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who accompanied William the Conqueror
from Normandy to England in the year
1066, to whom the manor of Alwington in
the county of Devonshire was assigned.
There are various branches of the family
in County Devon. The English records
show the name Covin, whence it was
changed to Cophin, and is also found as
Kophin, Coffyn and Coffyne. Before
1254 the family was flourishing at Port-
ledge-near-the-sea, in the parish of
Alwington, five miles from Biddeford,
England. For a period of two hundred
years the heir always received the name
of Richard, and so the family was per-
petuated for many generations through
that name. The name was early brought
to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and
has been borne by many leading men.
The Coffin family were not as conspicu-
ous during the Revolution as they un-
doubtedly would have been if their loca-
tion had been different. The island was
visited by the British warships on several
occasions, and the inhabitants were in-
timidated, and for their own safety were
obliged to preserve a neutrality. The
Portledge family bore these arms : Vert,
five cross-crosslets argent, between four
plates. These arms were also used by the
American families.



(I) Tristram, Coffin, a descendant of
Sir Richard Coffin, married and lived in
Brixton, County of Devonshire, England.
In his will he left legacies to Anne and
John, children of his son Nicholas Coffin ;
Richard and Joan, children of Lionel
Coffin ; Philip Coffin and his son Tris-
tram ; and appointed Nicholas Coffin, of
whom further, as his executor.

(II) Nicholas, son of Tristram Coffin,
lived in Butler's parish, Devonshire,
England, where he died in 1603. In his
will, which was proved at Totnes, in
Devonshire, November 3, 1603, mention
is made of his wife and five children,
namely : Peter, mentioned below ; Nicho-
las, Tristram, John and Anne.

(III) Peter, eldest son of Nicholas and
Joan Coffin, was born on the Coffin estate
at Brixton, Devonshire, England, about
1580, and died there in 1627-28. He mar-
ried Joan or Joanna Thember, and their
six children were born and baptized in the
parish of Brixton, Devonshire, England,
in the order following: 1. Tristram, men-
tioned below. 2. John, born about 1607;
he was a soldier and died in the service
from a mortal wound received in battle
during the four years' siege of the for-
tified town during the Civil War, and died
within the town about 1642. 3. Joan,
born about 1609, in England, probably
died there. 4. Deborah, died probably in
England. 5. Eunice, born in England ;
came to Massachusetts Bay Colony with
her parents ; married William Butler, and
died in 1648. 6. Mary, married Alexander
Adams, and had children: Mary, Susan-
nah, John and Samuel ; she died in 1677 or
thereabouts. Widow Joan, with her chil-
dren, Tristram, Eunice and Mary; her
two sons-in-law, husbands of her daugh-
ters who were married in England ; her
daughter-in-law, Dionis ; and five grand-
children, came to Salisbury in 1642. She
died in Boston in May, 1661, aged



253



ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIOGRAPHY



seventy-seven years, and in the notice of
her family it is quaintly stated that the
Rev. Mr. Wilson "embalmed her
memory."

(IV) Tristram (2), eldest son of Peter
and Joan (Thember) Coffin, was born in
the parish of Brixton, Devonshire, Eng-
land, probably in 1605. He was one of
the landed gentry of England, being heir
to his father's estates in Brixton, and he
was probably a churchman after the order
of the time of Elizabeth. He died at his
home on Nantucket Island, October 2,
1681. It is a strange fact that the Chris-
tian name of the immigrant forefather of
all the Coffins in America, Tristram, is
repeated and multiplied in every gener-
ation, while the name of the foremother,
Dionis, is repeated but once in all the
generations, and that was when it was
given to the eldest daughter of Stephen,
but when she married Jacob Norton her
name appears as Dinah. It is not known
on which of the early ships conveying
immigrants from England to New Eng-
land the Coffin family took passage, but
it is generally believed that it was the
same ship that brought Robert Clement,
the immigrant, who owned the ships
"Hector," "Griffin," "Job Clement," and
"Mary Clement," and if Robert Clement,
the immigrant, took passage on one of
his own ships, Tristram Coffin, the im-
migrant, was a passenger in the same
ship, and both men settled in Haverhill
in 1642. The early settlers of Salisbury,
which town was established October 7,
1640, commenced a settlement at Pen-
tucket the same year, and the Indian
deed for this land was witnessed by Tris-
tram Coffin in 1642, and in 1643 he re-
moved to the place which was established
as the town of Haverhill, Norfolk county,
Massachusetts Bay Colony. He settled
near Robert Clement. Tradition has it
that Tristram Coffin was the first man to



