. Coffee, a Confederate officer, returned home, took the oath, and was quietly staying at home, when Morrow came along through Mt. Pleasant, and made Major Howell deliberately shoot Coffee while he was setting on a rail.

Historic Maury County, p 166
Coffee, William, 1st Lieut. [was] killed by Sam Morrow and other "home-made Yankees" in Mt. Pleasant, uncle of Hugh B. Douglass. Douglass says Coffee had insulted Mrs. Sam Morrow, and then "got the drop" on Morrow and made Morrow "apologize"!!! Morrow got Buck Howell to shoot Coffee.

Columbia Herald, April 22, 1870
Samuel Morrow of Maury county was a Federal soldier, and belonged to one of the Tennessee regiments, was honorably discharged from the United States service; was an old man, 60 years of age; was murdered in his own house by a band of masked men, on the night of the 4th of Aug. 1869. In order to save the lives of his children, into whose bed those outlaws were firing, after breaking down the front door of his dwelling, Morrow rushed out in the midst of those men and was riddled with bullets. This was furnished me by Mr. Arnell.

In genealogy, as in many other fields, you can find evidence to prove many things, some of them so contradictory that you wonder what really happened.

Wayne do you know if Hugh B Douglass was nephew of William F. Coffee?

You mentioned cousins killing cousins. Mrs. Elliott wrote that two of Samuel's daughters married Coffees; Mary E. Morrow , b. 1838, m Davis N. Coffee, 1 Nov 1855, and Nancy Louise (Louisa) Morrow, b.1841, m George W. Coffee (Coffy?), 4 Aug 1857; both Maury county marriages. Your Coffees?

As I recall, Coffees testified, I believe, for and against Samuel during the court martial. Later William's wife Priscilla sued Samuel but dropped charges after Samuel's death.

I will copy and mail anything you would like to have if you will send me your mailing address. Do you know how the Coffees fared after William's death. I have learned a little about the Morrows but would like to find Samuel's two oldest sons Matthew Martin Morrow and William K. Morrow. 

Isn't it great to have found one another. Let's keep in touch.

Best wishes, Barbara

----Original Message-----
From: [] 
Sent: Friday, June 06, 2003 9:03 AM
Subject: Re: Murder of William F Coffee 

Hi Barbara
Glad to hear from you. No, I harbor no animosity about this. No one in this life had any fault concerning what happened 139 years ago. 

Absolutely, I would like to know more of the story. What I have seen is a condensed sketch taken from the Columbia Newspaper of the time and printed in a book. I have seen two versions of the story one written by a goofball and the other a news account but neither of them contained much detail. Can you fill in the details of what happened and if there was a trial and how all that turned out?

Well, this was another case of cousins killing cousins as the war generated much animosity among all the locals. 
Maybe between us we can get more of the full details. I know a few things about it but not the whole story.

Also my ancestor Major Isaac Hamilton Coffee, William F.'s brother, also met an early death three years after William F. Coffee's death from what had been passed down to us as either fall from a horse or a blow from a Prize Fight. Have you seen anything on this? That happened in 1867 and now I am wondering if the truth has been told about this matter.


Subj: Re: [TNMAURY-L] Mt. Pleasant tells its Civil War story 
Date: 7/6/03 11:37:22 AM Central Daylight Time 
From: (Lisa & Don Howell)

Hello Wayne & Barbara,

I'm back from my mini-vacation :)
I just noticed Wayne that when I emailed you the other day I left off Barbara's email so please let me introduce myself again.
My name is Don Howell and I'm the 3rd-great-grandson of Major Howell who apparently was involved in the shooting of William Coffey.

I live in Western KY just south of Paducah & Mayfield all of the rest of Major's descendants live in the Brewer's area of Marshall Co., KY

From the best I can find in the records and stories through the family Major high tailed it out of Maury Co. after Samuel Morrow was killed and ended up in Decatur Co. TN. in 1870, but by 1874 he was in Graves Co., KY where he lived until about 1899 when he moved to Marshall Co., KY. He died there in June of 1906. 

Major has been a hard case to crack in the records but from what I can find he had a bad temper which still runs in the family today sorry to

His father Daniel C. Howell apparently also had one and was killed in a fight:

From the book "They Passed This Way" : 

Howell, Daniel , a jury of inquest to inquire how and when and in what manner Daniel Howell came to his death on April 19, W. H. Esom in his own necessary self defense to save himself from death or great bodily harm by the violence of the said Daniel Howell, the said W. H. Esom did then and there kill the said Daniel Howell by striking him on the head two blows with a small hand mall.
Maury Co. TN.

Oddly enough Major joined the CSA the next day. He left his wife and young son plus his mother and his young sibling to join "THE BIGBY GRAYS" Co. C, Third Tennessee in MT. Pleasant TN. on April 20, 1861.

In his Military records I found this :
Confederate records:
" Absent from Donelson on detached duty as a teamster, and afterwards deserted to the enemy".

