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  • Writer's pictureKatharine Korte Andrew

John Samuel Coe (1815-1906)

Photograph of John Samuel Coe
Photograph of John Samuel Coe

John Samuel Coe was born on 28 November 1815 in Ramapo, Rockland County, New York.[1] He was the son of Samuel and Mary Conklin Coe, who were the parents of fifteen children.[2] His father served in the War of 1812.[3]


As a young man, he lived with his cousin, John Halsted, who taught him the millwright trade.[4] In 1831, he went to New York City and learned the blacksmith trade.[5] The year after arriving in New York, there was a large cholera epidemic in New York City. Coe worked in New York for five years, leaving to go to Bristol, where he worked for Chauncey Jerome.[6] Afterwards, he went to Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he was a blacksmith for a while, then leaving to Ann Arbor, Michigan.[7] He left Michigan in 1839, removing to Summit, Cook County, Illinois during the construction of the old Illinois and Michigan Canal.[8][9]

He was engaged in business with the Bishop & Barnes firm in Summit, but later came to Downer’s Gove Township, where he bought a 100 acre farm.[10] He eventually owned 160 acres of farmland, which he farmed for many years and then began renting out by 1882.[11]


The blacksmith shop he established in Fullersburg, around 1844, became the first commercial business in Fullersburg and the largest blacksmith shop in DuPage county.[12] The anvil he used in the shop was one that he had “hauled all the way from his former home in the East.”[13] He later established a general store.[14] His business was located on York Road, just south of Ogden Avenue, with the blacksmith shop located near where Dunkin Donuts is today.[15] The site was on the former Southwest Trail. Coe only retired from his work in 1870, “when he was induced by his family to retire.”[16]

John Coe’s Tax Receipt, 1846. From Village on the County Line by Hugh Dugan
John Coe’s Tax Receipt, 1846. From Village on the County Line by Hugh Dugan

In 1853, the Graue Mill was constructed (it opened the following year, likely), and John S. Coe may have done its gearing, as he had milling experience in his youth.[17]


After settling in Fullersburg, Coe became very active in the development of the community and served as Road Commissioner.[18] When the first school was built in Fullersburg, in 1853,[19] he personally funded the construction of the school, which was finished in 1856.[20] He became a director of this school.[21] The Fullersburg School operated until 1938.[22]

Fullersburg School
Fullersburg School


According to oral history and tradition, John S. Coe was a station master on the Underground Railroad.


Hugh Dugan, author of Village on the County Line, wrote in 1949:

“it is a fact that Fullersburg was one of these points of slave refuge and transfer, and John S. Coe was the man, or at least he was one of those who served as station master.”[23]

Timothy H. Bakken, the author of Hinsdale, wrote:

“For a very short period just before the Civil War—most likely around this year [1858]—Fred Graue let his mill be used as a hiding spot for runaway slaves. His probable accomplice in this ‘underground railroad’ activity was John S. Coe.”[24]


While primary evidence is notoriously hard to come by for documenting activities on the underground railroad, as these activities were conducted in secret and usually go unchronicled, Dugan also quoted a Chicago Daily News 1923 article, entitled “A Refuge in the Days of Slavery” that stated:

“In the little Hamlet of Brush Hill not a light is to be seen. The two stores, the taverns, the grist mill, the half dozen houses shrink into the protecting shadows of the huge elms and maples and are hardly visible from the road. The white painted posts at the bridge loom weirdly against the somber curtain of willows along the banks of the mill stream. A farm wagon, driven by an obscure figure muffled to the ears in a great coat, rattles across the bridge and continues on to the turnpike. The bed of the wagon is covered with a tarpaulin. An hour or so later the wagon rattles over the bridge across the Desplaines near Riverside and continues northeast over the route of Ogden Avenue. Near dawn it draws up quietly before the barn at the rear of the residence of Philo Carpenter, at Randolph and Carpenter Streets. A light in a first floor window blinks a signal that ‘all is well.’The driver pulls off the tarpaulin, and three figures crawl from the pile of hay in the wagon-bed and dart toward the cellar door of the Carpenter home, which opens to receive them and closes behind them. The driver makes his way to the Bull’s Head Tavern to find refreshment for man and beast.” [25]


