Coates Kinney, who lived much of his life in the Little Miami Valley (in the Cincinnati, Springboro, Ridgeville, Waynesville, Mt. Holly, Spring Valley and Xenia area), was a famous and very popular poet and personage during the second half of the 19th century. This is how C. B. Galbreath described the poet; “A few months ago a stranger in Cincinnati might have met on one of the streets of that city a man in civilian dress with the martial bearing and elastic step of an officer temporarily off duty. The only evidence of advanced age was hair and beard of immaculate white. Such was Coates Kinney to the world, ~~ a militant spirit with much of the exclusiveness and taciturnity that belong to the professional warrior. Such he was by nature and education. By birth a Puritan and by happy chance a disciple of Horace Mann, he was in walk and conversation something of an aristocrat. But like his famous preceptor, he was not to be judged by the austerity of his manners or the rigidity of his classic standards. At heart he was tenderly affectionate. The inner man, as revealed by his writing, was thoroughly democratic and humanitarian" (See, “Song Writers of Ohio: Two Songs Inspired in Ohio” by C. B. Galbreath, Ohio Archaeological & Historical Publications, Vol. XIV [Columbus, Ohio: Published for The Society by Fred. J. Heer, 1905], pp. 428-433).
Coates Kinney was born near Keeuka Lake, N.Y. at Kinney's Corners near Penn-Yah, Yates Count, N.Y. on November 24, 1826. He was the son of Giles and Myra (Cornell) Kinney and the grandson of Stephen and Rebecca Coates Kinney. In 1840 when he was thirteen years old, his family moved to Ohio and settled close to Springboro, Warren Co., between Ridgeville and Springboro. He went to school in Ridgeville. He did not want to learn the cooper's trade and became enraptured with learning. As a youth he was employed by Josiah Wright in Springboro to work in his woolen-factory. He later worked in the sawmill at Mt. Holly. He attended the Springboro Academy, which was a boarding school. At some point his father, Giles (also known as Gibbs) moved into Waynesville [He bought the Cummins lot.] (See, “Pioneer Reminiscences As Gathered from Savery Adams” bound in a scrapbook of Ella Adams Engle).
As a young man Coates taught school at Mt. Holly, Mullen's Roost and Ridgeville. One of his young students was William Henry Venable, another literary light of Ohio, who became a good friend. He also taught school in Logan County, Ohio. While continuing his teaching career, he read Law with the firm of Corwin (Thomas Corwin) and McBurney at Lebanon, Ohio. He also studied Law in the office of Judge Lawrence at Bellefontaine and for a time edited the West Liberty Banner. After many years of teaching, writing and study he was eventually admitted to the bar (1856) and practiced Law in Cincinnati. He also studied languages at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio and knew Horace Mann. However, he did not graduate from Antioch College after only one year of study.
During the Civil War he was commissioned a Major and became Paymaster of the U.S. Army on the recommendation of Salmon P. Chase. He left this service in 1865 with a brevet rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1870 he announced that he had formed a law partnership with the Hon. M. D. Gatch of Xenia (Miami-Gazette, January 19th, 1870). He was a professor of language at Judson College in Illinois. He was an Ohio Senator from 1882-1883. He wrote for Cincinnati Times and the Ohio State Journal. He was also a newspaper editor and owner. He owned and edited the Xenia Torchlight (later renamed The Xenia Gazette) and the Globe Republic in Springfield. He was also the associate editor of the Genius of the West, a literary magazine founded by Howard Durham.
In 1849, Coates Kinney became famous overnight. His extremely popular poem, “Rain On the Roof”, was published that year. During his struggling years and while he was practicing Law in Cincinnati, his family lived in Waynesville. He had married his first wife, Hannah Ann Kelly of Waynesville, in 1851. Sadly, she died in 1860. Her death notice is in the Miami-Visitor, May 2nd, 1860 and reads: “Died.~In this place on Friday, April 27th, Hannah Ann Kinney, wife of Coates Kinney, Esq.” Their three children, Fanny, Abbot (Death Notice in Miami-Visitor, November 24th, 1858, two years, eight months and two days) and Hannah (Death Notice in Miami-Visitor, January 17th, 1861, eight months and twenty days), had died in childhood. An unnamed child of Coates Kinney was buried in the Friends Graveyard on 5th mo. 10, 1853, 8th Row, #19. In 1862, he remarried. He lived with his new wife Mary Catherine Allen in Xenia, Ohio. They had three daughters: Myra, Lestra and Clara.
Colonel Kinney was invited to compose and deliver an ode in honor of the Ohio Centennial Celebration at Columbus on September 4, 1888.
Coates Kinney died at the Presbyterian Hospital in Cincinnati on January 25, 1904. He is buried in Miami Cemetery in Corwin, directly east of Waynesville, Ohio. With him are his first wife Hannah and their three children. His very unpretentious gravestone is marked with the flag of a G. A. R. (Grand Army of the Republic) since he is a veteran of the Civil War. He is also the author of “Ke-u-ka and Other Stories” (1855), “Lyrics of the Ideal and the Real” (1888) and “Mists of Fire and Some Eclogues” (1899).