Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens


THEODORE A. COFFELT, M. D. A name that is deserving of a high position in the list of physicians in Greene county is that of Dr. Theodore A. Coffelt, formerly a Methodist minister. He is appreciated and respected in every relation of life--professional, social and religious--a learned doctor, a sincere and reliable citizen, and in the better and higher conception of him, an honest man. The unostentatious candor and openness of his character were never warped by selfish instincts, or obscured by professional ardor. As a friend and neighbor he is known as a genial, generous, kind-hearted man, free from circuity and deceit, gentle in disposition, modest, judicious, placid, reasonable and just; who holds his own and his friend's honor above all the blandishments of passion and the seductions of ambition and wealth; and who aims to come, as nearly as human nature can come, to loving his neighbor as himself.

Doctor Coffelt was born in McDonald county, Missouri, April 10, 1855. He is a son of Rev. Wyatt and Jane (Sligar) Coffelt, the father a native of Kentucky, and who devoted his active life principally to the ministry and was one of the prominent pioneer preachers of his day. He spent the last years of his life on a farm. His death occurred in Springfield, Missouri, October 17, 1901, and he was buried in the Coffelt cemetery near Mason Valley, Benton county, Arkansas. The mother of our subject was a daughter of Adam Sligar, a German; she was born on June 18, 1816, in McMinn county, Tennessee. Her death occurred on January 20, 1886. She and her husband are buried in the same cemetery. They became parents of a large family, twelve children, an equal number of sons and daughters.

Philip Coffelt, the paternal grandfather of our subject, was born in Greenbriar county, Virginia, now a part of West Virginia. He was a son of Henry Coffelt, a native of Germany, from which country he emigrated to America in the old Colonial days. He was a member in George Washington's company at the time of Braddock's defeat, during the French and Indian war. Henry Coffelt married Ellen Ryan, who was born in Ireland, from which country she emigrated to America when five years of, age. She and her older brother were captured by the Indians when she was seventeen years old, but effected their escape after eight weeks of captivity. Their freedom was gained by the wit, perseverance and ingenuity of the girl. Her brother was lame, suffering with what was then known as white swelling of the hip. When the Indians were within one day's journey of their settlement they compelled this girl and her lame brother to carry wood from the nearby forest into camp. The girl suspected that this meant that they were to be burned at the stake while the red men engaged in their accustomed revels on such occasions. So she instructed her brother how to leave the encampment, where to go and await her coming. He got away late in the afternoon and when night came on she made a break for liberty herself. Finding her brother at the appointed rendezvous, they concealed themselves under a fallen tree in a dense thicket and remained there for three days, never daring to move. At one time the Indians in their search for the runaways climbed upon the very tree under which the children were lying. All the sister and brother had to eat during that trying period was the dried tongue of a horse which Ellen had stolen from her captors shortly before she escaped. Finally deciding that it was safe for them to leave their hiding place they traveled by night, secreting themselves during the day, and eventually came to the Ohio river, which was at that season low, and, finding a shallow place the girl carried her brother on her back across the river, which she waded. The hardships proved too much for the cripple and when sixty miles from home he died. Ellen having no way of digging a grave, placed the body in the crotch of a fallen tree, and with much hard work piled limbs of trees, rocks and leaves over the body, and that was his only grave. She made her way back home which she reached after much privation and suffering from hunger and exposure. After Ellen Ryan's marriage to Henry Coffelt they settled in Greenbriar county, Virginia, and to them ten children were born. One of their sons, Philip, was the grandfather of Dr. Coffelt of this sketch. He married a Miss Wyatt, of English ancestry who was a cousin of Sir Francis Wyatt, first governor of Virginia under old Colonial conditions.

Doctor Coffelt received his education in the common schools and the high school at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, after which he entered the medical department of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, in 1883, where he remained one term, and in 1885 entered the Missouri Medical College from which he was graduated in 1886. He has been a practicing physician and surgeon since 1884. His earlier years were spent in Arkansas. Leaving that state in 1891 he entered the post-graduate department of the Missouri Medical College, where he remained until 1893, then removed to Carthage, Missouri, and began practicing as a specialist on the eye, ear, nose and throat. Remaining there two years, he then entered the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal church, South, and was thus engaged from 1895 to 1901, having joined the Southwest Missouri Conference. During that period of six years he served the congregations of that denomination two years at Pineville, in his native county; two years at Willard, Greene county; and two years at Marshfield, Webster county. He did an excellent work in building up, the churches at these places and was regarded as an earnest, faithful and capable pastor in every sense of the word. But on account of failing health he gave up the ministry and resumed the practice of medicine, opening an office in Springfield where he has since remained, confining himself to the eye, ear, nose and throat, in which field he has few equals and no superiors in southwest Missouri and has enjoyed a constantly growing business all the while. He maintains an up-to-date suite of rooms in the Woodruff building. In order to further equip himself for this special line of work, the doctor took the course in the New York Post-Graduate School of Medicine, from which he was graduated, and he also has a certificate of graduation from Washington University, 1888.

Doctor Coffelt is a member of the Greene County Medical Society, the Southwest Missouri Medical Society, the Missouri State Medical Association, the Western Academy of Ophthalmology and Oto-Laryngology and the American Medical Association. Fraternally, he is a member of the Masonic Order, including the Royal Arch and the Council degrees. Politically, he is a Democrat, and he belongs to the St. Paul Methodist Episcopal church, South. He has always been an ardent worker in the lines of his profession. He has been president of the Greene County Medical Society, also president of the Southwest Missouri Medical Society, vice-president of the Missouri State Medical Association, and in 1908 was appointed a delegate to the international tuberculosis congress which convened in, Washington, D. C. He is now president of the board of directors of the Springfield Hospital.

Doctor Coffelt was married on October 1, 1885, to Mary M. Clayton, a native of Arkansas, where she grew to womanhood and was educated. She is a daughter of Rev. John M. and Cynthia (Dameron) Clayton. The father's death occurred in 1902 and the mother passed away September, 1914, in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Five children have been born to Doctor Coffelt and wife, named as follows: Everett C., born at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, July 14, 1886, was educated in the high school in Springfield and Drury College; he married Vita Hampton, and they have two children, Kenneth, born in 1912, in Kansas City, and Kathryn Ruth, born on March 1, 1915. They reside on a farm in Webster county, Missouri. Anna Maud, second child of Doctor Coffelt, was born in Pea Ridge, Arkansas, September 5, 1889, was educated in the Springfield high school and Drury College, also attended the State Normal here, and is at this writing a student in the Ward-Belmont School at Nashville, Tennessee. Oscar T., the second son, was born in Pea Ridge, Arkansas, December 18, 1890, was graduated from the Springfield high school and is now a student of Drury College, where he will graduate with the class of 1915; Mabel Ruth, born in Willard, Missouri, September 19, 1898, is attending high school in Springfield; Glenn Palmore, born in Marshfield, this state, July 11, 1900, is in his last year in ward school.

Doctor Coffelt is, practically speaking, a self-made and self-educated man, and is a credit to himself, his family and the public; he is a master of his specific profession, and justly merits the large practice which he has gained through skilful work, honest dealings and courteous manners.

[1245-1248]


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