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Thanks to the Burke Conservancy for Honoring Joshua Coffer, Union Loyalist

I am writing to followup on my letter thanking Senator Warner and Supervisor Cook for assisting Mrs. Mary Goins Roots, a participant in the programs of the Senior Center Without Walls (BWSSCWoW) for which I serve as Founding Chairman.

Mrs. Mary Goins Roots has requested a fair hearing from the History Commission and the Board of Supervisors regarding the historical marker recognizing her Coffer/Pearson ancestors.

The response from the Commission underscores an anomaly in our county’s democratic system. Unlike the Planning Commission with hearings/decisions that the Board of Supervisors review as part of our democratic procedures, the History Commission has made itself dictator – without any review provided for the Board of Supervisors or the taxpayers that fund markers.

This has resulted in an erroneous Commission proposal with a date (1876) for the Coffer Home that has been contradicted by the official Fairfax County Government report of 1790 as the year the home was built – accompanied by the Commission’s mistaken decision that the Coffers were “people who either did not live at the location or whose work was elsewhere.”

Let me thank the Burke Conservancy for preserving local history in their community; it had earlier installed its own marker honoring Joshua Coffer and his family who lived in the Coffer Home. Joshua Coffer died in 1862 in Richmond within a month after being arrested by the Confederates – after he provided in October 1861 a decent burial for his uncle Francis Coffer apparently in support of the emancipation of five slave on March 30, 1861. Joshua Coffer died as a Union Loyalist whose personal history includes life in the Coffer Home originally built in 1790. Instead, the Commission ignored Joshua Coffer’s family and decided to recognize a man (not a Coffer) who supervised segregation in the public school system of Fairfax County; perhaps the Commission should also have noted that Fairfax County fought integration until the 1960s well after the 1954 landmark Supreme Court decision on “Brown v. Board of Education.”

Let me also thank Chairman Bulova for her appropriate courtesy to Braddock Supervisor John Cook to take the lead on this issue concerning a resident of his district. I believe that both Chairman Bulova and Supervisor Cook are committed to a strong, integrated Fairfax County and they would have done the right thing for accuracy in local history and support for seniors, if not for the dictatorial arrangement set up by the History Commission. Also thanks to Senator Warner whose letter exposed this dictatorial setup – so different from the respected Planning Commission with democratic procedures for hearings/review by taxpayers and Supervisors.

As for Mrs. Mary Goins Roots, she has suffered another setback with the recent death of her brother and as respect for her grieving, I sent a note to Supervisor Cook thanking him again for agreeing to our request for a meeting to discuss accuracy in local history and proper democratic procedures for History Commission hearings – while asking for a later meeting after a decent interval from the funeral of the brother of Mrs. Mary Goins Roots.

Corazon Sandoval Foley, Burke