Coffin Family - Scraps of Family History

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word of Hebrew origin signifying a "basket"

The Coffin family are of great interest to us as they are so intimately associated with our genealogy an our Mothers side, eighteen of that name appearing in the various descent. Tristnam Coffin the first in America spelled his "Coffyn" and is supposed to have descended from Sir Richard Coffin - Knight who 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. It has been Impossible to complete all the connecting links with certainty.

Nicholas Coffin of Butlers Parish in Devonshire died in 1603 and left five children, one of whom. was named Peter. He married Joanna Thember and died 1627, leaving four daughters and two sons one of these being Tristnam Coffin who was born 1605 in Brixton England. Tristnam married in 1642 Dronis Stevens and came to New England with his wife and five children named Peter, Tristnam Elizabeth, James and John, besides his mother and two sisters He settled first in Salisbury, Mass,and thence moved to Haverhill where born his children Mary (who afterward married Nathaniel Starbuck) and John (the first John having died) then moved to Newbury when Stephen was born. After residing there several years he was licensed to keep on Ordinary or Inn and a ferry ever the Merrimac River.

In 1683 his wife Dronis was presented at Court for selling beer for 3 cents a quart. The law provided that inn keepers should always be provided with good wholesome beer of four bushels of malt to the hhd., to be sold at not above two cents a quart under a penalty of 40shilings. It was proved on the testimony of Samuel Mooers however that she had put six bushels of malt to the hhd. and was accordingly discharged because she had kept the proportion good, After this, Tristnam returned to Salisbury and became a County Magistrate.

In 1660 or 1661, he abandoned New England and with his mother, wife and four children settled on the Island of Nantucket, being one of the original nine purchasers and they subsequently purchasing of the Indians their rights. The original deed dated May 10, 1660 from the Sachems Wanacknamack and Nichamoose is still in existence. It bears the signature of Peter Folger as one of the witnesses.

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Signature of Tristram Coffin

Tristnam Coffin and his sons at one time owned about one fourth of the Island of Nantucket, and the whole of the Island of Tuckernuck.

In 1671, he was appointed the first chief magistrate of Nantocket by Governor Francis Lovelace. The commission reads as follows:


"Whereas upon Address made unto me by Mr. Tristnam Coffin and Mr. Thomas Macy on ye behalfe of themselves and yerest of ye Inhabitants of Nantucket Island concerning ye manor and method of Govermt to be used amongst themselves and having by ye advice of my Councell pitcht upon a way for them. That is to say. That they be governed by a Person as Chiefe Magistrate and two assistants ye former to be nominated by myself. Te other to be chosen and confirmed by the Inhabitants as in ye Instructions sent unto them is more particularly sett forth And having conceived a good opinion of ye fittness and capacity of Mr. Tristnam Coffin to be ye present Chief Magistrait to manage Affayers with ye Ayd and Nantucket and Trichernuckett I have thought fitt to nominate constitute and appoint and bt these Presents doe hereby Nominate Constitute and Appoint Wm. Tristnam Coffin to be Chiefe Magistrate of ye said Islands of Nantucket and Tuchernuckett to use his best skill and Endeavor to preserve his native peace and to keep ye inhbitants in good order And all persons are hereby required to give ye said Mr. Tristnam Coffin such respect and obedience as belongs to a person invested by commission from Authority of his Royall Highness in ye place and Emplyt of a derely to observe the Orders and Instructions wch are already given forth for ye well governing of ye peace or such others as from Time to Time shall hereafter bee given by mee.And for whatever ye said Mr. Tristnam Coffin shall lawfully Act and Doe in Prosecution of ye Premises. This is my Commission wch is to bee of fforce until ye 13th. Day of October which shall be in ye yeare of out Lord 1672 when a new Magistrate is to enter into the employmt shall be his sufficent warrant and discharge. Given under my Hand and Seale of fforte James in New York this 29th. Day of June in ye 22nd. Yeare of his Makers Reigne Annog One 1671

Fran: Lovelace"

He was also appointed for the years 1677-1681

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Marker is the site of Tristram's Homestead on Nantucket

Nantucket was first settled under New York jurisdiction and later ceded to Massachusetts

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