William French Coulthart (1833-1916) of Waseca, Minnesota

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William French Coulthart was born on June 16, 1833 in Osnabruck Township, Stormont County, Ontario. He was the second son of William Coulthart (1800-1888) and Jean French (1801-1844). Both of his parents were born in Dumfries County in southwestern Scotland; William in Cummertrees and Jean in Lockerbei. William had three brothers: John (1830-1919), James (1837-1917) and Finley (1840-1919) and two sisters: Mary (1835-1919) and Henrietta (1844-1844). He spent his early years in Osnabruck Township and later moved north to Finch Township where his father purchased a farm near the town of Cannamore. William was united in marriage to Anna Maria Fetterly inMay 1852 on Barnhart's Island, NY, an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence Seaway which separates Ontario and New York state. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger picture of the St. Lawrence Seaway near Long Sault, Ontario. They settled in Winchester Township, Dundas County not far from his father and near several aunts and uncles. William and Anna had five children who were born on their farm near the town of Morewood: Jane (1853-1929), David (1855-1917), Phoebe (1857-1910), Samuel (1859-after 1929) and Henrietta (1862-1919). Sometime in 1863 the family decided to move. Apparently William's Aunt, Jane Hunter, received information about Minnesota from her brother's-in-law who had settled there a few years earlier. Minnesota was a new state with excellent farmland that the government was practically giving away to anyone who would settle there. At least five families decided to move to Minnesota at around the same time, William Coulthart, his Aunt Jane Hunter, his Uncle Walter and two of his brothers-in-law.

The early years of the 1860's were turbulent times in Minnesota. In addition to the Civil War, the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862 took over 400 settlers lives in the southwestern and south central part of the state. The uprising was caused by the failure of the government to provide items agreed upon in treaties with the Indians and a general lack of respect for Indian culture. When the Sioux finally surrendered, 303 were convicted on scanty evidence and 38 were hanged in the largest mass execution in the history of the United States. In the spring of 1863, around the time the Coulthart family was deciding to move to Minnesota, the remaining Sioux were exiled from their homeland and placed on a reservation in what is now South Dakota. However, the Sioux continued to sporadically raid farms in Minnesota for several more years. William Coulthart and his family arrived in south central Minnesota in June of 1864, a period when raids were not uncommon in the area where they settled. William claimed 160 acres of land in Jo Davis Township, Faribault County for his homestead. Under the Homestead Act of 1862 any settler who lived on the land for five years and improved it could obtain title to the land from the public domain for a small fee. Two months later in August 1864, the Jo Davis Township board passed a resolution offering a $500 bounty for any man willing to volunteer to fight in the Civil War. William and one of his brothers-in-law enlisted in Company A of the Minnesota Infantry Volunteers a few days later. Their unit was sent south to Gallatin, Tennessee where they guarded the rail lines going into Nashville. During the winter of 1864-65 William became ill with dysentery and was assigned to light duty as the company cook! While William was away for a year, his family somehow managed to survive their first winter in Minnesota during which two families in neighboring counties were killed by Indians.

After his discharge in June 1865, William returned to the family farm in Jo Davis Township. Three additional children were born there: William (1867-1891), John (1869-after 1929) and Sidney (1871-1872). The family survived the worst blizzard ever recorded in the state's history around 1869. Over 72 people perished during the three day storm. In 1871 William received the land patent for his homestead signed by President Ulysses S. Grant. He was the first person to ever own the 160 acres he claimed near the center of Jo Davis Township. According to his homestead documents he planted several hundred trees on the property. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger picture of William's homestead in Jo Davis township which include many old trees that were most likely planted by William. Less than a year later the family decided to stop farming due to an injury William sustained during the war. They were unable to sell their farm for a number of years due to the grasshopper plague that ravaged Minnesota from 1873-1877. The locust arrived one day and ate everything within their path. The family moved to Waseca, a major railroad center in neighboring Waseca County. They purchased a home in town and William became a drayman and street commissioner. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger picture of the block where the Coulthart family lived in Waseca. His last two children were born there: a baby (1875-1875) that died shortly after birth and Thomas (1879-1881). William died in Waseca on January 14, 1916 at age 82 and was buried at Woodville Cemetery next to his wife who had died five years earlier. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger picture of William's gravestone which commemorated his service in the Civil War. All of his surviving sons changed the family surname to Coulter.

This is a picture of William Coulthart with his grandchildren, Archibald and Ethel Hughes, circa 1890 Waseca, MN. Click on the picture to see a bigger version of it.

All of William's children remained in Minnesota except one:

  • Jane Coulthart (1853-1929) married Asaph Foster and they had four children: Helen (1873), Mary (1875), William (1878) and Samuel (1881). The family lived in Waseca where Asaph worked as a switchman on the railroad.

  • David Coulter (1855-1917) married Dora Hose and they had three children: Oscar (1881), Thomas (1883) and Ida (1884). The family moved to the Minneapolis area where David was a conductor on the railroad.

  • Phoebe Coulthart (1857-1910) married Walter Hunter and they had eight children: Fred (1877), Annie (1879), William (1882), Abbie (1885), Stanley (1888), Isabella (1893), Ward (1895) and Ruth (1898). The family settled on a farm near Northfield, Minnesota. Descendants currently live in Minnesota, Maryland and Arizona.

  • Samuel Coulter (1859-after 1929) married Mary ? and moved to Nevada and New Mexico where he allegedly discovered gold and became rich.

  • Henrietta Coulthart (1862-1919) married Thomas Hughes and they had five children: Archibald (1882), Ethel (1885), Earl(1888), Helen (1890) and Edwin (1904-1998). The family lived in Waseca, Sleepy Eye and Mankato, Minnesota where Thomas was a conductor on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. Henrietta died in Clark, South Dakota while visiting her daughter on Thanksgiving and was buried there at Oakhill Cemetery. Descendants currently live in Minnesota, Illinois, California and England.

  • William Coulthart (1867-1891).

  • John Coulter (1869-after 1929) married Hattie Quinn and they had five children: William (1893), Pearl (1894), Annabelle (1895), Fred (1897) and Adell (1899). They moved to the Minneapolis area where John was a switchman on the railroad.

  • Sidney Coulthart (1871-1872) died in infancy.

  • Baby Coulthart (1875-1875) died in infancy.

  • Thomas Coulthart (1879-1881) died in infancy.

The book "Our Coulthart Ancestors" by Terry Meinke, which was written in 1994 and updated in 1996, documents this Coulthart family from 1680 thru 1919. For more information on this family send E-mail to or write: Terry Meinke, 1004 Ridgewood Lane, Palatine, IL 60067.

Visit the following pages for additional information on this Coulthart family:

Page last updated 07/26/2000. © Copyright 1999. Terry Meinke. All rights reserved.

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