“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Ancestry of Vernon Eugene Coltrane

My mother's people, on her father's side, were the Coltranes of Randolph County, North Carolina.

William Coltrane, born sometime around 1743 in eastern North Carolina, was probably among the earliest European settlers in what was then considered the western backcountry of North Carolina colony, but is today near the geographic center of our state, near the modern cities of Greensboro, High Point, and Randlemen, North Carolina.

William was the only son of David Coltrane and Mary Trotter, who lived in modern Chowan and Edgecombe Counties, in the eastern part of the state.  David Coltrane was the third son of Patrick and Elizabeth (Stewart) Coltrane 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 of the same in 1743.

At one time it was believed that David had returned to Scotland, sometime in 1743 or 44, possibly 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.

Vernon E Coltrane (1916-2004)
David Coltrane is believed to have been among the men in Gooch's Regiment, who unsuccessfully attempted to seize Cartagena de Indias, one of Spain's principal gold-trading ports in their colony of New Granada, modern-day Colombia, in South America.

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 upon first contact, and many men sickened and died during the long voyage from the Carolinas to Cuba and on to Cartagena.  Among the fallen, it is believed, David Coltrane met his fate and was buried at sea sometime before June of 1745.

Mary Trotter married several more times in the course of her lifetime, 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 Coltrane purchased a 302 acre tract referred to as the Messuage Tenement Plantation from Christopher Smith of Orange county, NC.  The property lay along Pole Cat Creek, in modern Randolph and Guilford Counties, in the Deep River watershed.

About that same year William married Rachel Worthington, daughter of Jacob and Abigail Worthington, born 1744.  The consensus among most researchers today is William and Rachel raised eight children (David, Abigail, Jacob, Mary, James, William, Daniel, and Rachel).

William and Rachel Coltrane's homestead now lies beneath the waters of Randleman Lake, having been submerged by the completion of Randleman Dam in the early 2000s, and was still in the possession of one of William's descendants until that time.

Lee and Pearl Coltrane
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, daughter of James and Martha Millikan Frazier, born March 5, 1780.  By now most, if not all of the Coltrane family had converted to Quakerism, and were firmly rooted in the Quaker community that grew across the region during that time period.  Modern Randolph County is home to several of the oldest Quaker Meetings in the nation.

William and Sarah also had nine children.  The third child, a boy they named Lindsay Lacey 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, daughter of Solomon and Tamar Dicks Hodgin.  In time, they brought another eleven branches of the Coltrane family into the world.

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

Lee was a summer baby, born in June of  1891, and like most of his ancestors before him, Lee scratched his living from the red clay of the North Carolina Piedmont.  Upon retirement from the dairy farming business, Lee sold most of his farm to developers who built the Shannon Hills subdivision, off Vandalia and Rehobeth Church Roads in Greensboro, NC, on part of the property.

Lee married a woman named Pearl Wakefield, and they raised eight children, all of whom lived long and productive lives.  My grandfather, Vernon Eugene Coltrane, was their fourth child.  He was born a century ago this year, on November 7, 1916.  He graduated from Guilford College in 1937, with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics.  While at Guilford he met my grandmother, Trudy Cochran.  They married in 1938.

Shortly after the birth of their first child, my mother, a few days before Vernon's twenty-sixth birthday, Vernon was called away to serve in World War II.  He was stationed at Ledo, Assam, India, and his company worked on what came to be known as the Stillwell Highway, which ran from Ledo to Kunming, Yunnan, China, and was built so that the Western Allies could supply the Chinese after the Burma Road was cut off by the Japanese in 1942. Originally called Ledo Road, it was renamed the Stilwell Road, after General Joseph Stilwell of the U.S. Army, in early 1945. It passes through the Burmese towns of Shingbwiyang, Myitkyina and Bhamo in Kachin state.

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, and Vernon followed her in 2004.

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