Categories: Long Profiles in Need of Cleanup | Nantucket Founders and Descendants | Descendants of Tristram Coffin-221 | Founders Burial Ground, Nantucket, Massachusetts | Puritan Great Migration | Notables.
||Tristram Coffin Sr. migrated to New England during the Puritan Great Migration (1620-1640).|
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If any one man may be considered the patriarch of Nantucket, to whom more than to any other person, the descendants of old Nantucket families may trace a common origin, that man is Tristram Coffin.
In 1639/40, he became a churchwarden of the parish church (where his customary pew in the front of the chancel was marked on a plan made in 1638) and in 1641 a parish constable-holder of one of the offices created under the Elizabethan reforms of parochial administration. A difficulty arose between him and Thomas Maynard of Brixton, gentleman, which in midsummer of 1641 was referred to the arbitration of Robert Savery and Henry Pallexfeu, Esquires. How this was decided is unknown, but if adverse to Tristram it may have been one of the reasons why he left the parish for New England.
Tristram belongs in that class of early immigrants for whose departure from England there seems to be little reason. Like Robert Clements, with whom he is said to have come, he had estates in England for he owned property in Dorset as well as in Devon. He was of the landed gentry and before his departure not of the Puritan faith. One would expect to find him allied with the Royalist forces, yet in the very year of the crisis between Charles I and Parliament he left England for the colonies bringing with him his wife, five children and his mother (and some say two of his unmarried sisters). Apparently he was moved neither by a desire for property nor freedom in religion in emigrating. The times were troubled ones and it is possible that he could see no peace in prospect for England for some time while perhaps America offered a chance of security and freedom that attracted him. It is stated that his younger brother John was wounded at the battle of Plymouth Fort and died eight days later. If true it may have been a factor in Tristram's decision to emigrate. Tradition in both the Clement and Coffin families places the men as coming together on a ship owned by Robert Clement, but nothing exists to prove the name of the vessel.
Tristram settled at Salisbury for a few months moving shortly to Haverhill (Pentucket) where with the other inhabitants he obtained of the Indian Sachems the deed of the township.
"Know all men by these presents, that wee Passaquo and Saggahew wth the consent of Passaconaway; have sold unto ye inhabitants of Pentuckett all ye lands wee have in Pentuckett... And wee ye said Passaquo and Saggahew wth ye consent of Passaconnaway, have sold unto ye said inhabitants all ye right that wee or any of us have in ye said ground and Ileand and Rivver: And wee warrant it against all or any other Indeans whatsoever into ye said Inhabitants of Penuckett, and to their heires and assignes forever Dated ye fifteenth day of november Ann Dom 1642.
Witnes our hands and seales to this bargayne of sale ye day and year above written (in ye presents of us.) we ye said Passaquo & Saggahew have received in hand, for & in consideration of ye same three pounds & ten shillings: John Ward, Robert Clements, Tristram Coffyn, Hugh Sherratt, William White, Thomas Davis."(1)
Tristram settled in Haverhill near to the Clements and tradition states again that he was the first person to plough land in the town, having constructed his own plough. With Robert Clement he was made a freeman in Haverhill in Nov. 1645. About 1643 he moved to another part of Haverhill called the Rocks where he was licensed to keep a tavern "Coffins Ordinary" and before 1647 he moved to Newbury then in 1648 to Salisbury, in 1649 to Newbury again and finally in 1654 to Salisbury.(2)
In 1644 Tristram was allowed to keep an ordinary, sell wine and keep a ferry on the Newbury side and George Carr on the Salisbury side of Carr's Island. (3) "Dec. 26, 1647- Tristram Coffin is allowed to keep an ordinary and retayle wine, paying according to order, and also granted liberty to keep a ferry at Newbury side."(4) With Samuel Winsley of Salisbury he sued Richard Ayre of Salisbury about a hogshead of beef and was in Court again in 1649. In 1653 his wife Dionis was presented in Court for selling beer for threepence per quart. She proved by the testimony of Samuel Mooers that she put six bushels of malt into the hogshead and hence was discharged by the Court. The law which she was supposed to have violated was passed in 1645: "Every person licensed to keep an ordinary, shall always be provided with good wholesome beer of four bushels of malt to the hogshead, which he shall not sell above two pence the ale quart, on penalty of forty shillings the first offence and for the second offence shall lose his license."(5) Dionis doubtless intended to make a better beer than was afforded at other ordinaries and as three pence per quart bore the same relation to six bushels of malt as 2d per quart did to four bushels she could see no reason why her beer should not sell for 3d per quart. Proof of this fact secured her discharge and her beer gained a good reputation from this proceeding and Coffyn's ordinary became distinguished as the place where the best beer was sold.
