Louisville Nebraska and Recollections of Lawrence Duerr

Louisville, Nebraska was founded by Captain J T A Hoover in 1857. Our Blum Family settled in and around the Louisville area so I think it only fitting that I give a little insight on the area. Lawrence Duerr shared his recollections of early Louisville and much of what I share here is from his memories. He was 80 years old when he wrote down his memories and shared them with family.

A Bit of the Family Tree

Lawrence Duerr was the grandson of Christian Duerr and Mary Ann Huber. His grandmother Mary Ann was the daughter of Jacob Huber , and the sister of George John Huber the husband of Great Aunt Minnie Moessinger, our great grandmother Louise’s sister. George and Mary Ann Huber were children of Jacob  and Mary M Huber.

Christian Duerr was born May 7, 1841 in Wittenburg, Germany and came to America October 12, 1864. From there he went to Dayton, Ohio where his brother Gottleib lived.  Mary Ann was born Feb 2, 1846 in Greenville, Ohio and she married Christian in 1866. They migrated to Nebraska in 1869 arriving at Plattsmouth April 9, 1869. They settled a mile south of where the town of Louisville is situated. It was in the vicinity of where our Blum family eventually settled. As a mater of fact, Aunt Minnie was the one that told Grandpa Andrew about the land he eventually bought and settled on.  Next door lived Mary Ann’s uncle Captain J T A Hoover. Captain Hoover moved from Ohio to Nebraska around 1857 with an account of $325.

Jacob Huber and Captain Hoover were brothers, Jacob keeping the German spelling and Captain Hoover taking on the English spelling. Jacob and Captian Hoover owned the land where Louisville now sits. Captain Hoover played an instrumental role in bringing the B &O Railroad to the area and they gave the railroad 1/3 of the town lots to lay out a town and establish a station there. Captain Hoover built the first house in the city of Louisville, Nebraska.

Jacob Huber’s family consisted of two sons, George and Phillip, and four daughters, Mary Ann, Kate, Caroline, and Christina.

Christian and Mary Ann had four children, George born in Ohio, Philip, Lucy, and Anna, the latter three born in Louisville, Nebraska.

Philip married Anna Bell Leddy of South Bend. they had three children, John, Stella, and Charles.

Anna Duerr married John Leddy also of South Bend and they had one daughter, Della. They later divorced.

Lucy married Martin Zaar of South Bend and they had one adopted daughter, Florence. Florence was the first wife of our Great Uncle Martin Blum (grandmother Marie’s brother).

George Duerr married Rosanna Hartman of Chapman, Nebraska and they had two children, Lawrence and Ruth.

Lawrence Duerr first married Elsie Stulken of Selby, South Dakota. Elsie Frances Stulken (2nd cousin 1x removed)  was born Feb 2, 1911 in Gleichen, Alberta, Canada to Henry and Anna Marie Huber (1st cousin 2x removed) . Anna Marie was the daughter of our Great Aunt Minnie Moesinger and husband George Huber. ( Are you confused yet? ) After Elsie’s death Lawrence married Elda Thieman (1st cousin  1x removed.) Elda was the daughter of  Ida Blum (sister to Grandmother Marie)  and Herman Thieman.

Lawrence and Elsie had three children (third cousins), Marie Anne, Marlene, and Gail.


BIRTH 15 OCT 1910  Louisville, Cass, Nebraska, United States

DEATH 16 JUL 1997  Riverview Cemetery, Cass Co, Louisville, NE

written in 1991

Elda and Lawrence Duerr
Elda and Lawrence Duerr

“My early recollections of Louisville are pretty fair, but not guaranteed one hundred percent.  On the East side of Main Street, the Drake Hotel, the Currier Newspaper print shop, Wm Keecklow’s Blacksmith Shop, next- a small building (probably a cream station). Ben Hoover’s Jewelry and Watch Repair. Another building housed a shoe repair shop, a restaurant, Wm. Dier’s General Store and Blake’s Drugstore. Across the street going North was Kraft’s Store, a Saloon, Pankonin’s Implement Store, Edgar Pankonin’s Repair Shop, another building that housed a sort of variety store, Frank Buckman’s Bakery and Bob McCarty’s home.

The West side of Main Street going South isn’t as clear. One building called the Ontario House, must have been a boarding house. It stood where the Laundromat stands today. There were 2 more building that I don’t know what was in them. The the old Joyland Theater, then a row of small frame building. Next a building that housed the Post Office after 1914, next was Ossenkop’s General Store and then the Bank of Commerce. Across the street North was a hardware store ran by a man named Dorsey. He also was Postmaster in 1913 and maybe 1914. Next was Stander and Stander Hardware and Furniture Store. Frank Nichol’s General Store, Frank Johnson’s Restaurant, Bob McCarty’s Saloon, Ed Twiss’ Meat Market, and the telephone office, and  Metz Saloon. I have no recollection of the next 2 building, Dr. Worthman’s office was on the corner. Across the street south was the Star Livery Barn.

Stander and Stander sold gasoline. It first was kept in a barrel in the back yard. It was carried out and poured in your car from a can and funnel. Later they installed the first gas pump in town. A bowser ratchet pump that put out a gallon at a stroke. Gas pumped increased fast in town. At one time there were 8 pumps in town. There were 7 left in 1950, now I guess one can’t even get a tire repaired in town.

The folks would go to town about once a week to get the mail and some groceries, such as flour , sugar, coffee, etc. At those times a farm was almost self sufficient. They produced their own meat, canned vegetable, fruit, milk and butter.

Louisville at that time had 3 general merchandise stores that sold groceries and dry goods and clothing. There was a meat market also, that sold meat and meat products. In those times, many people in town kept a mild cow. Some boys had the chore of taking the cows to pasture every morning and bringing them in again at night. More affluent fold kept a driving horse and buggy. Sometimes father and mother would go to Omaha to shop. We would drive the horse and buggy to the livery barn where they would take care of the horse, and take us to the train depot. When the train came back in late afternoon, the livery rig would be there to pick us up. When we got up town, the horse was hitched up and ready to go- all for about a dollar and sometimes less. A livery right could also be rented by the hour or day.

Life was simpler in those times. Everyone wasn’t running madly hither and yon. Oh yes, there were busy times, like harvest time, when getting the harvest done, like getting wheat and other small grain in the shock and then threshing time were a a few hectic days; but people helped one another, if it took a day or so longer at one place, the crew finished it up- no one thought of overtime or extra pay!

The farm ladies of the neighborhood all tried to out do one another feeding the crew. The usual crew was 15 or 20 men. As soon as I was big enough to spit over my bib, it seems I had my little chores to do, such as feeding and watering chickens and bring in corn cobs and wood for Mom’s cook stove. Didn’t seem to hurt me. At that time we were to start to school at seven years, but we had whooping cough that summer and the school board decided I was to stay home as I might give it to the other kids. Father bought me some books. Although I was already able to read and write, on stormy days my father would come in the house and he and mom would talk and I listened. He got a slate and pencil and taught me arithmetic and writing so by the time I was five years old, I could read and write. The first year I went to school, I took 3 grades and I took the 5th and 6th grades in one year- so I didn’t spend a lot of time in school- 8 grades in 5 years. In those days a high school education wasn’t considered necessary to farm, but who in the hell said I wanted to farm! That’s all water over the dam now. I fooled them all- I think that I got myself a fair education.

I have lived in a time of great change. I remember when an automobile was considered to be a well, to do man’s toy. There were few roads fit to drive them on and the fabric tires of that time were not too good. A thousand miles was considered good. After WWI they started to improve the roads and the cord tire appeared. Also anti freeze was unknown before 1927. the first gravel was put on the roads in this area in 1924. I can remember the special election to vote on Bonds to gravel the road out each way from Louisville, to the precinct line. A hue and cry went up it wouldn’t work and wasn’t worth the price. The bond issue carried and it wasn’t so bad after all, and more roads were graded and graveled. By 1932 or 1933 most main roads were graveled. Before 1914 not everyone had a telephone. It took years to get lines extended. The first electric lights appeared in Louisville in 1915. Before that, kerosene lamps were the source of light, except for a few gasoline lighting systems and a few carbide gas plants- really they were acetylene gas lights. By 1920, gasoline engine powered generators were beginning to appear. The generators kept a bank of large batteries charged, usually 32 volts. They furnished electricity for lights and motors to run washers and pump water. We even had a 32 volt iron. We would charge batteries at least once a week. I acquired a plant about 1937 and used it until the High Line came about, thanks to R.E.A.

Radio came into general use in the 1920’s. Some of the first ones were crystal sets. We listened with ear phones and had one that worked real well. They cost nothing to operate. By 1926 I had a 5 tube super- hetrodyne set with a loud speaker.  Television became the thing in the 1950’s. The early sets were quite cantankerous. Horse and mule power powered agriculture until the late thirties when the row crop tractors attained a degree of efficiency. For cultivating row crops, up until the 1920’s- steam traction engines were used mostly for powering threshers, corn sheller, etc. They were too ungainly for most field work. The first gas and oil burning tractors were awkward but they were improved rapidly, lighter and faster. I had a 1924 McCormick Deering 15-30 and a three bottom plow. I plowed several thousand acres with it as there weren’t any around. With a team and one row cultivator, one could cultivate 5 or 6 acres of corn a day. With the farm all row crop and 2 row cultivator, one could cultivate 20 or more acres a day.

When I got to be 21 years old, I got elected to the Dist. 86 School Board and served continuous for 21 years.Then in 1946 I was elected Justice of the Peace for 1 term. That’s where the nickname “Judge” came from.  My father told of the grasshopper plague of the 1880’s when they came it was like a cloud. When they left, they had eaten everything that was green and how everything had to be hauled from Plattsmouth before the railroad was built. When they got the first reaper, then they could raise more than 5 acres of grain. Before that, it was cut with a cradle. I don’t remember how long it took to cut an acre of grain with a cradle, but I bet it took more than one day. After the reaper came the binder that tied the grain into bundles with twine.  The first ones gave a lot of trouble. My father made an improvement on the Knotter that hasn’t been changed today. Knotters are still used on hay balers.  International Harvester paid him $25 for the idea. The corn was picked by hand and a good husker could pick 100 bushels a day and some could pick more. But I couldn’t do it. Seventy five bushels was my limit. As the corn picker was developed, a tractor mounted picker could pick 600 bushels an hour. However, they grind up the corn cobs.

