History of the Restoration Movement

Benjamin Franklin Coulter


Table Of Contents

Rev. Benjamin F. Coulter, LA Biographies
Los Angeles, California, Brown
Coulter Dry Goods Company
The Church In Los Angeles, California
Directions To Grave of B.F. Coulter
Photos Of The Grave Of B.F. Coulter

Rev. Benjamin F. Coulter

         In Southern California’s history there are few personal records more interesting and colorful than that of the late Rev. Benjamin F. Coulter, merchant and clergyman, whose death occurred on October 6, 1911. Endowed with extraordinary business talents, founder and developer of the oldest dry goods store in Los Angeles, he likewise possessed exalted spiritual qualities and was an outstanding figure in religious circles.

Benjamin F. Coulter was born August 9, 1932, in Trenton, Todd County, Kentucky. While yet a youth he went to Elkton, Kentucky, where he remained until he was nineteen. From Elkton he moved to Louisville, Kentucky, staying there one year. Clarksville, Tennessee, became his home until 1872, when he arrived in Los Angeles, California.

Here he identified himself with business by purchasing a share in the hardware firm of Coulter & Harper, succeeding that of Harper & Long. While he made rapid progress, his ambition was to conduct his own business, with the result that on October 22, 1878, he entered the dry goods field under the name of B. F. Coulter.

A small room, eighteen by twenty feet, in the Downey block at the corner of Temple and Spring streets (present site of the post office and Federal building) constituted Mr. Coulter’s first store. At that time it was the only structure available for store purposes in the community. Merchandise for this diminutive room was purchased in New York, the first order amounting to one thousand dollars.

Business grew so rapidly that a year later it became necessary to find more adequate quarters, and the Baker block at 332-34 North Main street, was selected because it offered a larger room—twenty by one hundred and ten feet. Here the store remained until 1885. During this period Mr. Coulter established the Coulter Woolen Mills, located at 439 Figueroa street, where fine blankets were woven and finished, marketed at retail over the counter, and also distributed wholesale in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and elsewhere.

In 1885 and thereabouts the business district of Los Angeles centered about the Old Plaza, extending only a little farther south than First street, so that the third movement of the store was true pioneering. The selection of a room sixty by one hundred and forty feet, in the Hollenbeck Hotel block at Second and Spring, seemed epoch-making; however the move proved amply justified.

In 1892 Mr. Coulter incorporated the store into the Coulter Dry Goods Company; its directors were from the immediate family, under whose management and sole control the business has ever since remained.

The pressing need for more ample space again manifested itself, and in 1898 the company selected a new site on Broadway between Third and Fourth streets—this being the ground floor of the Homer Laughlin building, fronting one hundred and twenty feet on Broadway.

In 1906 the company moved to its own building and into the Bicknell building adjoining, on Broadway between Second and Third streets; now occupying three floors, with one hundred and twenty feet on Broadway. At that time the establishment represented the last word in convenience and beauty of appointments; and here it remained until October, 1917, when the large and beautiful store on the southwest corner of Seventh and Olive streets was opened; where it remains today, catering to a discriminating clientele of the pioneer families of Los Angeles and their descendants.

The store is a monument to the genius and labor of the revered founder, and his fine policies are fostered and observed with diligence by those of the family who followed him.

Rev. Benjamin F. Coulter was an ordained Christian minister, and preached in various Los Angeles churches during the early nineties. He founded six missions in the city and supported them during his lifetime; gave large sums to charitable and philanthropic organizations; founded the Broadway Church of Christ in 1895, and in 1908 presented it with one hundred and fifty thousand dollars’ worth of real estate in the city. So it is apparent that in two spheres the honored subject of this brief biography served well the community he loved so devotedly. Memories of those who contributed so generously to the marvelous development of Los Angeles are an inspiration to each succeeding generation, and the written record renders their achievements imperishable.