In 1653 Tristram acted as attorney for William Furber and in 1654 he served on the jury and signed a petition in Haverhill.(6) This same year he was sued by Theophilus Satchwell for not "insuring him three acres of accomodation according to promise" and won the case.(7) On 18 Jan. 1655 Tristram Coffin of Newbury sold some meadow in Salisbury to William Osgood.(8) While a resident of Salisbury, before his departure for Nantucket he was a commissioner or Justice of the Peace and signed a Salisbury petition in 1658.(9)
"The 20th of November 1647. These prsents wittness yt Tristram Coffyn of Nubery have bargained & sould unto Richard Littlehale one dwelling house & house Lott situate in Haverhill wch lately was belonging unto Willi Duglas now of Boston... fower acres... in the ye playne... & also fower acres of Medow... & also all Comonage for Cattell & hoggs & all other beasts... & also all privilidg of tymber & wood wth all accomodacons to ye say'd house & lott apytaining..."(10)
"I Tristram Coffyn of Salisbury... for a certaine Sum... have... sold unto Samuel Gile of Haverhill one dwelling house & houselot... in Haverhill... 1648."(11)
"I Tristram Coffyn Senr of the Towne of Nubery in ye County of Essex Planter... for fiveteen pounds..by me received of Richard Ormsby of... Salisbury... have wth ye full & free consent of Dionis my wyfe... sell unto ye said Richard Ormsby a certaine dwelling house wth a frame standing att ye end of it together with one halfe of yt houselott on wch ye said house standeth...being... in... Haverhill...ye twenty forth day of ye ninth Mo: one thousand six hundred forty nine."(12)
"Tristram Coffyn aged about forty six years testifyeth yt aboute five, six or seven years agoe att Nuberie I herd Ms Cutting make a bargaine wth Josiah Cobham & Richard Currier for two pcells of meadow lying in Salisbury Township & ye aforesaid Ms Cutting did... affirme that she had a letter of Attorney made to hir by hir husband mr John Cutting before he went to sea that gave her full power to act & doe in settling any pt of his estate here in New England duering his absence The price & all ye pay I doe not now remember only one Cowe was to be part of ye pay... Sworn in Court att Salisbury ye 12d 2d mo: 1655."(13)
"Tristram Coffin of Newbury... for... eighteen pounds... have sould unto Samuel Poore of Newbury... all his house & houselott... in Newbury... next Mr. Cuttings land... with all & singular the glass, boards, plancks, the dung or soyle, with fences priviledges and appurtenances thereunto belonging... Aprill ye fifteenth one thousand Six hundred fifty & two."(14)
"I Tristram Coffin of Salisbury... & Dionis my wife... for... twenty eight pounds...sell... unto Lionel Worth of Newbury... forty acres of upland... in Newbury... being part of the farme formerly granted by the towne of Newbury unto Mr. Edward Rawson... which I the said Tristram Coffin lately purchased of the above named Mr. Rawson" 12 Apr. 1659.(15)
About 1658 Tristram became interested in the island of Nantucket forming a company for its purchase and moving there in 1659. It is disputed why Tristram went to Nantucket. The probability is that it came through his acquaintanceship with Thomas Macy a cousin of Thomas Mayhew who owned the island by purchase from the agents of Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Lord Sterling. Thomas Macy was a deputy to the General Court from Salisbury in 1654. Thomas Mayhew was a resident of Watertown, before moving to Martha's Vineyard, and was a deputy of the General Court from that place. Mayhew who was governor of Martha's Vineyard probably wanted Nantucket settled and offered the land very cheaply to Coffin, Macy and their associates. The first records of the proceedings in regard to Nantucket were kept at Salisbury but after the island came under the jurisdiction of New York the records were kept at Albany where they are still to be found.
Early in 1659, Tristram went to Martha's Vineyard where he took Peter Folger the Grandfather of Benjamin Franklin as an interpreter of the Indian language and went to Nantucket to ascertain the temper of the Indians and the capabilities of the island so that he could report to the citizens of Salisbury. He was apparently favorably impressed by what he saw and heard, for when he returned to Salisbury, a company was formed and the purchase of the island was determined. At Martha's Vineyard, he entered into preliminary negotiations with Thomas Mayhew for the purchase of the island before visiting it. After his visit to the island, he made additional arrangements for its purchase and returned to Salisbury where his report upon the condition of the island, the character of the Indians and the advantages of a change of residence, was laid before his friends and associates. A company was organized for the immediate purchase of the whole island allowing Thomas Mayhew to retain a one-tenth portion with some other reservations. Several meetings of the purchasers were held at Salisbury and general rules for the government of the island were adopted.
"July 2d, 1659- These people after mentioned did buy all right and enterest of the Island of Nantucket that did belong to Sr Ferdinando George and the Lord Sterling, Mr. Richard Vines, Steward, Gentleman to Sir Ferdinando George, and Mr. James Ferrett, Steward to Lord Sterling, which was by them sold unto Mr. Thomas Mayhew, of Marthers Vineyard; these after mentioned did purchas of Mr. Thomas Mayhew these Rights: namely, the pattent Right belonging to the Gentleman aforesaid; and also the piece of Land which Mr. Mayhew did purchass of the Indians at the west end of the Island of Nantucket as by their grant or bill of sale, will largely appear with all the privileges and appurtenances thereof; the aforementioned Purchasers are Tristram Coffin, Senyr, Thomas Macy, Richard Swain, Thomas Barnard, Peter Coffin, Christopher Hussey, Stephen Greenleaf, John Swain, William Pile; the Mr. Thomas Mayhew himself also becom a Twentieth part purchaser so that they... had the Sole Interest, Disposell, power, and privilege of said Island and appurtenances thereof."(16)
"Bee it known unto all Men by these Presents, that I, Thomas Mayhew, of Martha's Vineyard, Merchant, doe hereby acknowledge, that I have sould unto Tristram Coffin, Thomas Macy, Christopher Hussey, Richard Swayne, Thomas Bernard, Peter Coffin, Stephen Greenleafe, John Swayne, and William Pike, that Right and Interest I have in ye Land of Nantuckett, by Patent; ye wch Right I bought of James fforrett, Gent. and Steward to ye Lord Sterling, and of Richard Vines sometimes of Sacho, Gent., Steward-Genrll unto Sir Georges, Knight, as by Conveyances under their Hands and Seales doe appeare, ffor them ye aforesaid to Injoy, and their Heyres and Assignes forever, wth all the Priviledges thereunto belonging, for in consideration of ye Sume of Thirty Pounds of Current Pay, unto whomsoever I ye said Thomas Mayhew... shall appoint. And also two Beaver Hatts, one for myselfe, and one for my wife... and to hold one-twentieth Part of all Lands purchased... And in Witness hereof, I have hereunto sett my Hand and Seale this second Day of July, sixteen hundred and fifty-nine."(17)