Back to myself again…by and large, I had an enjoyable childhood. Even dangerous sometimes…for instance when when I was 6 1/2 years old I poured kerosene on a bed of live coals and blew up the stove and got fried GOOD! I out grew 995 of the scars but I still have a few. My father had a box of about a dozen new door locks. I got into them and took them apart…of course..I couldn’t put them back together again. Father told mother “that kid is like a grasshopper-into everything!”

I was always a curious brat, very few things escaped my attention. Like all boys, I wanted a gun, but no dice. Finally when I was old enough, father said ‘there’s the shot gun, go hunting”. I shot once, it kicked like a mule, I went back home and never took it again!

When I was 3 years old, my father bought a Model T Ford car. It was some treat to ride in an automobile. That one, like most cars of it’s time, had acetylene gas head lamps. Two carriage style lamps mounted on the cowl burned kerosene as did the tail lamp. When winter came, autos of that era were usually jacked up, partly because to drive in the cold weather boiling water was poured into the radiator to help in starting. On arrival of where ever you were going, the water was drained until you were ready to go home. Anti Freeze didn’t come on the market until the late twenties and that was alcohol based that evaporated badly. Some tried glycerin in the radiators before but it would seep out and also turn the consistency of spaghetti.  Father kept that car until 1922-an old gentleman, Noah Stafford always wanted to buy it. He finally must have mad an offer that Pop couldn’t turn down, as the man’s son-in-law came home from town with us and took the car back. By that time we had a telephone and father called the Ford dealer at Weeping Water and told him to bring a new car over. Needless to say, he was there in less than an hour. It was possibly one of the easiest sales ever made. That was a good car and an uptown job-electric lights, electric starter, demountable rims and a spare tire.

In 1913 Father also traded his Edison Cylinder Record Phonograph on a new new Victrola. I still have it and it plays as good as ever. Seventy seven years is a long time for something like that to la


We had an eight acre orchard. Mostly summer apples. Once in a while father would ship a carload, but usually there wasn’t too much a market for summer apples. Wind falls that fell in deep grass were given away and picked off the tree, 10 cents per bushel. We had a large cider mill. People would come and make cider by the jug full. One neighbor would come every summer with the whole family and make 2 barrels of cider for vinegar. As I got older, I wondered at the amount of vinegar they used. I imagine some of it ended up as Hard Cider with a kick like a mule.

When I got big enough to run a walking plow, Pop didn’t hire a man for fall plowing. I thought, O Boy, I’m a man now! Running a walking plow isn’t hard work. Just walking and having a hold on the handles. We had 60 acres or so to plow every fall. With 2, 16 inch plows! In later years I figured how far one walks to plow 1 acres with a 16 inc plow-about 7 1/2 miles! To give the horses a rest, we would stop and put up prairie hay, fill the hay mow in the barn and make a couple of big stacks outside. Then came wheat seeding time and then corn picking. I never had to pick much corn. Everyone tried to get through by Thanksgiving. Also when I went to school, all of the big boys and some girls got at least 2 weeks off to pick corn. Wouldn’t that cause a consternation now!!

At Thanksgiving time a program of music, song and mabe a stage play ws put on at the school house. In those days the school house was more or less the center of social activity for the neighborhood. Sometimes we had a box supper at the school house. Ladies and girls would fix up a pretty box with lunch for two and they were auctioned off. Some of the fellow would pay a good price to get to eat with his girl. Then there were house parties once in a while, or maybe a dance. I played for dances but never learned to dance. Life was simpler then and entertainment was a lot cheaper too.

The late teens and early twenties was and era of good times. Sporty roadsters with rumble seats, girls bobbed their hair, put on lots of make up and work short skirts – it was called the Flapper Era. The general conduct was called scandalous by the more prim members of society – but everyone seemed to survive and most turned out as pretty good people.


On September 23, 1923, a flood hit Louisville and drowned 13 people.  One was never found. Water was counter deep in the stores, damage was extensive.  Surprisingly, a few people seemed to know about it.  I have a set of pictures of the flood.
October 1929 herald the start of the Great Depression.  Panic on Wall Street, bank failures, millions were out of work, farm prices dropped and in 1930 and 31, the depression deepened.  Some turned their pockets inside out and called them Hoover flags.  To make matters worse, the drought of the 1930’s set in- with dust storms-sometimes we lit lamps at noon.  The sky was dark with dust.  In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt was elected President.  he instituted some reforms – WPA, to make work.  The pay wasn’t much but it helped people to retain some dignity.  Prices remained low on what crops escaped the drought.  The Kellogg Co. was offering 13 cents a bushel for corn.  Hogs sold for as little as 2 cents per pound.  I sold 400 pound hogs for eight dollars each.  Twenty five dollars would buy a good milk cow, if you had twenty five dollars.  After 1936 it started raining again and conditions got better.  Corn got to 45 cents then WWII came along and there were plenty of things to fret about-food and gasoline rationing along with tire rationing!  They imposed a 35 MPH speed limit.  It was enforced.  If you were caught speeding you could lose your 3 gallon per week, gas or your tires, or both!  The war put thousands back to work making planes and munitions.  Of course, after the war, there was great demand for goods of all kinds.
By 1947, i was repairing things for others anyway, so went at it full time and stayed at it for 40 years.  I worked for Pankonin’s Implement Co. for five years and worked nights and weekends at home.  I still do some, but prefer wood work.
Just for old times sake, I have a Grocery ad of June 10, 1939.
Sugar 10# cloth bag………..49 cents
Four 49# bag………………..98 cents
peaches 2 1/2# can..two for 25 cents
corn flakes ..2 large boxes ..19 cents
pork chops ……………………10 cents per #
Candy bars…………………3 for 10 cents
Coffee………………………..17 cents
About that time we would take a case of eggs to town–12 cents a dozen.  Another thing I forgot to mention was early refrigerators and the winter ice harvest.  Jim Hoover had an ice house that supposedly held 100 tons.  He would peddle ice in town all summer.  father made an ice house and put up ice.  It usually lasted most of the summer.  An ice box as they were called, didn’t keep it too cold; about 40 degrees at best.  Folks that had a dug well would hang cream and butter down in the well.  Then there were ice-less coolers for sale.  A hole was dug 8 to 10 feet deep and this metal tube was set in it.  Containers were lowered into it with a rope on a crank.  We had a large refrigerator that held 100 pounds of ice and had a water cooler built in.
To beat the summer heat, some folks built summer kitchens to cook in and then carried the food into the house.
Those were the good old days that are talked about!  Some were not so good but people survived.  The only thing that can be said for them is that life was a lot simpler and probably people were just as happy then as they are now.  Would I live them over?  Sure thing, only I would want a few changes; although I can’t think of what they would be.  I have enjoyed life immensely.  While I am at it, I might as well mention that I did go to music school.  That is the only thing that I have the papers to prove that I learned!”
Lawrence Duerr
Special thank you to Lawrence for keeping us informed on what “history” really was.  I hope you enjoyed todays read and if so, please leave me a comment at the bottom of the page. If you have memories you would like to share…I’d love to hear it.
No copyright infringement intended.
Happy Hunting
The Pierce Family Historian

How It Used To BE

Ah it’s been a difficult winter hasn’t it? Here in Kansas we had tons of snow and then rain. Nebraska is flooding. People are complaining.

When things get difficult I often reflect on how things were for our ancestors. We are so spoiled if we stop to think how things were for them. They had no air conditioning or central air to keep them comfortable, no heated cars to jump into only a horse to cuddle up to to keep warm. They struggled every day to survive.  Here are some interesting facts from England in the 1500’s and how it use to be. Next time you start to feel frustrated with your situation…stop and reflex on what your ancestors coped with.

Marriage in June

Most people got married in June because they too their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hid the body odor.

Want a bath?

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water. All of the other sons and men in the house were next. Finally the women and then the children. Last was all of the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Raining Cat’s and Dogs

Houses had thatched roofs, thick with straw, piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm with the weather was cold, so all the dogs, cats and other small animals such as mice, and bugs, lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. From this we get the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs!”

A Canopy Bed

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. The was a real problem in the bedroom  where bugs and other droppings could make a mess on your nice clean bed. People would make beds with big posts and hang a sheet over the top to give a bit of protection from the falling debris. That’s how canopy beds came into existence.

Dirt Poor

The floor was made of dirt. Only the very wealthy had something other than a dirt floor and therefore those with dirt floors were “dirt poor” . The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery  in the winter when wet, so they would spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on they could continue to add more straw or thresh as it was called,  until it would start slipping outside when the door was pushed open. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance and so the term “threshold” was born.

Peas Porridge

How many of you remember the rhyme “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot, nine days old”?

In the old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that would hang over the fire. Every day they would light the fire and add things to the pot.  They mostly ate vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it and it had been there for quite awhile, hence the rhyme.

Chewing the Fat

Occasionally they were able to obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors would come, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man “could bring home the bacon” They would cut off a little to share with guest and would all sit around and “chew the fat”.

Tomatoes were Poisonous

People with money had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content would cause some of the lead to leach onto the food and cause lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were consider poisonous.

Trench Mouth

Most people did not have pewter plates but rather trenchers, which was a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Often trenchers were made from stale bread  that was so old and hard they could be used for quite some time. Trenchers were never washed and would and mold got into the wood and old bread. After eating of wormy, moldy trenchers one would get what they called “trench mouth”.

