County People
Chemung County NY
Coffey, Murphey & Baldwin of Ashland
Article - Coffey, Baldwin & Murphey - People Who Made a Difference in Ashland
Of Town of Ashland and Village of Wellsburg, Chemung County NY
Articles and photos Submitted by Sylvia DENTON Smith, town of Ashland Historian
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Photo of C. C. Coffey at left

Charles E. Coffey was a real mover during the latter days of the 19th. Century.  He had a way of cutting to the heart of a problem and finding a solution, time after time, that benefitted Wellsburg's early growth.  From all accounts, he was well-respected by the local citizens because of his continued involvement.  Cofey lived to the age of 69, dying in December 1903.  (1898 Photo - Bement/Smith)


How many times have you heard the fire siren and been thankful for our volunteer fire department? How many times have you taken a shower... lifted clean clothes from the washer... flipped on the sink faucet to draw a drink, or fill a kettle, and been glad for that steady flow of water? Local folks have enjoyed these blessings for over 100 years! And they have been, due in great measure, to the Coffey Connection. Charles E. Coffey lived in our midst from 1860 until 1903 --farming and working nearly 50 years as an Erie Railroad engineer. Coffey's heart was in the community here, and as he saw the terrible toll of the fires of 1892 and 1893 --twice wiping out much of Wellsburg's business section --foresight made him aware that steps must be taken to ensure the safety of residents and merchants. So, in 1895, Charlie set to work --purchasing and presenting to the village --a hose cart. He also outfitted a fire company of 40 members with red shirts, black silk ties, belts, caps, and white gloves. Two years later -- in honor of him -- this company organized as Coffey Hose Company No. 1. Soon as 20-piece band from among the members of the company formed as the Coffey Hose Band. That organized group of fireman continued under that name until 1942 when the name Wellsburg Fire Department was officially adopted. And the water? In June 1894, Wellsburg was finally equipped with one of the finest water systems of its kind in southern New York State. It laid the basis for the water works we still have today. In the newspaper articles of that time, Charlie Coffey was credited with much of the impetus to bring this to being. Thus -- the Coffey Connection. Over a century ago progress here was given a healthy step forward by a far-sighted man. His name was Charles E. Coffey. We owe him a lot!

Sylvia Denton Smith

Historian, Town of Ashland


C.C. Coffey Gives the Department a New Hose Cart. CELEBRATION OF THE EVENT. Banquet Held in Which Two Hundred Participate--The Town Overflowing With Good Will Toward the Generous Donor--A Happy Time. Wellsburg, July 6.--This village was in holiday mood Friday night, the occasion being the presentation of a handsome hose cart to the Wellsburg fire department by C.C. Coffey. Wellsburg has had two bad experiences with fire. After the last one the citizens decided to put in a system of water-works. One of the most active men in favor of the movement was Mr. Coffey who advocated the improvement although his own property is situated so far from the village that he would receive no personal benefit himself. Mr. Coffey's public spirit, however, did not end here. He decided to aid in the equipment of the fire department and to that end purchased a fine hose cart at a cost of $250 and Friday night it was formally presented to the hose company which had been named in his honor. The citizens of Wellsburg made the occasion one to express their high esteem of the donor. A banquet was held at the Exchange hotel in which about 200 participated. Speeches were made by W.E. Knapp, Prof. Lindsley, Stuart Comfort, Herman Murphy, J.H. Wood and Mr. Coffey. The event was further celebrated by the booming of guns, the music of the band and a general outbreak of appreciation on the part of the people for whose protection from fire. Mr. Coffey has done so much. No event ever occurred in Wellsburg in which the entire citizenry joined with equal enthusiasm and good will. Saturday the Wellsburg department paraded in fine new uniforms and will appear at the convention of firemen at Horseheads the 15th and 16th of this month.Mr. Coffey is the well known Erie engineer who runs Nos. 12 and 3, the finest and fastest trains on the road. He is one of the most generous and progressive citizens of the town whose liberality is by no means confined to this one act. He possesses the regard and esteem of his fellow citizens in the highest degree and their appreciation of his gift which will aid in the protection of their lives and property in the future is unbounded. It was beyond question the happiest event ever occurring in the village and Mr. Coffey is to-day the foremost in the hearts of his townsmen.

