My Coffin Roots

Interesting information and stories about the descendents of the Dutch Coffins from Fishkill, Dutchess County, New York.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Julius Augustus Coffin & Descendants

On Saturday, the 16th of November, 1816, Margaret Patten Coffin, the wife of Edward Coffin's son, Isaac, gave birth to a set of twins, which were named Julia and Julius Augustus Coffin. Julius was a very energetic and industrious man, and through farming in Saint Lawrence County, New York, he began to amass some wealth. When oil was discovered in Pennsylvania, he envisioned a great business opportunity, so he moved his family to the city of Petroleum Center, Pennsylvania, and engaged in the lumber and milk industry.

When Julius died at the young age of 51, his only son, Lewis Augustus Coffin, was still a week shy of his 12 birthday. However, this didn't prevent the industrial and successful spirit of Julius from being passed on to his son and to future generations of his family. Lewis grew up to become a very successful physician, and was for years a surgeon and director of the Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital, and a member of several medical associations in New York. Dr. Lewis A. Coffin developed some important surgical techniques and tools, such as that shown below.
Lewis had two sons that also became very successful. Lewis Jr. became a well-known and respected architect, designing several buildings throughout New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. He had a passion for French country structures, which is reflected in many of the buildings he designed. Lewis Jr. was a partner in the architectural firm Polhemus and Coffin, and wrote a book entitled "Small French Buildings: The Architecture of Town and Country". My cousin, Tristram Lewis Coffin, is the grandson of Lewis Coffin Jr., and has been researching the work and history of his renowned grandfather. He has a very nice page of pictures of Lewis Jr.'s work at .

Lewis Sr.'s other son, George Jarvis Coffin, followed his father's footsteps into the medical field, and established his own reputation, having served on the staff of St. Luke's Hospital for 64 years, and being their Director of Medicine from 1954 to 1957.

Lewis Coffin Jr. had one son, named Lewis A. Coffin III, who like his uncle and grandfather established himself in the medical field. he became the resident pediatrician on the Navajo and Hopi Indian reservations in the 1960's, but particularly distinguished himself in the area of children's nutrition, publishing two books; "The Grandmother Conspiracy Exposed" and "Children's Nutrition - A Consumer's Guide".

Even the present day offspring of these great men have been very successful in their respective fields. One of the most notable is G. Jarvis Coffin III, whose is a founder and President and CEO of Burst Media, a large online media, technology, and advertising company.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Coffins in Newport, New York

Susan Perkins of the Herkimer County Historical Society (HCHS) told me that in the late 1970's George Hildebrandt and a helper transcribed many of the tombstones in the various cemeteries in Herkimer County, the results of which are kept at the HCHS. Listed as #93 on his lists is the cemetery currently located behind the Newport First Baptist Church, where many of the members of the Coffin family were buried. Edward and his wife Sybil are interred there, as well as their sons Benjamin, John, Joseph, and Jacob, and their wives, and many of their children and children's families. Edward's son Abraham (& wife Anna) is buried in North Gage Cemetery in Deerfield, Oneida, New york; his son Isaac (& wife Margaret) is buried in Purmort Cemetery in DePeyster, St. Lawrence, New york; and his son Edward (& wife Maria) may be buried in Sandusky County, Ohio.

Nancy Silkey and her husband have photographed the Coffin (and related families) tombstones in the Newport Cemetery, which can be found at . The pictures are very clear, and also help to solve a family mystery. A couple of publications state that Edward Coffin was born to John Coffin and Mary Davis in 1762, while others state the he was born to Isaac Coffin and Anna Churchill in 1741. The new image of his gravestone clearly shows that he died in 1824 at age 83, giving a birth year around 1741, a strong indication that he was the son of Isaac and Anna. While losing the connection to the immigrant Tristram Coffin, this does lend credence to the family lore that tells of a Dutch heritage.

While at the cemetery, Nancy met a gentleman there, who happens to also be a descendent of Edward and Sybil Coffin, by the name of Varnum Harris. He descends from Edward's son Benjamin, through his daughter Mary Jane Coffin, who married Varnum's great grandfather Varnum H. Harris around 1850. He kindly gave her his mailing address and phone number, so that I can call him about our family. He is also the brother-in-law of Ira (Ike) Coffin (or Ira's dad, Ira Sr.), a well respected man associated with the The
Kuyahoora Valley Foundation (previously the Coffin-Weakley Foundation). A couple of years ago Ira's uncle Randy Coffin was very kind to send me some pictures and his family history chart.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Colorado Pioneers

Jacob and Mary Ann (Hull) Coffin had eleven children, six of which became pioneers in the Longmont area (Boulder & Weld Counties) of Colorado. The three brothers were Morse H. Coffin, George W. Coffin, and Reuben F. Coffin. The three sisters were Elizabeth Coffin, who married Sylvester Patton; Ellen Coffin, who married Porter Pennock; and Emeline Coffin, who married J. W. Daniels.

Morse Coffin began his journey to Colorado from Illinois in May of 1859, arriving in Colorado in July. Later in life, he would often send stories to the local newspaper about his pioneering experiences. This page gives a good description in Morse's own words of his early days in Colorado. He is also known for his first hand description of the battle of Sand Creek, a battle between the Third Colorado Volunteers and a band of Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians, which battle is often referred to as the Sand Creek Massacre. Alan W. Farley collected the articles and published them in a limited edition book in 1965, with notes and an introduction. Sharon Rice, who is connected with Sandstone Ranch, Morse Coffin's old homestead and now a national monument, was very kind to send me a copy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Interesting In-Laws

Matilda Waterman (23 Jul 1862 - 13 Mar 1934) is the daughter of Richard Clark Waterman and Catherine Coffin, who is the daughter of Joseph Coffin, son of Edward and Sybil. Matilda married a man named Elijah D. Fulford. E.D. Fulford was considered one of the greats in trap shooting at the turn of the 20th century, especially in the shooting of live birds. In 1895 he was the Grand American Handicap (GAH) champion. He invented the Fulford Single Trigger and the Fulford Live Bird Trap. He was so well known across the country, that when he died, friends sent in money to a sporting newspaper for the erection of a monument in his home town of Utica, New York. Even Annie Oakley sent in a donation. (Thanks to Ken Estes for this information.)

George Jarvis Coffin, son of Lewis Augustus Coffin, M.D., married Louise Raven, sister of Henry Cushier Raven, better known as Harry Raven. As a collector for the Smithsonian institute, he spent years in the wilds of Borneo, Celebes, Africa, Australia, and Greenland. He was renowned for his dissection work, and lectured at New York University and Columbia university. He has written many well regarded articles as a result of his studies. He is best known, however, for one particular primate whom he adopted from the French Cameroun of West Africa. Meshie-Mungkut ("The little swaggerer"), a young chimpanzee, became a part of his family, and went on to become quite a celebrated actress. The Harry Raven page linked above links to a couple of other interesting articles about Meshie in the Raven family. I may even be related to Meshie, as we both are lovers of Ice Cream.

George Jarvis and Louise (Raven) Coffin had a daughter, Nancy Coffin, who married Marion Sims Wyeth Jr., the son (of course) of Marion Sims Wyeth, a renowned architect and designer of over 100 homes in Palm Beach, Florida. Wyeth graduated from Princeton in 1910, and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1914. Among his works are the Florida Governor's mansion, and Mar-a-Lago, for Marjorie Merriwether Post, which Donald Trump bought in 1985 for $10 million. Wyeth popularized the Mediterranean Revival style throughout Florida, and was the first Palm Beach architect to be elected a fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

Monday, March 20, 2006

James D. Coffin

A very nice and helpful Coffin cousin, Dorothy Brickhouse, sent me a fax of some papers regarding the Civil War service of her great-great-grandfather, James D. Coffin. It appears that James was a week shy of his seventeenth birthday when he enlisted as a private in Company D of the 2nd regiment of the New York Heavy Artillery Volunteers, on 29 Feb 1864. On May 9th of that year, at Spotsylvania, Virginia, he was shot in the left hand, and lost his left forefinger. On December 9 of the same year his regiment was engaged in a skirmish with the enemy on Vaughan Road, towards Hatcher's Run, Virginia, when James received a gunshot wound to his right arm, resulting in the amputation of that arm. He was discharged from Jarvis General Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland on March 30th, 1865.

James returned to his father's farm in Newport, New York, and in 1870 married Huldah Nichols. They had a son, Leon H. Coffin, the following year, but Huldah passed away before the child reached his first birthday. Some time afterwards he left his son Leon with his parents, Worden and Elizabeth Coffin, and went out to the Black Hills of North Dakota, in the Deadwood area, and became involved with mining operations. In July of 1876, he was elected recorder of Lead City, and is also listed as one of the founders of that 'city'. Page 82 of Gold, Gals, Guns, Guts: Deadwood-Lead '76 Centennial (Bob Lee, 1976) puts it this way: "The new town was called Lead City and two officers were elected - Robert Charles "Smokey" Jones as secretary and James D. Coffin as city recorder. No other officers were chosen since the miners, inasmuch as any civic acts would be without legal status, thought it would be better to let local unwritten mining laws govern disputes." He was also Vice-President of the Caucasian League in that area.