"At Salysbury, February, 1659- At a meeting of the purchasers... it was agreed and Determined and approvd as follows, vizt: tht the ten owners will admitt of Ten more partners who shall have equall power and Interest with themselves, and tht either of the purchasers aforementioned shall have liberty to take a partner whome he pleases not being mostly excepted against by the rest. At that meeting Robert Pike was owned partner with Christopher Hussey, Robert Barnard was owned partner with Thomas Barnard, Edward Starbuck was owned to be Thomas Macy's partner, and Tristram Coffin, jur., partner with Stephen Greenleaf, James Coffin partner with Peter Coffin- at the same meeting it was mutually and unanimously agreed upon... that no man whatsoever shall purchase any land of any of the Indians upon the said iland for his own private or particular use; but whatsoever purchas shall be made, shall be for the general account of the Twenty ownners or purchasers... at the same meeting it was ordered and Determined that there shall be ten other Inhabitants admitted into the Plantation who shall have such accomodation as the Owners or purchasers shall judge meet- as namely necessary tradesman and Seaman."(18)
"At a meeting of these owners of the Island of Nantucket at Salisbury it was Debatted, and after debatted, determed and concluded, that as ther had ben a former meeting in Salisbury at the House of Benjamin Cambell, in February, 1659, in which meeting orders was made for Prohibiting of any Person from the purchasing any land from any of the Indians upon the Island of Nantucket except for the use of the Twenty owners or purchasers, the Order shall stand Inviolable unalterable as that which also as that which is likely necessary to the continuance of the well being of the place and the Conturary, that which tends to the confusion and Ruine of the whole and the Suverting of the rules and orders allready agreed upon and the depriveing of the said owners of there Just rights and Interest. Also it was ordered at the same meeting that all the Land that is fit for areable land convenient for House lot shall be forthwith measured, that the quantity thereof may be known, which being done, shall be divided by equel preportions, that is to say Four Fifths parts to the owners or purchasers; and the other Fifth unto the Ten other Inhabitants, whereof John Bishop shall have two parts or shares, that is to say of that Fifth part belonging to the Ten Inhabitant. Also at the same meeting it was ordered that Tristram Coffin, Thomas Macy, Edward Starbuck, Thomas Barnard, Peter Folger of Mathers Vineyard, shall have power to measure and lay out said Land according to the above said awder, and whatsoever shall be done and concluded in the said Case by or any three of them, Peter Folger being one, shall be accounted Legall and valid."(19)
Late in the season of 1659 the first settlers arrived including Thomas Macy and his family, Edward Starbuck, Isaac Coleman, and James Coffin. The first village grew up to the south and east of Capaum Pond where many of the cellar indentations are still visible. Tristram built his home near Capaum Pond and resided there until his death.
"May the 10th, 1661- At a meeting at Salisbury it was ordered and concluded that the aforementioned parties, vizt: Tristram Coffin, seny., Thomas Macy, Edward Starbuck, Thomas Barnard, Peter Folger, shall also measure and lay out all the rest of the Land, both meadows, Woods and upland, that is convenant to be appropriated within the bounds of the first Plantation; also it is determined that the above mentioned persons, together with Mr. Mayhew, Richard Swain, John Bishop or whatever others of the owners or puchasers that are present, shall have power to Determing what land is convenient to be improved and Laid out, and what should be common or Remain Common, and also, to Lay out the bounds of the Town and record it, provided always that the land being measured, they shall first lay out a convenant quantity of Land with suitable accomodations of all sorts which shall be Particularly reserved for the public use of the Town. Also it was ordered at the same meeting that an authentick Record shall be kept of all that is don about the proseeding and actions about the said Island, both the Island and on the main, untill further orders be taken. At the same meeting it was ordered, that for the particuler apointing which Lot every man shall have it shall be don be casting Lots excepting only those persons that have already taken there Lots, namly, Thomas Macy, Tristram Coffin, Seny., Edward Starbuck and Richard Swain. At the same meeting Robert Pike was appointed to keep the Records concerning the Island of Nantucket at Salisbury, and Thomas Macy to keep the Records at the Island, as in the above said orders expressed at present until further orders be taken by the owners or purchasers."(20)
At a meeting held at Nantucket, 15 July 1661, of the owners residing there it was agreed that each man choose his house-lot within the limits not previously occupied and that each lot shall contain sixty rods square. Tristram appears to have been allowed to make the first selection:
"Tristram Coffin, Sen., had his house lot layed out at Cappammet, by the aforesaid Lot layers, at Cappamet Harbour head, sixty rods squar, or thereabouts, the east side line part of it bounded by the highway; the south side bounded by a rock southward of the pond; the north by the harbour head; the west side bounded by the lot of Tristram Coffin, Jr., more or less, as it is lay out."(21)
"Tristram Coffin, Junior, had his house lot layd out by the aforesaid Lot layers at Coppammet, sixty rods squar, or thereabouts, on the east side by the lot of his father, Tristram Coffin, on the south side by the common; on the west by the lot of William Pile, more or less, as it is layed out."(22)
"The one half of the accommodation to Tristram Coffin, sen., being assigned to Mary Starbuck and Nathaniel Starbuck, Tristram also being present at the place commonly called the Parliament House, Sixty rod square, bounded with the land of Thos. Mayhew on the south; and with the land of James Coffin on the north; and on the east with the land of Stephen Greenleaf; on the west by the common-Same land allowed at the east end with reference to rubbage land, more or less."(23)
"Tristram Coffin, sen., had an acre of meadow lay out by Edwd Starbuck, Thos. Macy, himself being present, and Peter Folger agreeing thereto, on the neck commonly called Nanna hamak Neck, at the south end of the woodland. At the same time Tristram Coffin, junior, had an acre lot laid out at the same place."(24)
"Tristram Coffin, Sen., had a twenty acre lot; being a Second Division answerable to the lot laid out in the five pound purchases, thirty rod in breadth, lying a Long from the north side of the house lot of the said Tristram Coffin lot, by Cuppammet head to the sea, more or less."(25)
"Tristram Coffin, Jr., had twenty acre lot layed out by Tristram Coffin, Edward Starbuck & Peter Folger, answerable to the twenty acres on the five pound purches."(26)
Tristram was 37 years old upon his arrival in America and 55 years old at the time of his moving to Nantucket. It does not appear that his mother, Joan Coffyn ever lived in Nantucket since she died in Boston in May, 1661. The Rev. Wilson who preached the funeral sermon spoke of her as a woman of extraordinary character. Sewall's Diary which recorded her death says that he "embalmed her memory".