C. E. Coffey Hose Company Marching Band ca 1900

The C.E. Coffey Hose Co. Band and Marching Unit dressed with the regalia given them by Coffey. At the rear is the big hose cart also donated by Charley.  It is still displayed by the Wellsburg Volunteer Fire Department in parades today.  (Keller/West Photo)

Home of Melinda and Charles E. Coffey .
Looking east from Coffey's Crossing toward Wellsburg

Fairview, the handsome Coffey home today still sits on a rise overlooking Rte. 427 and Coffey's Crossing which was named for Charley Coffey when he was an engineer on the Erie Railroad, traveling past his home on a regular schedule.  (J. Campbell Photo)

Mrs. Coffey, 93, Wellsburg, Dies; Passing Writes 'Closed' Entry In Bank Account Kept 65 Years. Sixty-five years ago the wife of an Erie Railroad engineer walked into the headquarters of the Chemung Canal Bank of Elmira. Approaching John Arnot Sr, the bank's owner and director, she asked that she be allowed to open a savings account. Mr. Arnot granted the request.

It is said that behind every successful man there is a loving and supportive woman, and Charley's wife Melinda certainly filled that description. Tiny and twinkly, she, too, was active in the community. Living to the age of 93, she passed to her rewards January 1st, 1932. The Coffeys are buried in Mountain View Cemetery along with daughter Atlanta and earlier generations of the Coffey family. (Keller/West Photo)


Today, after a lapse of more than three score years, the name of the woman still appears on the list of active depositors although less than a year after making her initial deposit she removed to Chicago. That woman, whose death Tuesday in Wellsburg removed one of Chemung County's oldest and most interesting residents, was Mrs. Melinda Coffey, 93.

Part in Civic Life

Since 1859 the name of Coffey has been written in the history of every noteworthy activity in the village south of Elmira. Born at Howell's Depot near Port Jarvis, NY, in 1837, the railroad career of her husband brought her in early life to Wellsburg where, with the exception of a short residence in Chicago, she has since made her home. Early upon the Coffeys arrival in the Chemung Valley, Charles E. Coffey formed Wellsburg's first volunteer hose company. The company yet in active service still bears his name. Mrs. Coffey, an honorary member of the body, attended its gatherings up to the time of her death. The remarkable health of the venerable woman brought wide comment from physicians and her friends. Mrs. Coffey was never known to have been ill only calling in an Elmira physician a few days before her death when she noted a decided lack of appetite. She read without glasses and with apparent ease. She was a subscriber to the Elmira Advertiser more than 68 years ago when that newspaper was known as Fairman's Daily Advertiser. She also read the Elmira Star and the Elmira Gazette many years before her consolidation.

Cheery Disposition

To cheerfulness Mrs. Coffey attributed her longevity. "No one's interested in my troubles," she often said to friends. "If I'm happy I can help others forget their sorrows." Just how her queenly wisdom worked is attested in the number of Elmirans and Wellsburg people who gathered daily at her home during her lifetime. Everyone called her "Aunty Coffey" and she was a mother to many. In her younger years she was popular at the old Opera House and skating rink. She carries that popularity with her even after her death. Before the days of embalmers Mrs. Coffey was called upon by residents of the county to help lay out the dead. Many times she was called in the middle of the night on such an errand. On arriving at the home her kindliness and sympathy soothed bereaved hearts. One daughter, Atlanta, born when the Coffeys were in Chicago in 1860, survives them.

Mrs. Coffey and daughter are included in this group of women. I believe Mrs. Coffey is the one sitting on the steps.  Photo taken April 1917. 

