Sophia Yarnall Jacobs Papers, 1861-1990

(3 boxes, 5 volumes, 15 images, 1.5 linear feet )

Collection 3007

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
1300 Locust Street * Philadelphia, PA 19107

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
 1300 Locust Street Philadelphia, PA 19107
Table of contents Abstract
The Sophia Yarnall Jacobs Papers contain research files, letter books, and other miscellaneous data pertaining to the Coxe family and their ownership of anthracite coal land and coal mining enterprises in the Eastern Middle anthracite coal field of northeastern Pennsylvania. Jacobs used these materials to write the novel "The Clark Inheritance," a fictional account of the life of times of the Clark family that is based on the real-life story of the Coxes, of which Jacobs is a descendant.

Background note
Sophia Yarnall Jacobs was a civic worker and author. She was born in 1902, attended Bryn Mawr College from 1919-1921, and married Reginald Robert Jacobs shortly following graduation. After they divorced in 1937, she served as secretary of the United Nations Council (later the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia), which was founded in 1949 as a private, non-profit, non-partisan educational organization dedicated to creating a more informed citizenry on matters of national and international significance. Jacobs also served as president of the National Council of Women from 1960-1963. The highlight of her career as an author came in 1981, when Jacobs completed the novel The Clark Inheritance, [Walker and Company, New York, New York]. The book documents the fortunes of the Clark family during the years 1871-1902. The Clarks owned anthracite coal lands, which were located around the city of Hazleton in anthracite coal region of northeastern Pennsylvania. They also owned coal-mining companies and operated coal production facilities called collieries. The name Clark is an alias for Coxe, and in her novel Jacobs basically tells the story of the Coxe family and its coal lands, merely changing the names of all the major Coxe family members and the towns that were built by the Coxes. For instance, Eckley Brinton Coxe becomes "Dexter Brewster Clark" and Drifton becomes "Clarkston." A Coxe descendant through the Alexander Brinton Coxe line, Jacobs died in 1993.

The story of the Coxe family is a fascinating one. It begins with Dr. Daniel Coxe, who was born in England in 1640. He served as a physician for Charles II in England and was also a land speculator who acquired a large quantity of land in the New World. By 1685 he owned a great deal of property in New Jersey, and eventually became governor of West Jersey, although he never journeyed to the New World. After a long life dedicated to medical pursuits and land speculation, Daniel died in 1730 at the age of 90. He bequeathed a legacy of land acquisition and development to succeeding generations of the Coxe family, who would follow in his entrepreneurial footsteps.

Dr. Daniel's son Daniel was born in London in 1673. Unlike his father, he actually traveled to America to visit his family's land holdings. He made the journey in 1701, and was appointed commander of the West Jersey forces shortly after his arrival, achieving the rank of Colonel. Colonel Coxe eventually decided to stay in America, taking up residence in Burlington, New Jersey. Like his father, he was known as a landowner and developer, but he also had a keen interest in politics, serving as Speaker of the Assembly and judge on the Supreme Court of New Jersey, as well as being named the first Masonic Grand Master in America in 1730. Colonel Coxe died in 1739 at the age of 66.

His grandson Tench Coxe carried on the Coxe family tradition of land acquisition. Born in Philadelphia in 1755, he is the Coxe ancestor who began acquiring the family's Pennsylvania anthracite coal lands in the 1790s. The son of Colonel Daniel's son William, he was a major proponent for the development of American industry, and realized that anthracite could be used for home heating as well as for industrial purposes. Before Tench Coxe died in 1824, he made it clear that he wanted the lands he had acquired in the wilderness of northeastern Pennsylvania to stay in the Coxe family. He recognized anthracite's potential, and instilled in his son Charles S. Coxe the desire to see that his lands would someday be mined for their "black diamonds."

