By James H. Smith

Pages 480-481

        This ancient family, which is numerously represented in Dutchess County, is of Norman-French origin, but more directly of English descent. It is said that the lineage of its present younger members can be traced back through eleven generations, with all the names and most of the important dates (birth, deaths, and marriages) ascertained and reliable.
        Tristram Coffyn, the pioneer and ancestor of the American branch, came from Devonshire, England, in 1642, and located in Massachusetts. In 1660 he removed to the island of Nantucket, of which he was one of the first owners and settlers and where he died in 1681. In Aug, 1881, two hundred years after his death, large numbers of his descendants, coming from many of our states and territories and from foreign lands, journeyed to Nantucket, and there held a grand memorial re-union, the exercises lasting for three successive days. The following extract from an oration delivered upon that occasion by Tristram Coffin of Poughkeepsie, contains some interesting information in regard to the branch of the family transplanted to this county.
        "When the shadow of the approaching Revolution began to darken over the colonies, the exposed situation of Nantucket caused many of the inhabitants to emigrate to the main-land. Among then was Abishai Coffin, a descendant of the fourth generation from the patriarch Tristam, who selected a home for his young wife and children in the valley of the Hudson. His dread of tide-water, as connected in his mind with the expected British men of war, possibly influenced his choice of location, for he settled far out among windings, the hills beyond the reach and almost beyond the sound of their cannon, which soon after awoke the echoes along the river banks. His low, brown house (This house stood on what is now known as the "Tristram Coffin farm" near the village of Little Rest, in the town of Washington.) with the long sloping roof, which stood hard by the country road, disappeared long ago, but the little spring near at hand is still as fresh and pure as when he first took up his abode beside it. Some among those of his grandsons who are with us here today remember him well; his stout walking-staff, broad-brimmed hat and pleasant "thee" and "thou" are among their earliest recollections, and they speak with affectionate respect of his sincere nature, his upright life and excellent standing in the community in which he lived and died. Sixty years have scarcely elapsed since he was laid at rest in the one Nine Partners graveyard, and already his descendants, now living, number two hundred and forty souls. They are scattered far and wide in many States, from New England to California, and are represented in this gathering by about one-twelfth of their entire number."

Hemlock Farm--The former homestead of Alexander H. Coffin
        Robert Coffin, the son of Abishai, died in 1842, aged 64 years, and rests with his father and many other deceased members of the family, in the burial ground attached to the Friends' "Old Brick" meeting house in the hamlet of Mechanic. He is said to have been exceptionally able, active, and successful man, constantly employed in public capacities, political and otherwise, and his memory is yet cherished and held in high esteem by many among the older inhabitants throughout the county. His home in Washington, where he lived and died, is now owned and occupied by Robert G. Coffin, his youngest son. He left ten children, nine of whom are still living, the average of their ages being sixty-eight years. Among them are Alexander H. Coffin, of Poughkeepsie, (formerly of Union Vale) an ex-member of the State Legislature; Hezekiah R. Coffin, of Washington, who has been a Justice of the Peace in his native town for nearly a quarter of a century; Owen T. Coffin of Peekskill, who is now serving his second term as Surrogate of Westchester County; Geo. W. Coffin of California, who is creditably identified with some of the notable public and private undertakings in progress in that distant state, and William H. Coffin of St. Louis, Mo., who has been for many years prominently connected, as President, Director, etc., with railroad building and management upon a large scale, both east and west of the Mississippi.

        For about thirty years past the members of this branch of the family, old and young, have annually assembled in joyous reunion at the home of some one of their number in their ancestral county; thus keeping fresh and warm the affection for each other natural between those fo kindred blood. Did our space permit, this article could easily be extended by giving the additional particulars relating to this intelligent and well known family, and further appropriate personal mention of others among its individual members of the younger, as well as the older generation, now living, who have done honor to the name and to their native soil in their various walks of life.
Typed and submitted by Lynn Airheart Brandvold
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