The Coggins were ranchers and developers of Brownwood. Moses J. (Mody) Coggin was born in Davidson County, North Carolina, on January 14, 1824. His brother Samuel Richardson Coggin was born there on February 23, 1831. They were two of nine children of Levi and Frankie (Lambeth) Coggin. The family moved to Tennessee in 1836 and to Mississippi in 1837. In 1851 Moses and Samuel moved to the vicinity of Rusk, Texas, where they established a business hauling freight to Bell County. In 1854 they purchased their first cattle herd and moved to Bell County. After losing about half the herd, they moved to Brown County in 1857. The brothers acquired large landholdings in Brown and Coleman counties and increased their herd. They moved cattle to Home Creek in Coleman County in 1860. In April 1862 Sam and Mody Coggin joined the Confederate Army. James and Frank Stiles, who ranched about four miles from the Coggins, tended the Coggin cattle during the early months of the Civil War. The Coggins' war tenure was brief, since they left the Confederacy and served in the state militia designed for frontier protection against the Comanches. They engaged in numerous Indian skirmishes. After the war the Coggins continued to be plagued by Indians and white cattle thieves.
When the trailing industry began on a large scale in 1866, the two cattlemen planned to market their own herds at Kansas railroads. By 1870 the firm had also contracted neighbors' cattle for delivery to the railheads. The Coggins sometimes developed and sold an entire herd to one buyer, thus avoiding the long drive. W. Clay Parks, a Coleman County rancher, formed a partnership with the Coggins in 1868. Their combined herds numbered over 25,000 head-a total ranking them among the largest operators in the state. In 1871 the three partners lost 7,000 cattle to Indian depredations, a loss of $175,000. Continued losses in Concho County compelled the Coggins to move back to Brown County to reestablish their herd. During the 1870s they engaged in money-making cattle arrangements with two of the state's most reputable cattlemen-John S. Chisum and Charles Goodnight. In 1878 Coggin cattle also ranged near the Tongue River in southwestern Motley County and later in Dickens, Runnels, and Mitchell counties.
These cowmen, early advocates of herd improvement, sought constantly to upgrade their stock. The brothers constructed fences to allow the improvement of their herds more easily. They found themselves involved in the fence-cutting wars of the 1880s in Brown and Coleman counties (see FENCE CUTTING). Though cattlemen first, the Coggin brothers found farming profitable and raised wheat on their acreage along Clear Creek in west central Brown County. In 1888 they moved their Three Diamond Ranch to Terlingua Creek in Brewster County. There Frank Collinson served as ranch foreman. Although the venture was profitable, the Coggins left the Big Bend country in 1895 and leased land in Collingsworth, Wheeler, Donley, Gray, and King counties. In the early 1890s they pastured cattle in Indian Territory.
Sam and Mody Coggin never retired from the ranching business. They had ranched over much of Texas and what is now New Mexico and Oklahoma. Coggin cattle had grazed the Cross Timbers, the Concho country, the Panhandle, the Big Bend, and Indian Territory, as well as parts of Kansas, Colorado, and Montana. After 1903 the brothers largely confined their ranching to Brown County. They operated their home ranch in the southwestern part of that county and by 1899 had added the 4,400-acre Wright Ranch to their holdings. By 1902 their Grape Creek Ranch along the Colorado River in Runnels, Concho, and Coleman counties had expanded to nearly 20,000 acres. Fort Worth served as their principal market site during those years.
The first stone business house constructed in Brownwood was built by the Coggins in 1875 at a cost of $13,000. On March 31, 1881, the Coggin brothers established the banking firm of Coggin Brothers and Company. They became partners in a successful mercantile business in 1882. The Coggins were among the principal organizers of the Brownwood Roller Flouring Mills in 1885. On December 12, 1901, the Coggins and Henry Ford entered a partnership with James M. Ingle of Abilene, Texas, to form the Ingle Mining Company in Boise County, Idaho. The principal mineral produced was quartz.
Coggin Academy, established by the brothers on Coggin land in the 1870s, was one of the earliest schools in Brownwood. Later, this school became a part of the public school system and was known as Coggin Ward School. The brothers, generous supporters of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, donated the site where Daniel Baker College was built in 1890. A tract of Coggin land for use as a city park was a gift to the city; the park still bears the name Coggin. Sam Coggin became the largest contributor to the fund established to secure the Carnegie Library for Brownwood (see CARNEGIE LIBRARIES). He also helped entice Santa Fe Railroad officials to build track toward Brownwood by donating subsidy funds to the railroad. Mody never married. He lived in Brownwood with a widowed sister and died about 1902. Samuel married the widow of E. L. Smith, the daughter of B. B. Lightfoot of Johnson County, on January 3, 1884. He died on October 1, 1910, and was buried in Brownwood. Folklorist Mody Coggin Boatright was a grandnephew of the Coggin brothers.