The following article is published with my name as compiler. In truth, much, if not most of the information is based on material provided to me in her compilation by Jane Pinney, President of the Thelma Rogers Genealogical and Historical Society of Wellsville, NY. Without her facts I would probably have not written the article. Thank you, Jane.
2007 is the Sesqui-centennial of Wellsville, NY. This article is intended as historical background of the event. I am responsible for any error(s). rt.
A Couple of Wellsville Firsts
compiled by Ron Taylor, 4/2007
As a result of studying the manufactory histories of the Town of Wellsville I started to wonder why no Wellsville furniture has found it’s way to the surface in the area. The Coats Furniture Company, in one fashion or another, existed in the Town for over 85 years! Their furniture was sold locally in the early 1900s by Rockwell Department Store as well as in their own showrooms.
The Thelma Rogers Historical and Genealogical Society is interested in someone finding and donating a piece (or items) of Coats Furniture to the Dyke Street Museum. Do you have any? Read on!
Welcome H. Coats along with wife, Joanna, came to Wellsville from the Alfred area long before there was a Town or Village named Wellsville, arriving in November of 1836.
According to Hazel Shear’s historical writings, “He (Welcome Coats) was a native of Otsego County, born in 1812, and a brother of Bartholomew Coats who had come ten years earlier. His wife was Joanna Burrows, born in Cayuga County in 1815. Besides their children they had with them (when they came) a fifteen-year-old boy, Scot Fish, who was apprenticed to Coats.”
Purportedly, Welcome Coats was a cabinet maker and the attraction to this location was the proposed Erie Railroad construction. In 1836 they arrived and by 1837 had constructed their framed house on a site located next to what for many years was known as the City Hall, the same property later acquired by First Trust Bank. Their original framed house stood at that location and was replaced with a brick home which stood until the 1950s when it was removed for expansion of First Trust Bank.
Welcome Coats was the first recorded manufacturer in Wellsville Town and Village that I have found, establishing his first shop within his home in 1838. His business grew rapidly with several pieces of machinery added to the business including wood lathes which were originally turned by horsepower according to newspaper accounts.
As business progressed, Mr. Coats provided another manufacturing “first” in Wellsville as he installed in his shop the first steam engine to be used in town, the year, being 1852. The manufacturing business had been moved out of his home into its own building by this date to ease space constraints and fire. Welcome H. Coats was truly the Town’s Pioneer Manufacturer.
Welcome Coats was married to Joanna Burrows and they had five children. He conducted the furniture business until 1872 and was active in Town and Village affairs having held the office of justice of the peace for many years.
Walter B. Coats, second son of Welcome H., was born in Wellsville and was in business with his father from 1861 until 1866, when, with his brother Hiram, he established the firm of Coats Bros. and after the death of Hiram in 1884, he continued in the furniture trade under the firm name of Coats Brothers.
Walter Coats was village trustee and a member of the school board. He married Ida, daughter of Lorenzo Dow Davis. They had one son, Hiram (shown at right). The family of Welcome and Walter were all members of the Baptist church, and in 1894 Mrs. Coats gave to the church a lot [better known as 260 N. Main St.] on which a fine parsonage was erected.
In 1855 Scio Census we find, “their children were at that time, Hiram, 19; Walter B., 16; Oliver, 13; Mary F., 7; Carolyn, 3. Also in their home were Scot Fish, 15, b. in Indiana an apprentice cabinet maker and Dory Lampy, 14, b. Germany, servant.”
Fire was not a genteel object with the Coats family. From the various sources of record we find:
1. In 1850 the roof and upper story of W. H. Coats’ residence was burned.
2. In 1854 the cabinet shop and stock of W. C. Coats and the residence of Dr. G. B. Jones were destroyed. He [Welcome H. Coats] rebuilt the store in 1855.
3. May 22, 1873 - Coats Brothers’ furniture manufactory was burned.
4. The paint and finishing shop of Coats Brothers was burned on the night of October 12th, 1873.
5. January, 1874; Rented factory burned. They rebuilt their shops in 1874 and employed twenty-five men.
(A note from May 15, 1890 "The electrical fire alarm wires have recently been extended to Coats Bros. Shop and connected with the steam whistle. Together with the whistle at the tannery and the bell at the Engine House, the town ought to wake up at an alarm now.")
6. April 17, 1894 -"THE COATS FURNITURE FACTORY BURNS" - One of Wellsville's major fires where steamer was used. This is the fourth time Coats Furniture burned down.