Upper Crust

Bread was divided according to status. Workers would get the burnt bottom of the loaf, and the family got the middle. Guest would get the top or the “upper crust” .


I hope you’ve enjoyed a little trip back in time. Next time you want to complain stop and think how it “could be” or how it “was”. It’s amazing so many survived to leave a heritage. If you’ve enjoyed this or know of where an old time saying originated…please share with us in the comments!

As Always!

Happy Hunting

The Pierce Family Historian



Mary (Great Mary) Starbuck
Mary (Great Mary) Starbuck

We talked a bit about Mary Coffin Starbuck  in our previous post but we only touched the surface of the the woman and her life. She was an example to all who came in contact with her and I hope in this post to give a little more insight into who this woman was what what her life was like. Great Mary, as she was called was instrumental in the developing of the Nantucket colony and the building of the Quaker religion on the Island and was considered a top influential leader among the Quakers and the islanders.


When we think of the first settlers of the colonies most likely the first thing that comes to mind is the Pilgrims, the next would perhaps be the Puritans, and then of course the Quakers. In the early years of what later became the United States, Christian religious groups played an influential role in each of the British colonies, and most attempted to enforce strict religious observance through local town rules  and colony governments.  Laws mandated that everyone attend a house of worship and pay taxes that funded the salaries of ministers. In order to become a “freeman” you had to belong to a church. Eight of the thirteen British colonies had  “established,” churches, and in those colonies anyone who sought to practice  a different version of Christianity or a non-Christian faith were often times persecuted.  Differing Christian groups often believed that their own practices and faiths provided unique values that needed protection against those who disagreed, driving a need for rule and regulation.

In Europe, Catholic and Protestant nations often persecuted or forbade each other’s religions, and British colonists frequently maintained restrictions against Catholics. In Great Britain, the Protestant Anglican church had split into bitter divisions among traditional Anglicans and the reforming Puritans, contributing to an English civil war in the 1600s. In the British colonies, differences among Puritan and Anglican remained. In the name of religion we have seen much division, prejudice, and war throughout history.

Between 1680 and 1760 Anglicanism and Congregationalism, an offshoot of the English Puritan movement, established themselves as the main organized denominations in the majority of the colonies. As the seventeenth and eighteenth century passed on, however, the Protestant wing of Christianity constantly gave birth to new movements, such as the Baptists, Methodists, Quakers, Unitarians and many more, sometimes referred to as “Dissenters.”  In communities where one existing faith was dominant, new congregations were often seen as unfaithful troublemakers who were upsetting the social order. People were driven from one settlement to another because of their religious beliefs. Take a look at the Mormons and Quakers for instance here in this country. All of this began years before in other countries as well.

New England

Most New Englanders went to a Congregationalist meetinghouse for church services. The meetinghouse, which served many agendas, was a small wood building usually  located in the center of town. Services last most of the day and parishioners sat for hours on long wooden benches.  These meeting houses became bigger and much less crude as the population grew after the 1660s. Steeples grew, bells were introduced, and some churches grew big enough to host as many as one thousand worshipers.

An illustration of a plain, rectangular, white building.

Colonial-Era Meeting House, Sandown, New Hampshire

In contrast to other colonies, there was a meetinghouse in every New England town.

In 1750 the population of Boston numbered about 15000 and had eighteen churches.

In the previous century church attendance varied and  they were often times held in the homes of the colonist. After the 1680s, with many more churches and clerical bodies emerging more organization and attendance was enforced in New England. In even sharper contrast to the other colonies, in New England most newborns were baptized by the church, and church attendance rose in some areas to 70 percent of the adult population. By the eighteenth century, the vast majority of all colonists were churchgoers.

The New England colonists were mostly Puritans, who led strict religious lives. The clergy was highly educated and devoted to the study and teaching of both Scripture and the natural sciences. The Puritan leadership, especially in Massachusetts and Connecticut, included their version of Protestantism into their political structure. Government in these colonies contained elements of theocracy, asserting that leaders and officials derived that authority from divine guidance and that civil authority should be used to enforce strict religious conformity. Their laws assumed that citizens who strayed away from religious customs were a threat to civil order and should be punished, and many were, for their nonconformity.

New England churches operated quite differently from the older Anglican system in England. Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut didn’t have church courts to levy fines on religious offenders, leaving that function to the civil magistrates. Congregational churches most generally did not own  property. The local meeting house was owned by the town and was used to hold town meeting and religious services.  Ministers were called upon to advise the civil magistrates but played no official role in town or colony governments.

In those colonies, the civil government dealt harshly with religious dissenters, exiling the likes of Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams for their outspoken criticism of Puritanism, and whipping Baptists or cropping the ears of Quakers for their efforts to convert others to their opinion. Official persecution reached its peak between 1659 and 1661, when Massachusetts Bay’s Puritan magistrates hung four Quaker missionaries.

The actual experience of New England nonconformist varied widely, and punishment of religious opinion was varied. England intervened in 1682 and ended the corporal punishment of dissenters in New England. The Toleration Act was passed by the English Parliament in 1689 and gave Quakers and several other denominations the right to build churches and to conduct public worship in the colonies. While dissenters continued to endure discrimination and financial penalties well into the eighteenth century, those who did not challenge the authority of the Puritans directly were left alone and were not legally punished for their “heretical” beliefs.

As mentioned in previous post, it was due to religious beliefs and persecution that so many of our ancestors came to America, and also the cause for them to relocate time and time again.



Mary was born 20 Feb, 1644 in Haverhill, Massachusetts shortly after her father Tristram Coffin’s  arrival to the American colonies and his settlement there.  She was their seventh child.  Tristram being such an influential character in the development of the colony and a founding father of Nantucket, causes me to question what role he played in the development of his children’s character. So often it is the mother that instills  the most influence in the upbringing of the children and from reading the history of the Coffins it is  common knowledge that he could not have been home much having done so much traveling. It could be that Tristram and Dionis  are both to credit for the upbringing of such influential individuals.

I’m sure watching the struggle of her parents while growing up played a big role in the woman that she became. Raised as a Puritan, Mary, no doubt early on, was raised with strict Puritan beliefs. The Puritans came from England to get away from the church there. Though they considered themselves part of the Church of England, they felt that it was adopting too many Catholic ideals and  that it needed to be Purified.

Mary was fifteen when she moved to Nantucket with her father. Two years later she married Nathaniel Starbuck son of  Edward and Catherine Reynolds Starbuck. She and Nathaniel were the first white couple to be married on the newly developing island.  Nathaniel was a prosperous farmer, local official, and partner with her father in purchasing the area from the Indians. Their first child Mary, born in 1663 was the first white child born on the island of Nantucket. They built their home about  1677  which eventually became known as the Parliament House.  The original site was near Hummock Pond. The house is now a private residence at 10 Pine Street, corner of School Street in Nantucket.

Nathaniel Starbuck
Nathaniel Starbuck husband of Mary

Nathaniel later went into the whaling business and Mary, seeing the need for commerce opened a merchant store. She, unlike her husband was very literate, her handwriting was exquisite, and her mathematical skills exceeded most. She kept detailed accounts on the business and was involved in the lives of nearly every person on the Island, from Wampanoag Indians to housewives to visiting dignitaries. Throughout the years Mary became popularly known as “mother of the settlement” but is most proclaimed for having brought Quakerism to Nantucket and into the lives of the inhabitants there.  It is said that she was an easy and eloquent speaker with a silvery tongue. Her kind and gentle manner and influence gained her great respect from  the neighbors and they looked to her for guidance and advice in every area… ‘ a ‘Deborah’ among them for her wisdom and great ability, she soon came to be called “The Great Woman”. Above all that she and her family were among the wealthiest on the Island.

MARY COFFIN STARBUCK’S “ACCOUNT BOOK   with the Indians” is a sheepskin-covered ledger tracking the credits and debits of the two hundred Indians who patronized her store. She began keeping the account book in 1683 and the book was completed after her death in 1717 by her son, Nathaniel Starbuck, Jr., in 1766.

An example of one account in the book is for Tom Poney [Pone, Pony] who in 1734 and 1735 bought from the general store such items as blankets, corn-meal, meat, thread, tobacco, a great coat,

Account Book of the Starbcks
Account Book of the Starbcks

women’s shoes, candles, molasses, and seed corn among other things. For the same years he was credited for “fish caught at Siasconset,” a “share of a whale got with John Russel,” “share of a whale got with Shubael Folger at Cansco,” fish caught at Shawkemo, and a “share of a whale caught with Jethro Folger.” He was also credited for his labor, “washing sheep” and “plowing two acres.” In 1737 he was even given credit for labor per-I formed by his sister: “carding wool.”

A study of the account book, held in the NHA Research Center, introduces readers to Indian names, their businesses, and the economy of the island. According to Elizabeth Little, “it is a treasure trove of data about Indian life on Nantucket covering the years 1683, when the cod-fishing industry of Nantucket got under way, to 1764, when most of the Indians died of a tragic illness.” It is an invaluable research tool and a lasting document meticulously kept by a great woman of Nantucket.

The population of Nantucket in 1700 was approximately 300 whites and 800 Indians. Short of specie and needing loyal suppliers, traders would advance up to ten pounds of cloth, fish hooks, shoes, shot, kettles, and more in exchange for feathers and fish.  The use of the credit system depended on the courts allowing the Indians to be sued for debt. Mary’s book shows accounts for as many as 200 Indians, who were primarily engaged in cod fishing and fowling but were also performing routine manual labor, and later whaling. In return for their efforts, they received necessary tools, cloth, and supplies.

Mary and Nathaniel raised ten children of whom five daughters and three sons lived to maturity. From this family all of the Starbucks of America are descended.

Introduction to Quakerism

Though being of Puritan faith Mary began practicing what was referred to as “radical spiritualism”.

