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Coffin, Tristram
Manuscript Account Book of Tristram Coffin, of Newbury, Essex County, Massachusetts, 1718-1738

12mo, 32 manuscript pp., unbound, no wrappers, entries written in ink, in a legible hand, dated 26 April 1718 to 10 April 1738; front leaf is inscribed: “Tristram His Book August the First Day 1721.” There are a couple of other pages where the name “Tristram Coffin” is written a number of times, thus he is the person who appears to have kept this account book.

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The account book keeps record of monies paid out, accounts for foodstuffs like corn, corn for hogs, wheat, molasses, as well as household items including: a ladle, earthenware, lace, and things like calf skins, ox hides, planks, as well as wages paid out to hired hands. An entry for 7 March 1723 mentions “work done about the mill.” There are nine different pages of accounts for “rum.” A man named Nicholas Brock appears to have gone to work for Coffin in 1728 and 1729 and there are accounts for him for not only wages, but for also a hat, cloth for britches, cloth for shorts, for mending his clothes, etc. There is also mention of monies either being paid out, or collected for the rental of oxen for plowing for a day and a half.

Various other accounts mention men by the name of John Tiler, Richard Schamenis, Isak Watson John Hobard, Jonathan Yong, John Carter, Tobias Hanson, Nat Hanson, Mark Giles, Joseph Abet, and others. Several of these are the rum accounts. There are also several women mentioned with accounts with Coffin: Elizabeth Coffin and Hannah Coffin, presumed relatives, as well as a Mrs. Haddon, a Mrs. Gage, and a woman by the name of Sarah.

       Tristram Coffin Family

Tristram Coffin (or Coffyn) (ca. 1609 – 2 October 1681) was an immigrant to Massachusetts from England. He became a prominent citizen of the settlement. A great number of his descendants became prominent in North American society, and many were involved in the later history of Nantucket during and after its heyday as a whaling center. Many notable Americans with roots in Nantucket are descended from Tristram Coffin.

Tristram Coffin and other Salisbury investors bought Nantucket island from Thomas Mayhew on 2 July 1659. The purchase price was 30 pounds plus two beaver hats made by his son, also called Tristram. Coffin was the prime mover of the enterprise and was given first choice of land. In 1659 he settled near the western end of the island near Capaum pond. His sons Peter Coffin, Tristram Coffin Junior and James Coffin also received land on the island. Soon after settling, Tristram Coffin purchased the thousand-acre Tuckernuck Island at the western end of Nantucket. On 10 May 1660 the sachems conveyed title to a large part of the island to Coffin and his associates for eighty pounds. He built a corn mill in which he employed many of the local Native Americans, and he employed others on his farm.

In 1671 Coffin and Thomas Macy were selected as spokesmen for the settlers, going to New York in 1671 to meet with Governor Francis Lovelace and secure their claim to Nantucket. As the wealthiest and respected of the settlers, Coffin was appointed chief magistrate of Nantucket on 29 June 1671. In 1677 he was again appointed chief magistrate for a term of four years.

Tristram Coffin died on 2 October 1681 at the age of 76. During the years before his death, he had bestowed much of his property on his children and grandchildren. He was buried on his property on Nantucket Island. At his death he left seven children, 60 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. One of his grandchildren calculated that by the year 1728, the number of his descendants was 1582, of whom 1128 were still alive

The immigrant Tristram Coffin (c1609-1681) had a son named Tristram Coffin, Jr. (1632-1704) who was born in Brixton, England. This son married Judith Greenleaf (1625-1705), daughter of Edmund Greenleaf, and widow of Henry Somberby. Tristram Jr. was a Deacon and Representative from Newbury, Essex Co., Massachusetts. He died on 4 February 1704 and his wife died 15 December 1705. Together they had at least ten children. One of their children was James Coffin (1659-1736) who married Florence Hooke (1660-1712), the daughter of Horace Hooke of Newbury. One of the children of James and Florence was also named Tristram Coffin. This Tristram was born on 14 October 1694 and married Martha Cheney. Martha Cheney is likely related to the Peter Cheney that set up a corn mill at Newbury. This account book mentions a “mill” and mentions “corn.” As was his grandfather, he was a Deacon too. Tristram died on 19 May 1775.

This Tristram Coffin (1694-1775), the great grandson of the “immigrant” Tristram Coffin, would appear to be the one who kept this account book, as he would appear to be (according to a family genealogy online at ancestry.com) one who was living during time of the entire keeping of this account book during the years 1718 to 1738. There were at least three other Tristram Coffins, with their birth and death dates being 1688-1688; 1689-1718; and 1696-1727, thus Tristram Coffin, born 1694, dying in 1775, the son of James Coffin (1659-1736) and Florence Hook, would appear to be the correct writer of this account book. It is possible that the Tristram Coffin who was born in 1696 and died in 1727 is also the writer, with the later entries perhaps being added by someone else. Further research of the handwriting would be needed to clarify this.