Jethro Coffin House built in 1686 is Nantucket’s oldest house (in the New England saltbox cedar shingle siding style).
1686 Oldest House and Mary Gardner Coffin
This portrait, attributed to the Pollard Limner, depicts Mary Gardner Coffin (1670-1767). Mary Gardner was born on Nantucket and married Jethro Coffin, grandson of Tristram, in 1686. Their home, built later that year, is still standing on Nantucket. Now known as the Oldest House, it is owned and operated by the Nantucket Historical Association. The Coffin/Gardner marriage symbolized the end of an early conflict in Nantucket society involving their families that was known as the “half-share revolt.” John Gardner and Tristram Coffin were key figures in Nantucket’s early governance. Coffin represented the “full-share” men, or original founders of Nantucket, while Gardner was one of a group of tradesmen who came to work on the island but received only half-shares. Bitter debates between the full-share and half-share parties raged on Nantucket about land rights, who could hold public office, and the future directions for the island. A tentative compromise between the two factions was reached in 1678, but it was not until Coffin’s death in 1681 and the eventual marriage of his grandson into the Gardner family that a full resolution of this conflict occurred.
See 1:49 for Jethro Coffin House
Trystram Coffin’s sister, Mary Coffin married Alexander Adams, who’s daughter Elizabeth Adams married William Parkman, parents of Reverend Ebenezer Parkman.
William Parkman (Elizabeth Adams & William Parkman, Mary Coffin & Alexander Adams, are all 4 buried @ Copp’s Hill Cemetery in Boston).
Trystram, his son, 4 partners and 2 of the Macy’s bought the island of Nantucket from the Mayhews in 1659 for 30 pounds sterling and 2 beaver hats (per the Nantucket Historical Association’s Seal see above = 30 coins & 2 beaver hats). Mary Parkman Coffin’s cousin was Jethro Coffin who built the Jethro Coffin House in 1686 – that is the oldest house on Nantucket. It was on the Registry of National Landmarks until 1987 when it was struck by lightning and burnt enough that when it was repaired with authentic materials and craftsmen it no longer qualified for the Landmark designation. There is a stained glass window in the baptismal font in the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. depicting Rev. Thomas Mayhew, Jr. baptizing an Indian of the Wampanoag Indians. The Nantucket Historical Association sells a book that contains 40,000 posterity/family descendants of the original 8 co-Founders of Nantucket. Herman Melville’s book Moby Dick opens with a scene from a Nantucket Inn/bar owned by a Peter Coffin.
Mayhew baptizing Wampanoag Indian stained glass window Washington DC National Cathedral.
Nantucket whalebone 2007
Tristram Coffin pedigree chart, family group, photos & history:
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 jurisdictin 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. 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 followss, 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 accomodation 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, chife 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 wild Beares and Wolves in the 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
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.
Tristram held the office of Governor until 1680 when John Gardner was appointed.
“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)
In 1644 Tristram obtained a license to “keep an ordinary, sell wine, and keep a ferry” in Newbury, where the family had moved. In 1647 he got another license to do the same. The pub, “Coffin’s Ordinary,” was run by his wife Dionis; at the time brewing beer was a common occupation for women. In 1653 Dionis was charged with violating a law, passed in 1645, which said that beer could not be sold for more than two pence a quart. Her case was presented and dismissed when she showed that she was putting more malt in her beer than was usual, and that the beer should be sold for a proportionately larger fee. Her pub became known as “the place where the best beer was sold.”
They had the following children:
i James COFFIN was born 12 Aug 1640 and died 5 Sep 1711.
ii Mary COFFIN was born 20 Feb 1644/1645 and died 13 Nov 1717.
iii Stephen COFFIN was born 10 May 1652 and died 14 Nov 1734.
iv Tristram COFFIN was born 1 Feb 1631/1632 and died 4 Feb 1703/1704.
Tristram, h. Dionis (d. Robert Stevens of Brixton), s. Peter [q.v.] of Brixton, co. Devon, Eng., and Joan Thumber, father of Peter, Tristram, Elizabeth, James, John, Deborah, Mary, John, and Stephen, ––– –– , 1605, in England. PR38 (Nantucket VR births, p 337)
More Nantucket history:
Captain Obed G. Coffin 1860’s
Nantucket Historical Society has 1,495 antique photos of the Coffin family:
Coffin Family History: