Contra Costa County











     Wherever his fortunes have lain, Col. John R. Coates has proved himself an earnest, patriotic and liberty-loving citizen, making his personal efforts parallel with those given toward the upbuilding of the country and the promotion of all movements calculated to advance the best interests of his home community.  A pioneer of California, a veteran of the Civil war, and for many years a resident of Maine, where he was born in 1834, Colonel Coates has seen much of the country which claims his citizenship, and in his various locations no man could have been more active in his efforts to advance the general welfare of the community.  He enjoys to an unusual degree the confidence and esteem of those who have the privilege of his acquaintance.

     Colonel Coates was born in Charlotte, Washington county, Me., the son of John C. Coates, the descendant of honorable colonial stock who were largely represented in the historic struggle for independence.  He was reared to manhood in his native state, and when he left it, it was to seek his fortune in the Eldorado of the west, the hews of the great gold discovery having fired his ambitious spirit with a desire to brave the dangers for the sake of the future held out to him.  With his brother-in-law, Capt. John Beckford, he set sail on the full-rigged brig Siroc November 6, 1849.  In addition to paying $50 for his passage Colonel Coates worked before the mast.  In San Francisco harbor he worked at lightering(sic), as there were no wharves, and thus earned money for a mining outfit.  From San Francisco he sailed to Sacramento with Captain Crocker of the schooner Elizabeth of Barnstable.  The well-known Crocker family of San Francisco are descended from Captain Crocker.  From Sacramento Colonel Coates went to the mines on Boone's Bar, where he took up claims, besides being interested in claims elsewhere.

     In December, 1850, as second mate on the schooner Columbus, Colonel Coates shipped for the Marquesas, Society and Sandwich Islands, returning to San Francisco in June, 1851, when he again became interested in mining.  In 1854 he returned to his native state, where he was engaged in lumbering and ship-building until the breaking out of the Civil war.  Selling out his business, he recruited men for service in the Fifteenth Maine Volunteer Infantry.  At the battle of Mansfield, La., in 1864, during Banks' Red River campaign, he was wounded and taken prisoner by the Confederates.  Soon afterward, however, he was mustered out on parole and went back to his regiment in the Shenandoah Valley.  The regiment was then reorganized and he was in service in Georgia and South Carolina until July, 1866, when he was mustered out in Charleston, S.C., and went back into the Veteran Corps.  His entire war record was one of bravery and endurance and is written in the annals of the Civil war.

     Returning to Maine, Colonel Coates settled up his affairs and decided to locate again in California, journeying to the state via the Isthmus of Panama.  Upon his arrival in San Francisco he went at once to the mines, intending to take possession of his former claims; but too much time had elapsed and his right to them had been forfeited.   In 1867 he located on one hundred and sixty acres of government land and at the same time purchased three quarter sections.  In the years that followed he continued to add to his former purchase until to-day he owns twenty-six hundred acres, practically all in Contra Costa county.  During his residence in the state he has bought and sold at least twenty-five thousand acres of land in Contra Costa county and is to-day one of the largest owners and capitalists of this section.  His land is devoted to the cultivation of grain and the raising of stock.  In addition to his other holdings, Colonel Coates owns two miles of coal lands, besides valuable oil and cement lands, and a large amount of property in Antioch and Brentwood.  Colonel Coates is a thorough business man, his success being the result of method and system.

     Colonel Coates was united in marriage with Juliette M. Fisher, who died when about forty-five years of age.  They became the parents of two daughters, Margaret and Juliette, the former dying in childhood.  The latter became the wife of J. L. Harding.  For his second wife Colonel Coates married Elizabeth M. Madden, of Baltimore.  Fraternally the Colonel is a member of the Masonic order and belongs to the Grand Army of the Republic.





Transcribed 9-26-16  Marilyn R. Pankey.

ญญญญSource: History of the State of California & Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California by Prof. J. M. Guinn, A. M., Pages 1336-1337. The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904.

2016  Marilyn R. Pankey.







Contra Costa County Biographies

Golden Nugget Library