Henry and Sarah E. (Wilcox) Jeffcoat welcomed their second son, Amasa Jeffcoat, to the world on February 4, 1843 in York, Illinois. Henry was a farmer originally from Aylesbury, England. When just a year old the family moved to Will County, Illinois and by 1848 they moved to Rockville Township in Kankakee County, Illinois. When Amasa was 17 years old he was living and working on the farm of Calvin Walton in Rockville Township.
On August 5, 1862, Amasa and his older brother, Daniel, enlisted in Company I, 76th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. The 76th IVI mustered in on August 22, 1862 and the brothers would be mustered out at Galveston, Texas on July 22, 1865. Amasa was enlisted as a Private and finished as a Corporal. The 76th IVI operated along the east bank of the Mississippi River and was involved in capturing of Vicksburg and Jackson, Mississippi in the summer of 1863. Amasa was at Camp Hebron, Missouri, during the fall and winter of 1863 until February of 1864 when they moved on Yazoo City, Mississippi. They would later travel to New Orleans and to Fort Barrancas, near Pensacola, Florida before heading to Texas. Amasa was involved in a number of battles, skirmishes, and weather damaged watercraft during the 10,000 miles covered by the 76th IVI, which ended in Galveston, Texas.
After returning to Kankakee County he returned to farming and after three years married Emily Marie Harrington on December 8, 1868. Amasa and Emily lived on a farm in Limestone, Illinois. Their first child, Lawson Eugene Jeffcoat, was born in October of 1869 and would be their only child born in Illinois. In the late summer of 1871, Amasa drove a covered wagon west and led a migration of several relatives to Kansas. On October 10, 1871, they arrived in Cheever Township, Dickinson County about 10 miles north of Abilene. Ten days later Emily and Lawson arrived in Abilene by train. Over the next 8 years, Amasa and Emily would add 4 children to their family: Jessie Ann (Shadinger), Joseph Wesley, Jacob John, and Frank Leslie. Amasa took to farming and stockraising.
Tragedy struck the family when Emily died on January 3, 1880, leaving Amasa with five children under the age of 11. Emily is buried in the Henry Cemetery in Buckeye Township. Just over a year later on January 25, 1881, Amasa was married to Lillie May Fink. The father of his deceased with, Reverend Wesley Harrington, performed the ceremony. Amasa and Lillie would have six children between 1881 and 1897: Clarence Melvin, Nora Annette (Wilvert), Pearl Maude, Wilbur Amasa, Elmer Leroy, and Charles Carl.
While living in the country, Amasa acquired land in Garfield and Lincoln Townships west and southwest of Abilene. His entire life, Amasa had been taking care of horses and decided to get into the livery stable business. Due to health problems, Amasa moved to Abilene in 1886 and started operating the former Shadinger’s (1884) and Ramsey’s (1887) Livery Stable on NW. 2nd Street, which is now occupied by the coffee bar portion of the LifeHouse Church. This would be his first stable location of seven during his 22 year career as a liveryman. They lived at 201 NE. 8th Street at this time.
Amasa sold the NW. 2nd Street location to William F. Lebold and moved to the livery stable formerly known as the Henry House Livery stable, which was in the 300 block of N. Spruce Street. This stable occupied the property which is now addressed 307 and 311 N. Spruce Street, which are now the United Capital Management office and recently closed 311 restaurant. The Star Livery located at 319 N. Spruce had just been completed and there was a vacant lot between the two stables.
Disaster struck the business on the evening of October 2, 1890, when the stable caught fire and everything was destroyed. Fifteen horses died in the flames and all of the buggies, harnesses, and structure were reduced to ashes. The total value lost was $5,000 and Amasa did not have insurance on the business. As reported the following week in the October 9, 1890 edition of the Abilene Weekly Reflector,
“WENT UP IN SMOKE
Jeffcoats Livery Barn And Contents Destroyed. Fifteen horses perish in the flames – buggies, harness etc., Are Lost – Nothing Saved – Loss Over $5,000 With No Insurance.
The most disastrous fire in the recent history of Abilene occurred Thursday night at 11:30 o’clock when the frame livery barn of A. Jeffcoat on Spruce Street between Third and Fourth was burned to the ground, nothing being saved.
The fire was seen by three or four different parties at about the same time. John Maloney, of Maloney Bros., with a hostler in a neighboring barn was the first on the ground. He saw the fire as he was closing his billiard hall, the flames showing in the northeast corner of the building. He rushed to the place and found everything closed. Going through the office he went into the main part of the barn where the smoke was so dense that he could scarcely see. He untied two horses and attempted to get them out but could not and was obliged to run for his life. He awakened the two boys sleeping in the barn and they too escaped. The fire companies were soon on hand, the alarm having been given by the hostler, but nothing could be done except save the neighboring buildings. Only for the fact that it was comparatively still night even this would have been impossible.
