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A trading post on the south side of the Red River in present Grayson County, Texas, Coffee's post had moved from earlier locations in Indian Territory. In 1829 Holland Coffee (1807-1846) and Silas Colville (1804-1844), with other partners, founded Coffee, Colville, and Company in Fort Smith, Arkansas, to sell supplies. Confusion surrounds the locations and dates of the company's trading points in Indian Territory. After Coffee took an 1833 expedition (by one account) or shadowed the 1834 Dodge-Leavenworth Expedition into the territory (by another account), he established a trading post. Four locations, which he could have operated at different times or simultaneously, have been chronicled. The first indicated was a post in present Tillman County at the confluence of the forks of the Red River. The next-mentioned spot was at an old Pawnee village thought to be in present Jefferson County near the abandoned Wichita Twin Villages on the Red River. He next built a trading center at the mouth of Cache Creek in present Cotton County. In early 1837 his base was at Walnut Bayou in present Love County, before he settled near the confluence of the Washita and Red rivers at Preston Bend, on the Texas side, later that year.

Coffee achieved a reputation as a skilled negotiator with the area's American Indians and helped in arbitrations between the United States and those tribes, including the Treaty of Camp Holmes in 1835. He also proved adept at recovering whites captured by Plains tribes. Conversely, James Bowie and others accused Coffee of selling liquor and guns to Indians who were engaged in stealing livestock and raiding settlers. In 1837 Coffee satisfactorily answered those charges at Houston, then the Texas capital, and was appointed Indian agent. In that capacity he initiated a treaty between the Republic of Texas and many of the tribes in north Texas.

Coffee's post emerged as a regional landmark, as the Texas Road, the Preston Road, and later the Shawnee Trail crossed the Red River in its proximity. It was a rendevous and outfitting point, serving expeditions such as Edward Tarrant's in 1841, Jacob Snively's in 1843, and Pierce Butler's and M. G. Lewis's in 1845-46. Although many misconceptions and tales surround Coffee, his wife, Sophia Suttenfield, whom he legally married in 1839, may well surpass him in legend. She married four times and led a colorful life, allegedly nursing Sam Houston after the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836. After Coffee married, he terminated his partnership with Colville.

In 1838-39 Coffee served in the House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas. He and his wife developed a large plantation known as Glen Eden and operated his post and ferries on the river. He also founded the town of Preston, where he was killed on October 1, 1846. Witnesses claim that he attacked his niece's husband, Fort Washita merchant Charles Galloway, during a disagreement. Galloway stabbed Coffee, fatally wounding him. The trading post closed after the incident. In 1942 his tomb was removed from its Glen Eden home before the filling of Lake Texoma, and in 1960 it was again moved in order to prepare land for a lakeside housing development.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Morris Britton, "Coffee's Station" and "Holland Coffee," in The New Handbook of Texas, ed. Ron Tyler, Vol. 2 (Austin: The Texas Historical Association, 1997). David R. Jennys, "Holland Coffee: Fur Trader on the Red River," The Museum of the Fur Trade Quarterly 29 (Fall 1993). Audy J. and Glenna Middlebrooks, "Holland Coffee of Red River," The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 69 (October 1965).

Larry O'Dell

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