I found his Enlistment papers with the Union Army ( Co. H 5th Tenn. Cav.) also they read like this:
Volunteered on July 15, 1862 in Columbia TN. for three years.

in July & Aug he was present for roll call:
July-Aug. 1864--present for Roll.

then I found this :

Aug. 24, 1964--Major Howell and Samuel Morrow kill Lt. William Coffey.
story from The Columbia Herald April 13, 1870:
Lt. Coffey, a Confederate Officer, returned home, took the oath, and was quietly staying at home, when Morrow came along through Mt. Pleasant, and made Major Howell deliberately shoot Coffey while he was setting on a rail. It was a cold-blooded, dastardly, unprovoked murder of a innocent, unoffending man, and a number of the best citizens of MT. Pleasant witnessed it. Peace came, and one night Morrow was killed . Was it strange? Would it have been otherwise in any of the Northern States?

From The Columbia Herald April 22, 1870:
Samuel Morrow of Maury Co. was a Federal soldier, and belonged to one of the Tennessee regiments; was honorably discharged from the U.S. service; was an old man, 60 years of age; was murdered in his own house by a band of masked men, on the night of the 4th of Aug. 1869. In order to save the lives of his children, into whose bed those outlaws were firing, after breaking down the front door of his dwelling, Morrow rushed out in the midst of these men and was riddled with bullets. 

Aug. 24, 1864---- From the Diary of J.W. Matthews.
Lt. Bill Coffey was Lt. of Capt. C. Fletcher Barnes' Company, Biffle's Regt. 9th Tenn. Cavalry, CSA
He conscripted a lot of men in the west part of Maury Co. and in the edge of Lewis; took them to FT. Donelson while the fight was going on, left them in the trenches without food or guns. They were captured (next day) and sent to a frozen island (Johnson's Island, Lake Erie). Their clothing was very scanty.
One of these men joined the Yankee army and came to Maury Co. with them, acting as a pilot for the Yankees in the west part of the county. Yankees came suddenly into MT. Pleasant with this pilot (Major Howell). Bill Coffey was sitting on the edge of the pavement in front of the Ed O. Cross Hotel .
Pilot asked if his name was Bill Coffey, "Yes", Coffey replied.
"Sir, your life is mine." Pilot drew his pistol and fired. At first shot Coffey fell out of chair and was shot again after he hit the pavement. Coffey had resigned or "just quit" or maybe didn't know the Yankees were so near. 

From the book " History of Maury Co." :
Coffey, William , 1st Lt.; killed by Sam Morrow and other "home-made Yankees" in Mt. Pleasant; uncle of Hugh B. Douglass; Douglass says Coffey had insulted Mrs. Sam Morrow, and then "got the drop " on Morrow and made Morrow "Apologize"!!! Morrow got Major Howell to shoot Coffey.

In Major's Union Military records for that time I found :

Sept. 24, 1864 - Oct. 1864 absent from roll call in Military Prison in Nashville.
I'm assuming it was due to the killing, but I'm not sure.

Barbara, does the Court Martial of Samuel say anything about Major or what happened? 
I have a copy of a deed from where Samuel Morrow was buying land from Major's mother Harriet Frances Howell so there seemed to be more inter action other than just the war. 

Does either of you know where the Ed. O. Cross' Hotel was? That was where the killing took place. Are there any old photos of this place? 
I've visited the area a couple of times but really didn't know where to go or look. I also tried to find the grave of William Coffey while there and could never seem to find any solid info on how to get there.

Well sorry to say I have to run for now, I have to help unpack or I'm going to get shot :)

Talk to you all later, 

Don Howell
Arlington, KY

Date: 6/29/2006 4:34:02 PM Central Standard Time
From: (Hugh Wayne Cross)
To: (Wayne Austin)

Subject: William F. Coffee Killing and other Mt Pleasant history and Murders

Hi Wayne,

While reading under the Howard Cemetery email correspondence (2003) regarding the reference in some circles I noticed a mention of the Ld O. Cross Hotel in Mt. Pleasant in the 1860's. I suspect someone may have misread the Diary of J.W. Matthews because I believe the Hotel in question belonged to my great grand uncle Ed O. Cross. Edwin owned a number of businesses in Mt. Pleasant at that time, including the hotel on main street which he later sold, A grist mill which was adjacent to the Nashville and Florence Railroad depot and tracks, and had part ownership with Lemuel Parker as Grocers a little earlier in the 1840's. Edwin's brother John Finch had ownership of the same Grocery store for about two years in the early 1850's but sold it back to Parker who kept it until his death in 1860. Edwin had a son Hugh who owned a Cotton Gin and Press in or around Mt. Pleasant at about the same time.
If I can back up a step I want to tell you that I am researching the Cross family in Maury Co. and plan a trip there in the near future. I am trying to gather information about the family and their businesses in Mt. Pleasant during that time period. I have a researcher from the Maury County Archives helping me but we can sure use additional help if it is available. 
I have considerably more information about the area and that time period and I'm more than willing to share.
Thanks in advance for your assistance.
Hugh Wayne Cross
1770 Farmland Ave.
Merced, Calif. 95340
209 383-6518