Preliminary Guide to the Coffin Sheep Company Records circa 1929-1978

Summary Information

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries
Coffin Sheep Company (Yakima, Wash.) Coffin, H. Stanley (Harvard Stanley)
Preliminary Guide to the Coffin Sheep Company records
Date [inclusive]
circa 1929-1978
Date [bulk]
5.5 linear feet, 4 records cartons, 1 oversize flat box.
(MASC staff use): 1-38-10-1.
Collection materials are in English.
Materials are in English.
This collection consists of records of the Coffin Sheep Company.

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From the guide to the Coffin Family Papers (collection number: Cage 405):

For over fifty years, the firm of Coffin Brothers, Incorporated, dominated the livestock industry in central Washington, the wholesale grocery business in the Yakima Valley, and a variety of other financial enterprises. Coffin Brothers became the core of a family owned group of business ventures. The principal founder of the family fortunes was H. (Harvard) Stanley Coffin, born at The Dalles, Oregon, on September 14, 1869. He attended local public school, the Wasco Academy, and a business college. At age fourteen he began working in the warehouse of McFarland and French, General Merchandisers. Four years later, he moved up the Columbia River to Arlington, Oregon, where he worked with his brother, Arthur Coffin at the Coffin-McFarland Company warehouse. Stanley and another brother, Lester, learned the business quickly, and proceeded to purchase a quarter interest in the firm which was then renamed Arthur Coffin and Brothers.

Recognizing central Washington's potential for growth, the brothers moved their business to Yakima about 1893. Aided by their commercial connections in San Francisco, Portland, and on Puget Sound, they conducted a thriving business with farmers and stockmen, and, increasingly with Indians. As a result of this early association, Stanley became friends with the Indians. He learned to speak their languages, to share their respect for horses, and to participate in their ceremonies. Later he was made an honorary member of the Yakima Tribe.

The three-way partnership was renamed Coffin Brothers, and in 1903 it became a licensed corporation in the State of Washington. Their success in Yakima led to the opening of several branch stores. Using the name "The Idaho Store Company," outlets were established in Lewiston, Kamiah, Nezperce, Forest, Filer, and Lapwai in Idaho. Another store was established in Seattle which catered to the needs of miners enroute to Alaska. Additional retail stores were opened in Prosser, Mabton, Kennewick, and Toppenish in central Washington. Retailing, however, proved less profitable, so the firm concentrated on the Yakima wholesale business. In 1954, the wholesale business, the Yakima Grocery Company, was transferred to Stanley's niece and nephew, John Wenner and Mary Alice Wenner.

In addition to merchandise and groceries, the brothers expanded into a major livestock operation. In 1895, two years after moving to Yakima, the Coffins imported two bands of ewes from Oregon. Within a few years the sheep venture had grown to such an extent that for a time Stanley was forced to devote his full attention to the bands, although he remained a full partner in the merchandise business. Following the premature deaths of Lester (ca. 1918) and Arthur (ca. 1920), Stanley assumed full responsibility for the entire business operation.

Stanley Coffin married Anna Wenner of Canton, Ohio, and they raised three daughters--Dorothy (d. 1924), Mary Elizabeth, and Margaret-- and a son--Harvard Stanley Coffin II.

H. Stanley Coffin II was born on December 6, 1897 in Yakima. After attending Yakima schools and Columbia University, he graduated from Harvard University in 1921 with a bachelor of science degree. In 1924, he married Caroline Van Vliet of Yakima. Their daughter, Nancy was born in 1925 and the following year a son, Harvard Stanley Coffin III, was born. In 1921, Stanley II assumed management of the grocery business, and following his father's lead, became the central figure in the family's business interests. He was president of Coffin Brothers (liquidated 1954), the Yakima Grocery Company (passed to the Wenners in 1954), and the Coffin Sheep Company (reduced in 1956), in addition to holding a controlling interest in a number of smaller livestock companies. Mr. Coffin was a founder and director of the West Side National Bank of Yakima and a director of the Home Federal Savings and Loan Association.

Over the years the Coffin Family controlled substantial real estate holdings. Before 1909, they had acquired 50,000 deeded acres and 50,000 leased acres between Ellensburg and Wenatchee, known as the Cape Horn/Mountain Home Ranch. Eventually, Lester Coffin's descendents came to manage this property. Stanley Coffin I took control of the Coffin/Babcock range (also called the West Bar Ranch) which was located on the Columbia River. The family's Wenas Creek lands included the Mt. Vale Ranch, the McCabe Place, and the Lee Land ranch which totaled approximately 16,000 acres. Lying west of Yakima, the Cold Creek Ranch contained about 17,000 acres of well-watered grazing land. The Horse Heaven Ranch, inclusive of the Wilmert place and the Blakely place, was located south of Kennewick and was comprised of 30,000 deeded acres plus adjacent leased pastures. In addition to small deeded holdings (i.e., city lots, beach plots) the family also controlled various tracts of leased acreage.

Both Stanley I and Stanley II made significant contributions to the development of Yakima and the Pacific Northwest. As early members of the Washington Wool Growers Association and as leading sheep producers, the Coffins imported Corriedale and Romney sheep from Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand to upgrade local stock. Also they aided industry novices with both financial aid and moral support. Beginning in 1920, the Coffins were loyal Rotarians, both father and son serving terms as president. In addition to civic projects, the Stanley Park residential area in Yakima was developed by the Coffins. In 1940, at the age of 70, Stanley I passed away. Stanley II followed in 1970 at the age of 72. H. Stanley Coffin III, a practicing Yakima physician, continues to manage the family holdings.

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Scope and Content

This collection consists of records of the Coffin Sheep Company: corporate records including a stock book, articles of incorporation, bylaws, accounting records, files for real estate, contracts, and water rights.

Preliminary inventory:

Box 1. Water rights; USDA Benton County, WA; State of Washington Agriculture department; State of Washington Department of Natural Resources; Census Bureau; corporate records including documents related to CSC dissolution in the 1970s; accounting records; file of outside legal counsel working papers.

Box 2. Legal counsel files continued; contracts and leases; income accounts.

Box 3. Income accounts continued; water system files; real estate.

Box 4. Real estate continued; trial balances and journals; Hal Quiqley correspondence; more corporate documents.

Box 5. Corporate record book, 1929-1970s; cattle inventories.

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This is an unprocessed collection. Any arrangement reflects either a pre-existing order from the records' creators or previous custodians, or preliminary sorting performed by staff.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries

Terrell Library

P.O. Box 645610

Pullman, WA, 99164-5610 USA


Acquisition Information

The Coffin family donated this collection to the Washington State University Libraries in 2011 (MS.2011.03).

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Related Materials

Related Material

Coffin Family Papers, 1864-1977 (Cage 405).

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Names and Subjects


  • Cattle--Washington (State)
  • Sheep--Washington (State)
  • Ranching

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