Hearing of a strong woman with tendencies leaning towards the Quaker faith, English Quakers came to the island in hopes they could convert her to Quakerism. They believed her strength of character and influence among the islanders would help to spread the Quaker faith if only she could be converted. One Friend who especially influenced her was Thomas Story who held meetings in her home which became know as the Parliament House due to the fact that much of the public business was conducted there.

Unlike the Puritan faith the Quakers encouraged equality for all…men, woman, slaves, and Indians, therefore allowing women to minister. Mary would preside over meetings in her home to win many converts to the Quaker faith.  John Richardson an early Quaker preacher said of her, “The Islanders established her a Judge among them, for a little of moment was done without her advice.” She held religious meetings in her home, being herself a Quaker preacher of power and eloquence. “Parliament House hosted the famous John Richardson meeting of 1702 and served for the first decade of active Quakerism on the island as the site of regular Meetings for Worship (1704-1711) and the business meetings that resulted in the formation of Nantucket Monthly Meeting in 1708. Women’s Monthly Meeting also met there from 1708 to 1716.”

Originally published in the Historic Nantucket, Vol 46, No. 4 (Fall 1997) p. 17
Mary Coffin Starbuck’s “Account Book with the Indians” By Helen Stehling

“June 28, 1702. (QN, p13) A visiting minister has come to Nantucket. Mary Coffin Starbuck has issued an open invitation to a meeting for worship that he will hold in her home, known as Parliament House. The preacher is a Quaker, and the few Quakers already living on the island are pleased that one of their number should be attracting so much attention. For some, it is true, the attraction is not as much the preacher as the chance to view the shining woodwork and comfortable appurtenances of Parliament House and the lifestyle of the affluent and influential Starbucks. A storekeeper, Mary is the island’s chief creditor, and few commodities leave or arrive on the island without passing through her hands.

Already people have filled the house, and the benches placed outside the doors have few spaces left. By the time the meeting begins, all the casement windows of Parliament House will have been removed, and virtually all the English settlers on the island will be pressed close to hear. Few forms of entertainment on Nantucket can compare to a visiting minister, and today’s meeting promises to be exceptional. Mary Starbuck is clearly leaning toward Quakerism; perhaps today will bring an open declaration.

Those who have met the minister-John Richardson is his name-report that he is a Yorkshire man, and his manner of speaking is exotic and even a bit unpleasant to most islanders’ West Country ears. The oldest Starbuck son, Nathaniel Jr., has offered hospitality to Richardson; the whole family has been more than a little taken with other Quakers who have come to the island. Father Nathaniel’s own sister has married into a Quaker family and been recognized as a minster herself.

Almost everyone has been to a meeting conducted by one of these Quakers before, and they know that the meeting will begin with a period of silence. When finally it comes, it takes a few moments for the quiet to ripple outward through the windows to the crowd in the yard. After some minutes, people stop shifting where they stand or sit, and a kind of deep tranquility sets in. Even the children are at ease.

The first to speak is James Bates, a Quaker from Virginia. Then at last a low voice is heard, hard and nasal-the Yorkshire preacher. He is not exactly praying, and certainly not preaching in the style of the Baptists and Congregationalists who have come to Nantucket before. There is a kind of rhythm to his speech, and a strange intonation. He is chanting.

As the listeners’ ears become accustomed to Richardson’s strange accent and manner of speaking, they realize that he is talking about Jesus. New Englanders are more comfortable with the temperamental deity of the Old Testament, but they know the parables of Jesus and the significance of the crucifixion and resurrection.

Richardson is talking about Jesus the man-a simple, good man whose words and teachings are not meant to be just cautionary tales against misbehavior. This Jesus is not an impossibly righteous divinity but rather a man whose words of common sense cut through anger, hatred, greed, and envy. The preacher is suggesting in a simple, eloquent fashion that the world could be a much better place-a paradise-if everyone followed these words, if everyone accepted the living spiritual rebirth proclaimed by Jesus. Skeptics raise their eyebrows; they have heard this before. But the Yorkshire Quaker puts the case well. One can almost imagine . . .

Those close to the front can see that Richardson has now turned his attention full on Mary Starbuck, who has begun to weep openly. Inspired by the palpable response of his listeners, Richardson becomes more eloquent, the vision he lays out more beautiful still.

Many are sobbing by now. More than an hour has passed, and for some time now most of the white population of Nantucket has been caught up in the words of the Quaker. Seeing their leaders succumbing to honest emotion, they surrender, too. When Richardson suddenly stops speaking, they hunger for more. His own emotional state, he will later write, is ‘beyond his measure.’

Mary Starbuck’s meeting has been a success, in more ways than anyone could have expected. The Quaker Richardson has shown the islanders a new path. It is not fire and brimstone that will fuse them into a spiritual community, but a simple testimony of peace, honesty, and love. As Mary stands at the meeting’s end, she holds out her hand. ‘This,’ she tells the gathered multitude, ‘is the overwhelming truth.'”

She is said to have been baptized by Peter Folger, in Waiptequage Pond; and  about 1704 she became convinced of the truth as taught by the Friends, and Mary converted to Quakerism at the age of 56, and became one of their most influential ministers. Her family after that generally became Friends, and her son Nathaniel, and daughter Priscilla Coleman, and grandsons Elihu and Nathaniel Coleman, were at a later period Quaker ministers.”

Englishman John Richardson wrote of a meeting at which Mary “Spoke trembling… Then she arose, and I observed that she and as many as could well be seen, were wet with Tears from their Faces to the fore-skirts of their Garments and the floor was as though there was a Shower of Rain upon it”.  Richardson wrote also that [She was a] “most extraordinary woman, participating in the practical duties and responsibilities of public gatherings and town meetings, on which occasion her words were always listened to with marked respect.”

Mary’s oldest son, Nathaniel Starbuck, Jr. (1668-1753), was very involved with his mother in preaching Quakerism.  The Quakers on Nantucket were strong politically and financially, and many were involved in the whaling industry.   (Nathaniel married his first cousin, Dinah Coffin.)

By the time Quakerism was fully established on the island and the island had been able to establish its own yearly meeting, Mary became one of the most celebrated Friends and Quaker leaders on the island.  The Nantucket Meeting was formed in 1708, with Mary serving as an elder and her son Nathaniel Jr. as clerk. Mary became the first recognized minister among the islanders. Although the first Meeting house on Nantucket was built in 1711, Mary did not live to see the official Nantucket Monthly Meeting be established.


Mary Coffin Starbuck died on Nantucket Island November 13, 1717, at the age of seventy-two. Her body was laid to rest in the Friends’ burial ground next to the new meeting house built on land donated by her son and the Nantucket proprietors.



The Quaker (Friends) Meeting House on Fair Street was erected circa 1838 by builder James Weeks and originally served as a Friends school for the Wilburite sect. John Boadle, a Quaker schoolmaster from London, was the teacher, and the school was called “John Boadle’s School.” In 1864, with the decline in the number of Friends on Nantucket, the school was converted into a meeting house and the large South Meeting House next door was sold and removed. The existing meeting house was purchased from the Friends in 1894 by the Nantucket Historical Association and served as its first museum.

Quakerism in America Quakerism had its roots in England in the 1650s, when George Fox gathered together a group of “friends” who felt that the spirit of God, or the “Inner Light,” was within each person and that the worship of God did not require an intermediary (minister or priest). The Society of Friends, as it became known, was vehemently persecuted in England and many Friends died in prison. The first missionaries of the Society of Friends from England arrived in America in 1656, but only in the colony of Rhode Island were they cordially received.

Quakerism in Massachusetts was a radical departure from mainstream Puritan thought. In addition to their doctrinal differences, the seventeenth-century Friends, unlike the quiet, inward-looking Friends of the eighteenth century, were activists. Refusing to recognize rank, take oaths, or pay any kind of church taxes, they opposed the established church. Massachusetts took the strongest measures to suppress Quakerism, including hanging, and even those who communicated with Quakers were subject to fines. It was not until 1661, when Charles II was restored to the throne and ordered that Quaker trials be transferred to England, that pressure lessened in the Bay Colony. By the 1660s, Quakerism was spreading throughout New England, and Rhode Island elected a member of the society as governor. Even Massachusetts was fairly accepting of the Quakers by the beginning of the eighteenth century.

There does not seem to have been any organized religious group in the Nantucket English community during the seventeenth century. Obed Macy, in his History of Nantucket (1835; reprints 1880 and 1972), remarks that “During the first fifty years after the settlement, the people were mostly Baptists; there were some Presbyterians, a few of the Society of Friends.”

Quakerism in early Nantucket The Society of Friends was the first group to formally organize on the island. This firm commitment was a direct outgrowth of the missionary visits of Friends from off-island, including Thomas Chalkley, a Quaker missionary-merchant from Philadelphia, and John Richardson, a well-known English Friend. Between 1704 and 1708, a number of other Friends visited Nantucket from Rhode Island, Long Island, Philadelphia, and England.

In the forty-year period after 1708, the Meeting outgrew a series of meeting houses and expansions. By the late 1750s, the Friends meeting house at the corner of Pleasant and Main Streets served 1,500 persons. In 1762, with the Quaker community having grown to almost 2,400 persons, the much larger Great Meeting House was built at the crossroads of Main Street and Madaket Road.

The Quakers on Nantucket were strong politically and financially; many were involved in the lucrative whaling industry. They were in the majority for most of the eighteenth century, and their devotion to simplicity and strict adherence to traditional ways influenced Nantucket’s architecture, home furnishings, clothing, and social behavior.

Factionalism in Nantucket Quakerism The Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 were disastrous for the Society of Friends. Their doctrine of pacifism led them to read out of meeting dozens who had supported and/or participated in the “American Cause.” After 1820, Quakerism on Nantucket started to decline rapidly, with a great decrease in the number of Quakers by the 1840s. Members were read out of meeting for marrying non-Quakers and for nonattendance. Around 1830, the Hicksite division had a devastating effect on American Quakerism. The Nantucket Meeting broke into factions, with older, more orthodox, Quakers unable to accept the changing times. Three different sects—the Hicksites, the Gurneyites, and the Wilburites—held separate meetings on the island, thus shattering Quaker unity. By the late 1860s there were only a few Quakers on the island, and by 1900, it is said, there were none.

