Asbury M. Coffey was born in Wilkes County, North Carolina in 1804 and moved with his family very early in life to Kentucky with Daniel Boone's party. He graduated from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky and in 1826 went to Athens, Tennessee where he married and remained until 1842, when the couple moved to Missouri. Settling in Pettis County, Coffey was elected to the Missouri General Assembly in 1850. [Cockerell, Johnson County, Biographies] During the territorial period, he probably never lived in Kansas.
Centre College, 1820
A.M. Coffey entered the college in 1823.
President Fillmore in 1851 appointed Coffey as agent for the "Confederated Tribes," the Miamis, Weas, Piakeshaws, Peorias and Kaskaskias, at the Osage River Agency (Miami County) where he officiated from 1851 to 1855. His successor in the agency was fired for resisting squatters on Indian lands, indicating Coffey's toleration of squatting during his term. [Cutler, History, Miami County] On election day, 1855, Coffey appeared to be the leader of the pro-slavery forces in the area. One free-state writer said:
"A noisy, drunken mob came over from Missouri on horseback and offered to vote. [The judges] challenged them on the ground of non-residence. The mob began to threaten violence, when Colonel Coffey got up and made a speech, in which he said he did not favor violence, but if officers did no do their duty it would lead to violence. What he meant by duty was for Mr. Chestnut to cease his challenges." [Shively, The Pottawatomie Massacre, 178]
Coffey was a Major General in the Kansas Militia and in June 1856 marched on John Brown's camp with about 300 men to release Captain Pate who had been captured. Informed Pate had already been released, Coffey retired the force. Some of his men, however, passing through Osawatomie, "committed gross depredations on the property of the citizens of that place." Governor Shannon thought Coffey was not to blame:
"General Coffey is himself a prudent, discreet man; but these irregular forces are liable at any moment to throw off all restraint, and follow the dictates of their own inflamed and excited feelings. [Shannon, Correspondence, 387]
In 1859 Coffey moved to a farm near Knob Noster in Johnson County, Missouri. In 1873 he was elected president of the Missouri State Grange. He served many years on the local school board. One historian wrote that Coffey lived in western Missouri "as late as 1878" [Cutler, History, Coffey County] but another said he died in Dodge City in 1879. [Admire's Handbook, Miami County] Still a third said he was living on his farm near Knob Noster in 1882 and was at that time "above average height, pleasing in his manner, and possessed of rare conversational powers.'" [Cockerell, Johnson County, Biographies]