Rev. Coulter was twice married the first union occurring May 6, 1856, his bride being Isabelle Moore, a native of Kentucky, who passed away December 25, 1875. She was the mother of five children, namely: Frank M., who died October 26, 1915, leaving three children—Mary Isabelle (Mrs. John Posey, Portland, Oregon); Joel Wright, of Los Angeles and Lelia Chase (Mrs. Roland Seeley), also of Los Angeles. Another son of Mr. Coulter’s, Charles M., died May 4, 1881, leaving a daughter, Charline Coulter; and the three other children were Benjamin F., Jr., died September 8, 1897; Robert Theodore, who died December 4, 1896, and Mary.

Frank and Benjamin F. Coulter, Jr., assisted their father in the Coulter Dry Goods Company’s store; the former being vice president of the company.

Rev. Coulter’s second marriage occurred in March, 1880, his bride being Miss Alice Durrett, who also was born in Kentucky. Their daughter, Frances C., is the wife of Dr. Robert Phillips McReynolds, well-known physician and surgeon of Los Angeles and president of the Coulter Dry Goods Company. Dr. and Mrs. McReynolds are the parents of three children—Alice Cornelia, Mrs. Edwin L. Harbach; Robert Coulter, and James Oliver.

-Golden Nuggets, Los Angeles County Biographies, transcribed by Marilyn Pankey, c. 2012;


In October, 1874, a meeting of fourteen persons was held in the Court House of Los Angeles, California, to start a church on the primitive model. G. W. Linton conducted the worship. From that time a Bible school and the preaching of the gospel has been continued, without a single break, to the present time, January 22, 1903. In three or four weeks about one third of these dropped away and never returned.

The organization of a church was effected in February, 1875, G. R. Hand officiating. In the. next month G. W. Linton and T. H. Morgan left the city, and the care of the church was left to W. J. A. Smith, who conducted the services until May, 1877, when John C. Hay arrived at Los Angeles and became the regular preacher, continuing until the spring of 1881.

About this time B. F. Coulter (who had removed to Los Angeles soon after the coming of Bro. John C. Hay) was called to the church to succeed the latter in the ministry. At this time it is believed that the membership was about thirty. Bro. Coulter, by his earnest labors, and those of his family and his liberality, had the happiness of seeing the church meeting in its own chapel, on Temple street, the lot being a gift from himself, A. D. 1882. At this time the membership was sixty-five, and increased rapidly thereafter. In 1885 it numbered 350 and was able to engage Bro. F. M. Kirkham as its minister, Bro. Coulter desiring to engage in local missionary work.

During the year 1887, a mission was started in the south part of the city, which afterward became the Central church. Bro. D. A. Wagner has had charge of its work during the larger portion of its history. Its membership is something over 100.

In 1888, Bro. Coulter began a mission in East Los Angeles and built a chapel for it, giving the congregation an opportunity to pay for it on its own terms. It grew rapidly, having over 350 members when Bro. Coulter withdrew, but has since encountered adverse winds and during the last two or three years has lost many members. It numbers now not more than 130 or 140.

In 1887-8, James B. Jones was called to preach for the original congregation (Temple Street church), and left it about July 1, 1890, with a membership of 465, present and active, but 574 on record. In September, 1890, A. C. Smither became its preacher, and remains in the position today. A new lot had been purchased by this church in the Southwest part of the city, in 1888, which in 1894 was sold, as was also the Temple Street lot and house, and a new church building erected out of the proceeds of sales and a collection taken up on day of dedication. This house is on the corner of Hope and Eleventh streets. Since that time a new auditorium has been added through the liberal gifts of three of its wealthy members, aided by a general contribution, and it is a very elegant and useful structure. Bro. Smither deserves much credit for his efforts to accomplish this. This church now numbers a little over 600. It has purchased a lot and expects soon to start a mission which is expected to become the Seventh church in this city. When removing from Temple street it took the title of the First church.