Quakers Today Since 1939, members of the Religious Society of Friends have used the Quaker Meeting House on Fair Street for worship according to the Quaker manner on Sunday mornings during the summer. Since 2000, a small group has been meeting there year round. Although under the oversight of the Friends of the New England Yearly Meeting, the group is without formal organization. Today, the Religious Society of Friends is one of the recognized Christian denominations with about 120,000 members in the United States and perhaps about 200,000 in all other parts of the world. Present-day Friends believe that the old Quaker principles and manner of worship are applicable in modern life.

For further information on current activities of the Nantucket Friends: May to October: 508.257.6101 Off-season: 508.228.1730 Or write to:

Nantucket Friends Meeting PMB 2 2 Greglen Avenue Nantucket MA 02554  The Quaker Meeting House has been the property of the Nantucket Historical Association since 1894.



Mary Coffin Starbuck is mentioned in Quaker Nantucket by Robert J. Leach and Peter Gow on pages 11, 12, 13, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 30, 36, 40, 43, 51, 58, 86, 147, 148, 149, 153, 158, 190 and 196.

Page 11, “Another leading citizen was Nantucket’s first storekeeper, Tristram Coffin’s daughter Mary. The energetic Mary quickly became an important figure in the young settlement, arranging credit and commerce among the growing white population and the Indians. Mary’s husband was Nathaniel Starbuck, whose sister, Sarah Starbuck Austin, was a Quaker minister living on the New Hampshire coast. Nathaniel’s investments in whaling, along with Mary’s profits from the store, became the foundation of one of Nantucket’s early fortunes.”

Page 12, “The next year John Gardner’s own niece Sarah married Joseph Paddock, nephew of Ichabod, in the Yarmouth Meetinghouse. It is doubtful whether her old Puritan uncle attended the ceremony, but he probably offered no objections. In 1698 Mary Coffin Starbuck’s youngest daughter, Hephzibah, stood up in the Apponegansett Meetinghouse (near where New Bedford would later be founded) to marry Thomas Hathaway. Hephzibah, like Puella Hussey Gorham, was soon acknowledged, by virtue of her eloquence in meeting, as a minister. There was no way to prevent this ministering young woman from going to visit her mother, the powerful shopkeeper, and her father, a founder of Nantucket’s whaling industry. Seeing the inevitable at hand and perhaps tired of controversy, John Gardner retired from the magistracy that same year.”

Continuing on page 12, “For nearly forty years Mary Starbuck and others had resisted the establishment of any kind of paid ministry on Nantucket. Denominationally diverse, the English settlement continued to look off island for religious sustenance. Now it was time for visiting Friends, many of whom had important family connections on the island, to try their hands at cultivating Nantucket’s spiritual garden.”

Page 13, “June 28, 1702. A visiting minister has come to Nantucket. Mary Coffin Starbuck has issued an open invitation to a meeting for worship that he will hold in her home, known as Parliament House. The preacher is a Quaker, and the few Quakers already living on the island are pleased that one of their number should be attracting so much attention. For some, it is true, the attraction is not as much the preacher as the chance to view the shining woodwork and comfortable appurtenances of Parliament House and the lifestyle of the affluent and influential Starbucks. A storekeeper, Mary is the island’s chief creditor, and few commodities leave or arrive on the island without passing through her hands.” “Mary Starbuck is clearly leaning toward Quakerism; perhaps today will bring an open declaration.”

Page 16, “Those close to the front can see that Richardson has now turned his attention full on Mary Starbuck, who has begun to weep openly. Inspired by the palpable response of his listeners, Richardson becomes more eloquent, the vision he lays out more beautiful still.”

Continuing on page 16, “Mary Starbuck’s meeting has been a success, in more ways than anyone could have expected. The Quaker Richardson has shown the islanders a new path. It is not fire and brimstone that will fuse them into a spiritual community, but a simple testimony of peace, honesty, and love. As Mary stands at teh meeting’s end, she hold out her hand. ‘This,’ she tells the gathered multitude, ‘is the overwhelming truth’.”

The chapter entitled, “Great Mary’s Children,” on page 21 states, “The first Quaker visitor to Nantucket with explicitly missionary ambitions was Thomas Turner, who arrived in 1698. A former traveling companion of Fox, Turner was accompanied by Hugh Copperthwaite, a Long Island Quaker, and, most probably, by Haphzibah Starbuck Hathaway, daughter

of Nathaniel and Mary Coffin Starbuck. Captain Peleg Slocomb, son-in-law of Christopher Holder, sailed the party to the island. Little specific information survives concerning this visit, but it is reasonable to surmise that Turner and company held an appointed meeting, perhaps at Parliament House, the home of Nathaniel and Mary Coffin Starbuck.”

Page 22, “The arrival on Nantucket of some of Newport’s leading Friends was tantamount to an offer: We in the narragansett region will undertake to defend your interests, in particular your religious freedom. We ask in return that you consider the Quaker way, and that commercial ties between our communities be strengthened. That the island’s storekeeper, Mary Coffin Starbuck, and one of its principal whaling entrepreneurs, her husband, Nathaniel, seemed favorably disposed to Quakerism suggested strongly that a positive response might be anticipated.”

Continuing on page 22, “Another facet of Quaker culture became apparent in 1698 when Joanna Slocomb Mott arrived on Nantucket t o preach. To the two hundred or so who turned out to hear her, the novelty of a female minister, traveling without her husband, must have been considerable, although it was well known that women Friends were welcomed into the ministry. After all, two daughters of the island, Puella Hussey Gorham and Hephzibah Starbuck Hathaway, had already been acknowledged as ministers on the mainland.”

Page 26, “For two years after Richardson’s 1702 visit, appointed meetings were held sporadically at Parliament House by ministers who came to Nantucket. The visitors commonly stayed for several weeks or more, preaching at public appointed meetings as well as passing among Quaker or Quaker-inclined homes and sharing private meetings of the host families. As the Quaker spirit on Nantucket was catalyzed, Mary Coffin Starbuck’s own convincement continued to deepen. From a passive role as benign protective spirit and host to Quaker visitors, she became more and more active in worship. At last she herself became a minister, and surviving reports describe her preaching as powerful and compelling. History has come to know Mary Starbuck as the ‘Great Woman’ or ‘Great Mary,’ and much of Nantucket’s later glory can be attributed to her leadership in bringing to the island a creed that promised community and stability as well as (for a time, at least) unity of purpose.”



1) Nantucket Vital Records to 1850, 5 vols. Boston, 1925-28, Births, page 507, Starbuck, Nathaniel, h. Mary (d. Tristram Coffin 1st and Dionis), s. Edward and Catharine Reynolds, , 1636 [? In Dover, N. H.], P.R. 38.].

2) NVR to 1850, Births, page 302, Coffin, Mary, w. Nathaniel Starbuck (s. Edward and Catharine), d. Tristram and Dionis (Stevens), 20th, 2 mo. 1645 (see Haverhill Vital Records), P.R. 38.

3) NVR to 1850, Births, page 501, Starbuck, Jethro, s. Nathaniell, Dec. 14, 1671. [h. Dorcas (d. William Gayer and Dorcas), s. Nathaniel and Mary (Coffin), 14th, 12 mo., P.R. 38].

4) NVR to 1850, Deaths, page 544, Starbuck, Jethro, h. Dorcas, 12th. 8 mo. 1770, C.R. 4. [h. dorcas (d. William Gayer and Dorcas), s. Nathaniel and Mary (Coffin), a. 98 y. 8 m., P.R. 38. A. 98 y. 8 m. 6 d., P.R. 63].

5) The History of Nantucket, County, Island, and Town including Genealogies of First Settlers by Alexander Starbuck, Charles F. Tuttle Company, publishers, Rutland, Vermont.

6) The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 162 vols., 1847-2009., page 181, 1853, A Record of Births, Deaths, and Marriages on Nantucket, Beginning in 1662, Communicated by Wm. C. Folger, of Nantucket, Corresponding Member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, “Jethro ye son of Nathaniel Starbuck was born ye 14th of Dec. 1671.”

7) NVR to 1850, Marriages, page 396, Starbuck, Jethro and Dorcas Gayer, 6th, 10 mo. 1694. Intention not recorded. [Jethro, s. Nathaniel and Mary (Coffin), and Dorcas Gayer Jr., d. William and Dorcas (Starbuck) (first w.), P.R. 38].


XX) Roland L. Warren, Mary Coffin Starbuck & the Early History of Nantucket (P.O. Box 803,Andover, NY 14806: Pingry Press, 1987). Hereinafter cited as Mary Coffin Starbuck & the Early History of Nantucket.

28. Jordan, John W., Colonial Families of Philadelphia, (Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago 1911), 566-7.

29. No Author, American Genealogical Record, The Robinson, (Genealogical Record Publishing Company, San Francisco, 1897), Vol. 2, p. 198.

30. Frank A. Gardner, MD, Thomas Gardner Planter and Some of His Descendants, (1731, Essex Institute, Salem, MA).

31. Jordan, John W., Colonial Families of Philadelphia, (Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago 1911), 566-7.

32. No Author, American Genealogical Record, The Robinson, (Genealogical Record Publishing Company, San Francisco, 1897), Vol. 2, p. 198.

33. Frank A. Gardner, MD, Thomas Gardner Planter and Some of His Descendants, (1731, Essex Institute, Salem, MA).

34. No Author, American Genealogical Record, The Robinson, (Genealogical Record Publishing Company, San Francisco, 1897), Vol. 2, p. 198.