For several years after this Tristram, with his sons, held the controlling interest in the Islands, he being conceded to be the richest man there except for his son Peter. With his sons he bought the island of Tuckernuck after trying to have his other associates join in the purchase.
"The tenth Day of October, one thousand six hundred fifty and nine; These presents Witness, That I, Thomas Mayhew, of Martin's Vineyard, Mercht, doe Give, Grant, Bargaine, and Sell, all my Right and Interest in Tuckannuck Island, als Tuckannuckett, which I have had, or ought to have, by Vertue of Patent Right, purchased of ye Lord Stirling's Agent and of Mr Richard Vines, Agent unto Sir fferdinando George, Knight, unto Tristram Coffin Sr, Peter Coffin, Tristram Coffin Jur, and James Coffin, to them and their Heyres forever, ffor and in consideracon of ye just Sume of six Pounds in Hand paid, and by mee Thomas Mayhew, received in full Satisfaction of ye aforesaid Patent Right, of ye aforesaid Island."(27)
"This witnesseth that I, Wanochmamack, chief sachem of Nantucket, hath sold unto Mr. Tristram Coffin and Thomas Macy, their heirs and assigns, that whole nack of land called by the Indians, Pacummohquah, being at the east end of Nantucket, for and in consideration of five pounds to be paid to me in English goods or otherwise to my content by the said Tristram Coffin aforesaid at convenient time as shall be demanded. Witness my hand or mark this 22 of June, 1662."(28)
Tristram assumed the obligation to construct a cornmill, built and maintained it. He employed large numbers of Indians on his land. Benjamin Franklin Folger, the historian of Nantucket, says of him: "The christian character which he exhibited and which he practically illustrated in all the varied circumstances and conditions of that infant colony, is analogous to that which subsequently distinguished the founder of Pennsylvania so that the spirit of the one seemed to be but the counterpart of the other."
The Indians were divided into bands and sometimes had quarrels among themselves and sometimes were at variance with the settlers. The Indians became troublesome only after they had learned to drink rum. The early court records are mainly devoted to trials, convictions and sentences of Indians to be whipped for getting drunk and for petty larcenies, and of fines imposed upon white men and women for selling rum to Indians. The first General Court for Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard composed of Tristram Coffyn, first chief magistrate of Nantucket and Thomas Mayhew, first chief magistrate of Martha's Vineyard and two associates from each island enacted a law prohibiting the sale of intoxicating drinks to Indians. The law was occasionally enforced and John Gardner (whose gravestone alone marks the spot where the settlers were first interred) complained to Governor Lovelace, 15 Mar. 1676 that a half barrel of rum had been taken from him by Thomas Macy. Gardner also said that the Indian Sachems stated they would fight if the laws against them were enforced. The letter of Thomas Macy to Governor Lovelace, 9 May 1676 shows the fear of the Indians if strong drink was allowed to be sold to them and he asked the Governor to prohibit any ship coming into the harbor from selling strong drink to Indians: "Sir, concerning the Peace we hitherto enjoy, I cannot imagine it could have bin if strong Liquor had bin among the Indians, as formerly: for my owne yt I have been to ye utmost an opposed of the Trade these 38 yeares, and I verily believe (respecting the Indians) tis the only Ground of the miserable psent Ruine to both Nations; for tis that hath kept them from Civility, they have been the drunken Trade kept all the while like Wildernesse."(29) It also seems that the Court on one occasion took possession of all the liquor on the island and dispenced it in small quantities to the settlers.
