Prominent Burke Family:
Coffer (Copher)
Coffer: A Prominent Family
 In the early 1660s, John Coffer was the first Coffer of this line to arrive in the new
world.
 In 1728, Francis Coffer, John Coffer’s son, received a 378-acre land grant from
Lord Fairfax in the area now known as Burke, Virginia.
 Thomas Withers Coffer, son of Francis Coffer, was a well-known vestryman of
Truro Parish. Other well-known vestrymen of Truro Parish included George
Washington, George Mason, Thomas Wren, and the Fairfax’s. He voted, had
accounts at Colchester, and was on the rent rolls for 600 acres from 1764-1774.
 During the War of 1812, Thomas Coffer, grandson of Thomas Withers Coffer, was
a Captain in the 1st Battalion, 60th Regiment, Virginia Militia. In August 1814, His
unit mobilized to defend Washington, however, militias back then were seen as
notoriously unreliable, so a US military supply clerk in Washington refused to issue
them arms and ammunition. The unit spent the night bivouacked in the US Capitol
building and then left the city before the British forces arrived and burned the city.
Joshua Coffer Tree Branch
(and selected Burke-area family stories)
Mary
Littlejohn
Withers
Ann
Shapleigh
Neale
1735-1775
Henry
Wishart
1683-1740
When Francis Coffer died in 1863, his will
freed from slavery Charles T. Pearson, his
three brothers, and mother. The proceeds
from the sale of Coffer’s property went to
the Pearson family also. Charles Pearson
built a home, farmed and later set aside a
plot of land in Burke for the Pearson Family
Cemetery (located on Burke Lake Road).
Huldah
Virginia
Simpson
1840-1905
Jean
Wishart
Katherine.
O’Daniel
Henry M.
Gunnell
1720-1792
William B. Catherine
Gunnell
Simpson
1757-1820 1746-1800
Ann
Simpson
1779-1859
Thomas
Coffer
1773-1862
Mary
Ferguson
1715-1758
Francis
Coffer
1683-1740
Thomas Withers Coffer was a well-known
vestryman of Truro Parish, along with
George Washington, George Mason,
Thomas Wren, and the Fairfax’s.
Thomas
Withers
Coffer
1713-1781
Francis
Coffer
1748-1817
Thomas Coffer was a Captain in the 1st
Battalion, 60th Regiment, Virginia Militia
during the War of 1812.
Francis
Coffer
17__-1863
Joshua Armistead John
Hannah
Thomas
Silas
William Elizabeth Jane
Coffer Thompson Henry
Coffer
Coffer
Withers
Burke
Francis
Ann
1814-1862 Mason
Coffer
Coffer
Coffer
Coffer1802-1885 1800-1895 1796-1854
Coffer 1809-1857 1807-1886 1799-1885 1808-1881
1819-1861
Ella Ann
Joshua
Milton
Coffer
Coffer Jr.
Hall
1849-1939 1859-1908 1862-1881
Francis Coffer received a 378 acre land
grant from Lord Fairfax in 1728 in the area
now known as Burke, Virginia
A Civil War Mystery: In April 1861, Joshua Coffer voted for Virginia’s
succession from the Union. In February 1862, however, he is allegedly
captured by JEB Stuart’s men and put in a Confederate Prison in
Richmond where he died in March 1962
Siblings married siblings: Hannah Coffer
married Silas Burke, and Jane Coffer
married Levi Burke. Thomas Coffer
married Jane Selecman, and Elizabeth
Coffer married George Selecman.
Exodus of the three oldest brothers: John
and William Coffer moved to Wood
County, West Virginia. Thomas Coffer
moved to Andrew County, Missouri.
Ella Coffer allegedly commits suicide by
throwing herself under a train in Burke.
