Coffey Park's Namesake by Mike Daniels

Submitted by krinehart on November 22, 2017 - 4:58pm
  • 1897 Illustrated Atlas of Sonoma County California published by Reynolds &Proctor map

    1897 Illustrated Atlas of Sonoma County California published by Reynolds &Proctor

The Coffey Park area, so devastated by recent fires, was burned once before, in 1939. Then the area was rural—open fields, orchards, farmhouses, barns, and outbuildings. That ’39 fire, also spread by sudden winds, was the unfortunate result of a maintenance task gone wild at the old Santa Rosa Municipal Airfield that lay between Highway 101, Hopper Avenue, Piner Road and Coffey Lane.

Coffey Lane and its neighboring lands remained primarily rural until the early 1960s when Piner Road began to fill with a variety of businesses. Subdivisions of new homes soon followed and swallowed the fields and orchards westward to the Northwestern Pacific railroad tracks and beyond. 

Threading through this northwestern section of Santa Rosa, Coffey Lane took its name from Henry Coffey, who with his family arrived in Santa Rosa from Mendocino County in 1885. The lane, its northernmost section today lopped off by the 101 freeway, once meandered from Steele Lane on the south through farms and such to take an easterly jog on the north to end at today’s Old Redwood Highway. That eastern section is today’s Alba Lane, opposite Cardinal Newman High School.

Henry Coffey took a wandering route to get here. Born in New York in 1832, his father died when Henry was very young. His mother packed up the family and moved to Michigan where she “took up government land” and began a farm.

When he was 18, Henry went to Indiana where he worked in a sawmill. There he married Nancy Gitchel. Soon, they returned to Michigan where their son, James H., was born. Within a year of their return, Nancy died. Two years later, Henry married Rebecca Davis. Their relationship lasted 52 years and produced an additional eight children: William M., Mary, Charles H., Joanna, Samuel A., Adeline, Minnie, and Octavia. 

In 1862 the Coffey family moved overland to California. After farming in the Sacramento area, they traveled to Contra Costa and then Mendocino County always actively involved in agricultural and real estate pursuits.

Henry bought 320 acres in northwestern Santa Rosa, formerly known as the Sampson Wright place, in 1885. The land was quickly subdivided with each of the Coffey children being given 20 acres upon which they established their residence.  The land was well suited for farming and was mainly planted with hay and grain, but there was also a sizeable orchard which produced prunes, apples, pears, peaches, and nectarines.The family vineyard consisted of table grapes of the Sweetwater, Muscat, and Rose of Peru variety.

Mr. Coffey’s industrious spirit included real estate. He bought and sold lots in the Farmer’s Addition and traded for property located in the old San Miguel Rancho.

Two of Henry and Rebecca’s daughters married Santa Rosans— Joanna aka Cynthia Josephine married into the Barnes family, developers of the first trading post outside of Sonoma (think Barnes Road), and Mary wed O.M. Tuttle, whose family would figure largely in Santa Rosa’s pharmaceutical trade.

By 1900 Henry was again on the move, this time leaving Santa Rosa for the East Bay. There, with Rebecca and daughter Octavia, he engaged in the real estate business. The family bought and sold properties in Oakland’s Brooklyn township, a lucrative geographical area between Lake Merritt and Oakland’s future bay side port. 

Rebecca became ill not long after she and Henry celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1908. Daughter Minnie had earlier married Charles Smith, a minister and had moved to Orange in southern California. There Minnie cared for her ill mother who passed away in 1910.

Henry lived on in Oakland until his death in 1916. Seventy-two years later a Santa Rosa residential subdivision and neighborhood park constructed by Condiotti Enterprises would bear his name. Sadly a large number of these houses were lost to the 2017 Tubbs fire, but for those who wish to rebuild, many of the original architectural drawings for these residences are on file with Draftech Blueprinting, Inc., located at 1544 Terrace Way, Santa Rosa. Their phone number is (707) 578-9442.

Information for this article came from a variety of sources including An Illustrated History of Sonoma County published by the Lewis Publishing Company in 1889, which is available in book form at the Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library and online through the Internet Archive

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