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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 choral group while both were students at Guilford College.  Both received degrees and were married the following year, in 1938.

Trudy, as our grandmother preferred to be called, was a native of western Pennsylvania, transplanted to Kernersville, North Carolina when she was a young girl. She was the second youngest of four surviving children of Dr. Ira Lee Cochran and Luella Coral Farmer..

In 1929, Trudy's father, Dr. Ira Lee Cochran, Sr., 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 public schools for decades, enriching the lives of hundreds of students.

Trudy's mother, Luella Farmer, was born September 15, 1878, in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, the eldest daughter of Frank Farmer and Martha Bankert. After Ira died in 1929, Luella and her children supported themselves by selling produce and flowers they grew on the small farm Ira had established before he died.

Luella was born into relative wealth, in the home of Frank A. Farmer and Martha Jane Bankert, and her marriage to Dr. Cochran kept her in relative comfort well into her forties, when Ira and Luella, their children, Ira Lee, Jr, Trudy, Jean, and Aline, who was a young adult with small children of her own, as well as Ira's sister Jesse, and her husband, James McCorkle, migrated south together to Kernersville, North Carolina.

A small a collection of watercolor paintings made by Luella Farmer Cochran exists today. She was a skilled watercolorist with a keen eye for detail and a steady hand. She died on July 1, 1967, at eighty-nine years old.

Trudy's grandfather, Luella's father, was Frank Anson Farmer, a mercantilist and "farmer".  Unlike most of our other ancestors who farmed for a living, Frank Farmer was an industrialist; he owned a large farm where many people were employed. In later life he helped establish the Jersey Flakes Food Company, and served as treasurer for a time
"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.
Jersey Flakes promotional photo
"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 Farmer Cochran
Luella was in her forties and had been married to Dr. Cochran for many years by the time her father died in the 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 near 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 has been the subject of much speculation.

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