Charles S. Coxe was born in Philadelphia in 1791, and went on to become a prominent judge in the city. He had married Ann Maria Brinton in 1832 and together they were the parents of seven children, namely, Brinton, Rebecca, Anna Brinton, Alexander Brinton, Eckley Brinton, Henry Brinton, and Charles Brinton. While his family was growing up, he educated them about the lands they owned, and made sure that they understood the wishes of their grandfather to have the lands developed for the mining of anthracite coal. Eventually Alexander and Eckley took their father's wishes to heart and began mining operations on the Coxe property. The Clark Inheritance focuses on the lives and business careers of these two men and their families.

Alexander was born in Philadelphia in 1838 with Eckley following a year later, and both were trained to one day organize and operate a coal mining enterprise. Alexander was educated to handle the "business" end of mining operations, while Eckley became one of the brightest and most well respected mining engineers of his time. The two men, along with their brothers Brinton and Henry Brinton, and their cousin Franklin Coxe, founded the partnership of Coxe Brothers and Company on January 30, 1865. Over the ensuing decades the anthracite coal trade would flourish, as would the Coxe family mining enterprises. Additional coal companies, and even a railroad, were founded by the Coxes, who became one of the largest independent mining interests in the anthracite coalfields. A majority of the coal operators in the Pennsylvania anthracite fields were large corporations, usually railroad companies, while the mining operations on Coxe lands remained a family-owned business. By the early 1890s, over a million tons of anthracite a year was being mined from the Coxe lands. The royalties that members of the Coxe family received from the sale of this coal made them extremely wealthy. The family's direct involvement in the mining of their coal lands would soon be a thing of the past, however. Eckley died in 1895 without leaving an heir to take over the family business. Alexander had two children from his marriage to Sophia (Norris) Coxe, a son Danny and a daughter Anna. Unfortunately, Danny had contracted a disease that permanently paralyzed his legs, forcing him to use crutches. In spite of his handicap, Danny took a keen interest in the operations of the Coxe coal enterprises, eventually designing and building his own locomotive for hauling coal on the Coxe's railroad. His interest and aptitude for mining made him the logical successor to his father and uncle, until he was killed in a train crash in late 1895.

Following the loss of his brother and son in the same year, Alexander was left to run the family business alone. He never shared the fondness for the coal regions that Eckley had, much preferring the parties and society life of Philadelphia to his desolate surroundings in Drifton. Since there were no other Coxe family members who were either interested in or capable of taking over the Coxe coal enterprises, Alexander sold them to the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company in 1905 for 18.4 million dollars. The sale ended forty years of direct family involvement in the mining of anthracite coal. The Coxes never relinquished ownership of their lands, however. They continued to lease to their land to various anthracite coal operators, collecting royalties on the coal that was mined. A few of the Coxes did stay behind in Drifton, including Eckley's widow Sophia, who became nearly as well known and respected as her late husband in the anthracite fields. Her generosity and compassion toward the miners and their families endeared her to the entire region, earning the title "Angel of the Anthracite Fields" for her many altruistic efforts. The Coxe lands stayed in the family's hands until 1968, when the last of the Coxe properties were liquidated.

The Clark Inheritance is based on the preceding story of the Coxe family, with Jacobs undoubtedly embellishing or creating a few storylines, especially concerning the interactions of various family members. As stated earlier, all the Coxe family members are given aliases in the book. In addition, the names of the Coxe coal towns are changed and a few events are rearranged chronologically, such as the death of Danny Clark (the real Danny Coxe died in 1895, not 1897, as in the novel).

The novel begins in 1871, when Frederick B. Clark (Alexander B. Coxe) moves his family from Philadelphia to the town of Clarkston (Drifton), which was built by the Clarks to serve as their base of operations. It goes on to discuss the interrelationships of the different Clark family members, as well as other family intrigues, including the animosity between Dexter's (Eckley B. Coxe) wife Jessie (Sophia Georgiana [Fisher] Coxe) and Frederick's wife Eliza (Sophia [Norris] Coxe). The relationship between Dexter and Jessie is also covered at length in the novel, as is Danny Clark's (Danny Coxe) handicap (his legs have been permanently paralyzed), and his controversial marriage to Barbara Shipley (Margaret White). Danny's father Frederick believes Barbara is marrying him for his money.

