Thursday, August 3, 2017

An incomplete sketch of the family of Trudy Cochran Coltrane

Trudy Cochran Coltrane (1915-2000)
The maternal side of my mom's family were the Cochrans and the Farmers.  Vernon Coltrane met Trudy Cochran while singing in a chorale group while both were students at Guilford College in the 1930s.  Both graduated and by 1940 the pair were married and living in the vicinity of what are now Rehobeth Church Road and Vandalia Road in Greensboro, North Carolina. Back then the area was better known as the Sumner community.

Trudy, as my grandmother preferred to be called, was a native of western Pennsylvania, transplanted to Kernersville, North Carolina  when she was a school aged girl. She was the second youngest of four surviving children of Dr. Ira Lee Cochran and his wife, Luella Coral Farmer, all born five years apart.

In 1929, Trudy's father, Dr. Cochran, a school teacher who had gone back to school and become a dentist earlier in life, died of a stroke at fifty-six years old.  Trudy was fourteen years old. Dr. Cochran left each of his children $1000, a sum equivalent to about $14,000 in 2017.

Trudy appears to have used her inheritance well.  She graduated from Guilford College and taught school in Greensboro Greensboro public schools for decades, touching the lives of hundreds of students over the course of her career.

Luella Farmer Cochran, Trudy's mother, was born September 15, 1878, in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, the third child and eldest daughter of Frank Anson Farmer and Martha Jane Bankert, of North Huntingdon Township.  After Ira died in 1929, Luella and her children carried on by "truck farming"- selling produce and flowers.

In later years, Luella lived with her children, at one time living with Vernon and Trudy, and other times with her daughter Aline or her son, Lee. Luella Farmer Cochran left behind a collection of watercolor paintings made by her hand.  She died just before my first birthday, on July 1, 1967, almost ninety years old.

Luella's father, Frank Farmer, was a mercantilist and a farmer.  Unlike most of my other ancestors who farmed for a living, Frank Farmer was an industrialist, a capitalist.  He owned a farm and people worked for him.  In later life he became treasurer and was among the founders of the Jersey Flakes Food Company.
"The Jersey Cereal Food Co. was organized there in 1903 with $200,000 capital for the manufacture and distribution of a breakfast cereal called "Jersey Flake." A three-story brick building was erected about a mile south of Irwin near Hahntown at what became known as Cereal, Pa., production began the following year. Before the cereal plant was built, the area was farmland and was known as Lindencross.
"The new company was described in a 1904 booklet, published in conjunction with Irwin's 50th anniversary celebration: "All the experience of several years in the business is concentrated here, machinery being the best known and the factory in its entirety a model of its kind; automatic in its operation so that human hands do not touch the flakes from the grain to the packing in cartons. A new departure is that the supply of Jersey Flake is constantly crisp and fresh when it reaches the table, something that consumers appreciate and show it by the big demand."
"The first company president was John Kerr. He was soon followed by Chester D. Sensenich as president with Frank A. Farmer, treasurer, and R.J. Foster, secretary and manager.
"The plant burned down in 1906 and was replaced by a larger one in 1907. It was further expanded in 1908 and 1912 with a power plant added in 1920. Jersey Corn Flakes and Wheat Flakes, along with some related products, were manufactured in the four-story, 400-foot-long facility.
"Frank Farmer also served as Cereal's postmaster. A post office was located in the Jersey Cereal Food Co.'s general office building. It operated from Nov. 13, 1907, to Aug. 31, 1920 when it became a rural branch of the Irwin Post Office until it closed on April 30, 1937.
"The Jersey Cereal Food Co. was a very successful operation. At one time, it was the largest cereal manufacturing company in Pennsylvania. Its products were sold throughout the country. The company, known for being progressive, was one of the first to ban cigarette smoking and the use of alcohol by its employees."


Luella was in her forties, and had been married to Dr. Cochran for many years by the time her father died in the early summer of 1921.  A few years after that, she and Ira migrated south, to Kernersville, North Carolina.

Ira's father, Robert John Cochran, was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, on July 27, 1846, and enlisted in the Confederate army during the Civil War.   How he ended up married to Mary Evangeline Fleming, Ira's mother, and living out his days in Pennsylvania is the subject of much speculation.

Luella was born into relative wealth, in the home of Frank and Martha Jane Farmer, and her marriage to Dr. Cochran kept her in relative comfort well into her forties, when the family, consisting of Ira, Luella, Ira's sister and her husband (McCorkle), and all four Cochran children, Ira Lee, Jr, Trudy, Jean, and Aline, who was a young adult with a small family of her own, migrated south.

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