THE LOSE $5,000
The rapidity with which the flames got under way in the tinder-like structure precluded the saving of anything. The complete list of loss of Mr. Jeffcoat outside of the building takes in nearly everything he possessed. He lost 11 horses, 6 buggies, 2 carriages, 1 saddle and bridle, 3 sets double harness, 2 sets single harness. 2 tons hay, 150 bushel oats, one-half ton bran, whips, robes, etc., common to a livery barn. Beside this there were four boarding horses with buggies and harnesses. G. C. Sterl lost his fine horse and phaeton, Dr. Austin his horse and phaeton, James Slough his horse and sulky and Fred Wilcox his horse and buggy recently purchased, Carl Potter and R. M. White each had a buggy stored there and Eicholtz’s best hearse was in the barn. All were burned and so far as can be learned not a dollar’s worth of insurance was held on them. The total loss cannot be less than $5,000.
The most pathetic part of the fire was the burning of the 15 fine horses the remains of all of which were found in the stalls when the smoke cleared away. No cries of pain were heard from them but it was probably because of suffocation from the dense smoke.
William Conrad, the stable boy and a farm lad who was staying with him had gone to bed but a short time before had not time to put on their clothing after they were awakened.
The loss is a particularly hard one on Mr. Jeffcoat. He has been for years one of Abilene’s most respected and hard working citizens and has the sympathy of all in his misfortune. The firemen worked their hardest and fought the flames to the best of their ability. Abilene’s citizens outside the department also took a hold and aided materially in subduing the flames.
Mr. Jeffcoat wishes us to extend his thanks to the firemen and all others who assisted him last night and have expressed their sympathy today. We hope that in some way arrangements can be made by which he can again get into business.
The debris is being cleared away today, the charred remains of the dead horses making immediate action necessary.
After the fire Warren Thayer treated the firemen handsomely by inviting them to partake of coffee and refreshments at his restaurant on Third street. The boys appreciate his thoughtfulness.”
Shortly after the fire several people proposed that a benefit fund be created to help Amasa. A fund was established and George C. Sterl and David Matteson volunteered to pass a subscription paper among the business men. The effort raised $633.10, which was provided to the Jeffcoats that November. The generosity of fellow Abileneians helped Amasa start anew when he leased The Glenwood Stables shortly after receiving the benefit fund. He purchased the horses, rigs, and harnesses from the Broughton Brothers (see William Henry Broughton). The Glenwood Stables is the same property as Amasa’s original stable on NW. 2nd Street. William F. Lebold rented the NW. 2nd Street stable to the Glenwood stock farm in January 1890 and then to Jeffcoat in November 1890.
In the spring of 1891, construction of a new stone livery on Broadway Street began and the structure was finished in June. The substantial and handsome two-story building, which replaced the old Bon Ton Livery stable. The original Bon Ton stable sat on what is now 315 N. Broadway (First American Title) and the south half of 317 N. Broadway (Countrypolitan). The first story of the new Bon Ton stable is now the Countrypolitan store. You could enter the new livery stable from either the Broadway or Spruces Street sides. The new Bon Ton Livery Stable was operated by Amasa and his partner, Charles E. Swick. Prior to the opening of this stable, many of the leading horse owners in the area had made arrangements to board their horses there.
The partnership of Jeffcoat & Swick was a short one with the retirement of Charles Swick in March 1893. The partnership was dissolved on April 1, 1893 and the new firm of Jeffcoat & Son was born with Lawson Eugene Jeffcoat being the son. They continued operation at 317 N. Broadway until July 1895. In June 1895, Amasa and Lawson’s wives, Lilly Mae (Fink) Jeffcoat and Lucy Bell (Fritz) Jeffcoat, respectively, purchased five lots at the northwest corner of 4th Street and Buckeye Avenue (now occupied by M&M Tire) and the stable was moved in July. This arrangement only lasted two months when the property on Buckeye was sold to George Etherington and Etherington’s horse and buggy teams were sold to Jeffcoat & Son. With a large combined stock, Jeffcoat & Son moved to the fine two-story Star Livery building at 317 N. Spruce Street.