The issue of labor and unions in the coalfields is also one of the main topics of the book. The 1880s were a time of labor strife in the anthracite region, and the Clarks were not immune to the troubles. The burning of the Clarkston No. 2 Breaker is chronicled, mirroring the real-life burning of the Drifton No. 2 Breaker in 1887. The book also documents the rise of the anthracite industry and the fortunes of Frederick, Dexter, and the entire Clark family. After Dexter's untimely death in May 1895, and the subsequent death of Frederick's son Danny in a train wreck in 1897, Frederick is left to run the operations himself. He and Eliza were never fond of living in the coal regions, much preferring the parties and society events of their native Philadelphia. The sale of the Clark mining interests seems inevitable, and the novel ends in 1902 when Alexander sells out to a company mentioned only as "Lehigh."

If you compare the Clarks and the Coxes, their tales are remarkably similar. Jacobs originally wanted to write a narrative history of the Coxe family, as is evidenced by the manuscripts contained in Series 1, Box 2, Folders 6 and 13. But at some point during her research and writing, she decided to turn her work into a novel. The Clark Inheritance is an intriguing, insiders look at a coal baron family, and a must for anyone interested in learning more about the life and times of the Coxes and their fascinating story.

Scope and content
The Sophia Yarnall Jacobs Papers contain photocopies of correspondence, photocopies of newspaper clippings, research notes, manuscript drafts, printed materials, letter books, photographs, and miscellaneous graphics. All the files relate either to the Coxe family or to the various Coxe mining enterprises, and were used by Jacobs to write the novel The Clark Inheritance. The materials could be used by anyone interested in researching the history of the Coxe family, its mining enterprises or its individual members. The papers are divided into three series, namely, Coxe Family Research Materials, Photographs and Miscellaneous Graphics, and Bound Volumes, and date from 1861-1990.

Series 1 contains the research notes Jacobs used to write her novel, including personal research notes on individual Coxe family members and miscellaneous other files relative to the Coxes or their mining interests. Photocopies of correspondence, photocopies of newspaper clippings, research notes, manuscript drafts, and printed materials are included.

Series 2 contains photographs and miscellaneous graphics culled from files in the collection. The images are miscellaneous in nature and depict Coxe relations, Coxe residences and 19th century locomotives.

Series 3 contains five letter books, three original books that belonged to Alexander Brinton Coxe, and two photocopies of letters written by Agnes Harrison and Margaret Yarnall, both relatives of Sophia Yarnall Jacobs' father, Charlton Yarnall.

Series I Coxe Family Research Materials 2 boxes
Series II Photographs and Miscellaneous Graphics 15 images
Series III Bound Volumes 5 volumes

Administrative information
The collection is open for research.

The Sophia Yarnall Jacobs Papers were a gift of Anna Coxe Toogood, a relative of Mrs. Jacobs. They were given to Toogood in the 1980s by Jacobs, and brought to the Historical Society on December 3, 1999.

Accession number: 000522.4

Preferred citation
Cite as: [Indicate series, box and folder # or volume #s here], Sophia Yarnall Jacobs Papers (Collection 3007), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Processing information
Processed by: Patrick Shea

Processing Completed: December 2001

Photographs and graphics that were originally contained in Series 1 folders were removed and placed in Series 2. Separation sheets were created for these images, and were placed in the original Series 1 file, as well as the new location in Series 2.

Additional information
Related material
Collections related to the Coxe family at HSP:

Daniel Coxe, Agreement from 1688, Collection 806

Brinton Coxe Papers, Collection 1983

Coxe Family Papers, Collection 2049

Coxe Family Mining Papers, Collection 3005

Collections related to Sophia Yarnall Jacobs at other institutions:

Sophia Yarnall Jacobs Papers, Radcliffe College, Harvard University, HOLLIS# ACZ9921 /mss.

Publications related to this collection at HSP:

Yarnall, Sophia. The Clark Inheritance. New York, New York: Walker and Company, 1981: (HSP call # UPA/Ph PS 3575 .A73 C59 1981).