plow land in the town of Haverhill, he
constructing his own plow. He changed
his residence to the "Rocks" in the fol-
lowing year, and in 1648-49 removed to
Newbury where he kept an ordinary and
sold wine and liquors and kept the New-
bury side of Carr's Ferry. In September,

1643, his wife Dionis was prosecuted for
selling beer for three-pence per quart,
while the regular price was but two-
pence, but she proved that she had put
six bushels of malt into the hogshead
while the law only required the use of
four bushels, and she was discharged.
He returned to Salisbury and was com-
missioner of the town, and while living
there purchased or planned the purchase
of the island of Nantucket, where he with
his associates removed on account of
religious persecution. At least Thomas
Macy, who was the pioneer settler on
Nantucket Island, "fled from the officers
of the law and sold his property and home
rather than submit to tyranny, which
punished a man for being hospitable to
strangers in the rainstorm even though
the strangers be Quakers." Mr. Macy re-
turned to Salisbury and resided there in

1644, and when he left he sold his house
and lands and so the story of his fleeing
from persecution would seem to be
spoiled and history perhaps gives the true
reason for his migration, the search for a
milder climate and better opportunities
for cultivating the soil. Early in 1654
Tristram Coffin took Peter Folger, the
grandfather of Benjamin Franklin, at the
time living in Martha's Vineyard, as an
interpreter of the Indian language, and
proceeded to Nantucket to ascertain the
"temper and disposition of the Indians
and the capabilities of the island, that
he might report to the citizens of Salis-
bury what inducements were offered
emigrants." A grant of the island had
been given to Thomas Mayhew by Wil-

254



ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIOGRAPHY



liam Earl, of Sterling, and recorded in
the secretary's office of the State of New
York, July 2, 1659. Thomas Mayhew
deeded the island to Tristram Coffin,
Richard Swain, Peter Coffin, Stephen
Greenleaf, William Pike, Thomas Macy,
Thomas Barnard, Christopher Hussey,
John Swain, retaining an interest of one-
twentieth for himself, the consideration
being "thirty pounds and two beaver hats,
one for myself and one for my wife."
Later the same parties purchased from
one Wanackmamak, head sachem of
Nantucket, a large part of their lands,
consideration forty pounds. James Cof-
fin accompanied Thomas Macy and
family, Edward Starbuck and Isaac Cole-
man to the island later the same year, and
they all took up their residence there.
The Coffin family that settled at Nan-
tucket included Tristram, Sr., James,
Mary, John and Stephen, each the head
of a family. Tristram Coffin was thirty-
seven years old when he arrived in Amer-
ica, and fifty-five years old at the time
of his removal to Nantucket, and during
the first year of his residence he was the
richest proprietor. The property of his
son Peter is said soon after to have ex-
ceeded in value that of the original pro-
prietor, the family together owning
about one-fourth of the island and the
whole of Tuckernock. On June 29, 1671,
Francis Lovelace, Governor of New
York, granted a commission to Tristram
Coffin to be chief magistrate on and over
the island of Nantucket and Tuck-
anuckett (Deeds III, secretary's office,
Albany, New York). At the same time
Thomas Mayhew was appointed the chief
magistrate of Martha's Vineyard through
commissions signed by Governor Love-
lace, of New York, bearing date June 29,
1671, and the two chief magistrates, to-
gether with two assistants for each island,
constituted a general court, with appel-