The livery business was a dangerous one with runaways and disagreeable horses being a regular occurrence. Rarely did a week go by that a team of horses didn’t run lose through the streets often damaging property, themselves, and people. It was shortly after moving into the Star Livery that Amasa’s foot was severely crushed by a horse stomping on it. There were other types of hazards. For instance, in May 1896 the basement of the livery, which was where the horses were quartered filled with six feet of water. It took over two days to pump the basement out. One of the most significant accidents Amasa was involved in occurred in September 1903. As reported by the Abilene Daily Reflector,
“W. L. Stowitts’ team attached to the rural carrier wagon of Route 1 ran away down Buckeye last evening at a terrific pace. Near the Rock Island it struck a livery team from Jeffcoat’s with Mr. Jeffcoat and a traveling man in the buggy. They tried to escape but the runaways struck them and there was a mixup. Jeffcoat’s buggy was demoralized and his horses ran south to George Rush’s. The other team was tangled up and stopped. Mr. Jeffcoat and his passenger were bruised but not seriously injured.”
By 1898, Amasa seemed ready for a change. In March of that year, he sold his interest in Jeffcoat & Son to his sons Lawson Eugene Jeffcoat and John Jacob “Jake” Jeffcoat who created the Jeffcoat Brothers firm. However, the following month Joseph E. and William S. Badger purchased the Star Livery building for their transfer and bussing business. In May 1899, Amasa and Jake formed another Jeffcoat and Son company and purchased the A. T. Munroe grocery store at 318 N. Broadway Street, which is now the north half of Hairtiques. Jake had always been interested in the grocery business and would work for a number of Abilene’s grocers during his early adulthood. The Jeffcoat & Son grocery store only lasted 7 months, when the store was sold to Clint C. Colden. Mr. Colden had been the head grocery clerk for J. B. Case for many years prior to buying the Jeffcoat store in February 1900. Jake started working for Colden and would later work for Kump’s Grocery, the Prendergast Store, and Markley’s Grocery.
Amasa promptly got back into the livery stable business as Jeffcoat & Son by operating the City Livery, previously known as the Young Stable. Shortly after moving to the property, Amasa built an addition to the existing stable. The City Livery was located at the southwest corner of Spruce and NW. 5th Streets. This property is now occupied by the City Auditorium attached to City Hall. Roy Weyant purchased the property from Jeffcoat and allowed Jeffcoat to rent it.
In December 1900, the City Livery Barn was sold by Roy Weyant to David F. Keller and extended a lease to Amasa so he continued business next to city hall. The following summer Jeffcoat & Son moved back to the Star Livery (317 N. Spruce) and William S. Badger moved his transfer business to stable on NW. 5th Street and Lawson Jeffcoat continued to live in the house next to the stable. Jeffcoat & Son sold the Star Livery building to George C. Dahnke in March 1906 and had no plans to continue in business. Amasa would spend the next year in retirement.
Amasa must have grown restless in retirement. In March 1907, Jeffcoat & Son petitioned the City Council for permission to build a boarding barn at 314 N. Buckeye Avenue, which is now occupied by SK Designs. Permission was granted. However, neighboring livery stable owner, H. A. Anderson, brought an injunction suit to the Council to halt the building project contending that the block walls were one inch less in thickness than required by ordinance. The ordinance in questions did not cover cement block buildings. On May 17th, the City Council adopted an ordinance addressing cement structures and allowed construction of the building to continue. The new stable was touted as the most modern in the city with electric lighting throughout, insulated wire, and box stalls for twenty horses.
Amasa’s devoted wife, Lillie May Jeffcoat, died on November 5, 1908 at the family home after a battle with dropsy. Her funeral was held at the Evangelical Church on November 8th and she was laid to rest in the Abilene Cemetery.
The boarding stable and livery business at 314 N. Buckeye Avenue was sold to veterinarian Dr. Ralph E. Townsend in October 1910. Dr. Townsend continued the business at the same stand and added his veterinary office at the space. With this arrangement, the boarding stable turned into an animal hospital with recovering animals being under consistent observation of the veterinarian. Amasa retired from business.
Amasa for several years was involved in local Republican party having served as a ward committeeman and party delegate in the 4th Ward of Abilene. He was also a member of the Abilene Post 63 of the Grand Army of the Republic. The family moved their residence as often as the livery relocated. The list of Abilene homes they lived in include: 202 NE. 5th Street (1900-1906), 123 NE. 4th Street (1910), 411 NE. 6th Street (1912-1914), 415 NE. 6th Street (1916), 514 NW. 5th Street (1920), 205 E. 1st Street (1923), and 910 NW. 2nd Street (1926-1934).
Amasa died on December 29, 1934 at the Carroll House hospital (107 W. 1st Street) of a brain hemorrhage. His funeral was held at the Tufts Funeral Home on the last day of 1934 with a large crowd, including the membership of the Grand Army of the Republic and Women’s Relief Corps. He was laid to rest in the Abilene Cemetery to the American Legion firing a salute and the playing of taps by his grandson, Gerald Shadinger.