Furthermore, Dugan states, “When Heman Fox was a boy, he saw two sleigh loads of negro slaves pass his father’s house at Ogden and Lincoln one day before the war. The cargo was covered to resemble a load of live stock.”[26]


John S. Coe’s obituary, published in The Hinsdale Doings, states:

“Mr. Coe was quite prominent in the days of the Old Plank road, and during slavery days experienced some exciting adventures, his home being one of the stations on the famous underground railway.”[27]

He married Harriet Fuller, daughter of Jacob Winegard Fuller and Candace Sutherland, and sister of Benjamin Fuller.[28]


Harriet and John Samuel Coe’s Children

Bryon Coe (1841-1851) is buried in Fullersburg Cemetery.

LaGrange Coe (1842-1843) is buried in Fullersburg Cemetery.

Samuel Augustus Coe (1844-1929) married Julia Jane Whitney, both are buried in Fullersburg Cemetery.

Elizabeth Coe (1845-1905) married James Walls.[29] Elizabeth is buried in Fullersburg Cemetery.

Alice Coe (1848-1914) married George Long,[30] both are buried in Fullersburg Cemetery.

Josephine Coe (1849-1862) is buried in Fullersburg Cemetery.

Clarence T. Coe married Libbie Chloe of Chicago.[31] He began running the blacksmith shop that John S. Coe started, specializing in the manufacturing of buggies, carriages, and more.[32] He married (first) Chloe Elizabeth Iverson. He married (second) Helen Blanch Rowe. Clarence is buried in Pine Rest Cemetery in Foley, Baldwin County, Alabama.

The Coe family plot in Fullersburg Cemetery.
The Coe family plot in Fullersburg Cemetery.

Relatives of John Samuel Coe

Graph From the personal research of Caroline P. Andrew and Katharine Korte Andrew. *Parkison is spelled Parkinson and Parkison throughout recorded documents.


[1] Bateman, Newton and Paul Selby. Eds. 1913. Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Du Page County. Chicago: Munsell Publishing company. 829

[2] Blanchard, Rufus. 1882. History of DuPage County, Illinois. Chicago: O. L. Baskin & Co., Historical Publishers. 87.

[3] Blanchard, 1882. 87.

[4] Blanchard, 1882. 87.

[5] Blanchard, 1882. 87.

[6] Blanchard, 1882. 87.

[7] Blanchard, 1882. 87.

[8] Blanchard, 1882. 87.

[9] Bateman and Selby, 1913. 829.

[10] Bateman and Selby, 1913. 829.

[11] Blanchard, 1882. 87.

[12] Bateman and Selby, 1913. 829.

[13] Dugan, Hugh. 1949. Village on the County Line. Hinsdale, Illinois: Hugh Dugan. 54.

[14] Dugan, 1949. 54.

[15] Bakken, Timothy H. 1976. Hinsdale. Hinsdale, Illinois: J. Peter Teschner, Timothy H. Bakken, Kristi Cook and The Hinsdale Doings. 3.

[16] Bateman and Selby, 1913. 829.

[17] Bakken, 1976. 5.

[18] Bateman and Selby, 1913. 829.

[19] Knoblaugh, Mary (editor). 1951. Du Page County: A Descriptive and Historical Guide. Wheaton, Illinois: Du Page Title Company. 105.

[20] Bateman and Selby, 1913. 829.

[21] Blanchard, 1882. 87.

[22] Knoblaugh, 1951. 105.

[23] Dugan, 1949. 62.

[24] Bakken, 1976. 6.

[25] Dugan, 1949. 62-63.

[26] Dugan, 1949. 62.

[27] “Obituary.” 1906. The Hinsdale Doings, 17 February 1906.

[28] Bateman and Selby, 1913. 670.

[29] Blanchard, 1882. 87.

[30] Blanchard, 1882. 87.

[31] Blanchard, 1882. 87.

[32] Blanchard, 1882. 87.

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