The East Eighth Street church, started in 1896, with the approval and assistance of all the churches of the city, but later helped especially by the First church and the Evangelistic Board, of South California, now numbers 280. Its Sunday school attendance is nearly 200. Its services have been conducted by William Kellaway, W. J. A. Smith, David Walk, and H. Elliott Ward, its present minister. His work has been eminently successful.

The Broadway church, with its wonderful growth, and its Vernon mission work is treated by another pen. All these churches are out of debt, and the future of the cause in Los Angeles is quite hopeful.

Broadway Church

In 1895 nearly all Protestant congregations in the central section of the city, (including the Temple Street, now First church) were selling their property in the business section and moving to the Southwest, the more popular residence section, leaving the crowded city center, including many of the poorer people, almost without church privileges. Seeing the need, B. F. Coulter erected upon his own lot, opposite the courthouse, one of the most convenient and useful church buildings in the city. (Seating capacity, 1,200.) This building was opened December 22, 1895, under the auspices of the East Los Angeles congregation, and on January 5, 1896, two weeks later, 120 disciples having expressed a desire to join in the work, a separate congregation, the Broadway Church of Christ was formed, as yet without organization, the older brethren of the congregation acting as an advisory committee until there were developed and "proved" according to the Scriptures, a competent set of men to become elders and deacons (July 1888). Present roster of officers include:

Elders: B. F. Coulter, minister; L. Swindle, assistant; T. D. Garvin, minister Vernon mission. J. M. Wallam and J. T. Patterson (formerly president Hamilton College, Lexington, Ky).

Deacons: Andrew Bald, C. A. Barnes, L. E. Berkey, clerk, B. F. Boone, treasurer, S. G. Dunkerley, Fleming Franklin, Martin Hastings, J. W. Hood, A. J. Jackson, L. M. Morgan, T. F. Randolph and C. A. Wright.

Bro. Coulter has labored all these years without compensation other than the approval of the Lord and the gratitude of his brethren. The congregation has used its contributions largely for missions. In 1896 and 1897 T. D. Garvin was employed for one year in evangelistic work for Broadway among the feebler churches in Southern California, strengthening them and virtually saving several of them, one of which, Santa Monica, became a regular mission with minister supplied by Broadway until in May, 1899, they organized a separate congregation after being presented with a comfortable house on a good central lot, free from debt. From their very first meeting the young people have regularly contributed to a mission school in Tokyo, Japan, formerly conducted by Miss Carme Hostetter, now under the direction of Miss Alice Miller, a worthy, consecrated woman.

The Broadway church is responsible for her support and has also contributed largely for the erection of a mission school building for her work.

About February 1902, a Japanese mission school was opened in this city by the Broadway church, and has resulted in the conversion of twenty-six Japanese.

In 1901, a mission Sunday school was organized at Vernon. a suburb. Bro. Coulter erected for them a comfortable chapel (seating capacity 250) which was opened February 3, 1902, as a mission of the Broadway church, with T. D. Garvin as minister.

-Churches of Christ, ed. John T. Brown, pages 318-321

Coulter Dry Goods Company

B. F. Coulter was one of the earliest merchants in Los Angeles. The Coulter Dry Goods Company business dates from 1878 and later was called Coulter's. Coulter was an ordained minister and founded the Broadway Christian Church. The business was continued by B.F. Coulter's son-in-law, R. P. McReynolds, and his son, James McReynolds.

