From Pioneer Stock: Coblentz Family in Vaughn


Colleen Slater, KP News

Three generations of Coblentz men: Jack (seated), son Paul and grandson Benson spent a moment together at the KP Historical Society museum in July. Photo by Colleen Slater, KP news

Gail Alscott, whose ancestors in Vaughn include a great-grandfather who operated a store and his father who was a practicing physician, has a house in Home with husband David, who also has roots on the Key Peninsula.

Alscott’s father, Jack Coblentz, tells his family history as a well-loved story.

Henry Staley Coblentz, fresh out of Franklin Marshall College, headed west in 1882 with his father, Dr. Joseph Coblentz, a recent widower.

“He (Henry) wanted to come west to be a cowboy,” said Jack Coblentz.

Alscott’s brother Paul adds more information. He believes Henry didn’t want to ride horses as much as he wanted to be a pioneer. He likely inherited a desire for travel from his father, who “traveled the entire east coast by steamship, train and carriage after his college graduation,” said Paul. “He wanted to be a merchant, not a lawyer,” Alscott added.

The Coblentz family originated in Germany. Coblentz is a large Roman city built in 9 B.C. as a defensive fort on the Rhine River.

In 1743, Hans Nicholas Coblentz and wife Anna Katrina, of the Reformed German Church, arrived in Pennsylvania seeking religious freedom. They purchased 200 acres. Two of their sons moved to Middletown, Maryland, and obtained 200 acres. Joseph was born there.

After his father died, Henry took him to Middleton to be buried in the large graveyard filled with Coblentz family.

Joseph Coblentz established his medical practice (obstetrics) in Reading, PA, where he and his wife built a home in the 1850s for $1600 that included indoor plumbing and his office in the basement.

Coblentz became a trustee for Franklin Marshall College, where he’d earned his first degree. He was involved with building a stone and brick building for the Diagnothian Society at the college. He later became a trustee at the University of Wichita, Kansas.

Paul Alscott has a letter sent to Dr. Coblentz from a friend, saying he’d left everything he’d established to follow his wandering son. Henry Coblentz was his only surviving child.

Henry Coblentz arrived in Kansas, met a beautiful young woman, Julia Catherine Kipp, who had planned to be a nun like her two sisters. Her brother was a Monsigneur, and their family had established and operated a hospital in Yates Center, Kansas.

Henry and Julia Coblentz’s first two children, Joseph and Anna, named for their Coblentz grandparents, were born in Yates Center.

A close friend in Yates Center was Alfred Van Slyke, who preceded Henry Coblentz to Vaughn by a few months in 1887.

Henry Coblentz and Van Slyke became partners, operating a sawmill and store. Soon, Coblentz managed the store, and Van Slyke took care of the mill. They built a dock and floating walkway from the store.

A third Coblentz son, Walter, was born in Vaughn in 1891. Two more boys, Frank and George, followed.

Dr. Coblentz “doctored the Indians as well as some of the local people,” great-grandson Jack Coblentz said.

Joseph Coblentz journal notes his Vaughn patients. Mrs. George Showers produced a female on Sept 27, 1889. Charge: $3. Other patients include Maxwell, Davidson, Alverson, Butterfield, Wright and Olson. Mrs. Wright was treated nearly every day for a month, then transferred, perhaps to a doctor in Tacoma.

Henry Coblentz enjoyed photography and had a “modern” camera when he lived in the area.

The KP Historical Society museum has copies of several photographs taken by him in and around Vaughn, donated by Jack. One shows Native Americans from Squaxin Island on the Coblentz steps.

Education was important to the family, and they moved to Tacoma when son Joseph was old enough for high school in 1900.

Henry opened the first IGA grocery store in Washington at Fern Hill. Over the years, he purchased and donated property, and helped build much of that area, including The Masonic Temple, of which he was a member.

“He never left the house without a shirt and tie,” Jack says of Henry.

Gail Alscott convinced her father Jack, brother Paul and nephew Benson to visit Vaughn in July, where they could see the local Coblentz sites.

Benson is interviewing with an administrator of Franklin Marshall College, alma mater of his great-great- and third-great-grandfathers.