Photo of Mrs. Coffey (right) and daughter Atlanta taken April 13, 1917.  (Keller/West Photo)


Mrs. Melinda Coffey, 92, widow of Charles Coffey, long time resident of Wellsburg, died Tuesday at the family home near that village. Mr. Coffey was a veteran Erie Railroad engineer and their home was located at the Coffey crossing of the Erie Railroad, the scene of many grade crossing accidents. Mrs. Coffey had been a subscriber to the Elmira Advertiser a period of 68 years. She is survived by a daughter, Lottie Coffey. The funeral will be held in the family home at 2 pm. Burial in Mountain View Cemetery, Wellsburg. (Jan. 12-15, 1932)


Foremost Citizen of Wellsburg and Well Known Erie Engineer. OLDEST IN SERVICE ON ROAD. Was a member of Ivy Lodge of Masons of This City, Under Whose Auspices the Funeral Will Be Held Monday Morning. Residents of the village of Wellsburg and vicinity went into mourning today upon receiving the sad news of the death of Charles E. Coffey, who is familiarly regarded as the first citizen of the village. Mr. Coffey died at 4:40 o'clock this morning at his home, Fairview, in the extreme northern part of the village after an illness since last Friday. At that time he became ill from bronchial pneumonia and grew rapidly worse until his death resulted this morning. Mr. Coffey had resided in Wellsburg since 1860 and had been prominently identified with all of the enterprises of the village and took a leading part in all of the municipal affairs. He was one of the prime movers in the organization of the first village government and the incorporation of the village. It was mainly due to his efforts that the present excellent water system was installed. Mr. Coffey was very well off financially and was generally regarded as the wealthiest resident of Wellsburg. His home is a fine one. From 1852 to the time of his death he was employed by the Erie Railroad Company as an engineer and was the oldest engineer in the point of service in the employe of the company. Mr. Coffey was born July 1, 1834 in New York City, and was thus sixty-nine years of age at the time of his death. He was brought up on a farm and at the age of seventeen years entered the employ of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Company. In 1851 he went with the Erie as fireman and in 1852 was promoted to the position of engineer. He worked continuously until last Friday. At the time of his last illness Mr. Coffey was engaged as engineer on Erie trains No. 8 and 7, two of the fastest through trains on the road, running from Susquehanna to Hornellsville. He was united in marriage in 1857 at Port Jervis to Malinda Conners, who, with one daughter, Miss Atlanta Coffey, survive him. Mr. Coffey moved to Wellsburg in 1860. Both the C.E. Coffey Hose Company and the C.E. Coffey Hook & Ladder Company were named in his honor. He was president of the hose company at the time of his death. He was a member of Ivy Lodge No. 397, F. & AM of this city and the lodge will have charge of the funeral which will be held at 10:30 o'clock Monday morning at the home. The interment will be in Mountain View Cemetery in Wellsburg.


The funeral of Charles E. Coffey was held this morning at the late residence in the village of Wellsburg at 10:30 o'clock. The funeral was attended by sixty Masons. Forty-Masons went from the Ivy Lodge of this city, of which the deceased was a member. The Masonic Quartette, of this city, sang several selections. The services at the house were conducted by Rev. I. Ainslee Stevenson, rector of Christ Church of Waverly. The Coffey Hose Company of which the deceased was president, attended in a body. The floral tributes were many. The services at the grave were conducted by the Masons. The interment was in Mountain View Cemetery, Wellsburg.

Merton Baldwin is At Rest; Former Sheriff of County And Member of Supervisors

Death Follows Two Weeks' Illness--Native of Bentley Creek and Lived at Wellsburg for Many Years Before Coming To Elmira. Merton Baldwin of 813 Maple avenue, sheriff of Chemung County from 1907 to 1910, died this morning at 1:30 o'clock, after two weeks' illness. Mr. Baldwin had been subject to a heart affection and death was due to that cause. The decedent was born at Bentley Creek in 1858 and passed the early part of his life on a farm. About 1900 he removed to Wellsburg, where he established a grain and feed business. He was elected a member of the Chemung County Board of Supervisors, representing the Town of Ashland, and served in that body several years. Mr. Baldwin was elected sheriff of Chemung County on the Republican ticket in 1907 and served his term with honor for three years. Upon his expiration of his official term as sheriff Mr. Baldwin and his family returned to their home in Wellsburg. They removed their residence to 813 Maple avenue in this city in 1921, where the family has since been located. The decedent was a straightforward citizen, who gave his full duty as a citizen, a public officer, and the head of his home. He was of a kindly disposition and held the friendship of a wide circle of friends. Mr. Baldwin was a member of Chemung Valley Lodge, No. 350, of Chemung, and of Cashmere Grotto, No. 11, M. O. V. P. E. R., of Elmira; also of Elmira Lodge, No. 62, B. P. O. E. He is survived by his widow; a daughter, Mrs. Frank D. Pulford; two brothers, William of Elmira and Frank of Bentley Creek; one sister, Miss Lena Baldwin of Elmira. The funeral will be announced later.

