Contra Costa County











     There are few men now living in Contra Costa county whose residence here antedates that of Mr. Coats, who has made his home in Tassajara precinct since 1852 and during the intervening years has witnessed the settlement and growth of this part of California.  He is a member of an old southern family descended from English ancestry and identified with America ever since the colonial period.  His father, Wilson, was a son of Rev. William Coats, a native of Tennessee, and for years a pioneer preacher in the Baptist denomination.  While farming afforded him a means of livelihood, he considered ministerial work as his life occupation and freely and without hope of recompense gave his services wherever a preacher was needed.  On Sunday he preached the Gospel to congregations of pioneers.  During the week he often was called from his plow to speak words of hope to the dying and of consolation to the bereaved.  After about seventy useful years his life work came to an end.

     In 1817, when Wilson Coats was fifteen years of age, he accompanied his parents from Tennessee to Missouri and settled in Callaway county.  The immediate neighborhood where they settled later became known as Coats Prairie.  In 1849 he came overland to California, making the journey in a prairie schooner drawn by oxen.  Like the majority of Forty-niners, he began to work in the mines, and, like them, too, he soon found that other occupations afforded a more certain means of livelihood.  Being pleased with the outlook in the west he determined to establish his home here.  Accordingly he returned via the isthmus to Missouri and in 1852 brought his family overland, settling in Contra Costa county, where he spent the remainder of his life as a stock-grower and rancher on a tract of one hundred and sixty acres.  While voting the Democratic ticket he was never active in politics and the only office he ever held was that of associate judge.  During the last years of his life he gave up manual work, but still maintained a supervision of his interests and did not allow advancing years to lessen his championship of movements for the benefit of his vicinity.  At the time of his death he was eighty-four years of age.

     By his marriage Wilson Coats became united with Mary Phillips, who was born in Tennessee in 1804, and died in Contra Costa county at seventy-two years of age.   In early childhood she went to Missouri with her father, John Phillips, who was a native of South Carolina; her mother was a member of the old southern family of Allens and was born and reared in Tennessee.  In religion the family were of the Baptist faith.  Seven sons and three daughters were born of the union of Wilson and Mary Coats, but two of those died in early life; Etiline died in California in 1853; and Milam, a physician who came to California in 1852 and returned the following year to Missouri, died in that state in 1857.  The other members of the family are as follows:  Felix G., of Contra Costa county; William, who accompanied his father and older brother to California in 1849 and is now engaged in raising stock and in general farm pursuits in Inyo county; John, who accompanied the family west in 1852 and now lives upon a ranch in Lake county, Cal.; Andrew, deceased; Lemuel, a stockman and rancher in Inyo county; and James, deceased, who was an attorney in San Francisco.

     While the family were residing in Callaway county, Mo., Felix G. Coats was born, August 9, 1828.  During the years of boyhood he alternated attendance at district schools with work on the home farm.  Nothing occurred to break the monotony of life until he was about twenty years of age, when the discovery of gold in California caused his father to start for the west.  In this eventful trip he was also a participant, together with another brother and two cousins.  After a long journey with oxen they arrived in Grass Valley and from there proceeded to the mines on the American river.  During 1852 he came to Contra Costa county and pre-empted one hundred and sixty acres when the land came into the market.  The tract adjoined his father's ranch and the two were thus enabled to conduct their farm work together.  In those days there was not a house between the ranch and Livermore.  Neighbors were few.  Scarcely any attempt had been made to improve land.  The entire country was in its infancy, for no efforts had been made at cultivation during the years of Spanish domination.  With keen foresight he realized that the soil was fertile and could be operated with profit, and his judgment was not at fault, for he has accumulated a competency from the land.  The growing of grain and raising of cattle have been his specialties.  By the purchase of his father's homestead he is now the owner of a ranch of five hundred and fifty acres, all under plow or in pasture.  In addition, he owns a section of land four miles from his home place.

     The marriage of Mr. Coats, February 23, 1860, united him with Miss Leola Pearlee Doggett, who was born in Benton county, Ark., in 1841, and at an early age went to Oregon and from there to California.  At her death she left six children, namely:  William N., a rancher in the neighborhood of the Coats homestead; James L., who is also engaged in ranching here; Bethel R., who cultivates a portion of the home place; Susan Ella, wife of Charles Worth, of Livermore; May and Jennie Ethel, who remain with their father and have charge of the home.  Politically Mr. Coats is a firm believer in Democratic principles.  When Horace Greeley was in the zenith of his fame, Mr. Coats was one of his most stalwart adherents and admirers, and he has never ceased to regard that statesman as the greatest Democrat of his era.  He is interested in educational affairs and has filled the office of school trustee.  Since about 1890 he has been obliged to relinquish to other hands much of the detail work connected with the ranch, he having been a sufferer from rheumatism during all of this period.  However, he maintains a constant interest in the improvement and cultivation of the property, and his long and practical experience enables him to aid his sons in their work.  Among the people in the vicinity of Tassajara he is respected as an honored pioneer and upright man.





Transcribed 10-13-16  Marilyn R. Pankey.

ญญญญSource: History of the State of California & Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California by Prof. J. M. Guinn, A. M., Pages 1355-1357. The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904.

2016  Marilyn R. Pankey.







Contra Costa County Biographies

Golden Nugget Library