lative jurisdiction over both islands. The
appointment was made by Governor
Francis Lovelace, of New York, and his
second commission, September 16, 1677,
was signed by Edward Andros, governor-
general of the province of New York.
Tristram, when he died, left his widow
Dionis, seven children, sixty grandchil-
dren, and a number of great-grandchil-
dren, and in 1728 there had been born to
him one thousand five hundred and
eighty-two descendants, of whom one
thousand one hundred and twenty-eight
were living. He married Dionis (the
diminutive for Dionysia and afterwards
written Dionys), daughter of Robert
Stevens, of Brixton, England. Children,
first five born in England: Hon. Peter,
1631, died in Exeter, New Hampshire,
March 2, 1715; Tristram, 1632, died in
Newbury, February 4, 1704; Elizabeth,
married in Newbury, November 13, 165 1,
Captain Stephen Greenleaf, died Novem-
ber 29, 1678; James, mentioned below;
John, died in Haverhill, October 30, 1642;
Deborah, November 15, 1643, in Haver-
hill, died there December 8, 1643; Mary,
February 20, 1645, in Haverhill, married
Nathaniel Starbuck and was the mother
of the first white child born in Nantucket,
died there September 13, 1717 ; John,
mentioned below; Stephen, May 11, 1652,
in Newbury, died in Nantucket, May 18,
1734-

(V) James, third son of Tristram (2)
and Dionis (Stevens) Coffin, was born
1640, in England, and died at Nantucket,
July 28, 1720, aged eighty years. He
came to Nantucket with the first settlers,
but subsequently removed to Dover, New
Hampshire, where he resided in 1668,
being a member of the church there in
1671 and the same year, May 31, he was
there made a freeman. Soon after this
date, however, he returned to Nantucket
and resided there until his death. He



ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIOGRAPHY



filled several important public positions
at Nantucket, among them judge of the
probate court. The first records of the
probate office are under his administra-
tion. He was the father of fourteen
children, all of whom except two grew
to maturity and married. From him
have descended perhaps the most remark-
able representatives of the Coffin family,
as doubtless the most numerous and gen-
erally scattered. This branch furnished
the family that remained on the side of
Great Britain in the Revolution and
General John Coffin, as well, rendered
service against the colonies. Sir Isaac
Coffin, brother of General John Coffin,
did not take an active part in the War of
the Revolution against the colonies. He
was in the British navy at the breaking
out of the war, and at his own request
was assigned to service in the Mediter-
ranean, that he might not have to fight
against his own kindred. Although the
highest honors had been conferred on
him in the Spanish navy, and he had been
chosen a member of parliament, he cher-
ished a regard for the land of his nativity.
In 1826 he visited Boston and Nantucket,
and was honorably and hospitably re-
ceived. Harvard University conferred on
him the honorary degree of Master of
Arts. At Nantucket he founded a school,
chiefly in the interest of the Coffin family.
The land on which the school stands was
given by Gorham Coffin, who was one of
the trustees, and had been the site of the
residence of his father, Abner Coffin.
The school is still in existence, and at the
present time is a Mechanical Training
School for the inhabitants of the island.
One of the most distinguished women
that America has produced, Lucretia
Mott, was also descended from this line,
her father, Thomas Coffin, being the sev-
enteenth child of Benjamin, and not the
youngest either. James Coffin married,



December 3, 1663, Mary, daughter of
John and Abigail Severance, of Salisbury,
Massachusetts. Children : Mary, James,
Nathaniel, John, Dinah, Deborah, Ebe-
nezer, Joseph, Elizabeth, Benjamin, Ruth,
Abigail, Experience, Jonathan.

(VI) Nathaniel, son of James and
Mary (Severance) Coffin, was born 1671,
in Dover, New Hampshire, and died Au-
gust 29, 1721. He married, October 17,
1692, Damaris, born October 24, 1673,
died September 6, 1764, daughter of Wil-
liam and Dorcas (Starbuck) Gayer, of
Nantucket. William Gayer was a master
mariner. He was many times selectman,
magistrate and assessor, and his penman-
ship is a model. He came from the
nobility of England, and was one of
twenty-nine families, among the thou-
sands that came from Great Britain to
New England, entitled to bring armorial
bearings with them. In his will, probated
October 24, 1710, he gave "To his house-
keeper Patience Foot, a house and land
for life, and to Africa, a negro, once my
servant, the last chamber of my now
dwelling house and one-half of the leanto
for life." The estate of Damaris Coffin
amounted to nine hundred and twelve
pounds, including silver tankard, cup and
spoons, that were given to her children.
Children, born at Nantucket: Dorcas,
July 22, 1693 ; Christian, April 8, 1695 ;
Lydia, May 16, 1697 ; William, December
1, 1699; Charles, January 1, 1702; Ben-
jamin, April 3, 1705; Gayer, May 24,
1709; Nathaniel, mentioned below; Cath-
erine, June 15, 1715.