35. Frank A. Gardner, MD, Thomas Gardner Planter and Some of His Descendants, (1731, Essex Institute, Salem, MA).

36. Macy: Silvanus J. Macy Genealogy of the Macy family from 1635-1868, Albany, Joel Munsell, 79.

37. No Author, American Genealogical Record, The Robinson, (Genealogical Record Publishing Company, San Francisco, 1897), Vol. 2, p. 198.


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As Always,

Happy Hunting

The Pierce Family Historian


John and Cliff Pierce

Venus John and Clifford William Pierce
about 1926


Clifford W. Pierce was born in April, the 24, 1921 at home in Liberty. NE , the second son to Venus and Marie Pierce.  He grew up during the depression when things were scarce, and times were hard and work was the way of living.  As a young 12 year old boy Cliff entered a pony race in the little rural farm community of  Reynolds, Nebraska, and won.  There was a couple, the  Presnells, there from California that had seen the race, and felt that young boy showed promise as a jockey.  His parents agreed to let him go with them, the depression was hard on everyone,  and they took care of him as if he were their own and a race horse trainer was born .  So this young farmer boy left the country life and headed to the unknown for California. Was he excited? Was he nervous? Was he scared?  If he was, he didn’t let it show and he went right to work. The following is a poem written for him by the woman that cared for him and she sent it to his mother.

On your Own Clifford Pierce

by Marie Presnell

You are on your own dear little man
and you know right from wrong:
Quite some time back your tones began
To change from high to strong.
Be guided well while on your own,
Increase the wisdom you have shown.

An honest man receives “the breaks”
That cheaters cry about:
And in temptations Neer forsakes
His mother’s faith devout.
Be guided well while on your own,
Increase discretion you have known.

Dear little lad, in deed and word,
Remember well and long–
“Tis easy to go with the herd”
It urges you to “come along”.
Be guided well while on your own,
If you would profit when you’re grown.

“Protect your honor and your name,”
You mother’s mother said.
She wished for you no blot of shame,
And for good morals plead;
Be guided well while on your own,
That heritage do not disown.

Grandmother Louise Blum’s exact words:
“Whatever you do, preserve and protect your name and honor.”

Marie Presnell

This woman started a scrap book for Clifford to keep track of all of his achievements for his mother, Marie Blum. At the time of Clifford’s death the books were handed down to his brother Cecil

and then to me, and one can see from looking at this scrap books that Clifford had many accomplishments to be proud of from the time he was just a boy. They are caulked full of newspaper clippings and photos of horses that Cliff owned and trained for others and his winnings as a jockey, and then a trainer. His life as a profession horseman has been well documented through pictures and newspaper clippings, and he was known by horsemen all over the US.

Some might think from a public viewpoint that horse racing consist of the excitement of betting, and warm beer in wax paper cups, and are unaware of the long hours,and hard work  They train these big animals, work them and care for them, and hope to achieve a measure of success in the final run for the wire. , are the hopes and dreams of a horseman. This is exactly what Cliff learned right from the start, and it wasn’t long before his face was in the papers and his popularity among the horseman begin to grow. By the time he was 20 years old he had won many races and big purses in races in California and Mexico and had mad attainments way beyond his years.

A POEM by Marie Presnall

written of Cliff

A clean sweet lad in simple faith

decided he would ride

Would taste a jockeys gay renown

From play he turned aside

He left his parents and the farm

He travel oer five states

Observing all with watchful eyes

Avoiding argument and hates

In California he resides

In patience he prevails

He rides those silky mounts each day

In joy each task he hails

His doubtful weakness is his trust

May he not place it wrong

May wisdom take him ‘neath her wing

and make his morals strong.

Cliff Pierce in the Service
Cliff Pierce in the Service





Clifford was called to the second World War as was his brother John. Clifford W Pierce, Technician Third Grade Medical Detachment, 409 Infantry and served as a medical technician, and was honorably discharged from the military service in February 1946. It has been said that he witnessed   the worst part of the war and that the demons followed him throughout his life. His wife would tell that the only way to wake him up was to stand at the door and throw a shoe at him, as if you would touch him he would come up swinging.

After the war, Cliff returned to the home of his parents, in Belvedere, Nebraska.  His father owned a big building there and Clifford turned it into a restaurant and bar, and he also ran the feed store.  This property was left to him by his father after he died.  Clifford sold the store but before it was paid for, a year later, a tornado went through the town and flattened it.

Cliff took up horse training and was well known and thought of by many horse breeders.  I remember as a child going to Omaha, and Uncle Cliff taking us to the barns and letting us ride around the barns on the horses, and showing us how they were cared for and prepped for the races.  He took a lot of pride in his nieces and nephews, and took every opportunity to show them off.

Clifford married a beautiful young lady by the name of Barbra Dowe when she became pregnant.  She lost the baby and they never had any other, and after many years, I believe it was 26,  of struggling to keep their marriage together, they were divorced.

My brother, Jeff, had to good fortune of spending a summer with Clifford and Barb. Uncle Cliff bought his a shoe shine box and encouraged him to make some extra money shining shoes at the race track. I remember crying as they took off together. I wanted to go so badly but because I was a girl couldn’t go. Jeff brought back many good memories of the time he spent with his Uncle, that lasted his whole lifetime.


Clifford Pierce and Barbara Dow
Clifford Pierce and Barbara Dow


After Grandma Pierce’s funeral, my sister and I rode with Uncle Cliff from the church in Omaha to the cemetery in Fairbury, NE.  He occupied us on this trip by telling us stories about my father when he was young.  He had a special way of keeping your attention when he told a story.  He would often pause between sentences and you would have to wait patiently for him to begin again.  We were never sure if he was finished or not.

Marie and Barbara Cliff’s mother and wife



In 1968 a young man by the name of Dennis Gottchall spent the day with Cliff to gain an understanding as to just what was involved in the training and caring for the horses.  Cliff was his subject and he wrote: Cliff Pierce, a Reynolds, Nebraska farmer. He is a Veteran horseman having spent three years as a jockey and 27 years as a trainer. All horsemen dream of having a “big” horse, one that is capable of running against the best and winning. These horses are few and far between. In 1962 Cliff had one outstanding horse named Jerry Get up. He was destined to be a great horse, starting eight times that year, winning six and placing second twice. In 1963 he won $64,000. We was below par after that and Cliff was to know the heartbreak of having the horse die in his stall in Chicago. The cause of the death was an incurable liver ailment.  ”

one of Cliffs favorite horses
One outstanding horse


Anyone who knew Cliff, knew about Jerry Get Up. I believe he was among the most favorite of all the horses Cliff owned and trained. He was his most successful horse and was owned by AW Dow, Cliff’s father in law. In 1964 Jerrry Get up started seven races, winning five and placing second twice. The horse also ran in Ak-Sar-Ben’s Princess Stakes and Ambassadors winning $27,329 for the year.

Jerry’s mother’s name was Janey Jump UP!

When the new foal was born they contemplated over a name for him.  At the time, Cliff had a jockey named Jerry that seemed to have trouble getting up in the morning. Every morning Cliff would come to the barn and go to Jerry’s room and yell “Jerry! Get UP!”

Hence the name for the new foal.


Credit for the pictures below goes to Dennis Gottchall as well as most of the information shared here.

Cliff took care of about 20 thoroughbreds of various ages most of the time. He had two exercise boys and five stable hands to help get the job done.

Foriegn Comet and Cliff 1968
Foriegn Comet and Cliff 1968

There was much work that needed to be done by 10 o’clock when the track is closed in preparation for the races which would be held in the afternoon. This work required a lot of organization. Cliff instilled pride and confidence in his help with is soft outspokenness and quiet manner.  Everyone began at daybreak.

The day begins at sun up
One of the workers with the horse


The horses are fed at about 5:30 in the morning. Each horse must be galloped or walked each morning. I remember walking in the barns with the  help as a child when I would get to go with Cliff. At 6 o’clock the horses were taken to the track to be galloped or to an open area to be walked.

Feeding time
Ready for Breakfast

When a horse was taken to the track someone cleans his stall and puts in fresh bedding and hay. When the horse returned he would get a bath. That is a picture that still stands in my memory.was that of the horses getting washed off. They were absolutely breath taking beauties.  After their baths they were cooled down by walking.

Getting a bath
Exercising the horses and then time for a bath

Different trainers use different procedures for exercising their horses. Some walked them two horses at once using a saddle pony.

In 1968 Cliff had a horse by the name of Foreign Comet. He had been injured before in a race and Cliff gave the horse his personal attention. He  took him to the track and worked him there. From the pictures below you will see his concern as he watches for any sign of a recurring injury. The responsibility was great when you have a horse that was valued at over 75,000 dollars.

Exercising Foreign Comet
Exercising Foreign Comet
Watching closely for signs
Watching Foreign Comet exercise.



FOREIGN COMET was entered in the $15,000 Nebraska Bred Three year old race at a mile and 70 yards. The day was bright and sunny and no trouble was anticipated. Things happen quickly and there is no time for mistakes.  The horses paced nervously in their stalls. You could tell that he sensed he was going to run.

The call comes over the loudspeaker to bring the horses to the paddock within five minutes.. The tension and anxiety begins to build  as the moment of the race draws near.

Heading to the paddock with Foreign Comet
The anticipation is mounting
Taking the horse to the track
Taking the horse to the track

When the horses reach the paddock they are taken to stalls for saddling according to the numbers assigned them on the racing program. Number one had been assigned to Foreign Comet.  A paddock judge checks identification on each horse. Horses are identified by numbers tattooed inside the upper lip.

A man from the  State Racing Commission supervises the saddling so that each horse carries the weight assigned to him. Lead weight in the saddle is used if the jockey”s weight varies from the assigned weight.

Getting Ready
Saddling up the race is about to begin.

LJ Dureusseau  was contracted to ride Foreign Comet in this race. Before leaving the paddock, the trainer gives the jockey instruction on how he would like to have the horse ridden. Once they leave the starting gate, racing strategy sometimes changes abruptly so it pays to have a good, smart jockey aboard. This was something that Cliff knew first hand.

