Tag Archives: Mattie Merle Coffee

World War I Soldiers Remembered: William Earle Coffee

16 Mar

Earle Coffee post

William Earle Coffee was born March 12, 1889 in Louisville, Kentucky. According to his Registration Card, we know he was single, of medium build and had gray eyes and dark hair. Earle’s father was Dr. William Oakley Coffee and his mother was Mattie Merle Dodson. Shortly before the war, Earle’s mother purchased Eastwood, a large home in Sabot and relocated to Goochland.

On December 27, 1917, Earle boarded the British ship Andania in New York City and headed for the European theatre of war. After the war, he was aboard another British ship, Winifredian, when he returned from Brest, France on April 18, 1919.



Earle returned briefly to Iowa and married before moving permanently to Goochland. The marriage didn’t last long and for a while Earle and his mother ran a tearoom near Eastwood, on River Road in Sabot. Eastwood burned in 1941 and he moved to Crozier and married Esther Mae Layne. That marriage lasted until his death on May 25, 1965, he was 76 years old. Earle Coffee is buried in Greenwood Memorial Gardens in Goochland.

If you have any photographs of World War I service men and women from Goochland, please contact the Goochland County Historical Society. We would love to scan your photographs and add them to the World War I Commemorative Collection. Contact us at 804-556-3966 or at goochlandhistory@comcast.net.


Lost Goochland – Eastwood

30 Mar

#2 in the Lost Goochland series


The beautiful Italianate mansion pictured above was called “Eastwood” and once stood north of The River Road on a hill above Sabot Station.  The home was built in 1859 for Frederick Plumer Hobson and his wife Annie Jennings Wise Hobson.  Ellen Wise Mayo, sister of Annie, vividly described a visit to “Eastwood” that still manages to transport the reader to another time and place:

“The carriage from ‘Eastwood’ was awaiting us.  The lights from the country store glinted on the vehicle, its harness, and trappings, and the horses, chilled by the nipping air, pranced and fretted in the darkness, impatient to be off…Along the public road beside the canal, through ‘Eastwood’s’ outer gate, up the long hill to the highlands, past the tobacco barns, we sped, until at last we caught sight of the homestead, all its windows ablaze with loving welcome, looming up in its grove of oaks, half a mile away.”

During this visit, in March of 1864, Col. Ulric Dahlgren came to “Eastwood” in search of Brigadier General Henry H. Wise, the father of Annie and Ellen.  Legend has it that the women of neighboring plantations, “Dover” and “Sabot Hill”, stalled Dahlgren long enough to allow Plumer Hobson and Henry Wise to get to Richmond to warn of the Dahlgren’s impending invasion.

“Eastwood” survived the Civil War intact but the family did not.  Annie would give birth to and lose 4 children, one accidentally poisoned by a relative!  Plumer Hobson died in 1868 leaving Annie to take care of the plantation.  For a time she ran a school for boys at the house before finally selling the house, out-buildings and 680 acres to T.C. Bennett.

“Eastwood” would change hands many times before being bought by Mattie Merle Coffee of Des Moines, Iowa in 1907.  Mattie was the wife of Dr. W.O. Coffee who made millions on a mail order business offering “cures” for eye diseases.  Mrs. Coffee and her son Earl ran a small inn near Sabot Station called “Duck Inn” which is still standing in Sabot.  Tragically, one night in 1941, “Eastwood” burned to the ground.  Only a few furnishings survived the flames that brought down the last of the Sabot homes that had played a part in Goochland’s famous Civil War raid.

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society

To read more about “Eastwood”: Read volume 22 of the Goochland County Historical Society’s magazine featuring Ellen Wise Mayo’s full story “A War-Time Aurora Borealis” reprinted from the 1896 article featured in The Cosmopolitan.