(VII) Nathaniel (2), youngest son of
Nathaniel (1) and Damaris (Gayer)
Coffin, was born July 6, 171 1, died June
10, 1800. He married Mary Sheffield,
daughter of James and Katherine (Chap-
man) Sheffield, of Newport, Rhode
Island, born 1716, died 1778. Children:
Catherine, born July 30, 1737, married



256



ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIOGRAPHY



Joshua, son of James Coffin, died May 16,
1812; Nathaniel, about 1739, married
Phebe, daughter of Tristram Coffin, died
December 23, 1827; Sheffield, February
24, 1741, married Elizabeth Barnard,
daughter of Matthew Barnard, died at
Hudson, 11 mo., 1798; James, Septem-
ber 13, 1743; Samuel, mentioned be-
low; Walter, October 20, 1748, married
Polly Gardner in Newport, Rhode Island,
died 1785; Matthew, May 20, 1751, mar-
ried Matilda Coffin, daughter of Joseph
and Judith Coffin, killed by a whale in
1788; Obadiah, October 31, 1757, married
Mary Rogers, of Cape Cod, died Septem-
ber 26, 1821 ; Lettice, November 18, 1766,
married Reuben, son of Alexander Ray,
died May 24, 1812; Gayer, Elihu and
George, died young.

(VIII) Samuel, fourth son of Na-
thaniel (2) and Mary (Sheffield) Coffin,
was born February 25, 1745, in Nan-
tucket, where he spent his life, was a
shoemaker, and died February 5, 1809.
He married Eunice Folger, born June 4,
1754, died May 7, 1838, daughter of
Peter and Christian (Swain) Folger.
The date of their marriage is not given,
but it was probably about 1774, as at
that time he was disowned from the
Quaker church, probably for marrying
"out of meeting." Children : Ariel, born
June 7, 1775, married Priscilla Fosdick,
daughter of Benjamin, and (second)
Judith Coffin, daughter of Benjamin, died
May 27, 1861 ; Mary, died unmarried ;
Anna, June 21, 1780, married, as his
second wife, Obed Clark, died August 10,
1854; Eunice, married, as his first wife,
Obed Clark; Rebecca, July 22, 1782, mar-
ried Barzillai, son of Benjamin Coffin,
died February 8, 1841 ; Alexander, Au-
gust 22, 1790, married Lydia, daughter of
Peter Myrick, died at Ravenna, Ohio,
December 7, 1870; Reuben F., mentioned
below; John Gayer, August II, 1795,



married Rebecca, daughter of Obed Joy,
died at sea, July 15, 1831.

(IX) Reuben F., third son of Samuel
and Eunice (Folger) Coffin, was born
March iS, 1793, in Nantucket, and fol-
lowed a sea-faring life, becoming master
of whaling vessels sailing out of New
Bedford and other ports on the Massa-
chusetts coast. He made his home in
Nantucket, and died there August 1, 1856.
He married, July 30, 1817, Susan Barnard,
born October 6, 1795, died in Nantucket,
January 24, 1874. Children: Sarah B.,
born September 18, 1820, married (first)
Captain Stephen Arthur, (second) Cap-
tain William Wood, and died in Provi-
dence, April 9, 1885; Peter F., November
14, 1823, died in San Francisco, Cali-
fornia ; John G., mentioned below.

