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Beginnings

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A brief summary of the ancestry of Vernon Eugene Coltrane.

Our Coltrane ancestors have been in central North Carolina for nearly three hundred years, since long before the French and Indian Wars. The first Coltrane known to have been born in North America was William Coltrane, born sometime around 1743 in eastern North Carolina.

William Coltrane was the only son of David Coltrane and Mary Trotter, and was among the earliest Europeans to settle in what is now Randolph County.
Deep River settlers, 1750s-1780s

David Coltrane was the third son of Patrick Coltrane and Elizabeth Stewart of Wigton, Scotland; born sometime in the first decade or so of the eighteenth century.  He emigrated from Scotland to North America sometime before 1738.  Colonial records indicate that David owned at least 530 acres in what was then Edgecombe County, and was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1743.

At one time it was believed that David had returned to Scotland to settle his father's estate and was lost at sea, but more recent research indicates that our David Coltrane was most likely a member of the first British military force raised entirely on American soil. Being neither regular British army or navy, some have called these men the first American marines.

David Coltrane is believed to have been among the men mustered into Gooch's Regiment, which unsuccessfully attempted to seize Cartagena, one of Spain's principal gold-trading ports in the colony of New Granada.

Lindsay Coltrane
Mosquito-borne diseases such as Yellow Fever and Malaria were as lethal to Europeans as Old World diseases were to the aboriginal peoples of the Americas, and many men died during the long voyage from the Carolinas to Cuba and then to Cartagena.  It is believed that such was the fate of our grandfather, David Coltrane, and that he was buried at sea sometime before June of 1745.

Mary Trotter married several more times in the course of her life, becoming the wife of Laws Preddy on June 27, 1745.  Additional records indicate that she later married John Messhenger, in 1752, and finally Robert Wallace, in August of 1754. Records also indicate that Mary's father, James Trotter, was appointed guardian of William Coltrane.  Mary's last will and testament, probated October 27, 1792, mentions only one son.

It is not certain when William Coltrane settled in what is today Randolph County, North Carolina. An indenture dated August 20, 1760, tells us that William purchased a 302 acre tract referred to as the Messuage Tenement from Christopher Smith of Orange County.  The property lay along Polecat Creek, in the Deep River watershed.

About that same year William married Rachel Worthington, daughter of Jacob and Abigail Worthington. The consensus among most researchers today is that William and Rachel raised eight children (David, Abigail, Jacob, Mary, James, William, Daniel, and Rachel).

Emma and Solomon H. Coltrane.
wedding portrait?
The site of William and Rachel Coltrane's original homestead now lies beneath the waters of a man-made lake, having been submerged by the completion of the Randleman Dam project in the early 2000s. The land remained in possession of one of William's descendants until the lake was created.

William Coltrane's sixth child, also named William, was born in 1774. Sometime around 1798, Billy, as he was known, courted and married Sarah Frazier, a daughter of James Frazier and Martha Millikan. By then the Coltranes had become members of the Religious Society of Friends, and were firmly rooted in the Quaker community that took root across the region. Randolph County is home to several of the oldest Quaker Meetings in the nation.

William and Sarah had nine children. Their third child, a boy they named Lindsay Coltrane, was born in 1816, and grew up to become a farmer like his father, and his grandfather before. In 1841 Lindsay Coltrane married Margaret Hodgin, a daughter of Solomon Hodgin and Tamar Dicks. In time Lindsay and Margaret brought eleven children into the world.

Lee and Pearl Coltrane
Solomon Hodgin Coltrane, the fourth child of Lindsay and Margaret Coltrane, was born in 1847. Solomon married Emma Osborn, a daughter of Thomas Osborn and Mary Kersey. Among their eight children was a boy they named Lee Beacher(or Beecher) Coltrane.

Lee was a summer baby, born June 28, 1891, and like most of his ancestors, Lee scratched his living from the red clay under his feet. Upon retirement from the dairy farming business, Lee sold most of his farm to developers who built the Shannon Hills neighborhood, near Vandalia Road and Rehobeth Church Road.

Lee outlived two of his three wives, but his eight children all came from his first wife, Pearl Wakefield. My grandfather, Vernon Eugene Coltrane, was their fourth child, born just over a century ago on November 7, 1916.

Vernon grew up on his father's farm. He graduated from Sumner School in 1933, and obtained a degree in economics from Guilford College in 1937. While at Guilford, Vernon met our grandmother, Trudy Cochran, daughter of Luella Farmer and the late Dr. Ira Cochran of Kernersville; they were married in 1938.

Vernon E Coltrane (1916-2004)
Shortly after the birth of their first child, Brenda, Vernon was drafted to serve in World War II.  After basic and officer training, 2nd Lt. Vernon Coltrane was stationed at Ledo, Assam, India. His company worked on what came to be known as the Stillwell Highway, which ran from the station at Ledo to Kunming, Yunnan, China.

The road was built so that Western Allies could supply the Chinese after the Burma Road was cut off by the Japanese in 1942. Originally called Ledo Road, the highway was renamed Stilwell Road, after General Joseph Stilwell, in early 1945.The road fell into disrepair after the war, but recent efforts have been made to rehabilitate the highway.

After the war, Vernon found employment with the United States Postal Service, and retired after more than thirty-one years in 1973.  He and Trudy raised a total of four children, (all still living as of this writing) and lived out their days travelling the world as long as their health allowed. Trudy died in early 2000; Vernon followed in 2004.

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