"Whereas ye Honble Coll: Lovelace, Governour of New Yorke, gave forth his Summons for ye Inhabitants of ye Isle of Nantuckett to make their Appearance before his Honor at New Yorke, either in their own Person or by their Agent, to shew their Claymes in respect to their Standing or Clayme of Interest on ye aforesaid Island. Now wee whose Names are underwritten having intrusted our ffather Tristram Coffin to make Answer for us, Wee doe Empower our ffather Tristram Coffin to act and doe for us wth Regard to our Interest, on ye Isle of Nantuckett and Tuckanuckett. Witness our Hands ye 2d Day of ye fourth Month, sixteen hundred and seventy-one, 1671." Signed by James, John, Stephen Coffin and Nathaniel Starbuck.(30)
Tristram as the chief magistrate of Nantucket and Thomas Mayhew as chief magistrate of Martha's Vineyard with two assistants from each island were to constitute a General Court with appellate jurisdiction over both islands.
"Imprimis, Wee humbly propose Liberty for ye Inhabitants to chuse annually a Man or Men to be Chiefe in ye Governmt, and chosen or appointed by his Honor to Stand in place, contantly invested wth Power of Confirmacon by Oath or Engagemt, or otherwise as his Honor shall appoint, one to be Chiefe in ye Cort and to have Magistraticall Power at all times wth regard to ye Peace and other necessary Consideracon.
2ly. Wee take for granted yt ye Lawes of England are Standard of Governmt, soe farre as wee know them, and are suitable to or Condicon not repugnant to ye Lawes of England.
3ly. In Point of carrying on ye Governmt from Time to Time, wee are willing to joyne with or Neighbor Island ye Vineyard, to keep together one Cort every Yeare, one Yeare at or Island, ye next wth them, and Power at Home to End all Cases not exceeding 20lb; And in all cases Liberty of Appeale to ye Genrll Cort in all Actions above 40lb. And in all Actions amounting to ye vallue of 100lb Liberty of Appeale to his Highnesse his Cort at ye Citty of New York; And in Capitall Cases, or such Mattrs as concerne Life, Limbe, or Banishmt. All such cases to be tryed at New Yorke.
4. And feeling ye Indians are numerous among us, Wee propose that or Governmt may Extend to them, and Power to Summon them to our Corts wth respect to Mattrs of Trespass Debt, and other Miscarriages, and Try and Judge them according to Lawes, when published amongst them.
And Lastly, some Military Power committed to us, respecting our Defence, either in respect of Indyans or Strangrs invadeing, &c."(31)
The town voted to have a harrow for the use of the inhabitants and Tristram was to provide the harrow and he along with Thomas Macy were empowered to see that every man sowed seed "according to order".
"Francis Lovelace, Esq., &c.: Whereas upon address made unto mee by Mr. Tristram Coffin and Mr. Thomas Macy on ye behalfe of themselves and ye rest of ye inhabitants of Nantuckett Island concerning ye Mannor and Method of Government 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 myselfe, ye other to be chosen and confirmed by ye inhabitants as in ye instructions sent unto them is more prticularly sett forth. And having conceived a good opinion of ye fitness and capacity of Mr. Tristram Coffin to be ye present Chiefe Magistrate to manage affayres with ye Ayd and good advice of ye Assistants in ye Islands of Nantuckett and Tuckanuckett, I have thought fit to nominate, constitute, and appoint, and by these presents doe hereby nominate, constitute and appoint Mr. Tristram Coffin to be Chief Magistrate of ye said Islands of Nantuckett and Tuckanuckett. In ye management of which said employment hee is to use his best skill and endeavour to preserve his Maties Peace and to keep ye Inhabitants in good Order. And all Persons are hereby required to give ye said Mr. Tristram Coffin such respect and obedience as belongs to a Person invested by commission from authority of his Royall Highness in ye place and employment of a Chiefe Magistrate in ye Islands aforesaid. And hee is duly to observe the Orders and Instructions which are already given forth for ye well governing of ye Place; or such others as from time to time shall hereafter bee given by mee: And for whatsoever ye said Mr. Tristram Coffin shall lawfully Act or Doe in Prosecution of ye Premises, This my Commission which is to bee of fforce until ye 13th day of October, which shall bee in ye yeare of our Lord, 1672, when a new Magistrate is to enter into the employment shall be his sufficient Warrant and Discharge.
Given under my Hand and Seale at fforte James, in New Yorke, this 29th day of June, in ye 22d yeare of his Maties Reigne, Annoq Dni. 1671."(32)
Between 1675-6 there was a dispute in court between Thomas Macy then chief magistrate and William Worth his son-in-law on one side and John Gardner, Peter Folger and others on the other side. The islanders lined up on one side or the other. The matter was a question of land and superior authority, for Massachusetts vs. New York. Tristram was of Macy's party and aligned against Gardner although subsequently he again became friends with Gardner.
"Testimony of Tristram Coffin aged 67 years: That on the 6th day of June 1677, the General Court being set in the town of Sherburne, and Capt. John Gardner being brought into Court, and sot down on a chest where I sat, ther being of the members of the Court that spake to him concerning the contmptuous carriages in regard to the King's authority then and there present, and he accused and brought as a delinquent.
I spake to him and told him I was very sorry that he did not behave himself. The aforesaid Capt. John Gardner replied and said:
'I know my business and it may be some of these that have meddled with me had better have eaten fier.'