(X) John G., second son of Reuben F.
and Susan (Barnard) Coffin, was born
November 10, 183 1, in Nantucket, where
he was educated, and where he remained
until sixteen years old. He then went to
Manchester, New Hampshire, where he
learned the trade of machinist, and con-
tinued there until 1849, when he removed
to Taunton, Massachusetts, where he was
employed in the Mason Machine Works
until 1854, where he became a locomotive
engineer on the New Bedford & Taunton
railroad in the Old Colony system. Sub-
sequently he was employed on the Bos-
ton, Fitchburg & Clinton railroad, and
later on the Boston & Providence rail-
road, all now a part of the New York,
New Haven & Hartford railroad system.
For more than half a century he con-
tinued in the active service of this great
railroad system, and in 1906 was retired
with a pension for faithful service. He is
a man of strong physique and his temper-
ate life has preserved all his faculties.
Mr. Coffin is one of the oldest Masons in
Taunton, having joined the order in 1853.
He is now tenderly cared for by a niece



MASS— Vol 111—17



257



ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIOGRAPHY



and granddaughter, to whom he is much
devoted. He married, December 21, 1854,
Mehitable S. Hook, born in Chichester,
New Hampshire, a daughter of Lovett
and Sally (Prescott) Hook. She died at
her home in Taunton, December 19, 1915,
after sixty-one years of happy married
life, and was buried in the Mayflower Hill
Cemetery at Taunton.

(XI) Fannie B., only child of John G.
and Mehitable (Hook) Coffin, was mar-
ried, February 20, 1879, to William C.
Shaw, of New Bedford, and died Decem-
ber 27, 1915, at her home in Taunton, a
week after the death of her mother, and
is buried in the same cemetery (see Shaw
VIII).

(V) John, fifth son of Tristram (2)
and Dionis (Stevens) Coffin, was born
October 30, 1647, m Haverhill, Massa-
chusetts, resided in Nantucket, and died
at Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, Sep-
tember 5, 171 1. He married Deborah,
daughter of Joseph and Sarah (Starbuck)
Austin, who died February 4, 1718, in
Nantucket. Children : Lydia, born June
1, 1669; Peter, August 5, 1671 ; John
February 10, 1674; Love, April 23, 1676
Enoch, 1678; Samuel, mentioned below
Hannah, married Benjamin Gardner
Tristram, died January 29, 1763; De-
borah, married Thomas Macy ; Elizabeth.

(VI) Samuel, fourth son of John and
Deborah (Austin) Coffin, was born De-
cember 12, 1680, and died February 22,
1764, in Nantucket. He married, 1705,
Miriam, daughter of Richard, Jr., and
Mary (Austin) Gardner.

(VII) David, son of Samuel and
Miriam (Gardner) Coffin, was born Au-
gust 25, 1718, and died May 5, 1804. He
married, by Friend's service, 12 mo.,
1741, Ruth Coleman, daughter of Elihu
and Jemima Coleman.

(VIII) Elihu, son of David and Ruth
(Coleman) Coffin, was born December 8,
1748, and died July 2, 1818. He married



Eunice Folger, daughter of Benjamin and
Judith Folger.

(IX) Eunice, daughter of Elihu and
Eunice (Folger) Coffin, born January 5,
1791, became the wife of Tristram Cole-
man (see Coleman VI).

(The Maxfield Line).

(I) John Maxfield was in Salisbury,
Massachusetts, as early as 1652, in which
year he was taxed there. Two years
later he purchased a right in commonage
and in 1667 subscribed to the oath of
fidelity. He was in Salisbury as late as
1675, appeared in Amesbury in 1669, and
may have been in Gloucester in 1679.

(II) John (2) Maxfield, undoubtedly son
of John (1), resided in Salisbury, where
both he and his wife Elizabeth signed the
Bradbury petition in 1692. He died sud-
denly December 10, 1703. Children:
John, born October 23, 1680; Timothy,
mentioned below ; Mary, January 10,
1685; Margery, November 5, 1686; Na-
thaniel, March 1, 1689; Joseph, March 4,
1692 ; Elizabeth, January 18, 1695 ; Wil-
liam, September 4, 1699.

(III) Timothy, second son of John
(2) and Elizabeth Maxfield, was born in
October, 1682, in Salisbury, and settled
in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, very soon
after attaining his majority. He married
there, January 15, 1707, Judith Sherman.
He had a second wife Elizabeth. Chil-
dren: Edmund, died November 23, 1708;
Timothy, mentioned below ; Abiah, born
August 17, 1710; Elizabeth, August 23,
1713, married Samuel Potter, Jr.; Mary,
August 22, 1716; Dorcas, August 30,
1719; Lydia, October 27, 1721 ; John,
August 16, 1726.

