THE FIRST TRISTRAM COFFYN, OF NANTUCKET.
The following paper has been prepared for the KKOIRD, incompliance with the request of its Editor, by Tristram Coffin, of Toughkeepsie, N. Y.
Sir Richard Coffin, Knight, accompanied William the Conqueror from Normandy to England in the year 1066, and the manor of Alwington, in the county of Devonshire, was assigned to him. The authorities respecting the County of Devonshire make honorable mention of Sir Elias Coffin. Knight, of Clist and Ingarby, in the days of King John ; of Sir Richard Coffin, of Alwington, in the time of Henry II ; of Sir Jeffrey Coffin and Combe Coffin, under Henry III., and of other Knights, descendants of these, during successive reigns, until the time of Henry VIII, when we find Sir William Coffin, Sheriff of Devonshire, highly preferred at Court,
and one of eighteen assistants chosen by the King to accompany him to a tournament in France, in 1519. He was also High Steward of the manor and liberties of Standon in Hertford.
By his will he bequeathed his horses and hawks to the King, and devised the manor of East Higgington, Devonshire, to his nephew Richard Coffin, Esq., of Portledge. His monument in Standon Church, is mentioned in VVeever’s ” Funeral Monuments,” at page 534. wife and five children, viz : Peter, Nicholas, Tristram, John and Anne. Peter married Joanna Thimber, and died in 1627 or 1628, leaving four daughters and two sons. One^of these sons was the famous Tristram Coffyn the ancestor of the numerous families ofthat name now in this country. Nearly all his descendants are enabled by means of the accurate genealogical records in existence, to trace their lineage back to him, although nearly two centuries have elapsed since his death. He was born at Brixton, near Plymouth, in the county of Devonshire, England, in the year 1605 1 John Bowne was a thrifty farmer at Flushing ,I>ong bland. He bought slaves when he needed them on his farm, raised barley, tobacco, corn, rials and wheat, and made cider, which he shipped to New York and some hoiled cider to Philadelphia for William Penn and others. lie left an account-book replete with interesting items concerning his daily business. In it are inventories of household effects, specifications for building his houses, and barns, and alterations of rooms, contracts for labor, exjiendiuires on account of travelling Friends or Quakers such as neck-cloths, muslin pockci-hnndkcrdnefs, mending boots and rlotlies, shoeing horses, mending saddles, buying bridles and horses, and a barrel of cider put on bourd of a vessel for the use of voyaging friends. Here is an interesting item : ” ifif> the 7th month, then disbursl Jamaica on the account of entertainment for William Penn and other Friends. ii, it. x.” In this account book he has also some poetry addressed to one he wished to make his second wife, and accounts of expenses for building arid keeping up meeting houses at Flushing and New York. “The rase of John Bowne” «ay» Hesse in his HiifTrrlniif of the Quiikrr* “was verry hard. The Dutch Governor took’ him from his aged father, and from hi: wife and children, confined him a long time in a close dungeon where he was almost famished to death, and shipped him to Holland without being suffered to sec his family before his departure. Sometime after his return home the Governor meeting him in the street, seemed ashamed of what he had done, and told him he was glad to see him safe home again, and that he hoped he should never do so any more to any of his friends. A token of repentance of an ingenuous disposition, such as few, if any of the rigid persecutors in New England did ever show.” The Jiinm.il of Bowne shows some of Hesse’s statements to be overcharged.
[Нккку ONDEKUONK Jr.] (another account says 1609) ; married Dionis Stevens, and in( another account says 1609) ; married Dionis Stevens, and in 1642, came to New England, bringing with him his wife, mother, two sisters and five children. The names of these children were Peter, Tristram, Elizabeth, James and John. He
first settled at Salisbury, Mass. ; thence moved the same year to Haverhill, where his name appears on the Indian Deed of that town Nov. 15, 1642, and where his children Mary (Starbuck) and John (the first John having died at the same place in 1642) were born. In 1648, he removed to Newbury, where his youngest son,
Stephen, was born. After residing there several years, (during which time he was licensed to keep an inn, and a ferry over the Merrimac river,) he returned to Salisbury, where he became a county magistrate, and in 1660, or 1661, he abandoned New England, and with his wife, four children and his aged mother, settled upon the Island of Nantucket, Prior to his last removal, (and early in the year 1659) he made a voyage of inquiry and observation to the group of islands off the Massachusetts coast, with a view to this change of residence.
He first visited Martin’s Vineyard, and taking from there Peter Folger, (the grandfather of Benjamin Franklin) as an interpreter of the Indian language, proceeded to Nantucket. It has been supposed that religious persecution was the cause of these frequent changes and of his final departure from the mainland, but I have been unable to trace the statement to any reliable source.
