COFFIN, BAKER, KUHLMAN
Posted By: Suzan Hamer (email)
Date: 8/20/2020 at 16:23:37
Several years ago, I copied the text below about Clement Coffin and his family and the Stage Coach Inn from a website which is no longer online: www.coffinsgrovemuseums.org
I'm posting it here so the information is available to others. I take no credit for having anything to do with writing it.
"Clement Coffin, originally of Massachusetts, traveled to Iowa from Michigan, in 1839. His family, with the exception of his daughter Elizabeth, took the long journey with him. The Coffins moved into an existing eight-by-eight cabin.
Elizabeth, newly married to Henry Baker, traveled with her husband to join her family a year later.
The cabin is no longer standing but in its high life it was used as a stagecoach stop and post office.
There are conflicting stories as to why Henry Baker and Clement Coffin built the Stagecoach Inn, whether the flood of 1851 caused Baker to rebuild or if they just needed more room, it will never be known.
But the stagecoach road, still in use and called Early Stagecoach Road, brought many travelers during the pioneer days.
Author of “A Three Volume History of Delaware County” Belle Bailey wrote, “As the demand for accommodations for travelers had outgrown the Coffin house and the Baker cabin in the early ‘50s, Mr. Coffin built a new house and Mr. Baker erected a fine hotel with brick made in the neighborhood.”
Whatever the reason, the Inn was extravagant and worth the two years it took to build.
The brick was made on site from clay and had a federalist architecture design that was popular during that time in Martha’s Vineyard, the area Coffin originally came from.
The Inn contained three fireplaces, a brick oven and solid walnut floors and walnut staircases held together with wooded pegs.
One of the main reasons that it was a favorite of all travelers was the distinctive ballroom on the second floor.
“It was a top rated one,” said Sharon Cook, a member of the previous Stagecoach Museum Foundation. “It still has the original floors and church services, weddings, funerals and even court was held up there.”
According to Susan Adelaide Baker’s letters, her father and mother would charge $3 per couple for dances that would go into the early morning hours.
The Inn contained seven small bedrooms, plus the Baker’s, and often were so full that people had to sleep in the ballroom. There were three rooms on the east side of the second floor, one on the north side and one off the ballroom and then two on the third floor.
“The conditions were so crowded sometimes that you had to sleep with someone you didn’t even know,” said Cook. “They would have one cot with two people sleeping in it. That’s how it was done back then.”
The Inn even had accommodations for the travelers’ horses. A barn across the road from the Inn could hold four to six horse teams.
Many of the buildings that were around during the stagecoach days no longer exist. The only thing left of the barn is part of a limestone foundation. The main house is still intact, but the summer kitchen, popular in the east and used so the heat of the oven wouldn’t go through the rest of the house, is no longer there.
The Inn was in operation until the railroads were built, around 1864 or 1865. The Bakers then used it as their home, but still held ballroom dances upstairs.
The Bakers had four children, three of which passed away at young ages, and are buried at what is now the Coffin’s Grove Baker Cemetery. The cemetery was part of the Baker’s original 700 acres and their young children were the first to be buried there.
When Elizabeth died in 1859, Baker sent for his niece, Emily, to help take care of the Inn and his remaining daughter Susan. Emily later married James Gillespie and had a daughter named Sarah, who later taught at the McGee Brick School, located down the road from the Inn.
According to Cook, the last Baker family member owner was Gretchen Kuhlman and she sold the home in the 1950s. For about 10 years the house stood abandoned. A Manchester family, the Adams, bought and restored the home keeping the original kitchen and as much of the original floors and aspects as they could. Soon they sold it to the Baumgarns, who placed the Inn on the National Historic Register in 1975 and turned the home into a museum in the 1980s. When the Baumgarns sold the house, the museum closed and the house became privately owned and is used as a home again.
To this day, hauntings have been reported. “There are stories that if you walk around the Inn seven times you will disappear,” said Cook. “Or Elizabeth will appear calling and looking for the baby that died.”Other stories include a light shining through one of the third floor windows and seeing Elizabeth standing there.
Another rumor is that if you drive by the Inn at night you will see someone crawling across the road or it will feel like you hit something in the road. None of these stories have ever been verified.
More information on the Coffins, Bakers or the Inn can be found at www.coffinsgrovemuseums.org or by checking out books based on Emily and Sarah’s diaries, “A Secret to be Buried” by Judy Nolte Lensink and “All Will Yet Be Well,” by Suzanne Bunkers, at the library.
Henry, Elizabeth and three of their four children are buried in the Coffin’s Grove Baker Cemetery. Baker, who owned 700 acres, donated two acres for the cemetery and his children were the first to be buried there. Elizabeth died on Dec. 15, 1859 and Baker died on June 15, 1899. Two of their children, Edward Jacob and Julia Adelaide died from childhood diseases in 1846 and the first Susan drowned on April 1, 1849 in Coffin’s Creek. Their fourth child, also named Susan lived to adulthood."
From an article "Pioneers had a ball at the Stagecoach Inn"by Latisha Sand in the Manchester Press, online in 2005; link no longer works. "
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