Added entries
  • Anthracite coal industry - Pennsylvania
  • Coal mines and mining - Pennsylvania
  • Family-owned business enterprises - Pennsylvania
  • Fiction
  • Genealogy - Coxe family
  • Contributors
  • Coxe Brothers and Company (1865-1900: Drifton, Pa.)
  • Coxe Brothers and Company, Incorporated (1900-1950: Drifton, Pa.)
  • Coxe, Alexander B., 1838-1906
  • Coxe, Anna Brinton, 1870-1944
  • Coxe, Brinton, 1833-1892
  • Coxe, Charles B., 1843-1873
  • Coxe, Charles S., 1791-1879
  • Coxe, Daniel, Dr., 1640-1730
  • Coxe, Danny, 1866-1895
  • Coxe, Eckley, 1839-1895
  • Coxe, Eckley, Jr., 1872-1916
  • Coxe, Franklin, 1839-1903
  • Coxe, Henry B., 1841-1904
  • Coxe, Rebecca, 1834-1910
  • Coxe, Sophie Eliza Norris, 1841-1924
  • Coxe, Tench, 1755-1824
  • Gowen, Franklin B., 1836-1889
  • Harrison, Agnes
  • Jacobs, Sophia Yarnall, 1902-1993
  • Yarnall, Alexander Coxe, 1890-1960
  • Yarnall, Margaret A.
  • Contact information
    The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
    1300 Locust Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19107



    Collection overview

    Series 1. Coxe Family Research Materials 1887-1990

    Research materials related to the Coxe family and their ownership of coal lands in the anthracite coal regions of northeastern Pennsylvania comprise Series 1. The items belonged to Sophia Yarnall Jacobs, who used the materials as the basis for her novel The Clark Inheritance. A number of the items are photocopies of documents from the Coxe Family Mining Papers (Collection #3005) which Jacobs gained access to while the collection was still unprocessed. Photocopies of Coxe correspondence, photocopies of newspaper clippings, and Jacobs' private research notes relative to the family and various Coxe family members are some of the items included. Series 1 also contains Jacobs' manuscript drafts of a Coxe family history that was never published, as well as printed materials that relate to various Coxe family members or institutions with which they were associated. The series is arranged alphabetically by topic.

    Series 2. Photographs and Miscellaneous Graphics

    Miscellaneous photographs from the collection constitute Series 2. Some images were removed from various collection files in Series 1 and placed into this box, while others were originally housed in their own folder. Photographs of Anna Coxe Yarnall posing with various persons, Doctor Daniel Coxe, the house at 1512 Spruce Street in Philadelphia, 19th century locomotives, and a photograph of an unnamed soldier are included.

    Series 3. Bound Volumes 1861-1926

    Series 3 contains five letter books, which are arranged chronologically. The first two volumes contain photocopies of letters written by Margaret Yarnall, with the first volume also containing correspondence of Agnes Harrison. Both women were relatives of Jacobs' father, Charlton Yarnall. The correspondence is usually of a personal nature, written to a family member, discussing such things as daily events in the lives of each of the women, family issues, etc. The private letter book of Alexander Brinton Coxe comprises the third volume. Most of the volume contains correspondence related to financial transactions, although a few of the items deal with topics of a more personal nature. See the Coxe Family Mining Papers (Collection #3005), Bound Volume #365 for an additional Alexander B. Coxe letter book. The final two letter books contain items relative to Alexander B. Coxe's estate, including trial balances, investments, coal rent returns, and general correspondence related to the administration of the estate.