See Baldwin Hote

At Right - Lowman Crossover Bridge Plaque 1903
Iron Bridge Built by Owego Bridge Company

Merton Baldwin Mill



Stephen Herman Murphy, 77, of Wellsburg, died in an Elmira hospital Thursday morning, Jan. 12, 1939, after a long illness due to a fractured hip. He was the oldest member of Christ Episcopal Church, Wellsburg, in point of age and the oldest correspondent of The Star-Gazette in years of service. Several years ago Mr. Murphy underwent an operation from which he never fully recovered and early last summer his health declined until he found it necessary to enter a hospital. He spent a number of weeks there and returned home with his physical condition improved but later injured himself severely in a fall. Mr. Murphy was of a kindly nature, interested in the welfare of those around him and deeply appreciative of kindnesses extended him.

 Misunderstandings distressed him and he not infrequently took long walks to see those who he felt might have misunderstood some statement he had made. HE WAS devoted to the interests of Christ Church and attended services unfailingly. While in the drug business he not infrequently expressed the wish that he had followed a theatrical career, being a student of Shakespeare and possessing ability along dramatic lines. He had served as treasurer of Christ Church and for years held a similar office in the village fire company. Mr. Murphy was methodical in the extreme and in 1928 left with his neighbor. R. W. Page, Wellsburg funeral director, two envelopes to be opened when he died. One was addressed to Mr. Page and contained complete arrangements for his funeral. The other contained the following autobiographical sketch: "He was born in Ridgebury, Pa., June 22, 1861, the son of Mrs. Rebecca Herman and Charles T. Murphy. He resided in Wellsburg nearly his entire life and obtained his education in the school of that village. He entered the drug business at an early age and later practiced pharmacy in Elmira, Binghamton and Utica. "RETURNING to his home village he established a drug store and continued in the same for 40 years until his health failed. A life-long member of Christ Episcopal Church, he was also an exempt fireman and a member of the C. E. Coffey Hose Company since its organization. "He was a correspondent for Elmira newspapers for a period of 50 years and the oldest representative of The Star-Gazette. He leaves one adopted son, Louis C. Liddiard of Elmira." Mr. Murphy's body is at the Page funeral home where friends may call until late Saturday morning when it will be removed to Christ Church. Funeral services will be held at 3 pm and as he requested they will be conducted by the Rev. Levi Lunn of Grace Church, Waverly and the Very Rev. Frederick Henstride.


Tribute Paid Memory of S.H. Murphy. Wellsburg--The funeral of Stephen H. Murphy was held from Christ Episcopal Church Saturday afternoon at 3 o'clock, with the Very Rev. Frederick Henstridge of Grace Church, Elmira, and the Rev. L.W. Lunn of Waverly, rector of Christ Church, officiating. At Mr. Murphy's special request his friend, Gwynn Bement, played softly his favorite hymns and the Grace Church pall covered the casket. The pallbearers were C.B. Dean, H.L. Dean, J.O. West, Charles and Abraham Decker and C.S. Welliver. Burial was in Mountain View Cemetery. Sunday afternoon, the Rev. Mr. Lunn had a memorial service in Christ Church at 4 pm for Mr. Murphy with special music by William Watrous of Waverly. Those from out-of-town in attendance at the funeral were: Mr. and Mrs. Denton Clark of Elmira Heights, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Havens, Robert Frasier, William Knapp, Mrs. Grace Walrath and daughter, Virginia, Mrs. Harry Carey, Miss Irene Van Buskirk, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Liddiard of Elmira; Mrs. Rush Cook, Frank and George Van Buskirk of Horseheads, Louis Liddiard of Baltimore, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Liddiard of Owego, Mr. and Mrs. George Murray of Columbia Cross Roads, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Perrington of Cuba, NY, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Shirley of Sayre

Chemung County NY

Published On Site 18 MAY 2005
By Joyce M. Tice

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