Witnes my hand to the verity of this Tristram Coffin."(33)
The feeling for accepting the jurisdiction of Massachusetts instead of New York grew stronger and Governor Andros, who had succeeded Lovelace, again made Tristram governor perhaps in hope of settling the controversy. This commission is on the Nantucket Records instead of the New York ones:
"Edmund Andros, Esqr., seigneur of Sausmarez, Lieut. & Governour General under his Royall Highnesse James, Duke of Yorke and Albany, &c., of all his Territories in America:
Whereas an undue or illegall returne of the Chief Magistrate of Nantuckett hath been make two yeares successively from thence, the one being by law wholly incapable thereof: Therefore by advice of my Counsell, by vertue of Majesties Letters Pattents, & authority from his Royall Highnesse, I doe hereby in his Majesty's names, nominate, constitute, and Authorize Mr. Tristram Coffin, Senr., to be Chief Magistrate of the said Island of Nantucket and dependencyes for the ensuing yeare, or further order, in the place and stead of Mr. Thomas Macy, late Chiefe Magistrate, and being thereunto sworn by him, or next in place, to act as Chiefe Magistrate according to Law and lawfull custome and practice, requiring all persons who it may concern, to conform themselves thereunto accordingly.
Given under my hand and seale of the Province of New Yorke, this sixteenth day of September 1677.
He was appointed Chief Magistrate of Nantucket by Governor Andros in 1667, and again by Governor Lovelace on 29 June 1671. Tristram held the office of Governor until 1680 when John Gardner was appointed.
During his entire residence on Nantucket he resided near Capsum, for the most part at a house that he built and named Northam. His house lot was a tract of the usual dimensions, bounded on the north by Cappam Harbor. The spot where his house was placed is marked by a stone monument. The interests which he and his sons and sons-in-law represented gave him power to control, to a large extent, the enterprises of the island.
"I Tristram Coffin of Nantucket, do for divers good considerations, as Also in regard of my Fatherly affections, do give unto my daughter, Mary Starbuck, the one half of my accomodations of my purchase, on Nantucket Island... 14th 4th mo. 1664."(35)
This unusual gift to a daughter was probably due to the fact that his sons were all co-purchasers with him in the island. Later he gave to his sons the remainder of his real estate.
"I Tristram Coffin, of Nantucket, Senore, do give... unto my son, Stephen Coffin, the one-half of my land at Cappan, Alies Northam, within the township of Sherborn, situated upon Nantucket Island... all... except... my new dwelling house upon the hill, and my old dwelling house under the hill, by the Erbe garden; now, for and in consideration of the aforesaid premisses, my son, Stephen Coffin, shall always from time to time do the best he can in managing my other half of my lands and accomodation during mine and my wife's life, and tht he be helpfull to me and his mother in our old age and sickness, what he can:... the fifteenth of the elventh mone, one thousand six hundred and seventy-six."(36)
"Tristram Coffin, Senior, in the town of Sherborn, on the Island of Nantucket... in regard to my naturall afections unto my son, John Coffin, now of Sherborn, as also for divers other good and Lawful consideration... I... do freely give unto my son, John Coffin... my new Dwelling house, with all other houses Adjoining unto it, and also the whole half share of land and accomodation... to have and to hold forever, imediatly after the Decease of me... and my now wife Dionis Coffin" 3 Dec. 1678.(37)
"I Tristram Coffin of Sherborn... in Regard of my Natural afection unto my Grand Children... give unto every one of them Ten Acres of land to plant or sow English grain on... upon the Island of Tuckernuck... and if they... shall sow their land with english hay seed they shall have liberty to keep four shep upon every acre during their Lifetime... 3d 10th 1678."(38)
Tristram in 1680 was brought into Court for an infringement of the Admiralty law. A ship having been cast away was salvaged by the people of the Island while he was magistrate and he neglected to make an accounting satisfactory to the Court. He was penalized for the full amount of her estimated value and this after he had parted with all of his property excepting enough for the old age of himself and his wife. The court evidently thought the fine excessive and remitted a part of it, Capt. John Gardner standing his friend in this.
"At a Court of Admiralty, held at the Island of Nantuckett ye twenty-eighth day of August, by his Maties Athority, in the thirty-second Yeare of the Reiagne of our Sovereigne Lord King Charles the Second, and in the Yeare of our Lord on thousand six hundred and eighty.
Present, Captn Cesar Knapton, Captn Richard Hall, Mr. John West, Capt John Gardner, Magistrate.
Mr. Tristram Coffin, late Magistrate, being called to give an Accoumpt of what was saved out of the Rack of a French Ship, cast away on this Island by some of Capt. Bernard Lamoyn's Men about the latter Part of the Yeare seventy-eight, declared he had formerly given an Accoumpt, which being produced and read, it appeared that thare ware saved out of the said Rack two thousand and sixteen Hydes, which he confesseth are disposed of by his Order, Alowance and Aprobation and by Information given, we valleu at fouer Shillings per Hyde, which amounts toe fouer hundred and three Pound fouer Shillings; and also one Cable and a Pece, likwise sold by the said Tristram Coffin at forty fouer Pounds; and one Sayle at six Pounds ten Shillings; and two Pecis of Hafers at eleven Pounds, and an Ancker at thirteen Pounds; which in all amounts toe fouer hundred seventy-seven Pounds fourteen Shillings, for which no Claime hath bin make according to Law.
This Court tharefore, taking into Consideration the Allowance of Salvage of said Goods, and understanding the Difeculty and Hardship the Savers endured, doe alow on fifth Part thareof for Salvage, according to Law, which amounts toe ninety-five Pounds ten Shillings And for what was disburred by the said Tristram Coffin on Accoumpt of some Duch Prissoners left one the Island, and what was paid by him to William Worth, for his Wound, forty Pound one Shilling. In all, on hundred thirty-five Pounds eleaven Shillings; which being deducted out of the said Sum of fower hundred seventy seaven Pounds fourteen Shillings. They doe adjudge and determine that the said Coffin doe make Payment and Sattisfaction toe the Governor or his Order, on Accoumpt of his Royall Highness to whom by Law it doth appertain the Remainder of the said Sum, being three hundred forty-three Pounds ten Shillings. And as for what Guns or Rigeing or other Things that are undisposed of, toe be apprised and Salvage to be alowed as above, and to be sent to New York for his Royall Highness use, the Salvage toe be lickwise paid by the said Coffin, to be deduckted out of the three hundred fourty-three Pounds ten Shillings. The Court lickewise declare thare Opinion that the said Coffin's Actings Proceedings in disposing of the said Goods, are contrary to Law."(39)
"To the Right Honrabell Ser Edmund Andros, Knight, Signeur of Safmaryoe, Lieut. Generall under his Royall Hynes James Duke of York and Albany, and Governor Generall of his Royal Hynes Territorys in America. These present.
Nantuckett, 30th of August, 1680.
Right Honerabell Sir:
My humbell Service presented unto your Excellencye humblie shewing my hartie Sorow yt I should in any way give your Excelency just occasion of Offence, as I now plainly see, in actinge contrary to the Law, as I am convinced I did, throw Ignorance in regard to not beinge acquainted with the maretime Lawes, and yet I humblie intreat your Exclency to consider yt in on Respect my weeackness I hope may bee a littell born with: for I did tender diverse Persons theone halfe to save the other halfe, and I could not get any to doe it: and for the Hides I could not get any to goe but for to tacke all for their Labor, because it was judged by many yt the weare not worth the saving; so I was nesesetated to doe as I did or else the had bin quite lost. Thare fore I humblye intreat your Excelency not to think yt I did it for any bye Respects or selfe Ends; for I doe assure your Excelency yt theare was not any on Person yt did indent with me for any on Shillinge Proffit, only I did tell foure of them yt if I should bee by any cal'd to accot, the should bee accountabell to me. But now the will not owne it and I can not prove it, so I by Law am caust to beare all, only my hop is yt your Excelency will bee pleased out of your Leniency and Favor to me to except of int Money, and Bill is sent for the answeringe of the Judgement of the Court; for had not my Sonn James Coffyn borrowed Money and ingaged for the rest of my Bill, I could not have done it, but must have gone to Prison. Now I humblye intreat your Excelency to heare my loving Nighbor, Capt John Gardner, in my behalfe, and wth your Excelency shall bee pleased to order Concerning the Case, I shall thankfulye except, knowing your Excelency to be a compashonate mercyeful Man. And I hop I shall for Time to com... to be more wiser and doe kept your Excelency's humbell Sarvant whylst I live to my Power.
The court accepted £150 in full payment, 6 Nov. 1680.
Less than a year later Tristram died leaving a very small estate as he had given most of it away to his sons and daughter and the fine inflicted by the Court of Admiralty took a large amount of the residue.
"Mr James Coffin, John Coffin, Steven Coffin doe bind ourselves, Joyntly and severally, in the some of an hundred pounds starlinge, to performe the trust in administering on our father's estate, and to baer the Court harmless according to law."(41)
"The 8th day of August, 1682, an Inventory being presented to the Court of the estate of Mr. Tristram Coffin, Senior, who departed this life the third day of October, on thousand six hundred eighty one, the Court taking into consideration the present state of the estate, together with the best Information of his mind before his decease: doe order the use of the estate for Ms Dionis Coffin, his widdow, during her life after al Just debts are paid."(42)
(1) Norfolk Co. Deeds- book 2, p.209 (2) History of Haverhill- pp.49-50 (3) A Sketch of the History of Newbury, Newburyport and West Newbury- p.43 (4) Ibid- p.49 (5) The Coffin Family- p.40 (6) Mass. Archives- Vol.10, p.300 (7) Essex Co. Court Files (8) Mass. Archives- Vol.15b, p.41 (9) Ibid- Vol.10, p.45 (10) Norfolk Co. Deeds- Vol.1, p.30 (11) Ibid- p.74 (12) Ibid- p.41 (13) Ibid- p.42 (14) Ipswich Deeds- Vol.1, p.117 (15) Ibid- p.240 (16) The Coffin Family- p.44 (17) Albany Deeds- Vol.III, p.56 (18) The Coffin Family- pp.44-5 (19) Ibid- p.45 (20) Ibid- pp.45-6 (21) First Book of Nantucket Records (22) Ibid- (23) Ibid- (24) Ibid- (25) Ibid- (26) Ibid- (27) Albany Deeds- Vol.III, p.57 (28) Ibid- (29) The Coffin Family- p.49 (30) Albany Deeds- Vol.III, p.58 (31) Ibid- p.59 (32) Ibid- p.62 (33) Publication of the Nantucket Historical Society- p.36 (34) Nantucket Records- Vol.1, p.101 (35) Nantucket Deeds- Vol.1, p.197 (36) Ibid- old book, p.63 (37) Ibid- Vol.2, p.19 (38) Ibid- Vol.2, p.17 (39) New York Colonial MSS, XXIX (40) Ibid- p.29 (41) Nantucket Records (42) Ibid-
"I Tristram Coffin of Nantucket, do for divers good considerations, as Also in regard of my Fatherly affections, do give unto my daughter, Mary Starbuck, the one half of my accomodations of my purchase, on Nantucket Island... 14th 4th mo. 1664." [Nantucket Deeds Vol.1, p.197]