James died suddenly on 21 Nov 1879 of Pneumonia at the young age of 32. His grandson, Leo Worden Coffin, married Myrtle Mykel, and together they had 18 children, many of which grew up in Herkimer County, New York. The early Deadwood newspapers contain several articles concerning James D. Coffin, which I am in the process of ordering.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Wills and Deeds

I had been reading about the value of probate records and deeds in genealogical research, but didn't know where to begin. I was looking for a volunteer to find an obituary from Oneida county; what I found was a very reasonably priced researcher that knew how to find probate records and deeds in Oneida and Herkimer and other nearby counties. Nancy J. Silkey, a wonderful lady from Syracuse, has been such a help in obtaining many pages of records from the Oneida and Herkimer county courthouses. I am putting them on my
Wills and Deeds page on my website, as I get time to transcribe them. Her and her husband made good use of their digital camera during a recent trip to Herkimer County, and sent me a disk of many images of Coffin family Wills.

One Will and probate file was of particular interest, that of
Joseph R. Coffin. Joseph was born in Newport, Herkimer county, NY in 1818, and died there in 1872. His first wife, Mary Ann Rathbun, died childless in 1851; he married Sally Wilson the following year. They had one daughter, Lucy, but she died in 1866 as a thirteen year old girl. When Joseph made out his will, with no children to claim his estate, he named all 22 of his nieces and nephews, and to which family they belonged. When his wife Sally died in 1891, his estate was not yet settled, and so the probate papers list again all of his nieces and nephews (or their heirs if they had died), as well as the city where they were living in 1892. What a tremendous help in finding the descendents of Joseph Sr. and Matilda (Cummings) Coffin.

Of the deeds, perhaps the most interesting is the
partitioning of the estate of Edward Coffin in 1824. It describes how his 200 acres, on the west side of West Canada Creek was sliced into seven equal pieces, and divided among his sons and their wives, which are all named in the deed. Later deeds tell how they sold off their portions to one another, or to other persons, or deeded them to their children. I look forward to taking a trip across the United States and visit the areas where my Coffin family relatives have lived for the last 200 plus years.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

John Coffin, born 1753, Dutchess County, New York

I received an e-mail last week from Barry Moses, asking about John Coffin, who married Marytje Van Tassel. Barry descends from John Coffin through his son Isaac Coffin, through his son Isaac Jr., through his daughter Maria Elizabeth who married Aaron Stone Lee. Mr. Lynn Alitz, another descendent of Aaron and Maria (Coffin) Lee, was kind enough to send me a copy of the Lee family Bible, which had been used by Aaron and Maria's daughter Elizabeth, widow of Alexander Ray, as documentation for her Civil War pension.

John Coffin appears to have been a private in the Revolutionary War. "New York in the Revolution as Colony and State" (Albany, NY, 1904) lists a John Coffin on page 136 as an enlisted man in the Second Regiment of the Dutchess County Militia. "Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York" (Berthold Fernow, 1887, Albany, NY), pages 278, 279, and 345, indicate that John Coffin was a private in the Second Regiment, which was from Rombout Precinct. John Coffin is found in the Tax Lists of Rombout Precinct for 1772-1775, and 1777-1779. It is interesting to note that Tucker F. Morian, in his S.A.R. application, erroneously used this resource to show that the John Coffin who married Mary Davis was a Revolutionary War soldier, and then used Cutter's "Genealogical and Family History of Northern New York" to prove that he descended from that John Coffin.

The records of The First Reformed Dutch Church of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, New York, show a marriage between Marytje Van Tessel and John Coffin on 16 Jan 1772. "The Genealogy of the Van Tassel and Allied Lines of North America", by Mary McRae (Van Tassel) Pazurik, shows the family of Hendrick and Mettie (Kraukheit) Van Tassel, who lived in Fishkill, New York. They had a daughter, Marya, baptized 10 Apr 1743, which is almost certainly the Mary Van Tassel that married John Coffin.

Census records of 1790 and 1800 show John Coffin living in Albany county, New York. The 1800 census, in the town of Bethlehem, seems to indicate that John's son Isaac and family were living with John and Mary. The 1810 census of Bethlehem shows Isaac Coffin, with the same neighbors as were living near John Coffin in 1800. One researcher lists John's death as 12 Apr 1833, supposedly using a family Bible as a reference, but I haven't seen a copy of that family Bible or any other records to confirm that.