“Locust Hill”
 The original Coffer family house,
called “Locust Hill”, was probably
located at or near the present site of
the Woods Community Center located
at 10100 Wards Grove Circle
 The house on the site today is most
likely a second construction of the
Coffer house and possibly dates from
about 1876, based on inspections of
the foundation, building techniques,
and materials, as well as tax records
 Francis Coffer reportedly purchased
the land from John Arundell (Arundle)
in 1803
Using Forensic Evidence
to Date the Coffer House
•
The house design, materials, construction methods, and building technology are
appropriate for a house constructed during the last quarter of the 19th century. During a
physical examination of the house, various components of the house were studied to
determine the likely construction period. These components included the nail types,
mortar composition, roof construction, saw marks, newel post style, firebox
construction, door trim style, interior door transom panels, etc.
•
Land tax records suggest that the existing house was constructed ca. 1876. The house
may have replaced an earlier house, possibly even at the same site. Perhaps an
earlier building was destroyed and rebuilt. In 1874 and 1875 there were no values
assessed for buildings; however, the following year there was a substantial amount
assessed for buildings. An analysis of aerial photographs, topographic maps, and 19th
century maps indicate that a residence existed on or near the current site of the
present structure, but does not provide sufficient information to demonstrate that the
structure on the 1862 McDowell map is the present structure.
Pre-Civil War “Snapshot”
of a Successful Family
 By the mid-1800s, the Coffer family was deeply interwoven into the fabric of
prominent Fairfax County society by marriage into families that included Burke,
Simpson, Gunnell, Selecman, Neale, and others.
 In 1858, Joshua Coffer (aged 44) appears to be head of the Coffer household at
Locust Hill. Joshua marries Huldah Virginia Simpson (aged 18), who we suspect
(but have not confirmed) is a cousin from his mother’s side.
 By 1860, tax records show that Joshua Coffer’s father, Thomas, owned about 290
acres of land in what is now Burke, Virginia and raised livestock and cultivated
corn, hay, potatoes and oats. A large portion of the land was timber.
 In 1860, census records suggest three generations lived at Locust Hill: Thomas
Coffer, Joshua and Huldah Coffer, Joshua’s invalid brother, Armistead Coffer,
Joshua’s daughter, Ella Coffer, and Joshua’s nephew, Francis Coffer.
 The 1860 census also indicates the Coffers had 5 slaves
Virginia Succession Vote
 On 23 April 1861, in the Virginia
Succession Vote at Sangster’s,
records show that Joshua Coffer
voted “Yes” in favor of succession
from the Union
 Note: Among the Burke area
landholders, the only person on
record as voting against Virginia’s
succession was subsequently driven
out of the community and fled to
Alexandria, VA
1862 –Tragedy for the
Coffer Family
 3 February 1862 – Joshua Coffer’s son, Joshua Coffer Jr. is born in Burke, VA
 15 February 1862 – Joshua Coffer’s father, Thomas Coffer dies in Burke, VA
 22 February 1862 – Joshua Coffer allegedly is taken prisoner by Confederate
General J.E.B. Stuart and taken to Richmond, VA and put in prison
 8 March 1862 – 16,000 Union soldiers occupy and denude the Coffer farm
 22 March 1862 – Joshua Coffer reportedly dies at a Confederate prison hospital in
Richmond (which we have been unable to confirm from prison records)
In 1862, Union Troops
Occupy Locust Hill
 On 8 March 1862, 16,000 Union soldiers
occupy the Coffer farm for eight days
and reportedly used fence rails on the
property for their campfires and to build
temporary mud houses.
 Brigadier General Louis Blenker, 8th
Infantry (1st German Rifles), uses the
Coffer house as his temporary
headquarters in Burke, Virginia
Br. Gen. Louis (Ludwig) Blenker
Example of a Union Civil War camp in Virginia. This picture shows A Civil
War camp of the 6th N.Y. Artillery at Brandy Station, Virginia
Coffer Cemetery
Sleuthing
 A short walk from the Coffer family
home is a small family cemetery
(located off Wards Grove Circle)
 The original headstones were
damaged by vandals in the 1990s
and have been replaced by a single
modern stone that simply lists
names and dates of birth and death
 Joshua’s original headstone
showed his DOB as 21 October
1814 and included: “Born in Fairfax
Co., VA” and “Died in Richmond”

Prominent Burke Family: Coffer (Copher)