Cliff giving Jockey instruction
A good strategy is KEY

The horses are lead onto the track about fifteen minutes before the start of the race. This gives the public a chance to view the horses in the post parade, the jockeys then have a chance to warm up the horses and get the feel of their mounts.

For this race the starting gate was in position in front of the grandstand. Foreign Comet had the number one post position which meant he would start on the inside.

One by one the horses are put into the starting gate. When they are all quiet the official starter releases them with an electric switch.

Foreign Comet tried to break out on top, but the jockey settled him into second place. He maintained that position unchallenged until they reached the home stretch. Then Dureusseau called on the big horse to go all out. Foreign Comet answered with a burst of speed and won “going away”, leaving his closest competitor four lengths behind.

Foreign Comet "going away"
Foreign Comet “going away”

The horse is then led into the winners circle where pictures are taken of the horse along with the owner, trainer, and jockey by the track photographer. This picture is a symbol of the hard work and the ultimate achievement of all those involved in the effort. A silver plate was awarded to Foreign Comet’s owner, Bart Ford. His horse had just proven himself to be the best three year old Nebraska Bred. It is the big payoff for many long hours of hard work.

The prize money is divided with a percentage going to each of the first four places. In this case, Foreign Comet’s share of the purse was $12, 457. 60 .

Foreign Comet In the Winners Circle
Foreign Comet In the Winners Circle

The tension worry and stress are all gone now as Cliff leaves the winners circle chatting with his jockey.

Leaving the winners circle
Leaving the winners circle

The end of the race does not mark the end of the day for a horseman. There is still much to be done. The track is cleared immediately so it can be conditioned for the next race. All horses are returned to their respective barns for “cooling out”.

The winner of every race at Ak-Sar-Ben must be taken to the test barn which is managed by the Nebraska State Racing commission. Each winning horse is given a saliva test and a urine test to verify that drugs have not been give to the horse.

Being checked for drugs
It’s not easy being a winner.

Now the horse has to be washed, and given an alcohol bath, and cooled out in the test barn area. His appearance after his big run shows the training and effort put forth by this particular horse with his big heart that is so clearly visible. He stands proud of his accomplishment with a winner’s blood pulsing through his veins. He is given only a small drink of water as he would make himself sick if he drank too much.

a drink after the race
a drink after the race

He is then blanketed and taken to his stall to rest. You can see the weariness of finishing the race where he put forth all he had. 

This is just one day in the life of Clifford Pierce, horse trainer. He did it day after day almost every day of his life, and traveled all over the United States participating in races. I have a file cabinet full of pictures from the winning circle to prove that he was a man who knew his trade.


I have many wonderful stories of Uncle Cliff but one of my favorites speaks of his love for his family though I don’t think he really got to spend much time with them throughout the years. After a big winning race in which my mother and father witnessed, they got together and celebrated. Cliff gave my mom $900 dollars. One hundred dollars per child and said “It’s amazing that you have all those kids and not an idiot in the bunch!”

While at war he thought of his little sister at home and sent her the then popular Shirley Temple doll for Christmas. This is just a few of the ways that he showed his generosity and love for his family. He saw to it that his mother in her old age was well cared for and did without nothing.

He was visiting our house once when my sister was about three or four and she brought him every stuffed animal and doll she had. He held onto them with care while she would go to retrieve another one until his lap was full


Like most of the Pierce’s, Cliff liked his drink, and as he got older and developed aches and pains he took to self medicating himself with horse drugs. I was told that he was hooked on them, and that at one time he even had his mother taking them. All that hard living took it’s toll on Uncle Cliff and his health started to suffer. He had heart problems and had a couple of small strokes.

While training a horse at the age of 64 he died of a stroke coupled with a  heart attack at Osceola, Nebraska in August of 1985. Though he made a lot of money throughout his life, he died broke, and left his nephew as executor of the estate. Denny Pierce said that it was a night mare.

Though he left a family that loved him dearly, and many friends among the community in which he lived, I think that Uncle Cliff was a lonely man.

He is buried in Fairbury, Nebraska, with his father and mother, and brother Venus John.

I hope you have enjoyed this post. I enjoyed writing it. If so, do leave me a comment in the box below and let me know. If you knew Cliff Pierce or heard of him and have a story to tell. I would LOVE to hear it!

As Always

Happy Hunting

The Pierce Family Historian



If you’ve been following along,  by now you can see that our eighth, ninth and tenth great ancestors played a fundamental role in the development of our first colonies in the United States. Some came from Royalty if the lines are  followed back far enough, and yet they were men and women of strength and perseverance, to flee the persecution in their homelands, and to suffer the religious wars of the time.  This group of friends worked together and shared each others hardships and trials and together not only built a legacy for their descendants, built  homes and businesses from little and became the leaders of the communities and states.  These are the men and women from which our DNA has been pasted down for generations, and of that we have much to be proud of. The importance of family values in their daily living is proved to us time and time again as we learn more and more about their lives.

They, being fishermen, farmers, religious advocates, politicians, having little of the means needed to do such, they still persevered.

One can only  imagine, the fatigue and desperation they felt at times. The put their heads together and  they pooled their resources and trudged on. Which reminds me of Grandpa Blum’s theology “ALWAYS FORWARD”. They leaned on each other for answers and though there were disagreements that arose among st them, when push came to shove they stood strong together and stood for what they believed.

Their children grew up in tight knit communities, living, playing, celebrating and worshiping and eventually marrying and prospering.

When new opportunities arose such as the settling of new territories, they moved together. Eventually they migrated from coast to coast leaving behind them a trail of prosperity for all of us to follow.

Together they buried their babies, and loved ones, and endured  hardships that we have never had to know. They truly showed us the value of family, community and friendship.

At one time it was said that of the five thousand  inhabitants of Nantucket, all of them were cousins.

The more searching and information I gain in my research it is reasonable to assume that we are kin to ALL of Smyth Co., West Virginia, Guilford Co., North Carolina, St. Clair., Missouri, and Atchinson Co., Missouri. Heck, I’m starting to think all of Missouri is our KIN! Along the way they dropped off KIN in Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and from there every which way to the west coast.

Our ancestors being the first to homestead, clear the land, and plow the ground all a crossed this great country. Somewhere, I read that 60% of our ancestors became farmers. Many well to do and prestigious men took to farming. Much of that of course was out of necessity. It was popular for them to gather as much land as possible. Many of them owning thousands of acres at the end of their lives.

Aside from that they built schools, railroads, roads, and cities for those that laid down roots.  It’s hard to fathom the strength it took these individuals, both emotionally and physically,  to leave behind what they had built..and many times their family and friends…and wander out into the wilderness to break new ground.

Providing for their families was always the highest on the list of priorities and to leave them with something better first and foremost.  There were times when doing just that was next to impossible, yet they struggled forward. Among them were warriors, doctors, lawyers, politicians, plantation owners, slave owner, carpenters merchants, brewers, etc. Trades were past down to new generations as well as large acreages of land..eventually divided into parcels to be left to their heirs.

It’s from all of these we must succumb…as we have so very much reason to hold our head high when we proclaim our Heritage.

I am proud to state…


Happy Hunting!

The Pierce Family Historian

As always,  thanks for stopping by and if you like what your reading, let me know by leaving a message in the comments. If there is anything about the family that you would like to know about, let me know that also. I love being able to share with you.



























Edward Starbuck a founding father of Nantucket

Edward Starbuck 

Edward, our 9th great grandfather, came with Thomas Macy,   and James Coffin, in a small boat from Salsibury, England  in 1635 during the early settlement of the Massachusetts Bay Colonies and was among the founding fathers of  Nantucket Island.

Born in 16 Feb 1604 in Leicester, Derbyshire, England, the son of Edward and Ann Starbuck,  he was a young man when he set sail with other men for the new world landing on the shores of New Hampshire with his wife Katherine Eunice Reynolds of Wales, daughter of Robert.


They settled in Dover, New Hampshire which was probably still Massachusetts at that time and it was he that brought the surname Starbuck to the United States. . This rare name is locational and derives from the Village of Starbeck, near Harrogate in Yorkshire, originally spelled  ‘Starbok’. This original spelling which appears in the 1086 Domesday Book, indicates a Norse-Viking pre 9th Century origin ‘Stor-Bokki’, literally ‘Great River’. The name “Starbuck” is of Scandinavian decent and it’s possible that the family was of Danish origin that settled in England during the Viking invasions.


Edward is first found in the records as receiving a land grant in 1643 for 40 acres of land on each side of the Eresh River at Cutchechoe, and a platt of Marsh above Cutchechoe where the brook runs out of the river, discovered by Richard Walderne, Edward Colcord,, Edward Starbuck, and William Furber. This definitely suggest that he was a man of exploration and adventure,

From 1643 to 1650 there are records of his many other grants of land.

In 1643, he was chosen as the first Representative from Dover to the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and served again in 1647. (This was before New Hampshire existed as a separate colony.)

He and two others were appointed “wearesmen” or official river fishermen for Dover for life and were required to supple the town and the church from their catch.

In 1647 and 1650 he was granted the right to erect a sawmill and went into the timber business with Rich Waldron, and in 1652 he was granted the right to the use of  certain lands.

He sold half of his timber and water rights to Peter Coffin who was his son in law, in 1653.

Edward served on a six man committee to settle a boundary dispute between Dover and Kitter in 1654, and was one of the commoners chosen to lay out the boundary between the towns.

Edward was prosecuted for taking on Baptist beliefs and pronouncing the concept that baptism should not take place until a child was old enough to decide for themselves.  His religious views were disturbing to the colony, though he was a Quaker his religious views were not acceptable to his fellow townsmen.