7. September 2, 1925 - COATS FACTORY BUILDING IS DESTROYED BY FIRE!!
The following article from the Wellsville Daily Reporter tells the story of the final Fire:
"The immense two-story building located on the riverbank (north of Center Court) in the rear of Main Street blocks (directly to the rear of the First Trust Company Bank and the Marathon Restaurant) and formally occupied by the Coats furniture Factory, was completely destroyed by fire shortly before 4 o'clock this morning, and putting temporarily out of business several of Wellsville's important industries.
The structure, 400 feet long and 60 feet wide, with two wings of 100 feet was owned by Davis & Elliott of this city, and occupied by the Gardner Pattern Works, the C. and G. Wheel Puller Company, the Paton Candy, the paint shops of J. C. Cartwright and J. W. Watt, and the offices of Davis & Elliott. It was a busy hive of industry, giving employment to scores of people and all of the plants were in flourishing condition.
The loss will exceed $100,000 with insurance of $29,000 divided among the occupants.
The big factory was of hardwood construction, filled with much inflammable material and burned like a tinderbox, and within one hour from the time of the alarm the entire structure was reduced to ashes.
The fire was not discovered until it had gained considerable headway and the brilliant blaze and crackling of burning wood was the first warning to the nearby neighbors. Loel Davis living nearby on Madison Street, was awakened by the sound of snapping wood and seeing a red glow in the sky, hurried to the City Hall and rang in an alarm from Box 4 and quickly had the line of hose from Main St. to the burning building. Night Officers Shine and McNulty had seen the blaze at the same time and were hurrying toward the City Hall.
Chief Cecil Graves arrived early on the scene and realizing the danger to the business blocks on Main St. called for aid from Andover and Scio and both departments responded bringing their pumpers and a thousand or more feet of hose, the Andover boys making the run of nine miles in eighteen minutes. The out-of-town departments held themselves in readiness should there be an outbreak in surrounding buildings, but their services, fortunately, were not needed."
I cannot find any references to the Company after this last fire and this seems to end the story for the Coats Manufacturing, but, opens the door for more questions……If so much furniture was manufactured in Wellsville from 1837 to 1925, where is it all? Shirley Engle, Curator of Dyke Street Museum, states,
"Coats made the pews for the Congregational Church on Main Street which was completed in 1874. They were made of ash and black walnut. These pews were replaced in 1894 and I don't know what happened to the original ones, though some of them may have been used in other rooms of the church. None are owned by the church at this time."
Recently I received email as a result of my website, “Allegany County, NY; Local History & Genealogy Website”, from a person who has uncovered a Chest of Drawers located in North Carolina. The lady who had bought the Chest contacted me asking what I could tell her of the Company History. In conversation she stated she would sell the Chest and let it return to Wellsville which may or may not happen.
This being the 150th birthday of Wellsville, NY, gives new reason to look at your furniture. Do you have a piece of Coats Furniture in your home?
The Dyke Street Museum would like to have some pieces of Coats Manufacturing donated for display in their building. They are also interested in any literature on the Coats Company or samples, etc.
The piece that is shown with this article gives you an idea what one may look like. It has the name of the company embedded into the lock pieces so they are fairly easy to recognize. Much is unknown and there may be other identifiable markings.
Let’s have a giant Coats Furniture Scavenger Hunt!!
Take a look at any of that old furniture and if you can find a tag on it that identifies it as Coats, consider giving it to the Museum. Don’t refinish it before donating….the Museum will take it just the way it is. If you think it might be Coats, call me, or one of the Society Members. We’ll be glad to take a look.
They manufactured other things in addition to furniture. Items mentioned are Ash Chamber Suits, Extension Tables, Looking Glasses, Photograph-frames, Moulding, Mattresses, Spring Beds, Chestnut and Enameled Chamber Furniture, Burial Caskets and Wood Coffins.
We are not specially looking for Coats Caskets and Coffins, but, won’t reject a look!!
What does a piece of furniture from Coats Manufacturing Co. look like?
Answer: We're not sure until we see proof of other pieces!
Here is one piece and one style; Without a catalog we can't tell what others may look like.
Above photo is of a style believed to be #18, or #1918. It is unknown if the pulls are authentic or if they are replacements. The furniture is that of Coats Manufacturing Company of Wellsville, NY. (Update: This piece was purchased by a Wellsville Resident and returned to Wellsville as it's new home!)