"I Tristram Coffin, of Nantucket, Senore, do give...unto my son, Stephen Coffin, the one-half of my land at Cappan, Alies Northam, within the township of Sherborn, situated upon Nantucket Island... all...except... my new dwelling house upon the hill, and my old dwelling house under the hill, by the Erbe garden; now, for and in consideration of the aforesaid premisses, my son, Stephen Coffin, shall always from time to time do the best he can in managing my other half of my lands and accomodation during mine and my wife's life, and tht he be helpfull to me and his mother in our old age and sickness, what he can:... the fifteenth of the elventh mone, one thousand six hundred and seventy-six." [Nantucket Deeds, old book, p. 63]
"Tristram Coffin, Senior, in the town of Sherborn, on the Island of Nantucket... in regard to my naturall afections unto my son, John Coffin, now of Sherborn, as also for divers other good and Lawful consideration... I... do freely give unto my son, John Coffin... my new Dwelling house, with all other houses Adjoining unto it, and also the whole half share of land and accomodation... to have and to hold forever, imediatly after the Decease of me... and my now wife Dionis Coffin" 3 Dec. 1678.[Nantucket Deeds Vol.2, p.19]
"I Tristram Coffin of Sherborn... in Regard of my Natural afection unto my Grand Children... give unto every one of them Ten Acres of land to plant or sow English grain on... upon the Island of Tuckernuck... and if they... shall sow their land with english hay seed they shall have liberty to keep four shep upon every acre during their Lifetime... 3d 10th 1678."[Nantucket Deeds- Vol.2, p.17]
"The 8th day of August, 1682, an Inventory being presented to the Court of the estate of Mr. Tristram Coffin, Senior, who departed this life the third day of October, on thousand six hundred eighty one, the Court taking into consideration the present state of the estate, together with the best Information of his mind before his decease: doe order the use of the estate for Ms Dionis Coffin, his widdow, during her life after al Just debts are paid." [Nantucket Records]
Event: Baptised 11 MAR 1610. Brixton, Surrey, England.
Residence Newbury, Essex, Massachusetts, USA. 
Note N212Tristram Coffin & his wife Dionis Stephens had two sons who were both ancestors to Seth Way, husband of Sarah Cranor. James Coffin was the 3rd great grandfather of Seth Way, their nearest common relative was James' son John Coffin. This is the line: 1. James Coffin & Mary Severance 2. Richard Coffin & Ruth Bunker 3. Lydia Coffin & James Anthony 4. Charlotte Anthony & Henry Way 5. Seth Way & Sarah Cranor His brother, John Coffin, was also the 3rd great grandfather of Seth Way, their nearest common relative was Deborah Coffin. This is the line: 1. John Coffin & Deborah Austin 2. Deborah Coffin & Thomas Massey 3. Joseph Massey & Hannah Hobbs 4. Mary Massey & Paul Way Sr. 5. Henry Way & Charolette Anthoney 6. Seth Way & Sarah Cranor.
"He was the emigrant ancestor of this family. He was born in Brixham (Brixton) parish, Plymouth, England, in 1609, baptized March 11, 1610, being the son of Peter and Joanna Coffin. His father died about 1640, it is supposed; and the son taking his mother, sisters, Eunice and Mary, his wife Dionis and children, Peter, Tristram, Elizabeth, James, and John came to New England in 1642. His mother died in May 166, aged 77. After a brief stay at Salisbury and Haverhill, he settled in Newbury abut 1648. In 1654, he returned to Salisbury, remaining there until 1660, when he removed to Nantucket. He was an enterprising and intelligent man. It is said that he was the first to use a plow in Haverhill. In Salisbury, he was commissioner to try small causes and otherwise honored. In 1659, he united with others in forming a company to purchase and settle the island of Nantucket. They paid for in L30 and two beaver hats. Here he spent the remainder of his life, dying December 2, 1681, aged 72. He became one of the leaders of the company and was commissioned, June 22, 1671, by Francis Lovelace, Chief Magistrate of the Island. This commission testified to the fitness and capacity of Mr. Coffin. In several instances and probably always spelled his name Coffyn." Source: Book, The Ancestors of Jane Maria Greenleaf, 1906, by, William F.J. Boardman, pages 85 and 86.
Tristram and his family plus his mother and his two sisters had moved to Newbury by 1647. Tristram was authorized by the General Court to, "keep and ordinary and also a ferry" to carry passengers from Newbury to Salisbury. By 1652, he was taxed in Salisbury where he signed his name "Commissoner of Salisbury until 1660. In Salisbury, Tristram, along with Peter Folger, organized a company of 10 proprietors for the purchase and settlement of Nantucket. On 2 July 1659, they agreed to purchase nine-tenths of the island from Gov. Thomas Mayhew for 10 pounds and other considerations plus two beaver hats, one for Mayhew, the other for his wife. At the time, beaver hats were the fashion in Europe and in America. The ten proprietors included Christopher Hussey and Stephen Greenleaf. Stephen was Trstram's son-in-law. In July 1661, house lots were awarded and Tristram Coffin was given first choice. For many years, Trstram lived there and he with his son Peter, held controlling interest in the island. At that time, Nantucket was under the jurisdiction of New York and Tristram was appointed Governor of the Island in 1671(Albany Deeds, volume 3, 26). Two years later his commission is found in the Massachusetts Records. He held this office until 1680.
1. Old Families of Salisbury & Amesbury Vol 1 p. 103 2. The Coffin Family a 5 a 9 pp 52-53 3. N.E. Hist and Gen. Reg. 68:129 4. Am. Pub. H. vol 24, p. 150 5. Main Archive Record
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