1885 view of the exterior of Coulter's Dry Goods Company. The building is two stories with bay windows on the second story and a cupola above the corner bay window. The sign above the store reads "101, 103 & 105" and "B. F. Coulter, Proprietor".  A street car is in front of the building and a horse and buggy stands at the curb. A multi-tiered utility pole is on the corner facing the store.
- Water & Power Associates

Photo of Hollenbeck Hotel, south-west corner of Second and Spring Streets, built in 1884. In 1885 B.F. Coulter opened a 60 x 140 foot store in this building. Source: USC Library

The Homer Laughlin Building, with Coulter Dry Goods Company on the main floor, 315 South Broadway / Source: USC Library

Coulter's Miracle Mile location at 5600 Wilshire Blvd, circa 1919-39. From the USC Digital Library's TICOR/Pierce Collection. Source: USC LIbraries

Home of B.F. Coulter, 219 N. Grand Ave. Los Angeles, CA 

Advertisements From Los Angeles Herald, 1880

Los Angeles Herald, July 29,1880

Los Angeles Herald, Friday, August 20, 1880

The Church In Los Angeles, California

Directions To The Grave of B.F. Coulter

B.F. Coulter is buried in the eastern part, near central Los Angeles, California in Evergreen Cemetery. It is in the Boyle Heights area. From America's longest Interstate I-10 in downtown take Exit 19a onto the I-5 south. Go to the 4th Street Exit. Then turn left. Head about ten blocks and turn left on N. Evergreen Ave. Head about five blocks to the cemetery on the right side. The address is 204 North Evergreen Avenue, Los Angeles, California. The office phone is #323-268-6714.
Enter the cemetery and pass the offices (on left). Take the first right and follow the road around until you see an old chapel and crematory. Pull to the left of it and stop just even with the steps at the entrance of the building. At the corner of the section look for the large monument on the corner, COULTER. T.D. Garvin, another preacher is buried near the same plot, behind the Coulters. Also buried here is Carroll Kendrick and Michael Sanders.
PLOT INFO: FAMILY PLOT SECTION G includes the graves of: B. F. Coulter 1832-1911; Alice W. Coulter 1851-1937; B. F. Coulter Jr. 1865-1897; C. M. Coulter 1862-1889; M. B. Coulter 1872-1886; F. C. Coulter 1807-1880; M. B. Moore 1803-1886; R. Theodore Coulter 1870-1896; Robert Phillips McReynolds 1871-1952; Frances Coulter McReynolds 1881-1942.
NOTE: Evergreen Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Los Angeles, having been started in 1877. It is a beautiful old cemetery that is still interring people. The location is in somewhat of a rougher part of L.A. however. Some of the earliest of settlers of Los Angeles are buried there including some of the Van Nuyes family. Other notable individuals include Eddie "Rochester" Anderson (on the Jack Benny Program), and Matthew "Stymie" Beard, Jr., (of Little Rascals fame), are buried there.

Plot Info: Section G, Lot 680
GPS Location

View Larger Map

T.D. Garvin
Carroll Kendrick
Michael Sanders

Entrance To Evergreen Cemetery

Entrance To Cemetery is Left of This Gate

The Coulter Family Plot
The Garvin Plot is just to the rear and left

See The HOLLYWOOD Sign In The Hills On The Other Side Of Los Angeles From Coulter's Grave
Click on picture for close look

Robert Phillips McReynolds - 1874-1952
Frances Coulter McReynolds - 1881 - 1942

In Memory Of
R. Theodore Coulter
Died Batavia Java

Alice W. Coulter

B.F. Coulter
I have kept the faith

Photos Taken June 25, 2012
Page produced November 1, 2012
Courtesy of Scott Harp

Special Thanks: To Jerry Rushford. I was able to visit in the home of Jerry and Lori Rushford in late June, 2012. I was just returning from a mission trip to the Fiji Islands, and had about a 30 hour layover in Los Angeles. The Rushfords were wonderful hosts, and Jerry was a great resource in assisting me in the finding of the grave of B.F. Coulter. If visiting in the Los Angeles area, be sure to visit Pepperdine University in Malibu. Besides having a beautiful campus, be sure to visit the Church of Christ Historical Room, upstairs in the university library. Jerry Rushford has put much work through the years into preserving the history of the churches of Christ on the western coast of the United States of America.

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