    Detailed inventory

    Series 1. Coxe Family Research Materials

    Coxe, Alexander B., Newspaper Clippings from the St. Augustine "Tatler", pertaining to Mr. and Mrs. Alexander B. Coxe 1891-1899 22 items Box 1: 1

    Coxe, Alexander B., Research Material from Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    55 items Box 1: 2

    Coxe, Anna Brinton, Research Material from Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    6 items Box 1: 3

    Coxe, Brinton, Research Material from Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    85 items Box 1: 4

    Coxe, Charles B., Research Material from Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    34 items Box 1: 5

    Coxe, Charles S., Research Material from Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    167 items Box 1: 6

    Coxe, Danny, Research Material from Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    2 items Box 1: 7

    Coxe, Dr. Daniel, Research Material from Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    15 items Box 1: 8

    Coxe, Eckley B., Testimony of Eckley on the Labor Troubles in the Anthracite Regions of Pennsylvania, before the U.S. Congress, House of Representatives 1887-1888 1 item, 42 pages Box 1: 9

    Coxe, Eckley B., Research Material from Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    266 items Box 1: 10

    Coxe, Eckley B., Jr., Memorial Pamphlet and Research Material from Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    10 items Box 1: 11

    Coxe, Henry Brinton, Research Material from Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    11 items Box 1: 12

    Coxe, Rebecca, Research Material from Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    3 items Box 1: 13

    Coxe, Sophie Eliza Norris, Research Material from Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    5 items Box 1: 14

    Coxe, Tench, Research Material from Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    76 items Box 1: 15

    Coxe Brothers and Company, Inc., Research Material from Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    6 items Box 2: 1

    "Coxe Family", Based on the sketch by Frank Willing Leach, July 26 1908; Completed and Brought Down by Alexander Dubin 1936 1 item, 60 pages Box 2: 2

    Coxe Family, Genealogy and Mailing List 1990 18 items Box 2: 3

    Coxe Family, Sketches from the memory of Helen E. Weatherly on Mr. and Mrs. Eckley B. Coxe, Eckley B. Coxe Jr., Miss Carolina Sinkler, Mrs. Brinton Coxe and Mrs. Charles Coxe 1971-1973 9 items Box 2: 4

    Coxes of Drifton, Research Material from Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    88 items Box 2: 5

    "Coxes of London, Burlington, Philadelphia and Drifton", Outline to Original Manuscript by Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    1 item, 116 pages Box 2: 6

    "How It All Began", Supplement, Sketches of Dr. Daniel Coxe, Col. Daniel Coxe and Tench Coxe, by Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    1 item, 38 pages Box 2: 7

    MMI Preparatory School, Student Handbook and Newspaper Clippings
    12 items Box 2: 8

    Norris Locomotives, Correspondence, pertaining to location of Prints of Norris Locomotives 1969, 1970 37 items Box 2: 9

    Notebook, Research Material from Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    48 items Box 2: 10

    "Why Didn't I Listen, Why Didn't I Ask?", 2nd Draft of the Coxe Manuscript, by Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    1 item, 115 pages Box 2: 11

    Yarnall, Alexander Coxe, Research Material from Sophia Yarnall Jacobs
    10 items Box 2: 12

    Yarnall, Anna Coxe, Memorial Pamphlet, "Anna Coxe Yarnall: An Appreciation" 1945 1 item, 13 pages Box 2: 13

    Series 2. Photographs and Miscellaneous Graphics

    Photograph of 1512 Spruce
    1 photo Box 3: 1

    Portrait of Doctor Daniel Coxe
    1 copy Box 3: 2

    Norris locomotives photographs of lithographs, mid-19th century locomotives built by Richard Norris and Son
    6 photos Box 3: 3

    Unidentified uniformed soldier
    1 photo Box 3: 4

    Photographs of Anna Coxe Yarnall and Original of "Anna Coxe Yarnall, An Appreciation"
    6 photos and copy of mss. Box 3: 5

    Series 3. Bound Volumes

    Harrison, Agnes and Margaret Yarnall, Extracts from Letters 1861-1875 229 pages Vol. 1

    Yarnall, Margaret, Extracts from Letters 1876-1892 223 pages Vol. 2

    Coxe, Alexander B., Private Letter Book August 27, 1889 - August 16, 1904 495 pages and index Vol. 3

    Estate of Alexander B. Coxe, Letter Book Feb. 14, 1906 - Jan. 17, 1911 498 pages and index Vol. 4

    Estate of Alexander B. Coxe, Letter Book Jan. 31, 1917 - April 5, 1926 500 pages and index Vol. 5