Bio: Coffin, William King (1914)

Contact: crystal@wiclarkcountyhistory.org

Surnames: Coffin, King, Schofield, Burroughs, Wheeler, Proctor, Bates, Lockwood, Lincoln

----Source: History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin (1914) pages 683-685

William King Coffin, the genial president of the Eau Claire National Bank, is the dean of the bankers of Eau Claire county. Fifty years have elapsed since he began his banking career, and for forty years of that time he has been continuously and actively a banker.

Mr. Coffin is a native of the state of Illinois, and was born at Jacksonville, August 9, 1850. In 1853 his parents removed to Batavia, Ill. He attended the public schools of Batavia, and completed his education at Knox College, Galesburg, Ill., graduating in the class of 1871.

His inclination toward a business career manifested itself early. At the age of fourteen he was working in his father's bank, the First National Bank of Batavia, learning the principles of banking as well as the methods of conducting financial institutions. He was made cashier of that bank before he was nineteen a record with few, if any, parallels. He desired, however, to continue his college course, so resigned his position as cashier of the Batavia bank and finished his course in Knox College, as already stated.

Immediately after graduating he went to Chicago and took a position as clerk in the First National Bank, remaining there until 1873, when he was offered the position of secretary and treasurer of the Menomonie Barge Line Company, which he accepted. He remained with that company during 1873 and the winter of 1874. In the spring of the latter year he returned to the First National Bank of Batavia to become its cashier. In 1877 that bank was succeeded by the Banking firm of Coffin & Young, and in 1880 that house sold out to Gammon & Newton. Under all ownerships Mr. Coffin remained as cashier until 1882, when he moved to Eau Claire. In that year he organized the Eau Claire National Bank, which succeeded the banking house of Clark & Ingram.

Mr. Coffin has been connected with the Eau Claire National Bank since its foundation and has been the guiding spirit of its remarkably successful career. From 1882 until 1902, a period of twenty years, he was cashier of the bank. In 1902 he was made vice-president and cashier, and in 1905 he became president of this strong financial institution.

While Mr. Coffin has been an indefatigable worker for the success of the Eau Claire National Bank, he has also engaged in many other activities and has helped to foster not a few important enterprises besides aiding the banking system of the state. He is president of the Eau Claire Savings Bank and vice president of the First National Bank of Fairchild, Wis., and a director in the Chetek State Bank and in the First Wisconsin Land Mortgage Association. He was one of the founders of the Wisconsin Bankers' Association, and was a member of its executive council from 1894 to 1896, and was president of the association during the years 1897 and 1898. He is a member of the American Bankers' Association, and during the years of 1903-4-5 he held a seat in the executive council of that body. He is a member of the Bankers' Club of Chicago.

Outside of banking he has large and varied business interests, principally in lumber and timber, being an officer in several lumber and timber and other companies.

Mr. Coffin has always been a hard worker. His duties have a charm for him, and prosperity has always accompanied him. Not only as a banker, but as a citizen and a man, he applies himself to his duties with unflagging energy, honesty and devotion, that faith may be kept and confidence maintained. He is a typical American, broad in his views and warm in his sympathies toward human endeavor, and is one of the strong men who have helped to make Eau Claire a prosperous and progressive business center. He is president of the Eau Claire Library Board and also of the State Library Association, a director in the Y.M. C. A., a life member and one of the curators of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, a member of the Society of Colonial Wars in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and of the University Club of Chicago. His fraternal affiliations are with the Masonic Order, in which he has passed to the 32d degree, the Elks and the Knights of Pythias. He is a member and one of the trustees of the First Congregational church of Eau Claire.

Mr. Coffin is a Republican. He was a member of Eau Claire City Council for one term. He was on the staff of Gov. Edward Scofield. He is now a trustee of Eau Claire County Asylum and Poor Farm and of Mt. Washington Sanatorium. In 1872 Mr. Coffin married Mary Gove Burroughs, daughter of Dr. Lester M. and Elmira (Wheeler) Burroughs, like himself a native of Illinois. They have two daughters, Mary Elmira, now Mrs. B. G. Proctor, of Eau Claire, and Grace Burroughs, now Mrs. P. R. Bates, of Seattle, Wash. Their only son, William Lester, died in 1888.

William King Coffin is of the eighth generation in direct descent from Tristram Coffin, who came to this country from England in 1642 and settled in Newbury, Mass. Later he moved to Nantucket Island and purchased a one-tenth interest in the island. He died in Nantucket in 1681 at the age of seventy-six years.

Mr. Coffin's grandfather, Nathaniel Coffin, was an intimate friend and associate of William King, the first governor of Maine, and uncle of Mr. Coffin's grandmother, and William King Coffin was named after his grandfather's distinguished friend. Mr. Coffin's father, William Coffin, was born in Maine in 1822. While he was yet a young boy the family moved to Illinois, and he was educated in Illinois College and Andover Seminary. Subsequently he became professor of mathematics in Illinois College and was so employed until 1853, when he moved to Batavia and engaged in farming and in the banking business, which he pursued until 1880, when he retired. He married Mary Lockwood and they had a family of seven children, of whom William King Coffin was the second. Mary Lockwood was the daughter of Samuel D. Lockwood, one of the first justices of the Illinois Supreme Court. It was in his office that Abraham Lincoln studied Law. Mr. Coffin has a chair which the great emancipator used in that office. Mary (Lockwood) Coffin died in 1877 and William Coffin in 1890.

In 1913 William King Coffin purchased a farm near Eau Claire, which he named "Tristram Farm," in honor of his first American ancestor, Tristram Coffin. Upon the completion upon this farm of one of the best and largest barns in Eau Claire county, the event was celebrated by a big "barn dance" on June 12, 1914, at which Mr. Coffin entertained about five hundred guests, to each of whom was presented a neat little folder showing a picture of the barn and bearing a greeting that read:

"In welcoming his friends to the dance, which celebrates the completion of the new barn at 'Tristram Farm,' the owner begs to extend his compliments to his guests, and to assure them that their entertainment is highly approved by an exceedingly aristocratic and scientifically housed family of Guernseys, Percherons, Poland-Chinas, Scotch Collies, White Wyandottes, White Hollands, White Guineas and Indian Runners."

Mr. Coffin is a man of varied capacities and of remarkable ability in each, and this last addition to his interests is another indication of the scope of his capabilities.

 

 


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