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Andy Roose / Blog

"Statens' Stone" The Whole Story

For those of you who don't know me, I do have a day job as a cowboy. Yep a real life cowboy and that is how I came to meet Edward Staten. Well not Edward in person but his headstone. My partner and I were working calves from horseback when I had roped a calf and was processing the calf when a large rock was in my way. I got the calf finished and had sent him on his way and turned and noticed the rock was a cut stone (15" x 24") so I turned it over and was shocked to find it had a name and date on it. After asking around I soon found out that we were in a slave cemetery. Just one problem, Edward was born 1881. This one moment totaly overtook my life for a week. I had to find out who Edward was, where he came from and anything I could about this man that I had stummbled on to. Ste. Genevieve, Mo. has a great historical web sight so I started there. Now problem #2! The Staten family were former slaves, so any information on them was going to be hard to come by. Census records gave me a start but then something strange showed up in the 1910 census. Edward was still living at home with father (Ruben) and mother (Mary) while his brothers and sisters had all moved on. I was starting to get really excited but I was running out of resources online. I started asking people in this area if there were any other places I could look. What I soon found out is that it wasn't a place I was looking for but a who! This is where a gentleman by the name of Jimmy Boyd comes in. I have known Mr. Boyd for 4 years now but had no idea of the historian he was. His family has lived here since the early 1800's and he and his wife have kept the history of this area both mentaly and in print. When I asked Mr. Boyd about the Staten family his face lit up and with a smile he began to tell me they're story. So here it is!!! Joseph Coffman was a plantation owner in Virginia in the early 1800's and he grew tobacco that he sold to Europe but couldn't grow enough in Virginia to fill his orders. He bought the land that is now Coffman, Mo. (where I live) and started a second plantation here. Being a plantation owner he wanted his home here built of rock but granite is what is local and that was out of the question. So he had limestone cut, loaded on barges and shipped here on the rivers. With the rock came the slaves to work the land and build the rock houses. A very young Ruben (Edwards father) a rock cutter and farmer was one of them. Mary (Edwards mother) was born here on the plantation. When Joseph Coffman died he willed all his slaves free. No one is sure when Ruben and Mary married and this is where the the census helps. Ruben and Mary had 10 children total but only 7 made it to adulthood. When I asked Mr. Boyd about Edward still living at home at 30 years of age he said "That's the boy who wasn't right". I grew up with an aunt that had Downs Syndrome so I understood what Ruben and Mary went through. The awful things people say and do these days wouldn't be anything to what a poor black family of farmers had to endure in the late 1800's! I can't imagine what that family had to endure in those days but they took care of their son until his death Sept. 15 1925. Not to mention a handsome hand carved headstone to mark the spot where he rest today. I don't think any of us could ask for more loving parents than Edward was blessed with. After this census Ruben and Mary no longer show up. The family spread out over this area for a while but soon ran onto hard times and like other free blacks moved to the St. Louis area for work because the land they owned here was not enough to maintain a family so they took any city jobs they could get. I may have never met Ruben, Mary or Edward but I feel like I've known them my whole life. It has been a great honor get to know this family. Thank you so much Mr. Boyd!!!!