Could he have foreseen what a multitude of descendents are now looking up to him with pride, as their common ancestor, and the long, bright century of prosperity and renown that awaited the little island of his adoption, he would have felt comforted and encouraged during the severe struggles with which his career was evidently marked. of the witnesses to its execution. Prior to this purchase from the natives, the English title to the greater portion of the Island had been obtained from Thomas Mayhew, who held the same under a conveyance from Lord Stirling. The deed from Mayhew is dated July 2, 1659, and runs to the grantees in the following order, viz: Tristram Coffin, Thomas Macy, Christopher Hussey, Richard Swaine, Thomas Barnard, Peter Coffin, Stephen Greenleaf, John Swaine and William Pile. Tristram Coffin and his sons at one time owned about one fourth of Nantucket, and the whole of the little island adjacent to it on the west, called Tuckernuck, containing looo acres, which he purchased of the old Sachem Potconet, at the time of his visit in 1659. , He appears to have been a leading spirit among the first settlers, and was frequently selected by the inhabitants to transact important public business. His letters to the Colonial Government of New York, (Nantucket was at that time a dependency of New York) are preserved in the Archives of the Department of State at Albany.
The following Oath of Office and Administrator’s Bond, were copied by the writer from the original instruments, which are oiji file in the Record Office at Nantucket, and he believes are now published for the first time : “Where as I Tristram Coffin Senior have Received a Commission dated the 1 6 of September 1677 Investinge me with power to be Chefe Magestrate one the He. of~ Nantucket and dependences for this ye four years ensuinge under further order I Tristram Coffin a bond said doe engage my selfe under the penalty of perjury to doe Justice in all causes that come before me according to Law and endeavor to my best understanding and heare unto I have Subscribed Chief Magistrat. ”
Mr Tristram Coffin Senior acknow- 10 ledged this a bond Subscription to be his Act edged this a bond Subscription to be his Act and deed Before me PETER COFFIN Assistant ”
November ye $th, 1677 ”
We James Coffin John Coffin Steve Coffin doe bind ourselves jointly and severaly in the some of an hundred
pounds sterlinge to perform the trust and administer on our fathers estatte and to bare the Court harmless according to law
STEPHIN COFFIN ”
At a Court of Sessions held the zgth of November 1681 there granted administration unto me James Coffin, John Coffin and Stephen Coffin on the estate of mr Tristram Coffin deceased the 3d of October 1 68 1 they having given security according to law.”
The body of the Oath was evidently written by Peter Coffin (son of Tristram); the signature, a fac simile of which is given, is an autograph. It will be observed that Tristram used the letter y instead of i, in writing the family name. It is said, whether truthfully, I do not know, that his ancestors spelled it in the same manner. The letter of Administration appended to the bond, fixes the date of his death (Oct. 3, 1681,) beyond question. In the year 1826, Sir Isaac Coffin, a native of Boston, who went to England in early life and became a Baronet, and an Admiral in the British Navy, visited Nantucket, and founded the ” Coffin School,” (the original fund being 2,500 pounds sterling,) which is still flourishing. The Act of Incorporation provides for the establishment of “a school by the name of Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin’s Lancasterian School, for the purpose of promoting decency, good order and morality, and for giving a good English education to youth who are descendants of the late Tristram Coffin, who emigrated from England,” etc. The Act further provides “that the Trustees shall all be the descendants of the above mentioned Tristram Coffin in the male or female line.”
THE COFFIN MEDAL.
The Medal of which the above is an family, at Nantucket, he took up his abode accurate outline representation, was struck on the eastern slope of what are now called by order of Sir Isaac, about the time of Trot’s Hills, near Cupaum pond, towards his visit to the Island, in memory of his the western end of the Island, and indistinguished ancestor. course of time, a little hamlet grew up in Il abandoned. One brown farm house, of comparatively modern build,abandoned. One brown farm house, of comparatively modern build, with two or three time-worn outbuildings, are all that remain. A few indentations, here and there, in the green sward, with pieces of brick and mortar mingled with the soil, show where the dwellings of some of the first settlers were located. One of these ancient cellars is pointed out as the site of the habitation where the subject of this sketch lived and died. Haifa mile to the eastward, on elevated ground, hard by two fresh
water ponds, and overlooking the ocean, is the oldest grave yard upon the Island ; and near at hand, a quantity of mortar, and a cluster of low bushes, tell where the first Friends’ meeting house once stood. Two furrows turned together around several acres of pasture land, and one solitary head stone, still bearing upon its shattered face the information that John Gardner died in 1706, alone mark the spot as a burial place of the dead. Somewhere within this space — this ” God’s Acre” — doubtless rest the ashes of the old pioneer, Tristram Coffyn.
From: The American Historical Record By Benson John Lossing
Published by Chase & Town, 1872