Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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COFFIN, Tristram, colonist, born in Brixton, Devonshire, England, in 1605; died in Nantucket. Massachusetts, in 1681. He is considered the ancestor of all the persons bearing this name in the United States. In 1642 he came to America with his wife and a number of relatives and lived in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and in 1659 took up his residence in Nantucket, of which colony he was the founder and the first chief magistrate. The character of Tristrain, his wisdom in civilizing the Indians, and his numerous descendants, entitle him to mention, especially as Judith, daughter of his son Stephen, was the grandmother of Benjamin Franklin. His life was published by Allen Coffin (Nantucket, 1881).--John, loyalist, born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1756; died in Kings county, Nebraska, in 1838. He was descended from Tristram through James and William, who, born in Nantucket, settled in Boston about 1730. He was educated at the Boston Latin-school, and, for his services in the battle of Bunker Hill, was appointed ensign on the field by Gage. He raised 400 men in New York, who became known as the Orange rangers, and commanded them at the battles of Long Island and German-town. He exchanged into the New York volunteers in 1778, and took part at San Lucie and Bry-ar's Creek in 1779, at Camden in 1780, and in 1781 at Hampton, Hobkirk's Hill, and Eutaw Springs. In all these engagements Coffin's cavalry is mentioned with praise, and his daring, judgment, and estimable character as a cavalry officer are highly commended. Cornwallis sent him a handsome sword in acknowledgment of his services, enclosing his commission as major, thanking him for his carriage and conduct on many occasions, and especially giving him acknowledgment for distinguishing himself at Eutaw. The promotion he had earned was deferred by his feeling obliged to report the want of firmness in battle of a scion of the royal house. He settled at his manor of A1-wington, New Brunswick, and became prominent in developing that province. When the occasion came he resumed his military rank, and was appointed major general. At his death he was the senior general in the British army. All of his branch of the name were refugee loyalists. Notwithstanding his choice of sides in the revolution, he never lost his interest in the "old thirteen," and he remembered that he was "Boston-born" from first to last. One of his many sayings was, "I would give more for one pork-barrel made in Massachusetts than for all that have been made in New Brunswick since its settlement."--His uncle, John, constructed a fortress at Quebec in 1775, and its first volley killed Montgomery and his two aides. This event and the sacking of Montreal are said to have saved the Canadas to the crown.--His brother, Sir Isaac, Bart., naval officer, born in Boston, 16 May, 1759; died in Cheltenham, England, 4 August, 1839. In 1773 he was appointed midshipman on board the "Gaspe." After active and faithful service, at the age of eighteen he was appointed lieutenant, and at the age of twenty-two captain of the "Shrewsbury." He took part in Rodney's victory, 12 April, 1782, and in many other engagements along the Atlantic coast and in the West Indies, acquitting himself with credit both in the war of independence and in that with France. He was appointed admiral in 1802 and created a baronet in 1804 for his long and faithful services. After his retirement from active service he married Elizabeth, daughter of William Greenly, of Titley Court, Gloucestershire. In 1818 he was returned to parliament for Ilchester, Devonshire, and took an active part in the debates on naval affairs and kindred subjects. He never forgot that he was an American by birth, and was untiring in his efforts to promote the interests of his native land. Racers sent over by him to improve our breed, fish to multiply in our waters, plants and trees for our garden and orchards, maps and new inventions for merchant and naval marine, nautical schools, and the Coffin academy at Nantucket, were but a few of his benefactions. He was a man of the world, of elegant manners and graceful ways, and a very pleasant companion, and at the same time in his fondness for frolic and in his happy temperament a brilliant instance of the traditional commodores of the British navy. When the reform bill was in jeopardy in 1832, the king placed his name at the head of his list of new peers as Earl of Magdalen to carry the bill through the lords. It would have been an empty honor, as Sir Isaac had no lineal heir to inherit. See his life, by Thomas Coffin Amory (Boston, 1886).--His cousin, Sir Thomas Aston, loyalist, born in Boston, Massachusetts, 31 March, 1754; died in London, 31 May, 1810, was graduated at Harvard in 1772, and at one period of the revolution private secretary to Sir Guy Carleton. He was made a baronet, 19 May, 1804, and in the same year secretary and comptroller of accounts of Lower Canada. He was also at one time commissary-general in the British army.--Another cousin, Nathaniel, physician, born in Portland, Maine, 3 May, 1744; died there, 18 October, 1826, was the son of Dr. Nathaniel Coffin, who went from. Newburyport to Falmouth (now Portland) in 1738. He studied medicine with his father, and in London at Guy's and St. Thomas's hospitals under Akenside, Hunter, and McKenzie. On his return he began his profession, and within a year, on the death of his father, succeeded to his extensive business. In 1775, when Capt. Mowatt was about to destroy the town (then called Falmouth), Dr. Coffin with two others visited his ship and endeavored to persuade him, unsuccessfully, however, to abandon the project. He became specially eminent as a surgeon, and for many years discharged the duties of hospital surgeon for marine patients in his district. Bowdoin conferred on him the honorary degree of M. died in 1821, and he was the first president of the Maine medical society.
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