Sketch of the Life Travels and Adventures of Thomas Jefferson Coatney

The following is taken from a handwritten ledger. September 24, 1890.

[This transcription was done by Donald Gordon “Don” Coatney. The original notes are written in the hand of Thomas Jefferson Coatney (1857-1934).]

Sketch of the life travels and adventures of T. J. Coatney designed to assist memory in preparing a more complete work later.

Thomas Jefferson Coatney was born December 15, 1857 in Scott County, Indiana a few miles east of Austin. A little town situated on the ????? Ky.... near a little stream called Hwtto (probably an Indian name) upon a farm called the Owen place surrounded by the primitive forests of North America.

December 15th A.D.1857. My parents were George Washington Coatney born a descendent of the McIntosh family of Kentucky Estill Co. and was a man of rare intelligence, mental power, and attainments, and integrity firmness, and innocence. He labored under great disadvantages physically owing to injuries received to his eyes. The right eye being hurt in the following manner. At the age of eight years in the State of Kentucky though he was born in Jefferson County Indiana and his parents moved with him. While his mother swept the house he sat upon the floor whittling with a knife having the little blade open. She asked him to move and he did not. Then she took him by his right arm and raised him up with a quick movement which caused him to stick the blade in his eye. He never saw out of it any more. Purely accidental and sincerely regretted. Then about 18 years afterward they had returned to Jefferson County Indiana where he was afflicted with a fever. Being partly recovered he went to a spring with a rifle gun to look for a squirrel desiring something of that kind to eat. The gun was cocked and laying across his knee when on account of weak nervousness it was accidentally discharged. A piece of the percussion cap struck him in the left eye and nearly put it out so that when it healed there was a milky spec covering the greater part of the pupil causing defective sight so he could no longer see to read. He could see people coming but could not tell a man from a woman at 50 yards. However he was to do blacksmithing. I have seen him mend his log chains and work on axes. He could saw, chop, plow, sow, or do nearly any kind of farm work. Also make the very best of baskets or brooms which later two things he learned to do at the Institution for the Blind at Indianapolis Indiana where he went for treatment after his left eye was hurt. The Institution being in charge of Dr. Vanmeter. After recovering so that he could travel he went about lecturing and teaching Phrenology in which he was proficient having been a very diligent reader in youth while he was learning the blacksmith business with the Tobis family in Jefferson County in his native state. Going first into Kentucky and then returning to southern Indiana.

It was while traveling in his native county in the year 1857 being united in his business with a magic lantern and slight of hand show conducted by one John T. Whitman that he became aquatinted with and married Miss Arminda Bernard Spurgeon who is my beloved mother. She being native of the County of Scott State of Indiana. My earliest recollection being that we lived in a house upon a farm owned by George Miranda several miles southwest of my birthplace. At that time I was about two years old and thought that I could chop stovewood for mommy and cut my left knee very badly leaving a scare that I bear at the present time September 24, 1890. Then my father bought a farm from a man named Abbot and removed to it about 1860. Said farm being 1/8 mile northwest of the Miranda place now owned by Warren Miranda and is the property and home of my mother known as the Coatney place being situated 3 1/2 miles straight east of a little town in Washington County called Little York and is the W 1/4 of the N E 1/4 of sec 15 town range of Findlay Township Scott County State of Indiana. My present home being on 40 acres 1/2 mile east between the lines which form the northern and southern boundaries of my mothers place with the place formerly occupied by Zephariah and Marliand Spurgeon my mothers parents. Between them description of land now occupied as my home to which I am the oldest of 4 lawful heirs. The same having been bought by my father before his death caused by typhoid fever breathing his last at one o'clock in the morning of August 6, 1871. He was buried at Zoah (?) Cemetery about 1/2 acre of which is including the grave of my father, grandfather, and other relatives and friends is on the northeast corner of the farm where I live described as follows. Section 14, town 3, range 6, acres 40, Vienna Township, Scott County Indiana.

This letter was transcribed by Donald Gordon “Don” Coatney and also appears at