Coffey, Richard (1823–1897)

By: Paul M. Lucko

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: October 7, 2020

Richard (Uncle Rich) Coffey, pioneer rancher, Indian fighter, and teamster in the lower Concho River valley, was born in Georgia on February 14, 1823. He married Sarah Greathouse (Aunt Sallie) of Decatur County, Georgia, on October 5, 1849; the couple had six children. Coffey moved his family to Parker County, Texas, in 1855. While residing there he served in the Texas Rangers and assisted Capt. Lawrence Sullivan Ross in the rescue of Cynthia Ann Parker on December 18, 1860. Coffey moved to Elm Creek, near the site of present Ballinger, Runnels County, in 1862. He and several of his cowboys constructed Picketville, a picket fort known as the first White settlement in Runnels County.

Sometime between 1865 and 1869 Coffey and his family moved to a location near the confluence of the Concho and Colorado rivers. He established the Flat Top Ranch, which extended into Runnels, Concho, and Coleman counties. His house was in Concho County. Reportedly, the Coffeys were the first White family to settle in that county. Coffey became a successful rancher but lost over 1,000 cattle and fifty-four horses to a band of Comanche Indians who attacked a group of Coffey's cattle drivers in 1871. When he filed a claim for his losses, the federal government refused to reimburse him. He rebuilt his herd but never achieved great wealth. He also acquired fame as a teamster and was often attacked by Indians. He and his employees transported salt in ox-drawn wagons from the Pecos River in Crane County for sale to his neighbors. Although he resided in Concho County, he also paid taxes in Coleman County and served on that county's first grand jury. A small settlement, Rich Coffey, Texas, existed briefly on the Coffey properties in Coleman County and had a post office from 1879 to 1882.

Distinguished by his bearskin clothes, buffalo robe and cape, as well as his long hair, the husky Coffey was the inspiration for a minor character in John H. Culp's novel Born of the Sun (1959). Coffey was a Baptist and a charter member of Masonic lodges in Brownwood, Coleman, and Paint Rock. He died on February 7, 1897, and was buried in Paint Rock.

Hazie LeFevre, Concho County History: 1858–1958 (2 vols., Eden, Texas, 1959). Bishop Powell, "Pioneering in the Concho Country: Rich Coffey," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 50 (1974). San Angelo Standard Times, May 27, 1973. D. D. Tidwell, "Rich Coffey of the Concho," Texas Freemason, November 1971. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.


  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Military
  • Soldiers
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Paul M. Lucko, “Coffey, Richard,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 21, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
October 7, 2020