(IV) Timothy (2), second son of Tim-
othy (1) and Judith (Sherman) Max-
field, was born September 12, 1708, in
Dartmouth, where he made his home.
He married there (first) December 19,
1734, Patience Drinkwater, and (second)



258



ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIOGRAPHY



January 8, 1740, Elizabeth Sherman.
Children of first marriage : Elizabeth,
born January 6, 1736, married William
Tripp ; Edmund, mentioned below ;
Lydia, August 7, 1739, married Daniel
Sherman ; of second marriage : Zadock,
October 2y, 1740; Patrick, September 28,
1741 ; Timothy, June 8, 1745 ; Patience,
July 12, 1752, married Jonathan Sher-
man ; Thomas, January 14, 1754.

(V) Edmund, son of Timothy (2) and
Patience (Drinkwater) Maxfield, was
born January 1, 1737, and died November
27, 1821, aged eighty-five years. He mar-
ried, September 5, 1766, Rachel Russell,
daughter of Abraham and Dianah Rus-
sell. Children : Zadock, born March 23,
1767; David, mentioned below ; Jonathan,
February 19, 1773; Seth, December 2,
1775; Abraham R., July 7, 1778; Abigail,
March 26, 1782.

(VI) David, second son of Edmund
and Rachel (Russell) Maxfield, was born
June 15, 1769, and died December 29,
1828, at New Bedford, aged fifty-nine
years. He married, June 3, 1793, Mary
Soule, born in Westport, Massachusetts,
died April 18, 1815. Children: Ruth,
born March 29, 1795, married Abner
Cornell; Patience. December 11, 1796;
Silvia, April 15, 1798; Abigail, December
26, 1799; Joseph, August 15, 1803;
Almira. October 8, 1805; William. Feb-
ruary 22, 1807; Allen Russell, February
20, 1810; Mary, mentioned below; Rachel
and Susan (twins), October 10. 1S14.

(VII) Mary, sixth daughter of David
and Mary (Soule) Maxfield, was born
April 10, 1812, in New Bedford, and mar-
ried Frederick P. Shaw, of New Bedford
(see Shaw VII).



NICHOLS, Charles,

Manufacturer,

Richard Nichols, the immigrant ances-
tor, was born in England, settled first at



Ipswich, Massachusetts, was admitted a
freeman in 1638, and was one of Major
Denison's subscribers in 1648. His name
appears in the General Court records as
early as 1640. He bought of Edward
Bragg an acre and a half of land, March
21, 1658, on the south side of the river,
on the highway leading to Chebacco. His
farm, in the south part of Reading,
whither he moved, was afterward known
as Lambert Place. His wife Annis was
admitted to the church at Reading from
the Ipswich church in 1666. He died at
Reading, November 22, 1674, and his
wife Annis (Agnes) in 1692. His will
was dated November 19, and proved De-
cember 11, 1674. He bequeathed to wife
Annis (Agnes or Ann) ; sons John, Thom-
as and James, and daughters Mary and
Hannah. Children : John, his father's
executor, born about 165 1, married
Abigail Kendall, daughter of Thomas
Kendall, both died in 1721 ; Thomas, born
about 1655 ; James, July 25, 1658, at
Ipswich, married, 1682, Mary Poole ;
Mary ; Joanna or Hannah, November 26,
1660, at Ipswich; Richard, mentioned
below.

(II) Richard (2) Nichols, son of
Richard (1) and Annis Nichols, was born
about 1675, and died April 5, 1732, in the
west parish of Reading. He married,
November 26, 1706, Abigail Damon, born
February 23, 1689, in Reading, daughter
of Samuel and Mary Damon. They had
children: Abigail, born 1708; John,
mentioned below; Mary, March 30, 1713;
Richard, April 10, 1715 ; Joshua, August
7, 1718; Hephzibah, February 28, 1721 ;
Mehitable, March 23, 1723; Jacob, Au-
gust 21, 1726.

(III) John Nichols, eldest child of
Richard (2) and Abigail (Damon)
Nichols, was born March 22, 171 1, in
Reading, and lived in that town, where
he died November 21, 1774. He married,
May 24, 1733, in Reading, Johanna



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