In ” Provincial Papers of New Hampsbire,” we find the following:

” Oct. 18, 1648. — The Court being informed of great misdemeanor Committed by Edward Starbuck of Dover with profession of Anabaptism for which he is to be proceeded against at the next Court of Assistants if evidence can be prepared by that time & it being very farre for witnesses to travill to Boston at that season of the year, It is therefore ordered by this Court that the Secretary shall give Commission to Capt. Thomas Wiggan & Mr Edw. Smyth to send for such persons as they shall have notice of which are able to testify in the sd. cause & to take their testimony uppon oath & certifie the same to the secretary so soon as may be, that further proceedings may be therein, if the cause shall so require.”

As a result he was heavily fined. There was no separation for church and state then and the puritans who ran the colony were intolerant of people like the Anabaptists.

In 1658 the Congregational minister swore out a peace bod against him due to his religious beliefs. His last official duty in Dover was serving on a coroner’s jury that investigated the accidental death of a man on Nov. 11, 1659.


Edward could have possibly lived quite comfortably in Dover had it not been for the religious conditions of the colonies.  The strong persecution of religious beliefs was most likely the reason that Edward decided to go to Nantucket. At the age of 55,  Edward, James Coffin and Isaac Coleman arrived on Nantucket Island with Thomas Macy and stayed throughout the winter. They returned to Massachusetts the next spring, and returned in 1660 with his wife and children, except for daughters Sarah and Abigail, and ten other families. More settlers arrived the following year.  Sarah who had married

The white settlers found Nantucket inhabited by about 1600 Wampanoag Indians who were farmers and fisherman and hunters. The arrival of the white man brought disease, alcohol, and debt servitude to the island which  cause a cruel toll on the peaceful people over the next 100 years. By 1763 only 358 Indians survived and that number was reduced later that year when more than 222 died of the plague.

It is not to be wondered at that Edward Starbuck was quite ready to leave Dover under existing conditions. He was fifty-five years of age when he joined Thomas Macy in his voyage from Salisbury to Nantucket; he spent the winter there and in the spring returned to Dover for his family, who accompanied him to the island excepting his daughters Sarah (Aus- tin) and Abigail (Coffin), who had married and settled in Dover.

” Dover lost a good citizen ” and Nantucket gained a much respected one ; ” he was a leading man on the Island and at one time a Magistrate; ”  he is described as ” courageous and persevering.”


Edward had great repose among the Indians and was often called upon to settle disputes that came up with the natives in Dover and Nantucket. A deed of land to him from the Indians in 1660 is the oldest original Nantucket document in existence and his name appears on many other documents until his death.

During the 35 years of his life on the Island of Nantucket he was Representative in the General court, and Elder in the Church, and in 1669 he and Peter Coffin were appointed by the town meeting to manage the government among the Indians. Four year later He was chosen one of the town’s five selectmen, was one of the highest ranking government officers.

As a clergyman it is said that Edward was the one that read from the Bible at the funeral of his dear friend Tristram Coffin.

Edward was instrumental in the development of the land and began the development of the whaling company.

It is said that at the time of his death he was the wealthiest man in Nantucket owning a third of the Island in land. He left most of his property to his only living son Nathaniel, as was the tradition at that time.

Nathaniel Starbuck

Nathaniel and Mary Starbuck

Nathaniel went with his father to Nantucket and married Mary there in 1662, the daughter of Tristram Coffin (Edward and Tristram being our 9th Great grandparents making Nathaniel and Mary our 8th)  Their marriage was the first on the Island, and their daughter, Mary was the first white child born there.

The Nantucket Quakers became influential in every area of life including social behaviors, lifestyles, business, and politics and Nathaniel was highly involved in the lucrative whaling industry.

Quakerisn began to take hold in Nantucket  largely due to the influence of Mary Coffin Starbuck, following her conversion to the faith in 1701. Mary (the Great) who eventually became a Quaker preacher, and her husband Nathaniel, led the Quaker movement and the first meetings were held in their home until a meeting house was built in 1711.  Mary “esteemed is judge among them” was the moving force in establishing the Society of Friends, (Quakers) on Island.

Nathaniel was one of the strong men among the Nantucket settlers, and would have received more credit but for the superior intellect of his wife. He is said to have been a man of no mean abilities, but was outshone by the superior capacity of his wife, a woman of uncommon powers of mind.

Great Mary Starbuck

He ran a trading post, where Indians swapped codfish and feathers (used in mattresses) for cloth, hooks, buttons, etc. When Ichabod Paddack of Cape Cod introduced whaling to Nantucket, it was Nathaniel who financed the venture. Due to Nathaniel’s whaling interests, land holdings and store profits, he became one of the wealthiest men–if not the wealthiest man on the Island. So much public business was conducted at this home that it became known as “Parliament House”. It was also there that Quakerism took root on Nantucket thanks mostly to the leadership of his wife, whose importance and fame quite outshone his own not inconsiderable accomplishments. (From James Carlton Starbuck’s book “Starbucks All” published in 1984)

His house was erected near his house lot, but on a spot a short distance southeast which was afterwards set off to him. It was a large house of a capacity sufficient for meetings, both religious and municipal, and was called “Parliament House.” It was located a few feet west of the present Cornish Barn and was placed near the spring. His house lot was on the northwest of the swamp, bounded north by that of James Coffin and south by the swamp and southwest by the lot of Thomas Mayhew. By purchase from Greenleaf and others and by set off, he acquired a large tract around the north head of Hummock Pond. It later was comprised in the Cambridge farm.

Nathaniel and Mary had 10 known children and spread their descendants throughout the US.


He made his will on 14 June 1716 in Sherbourne, Nantucket, Massachusetts. It was probated on 29 August 1719.  The will was written while his wife Mary was still alive; codicil was dated 20 November 1717 after her death. Pecuniary legacies given to daughters Eunice Gardner, Priscilla Coleman, Hepsibah Hathaway, and the children of two deceased daughters, Mary Gardner and Elizabeth Barnard. His real estate was given to his sons Barnabas, Nathaniel and Jethro. Witnesses: Thomas Macy, Thomas Clark, William Stratton, John Macy.

The codicil was written shortly after his wife died and devised the household goods to Barnabase, Eunice, and Hephzibah. The three sons were made joint executors.

At the time of his death, he was one of the wealthiest men (if not individually the wealthiest) on Nantucket. He owned three full shares of land, having purchased a share of Stephen Greenleaf.


Are we related to the Starbuck coffee people? That is the most commonly asked question and the answer is no.

Actually the coffee company was not named after anyone. When they were searching for a name for the company they just started throwing out names when someone blurted out the name Starbuck. The name appealed to the literary trio and since characters in Moby Dick and the Rainmaker shared it, and it had a strong ring to it, it was chosen.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this, if so please leave a comment in the section below and let me know!

Until next time!

The Pierce Family Historian

The Gardners: Cape Ann Planters as they were called

We learned a bit about the Gardners , namely Richard, Cape Ann Planters as they soon were to be called,  in our previous post but I will now give a bit of our decent from that lineage in this one. The English Gardners came to this country in the days immediately following the landing of the the Pilgrims at Plymouth, as several merchants in South England sent fishing vessels to the shores of New England. The amount of time required by these slow moving vessels to return to the markets of  England and Spain made it too late to dispose of their catch . Therefore a number of men in Dorchester, England, put together the Dorchester Company and came up with the idea of establishing a plantation at Cape Ann. Their thinking was that the fishermen might winter there, make their catch early in the spring, and return to England in season to dispose of the fish to advantage. 

In 1624, The Cape Ann Planters landed at Stage Point on the west side of what is now Gloucester harbor. Col. Charles Edward Banks , “The Planters of the Commonwealth,” records the following in his list of ships arriving in 1624.

Zouch Phenix. She was consort of the Unity, and arrived with her in the spring of this year. It is believed she sailed from Weymouth and brought the following passengers:

Thomas and Mrs. Gardner, George, Richard, Joseph Gardner.

John Balch, Mrs. Agnes Balch, Benjamin, and John Balch,

Thomas Gray

Walter Knight

William Trask

John Tilley

Peter Palfrey

John Woodbury”


Thomas was born March 4 1592 to Sir Thomas Gardiner and Elizabeth White in Weymouth, Dorcet, England

Thomas, our 9th great grandfather, was placed in charge of the plantation and John Tilly of the fishing. The selection of the site for a plantation turned out to be unfortunate. The ground was rocky and the soil infertile and made farming impossible.  There disappointment and struggle was great.

The fishing also proved a failure and many of the fisherman turned to agriculture for relief.  The leader of the company in England, heard that Roger Conant was at Nantucket and thought perhaps he might be more successful so invited him to go to Cape Anne and take control. He went there in 1625 and soon realized that the lack of success had been because of the poor soil and that a settlement in this place could not be made profitable.

Conant searched the coast for a better plantation site and finally decided on the mouth of Naumkeag River which is now Salem. In 1626 The Dorchester Company gave  him permission to move the little colony to the new location, though some of the first adventurers went to Virginia or returned to England. A few strong hearts stayed and became the founders of Salem.

Conant said that they stayed “to the hazard of their lives”, and it is a shame  that many  historical writers of old Massachusetts fail to give the due credit for the laying of the foundation of this grand old Commonwealth. They proved that a settlement was possible, and sent one of their spokesman back to England to convince the Reverend John White and his associates that this was a possibility and asked for help and supplies. This resulted in the formation of the London  Company and the sending of John Endicott in the ship “Abigail” in 1628.

Thomas Gardner is thought to be  the first man in authority on the land of what became the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

A meeting of the London company held July 28,  1629,  it was mentioned “one Mr. Gardner, an able and expert man in divers faculties” by Mr. Webb, and he along with others were recommended for employment in the colony.

In 1635 we find that Thomas Gardner also signed his name to the grant of a three hundred a to Thomas Scruggs, and the next month to a grant of the same, to John Blackleech. His signature was  of the town’s representative is appended to the records in the 11th mo, 1636.

In 1637 he was appointed to “survey all the fences between the meeting house westward of the Town, and in 1636 he was made a member of the First Church. 

Massachusetts Bay Colony admitted him as a freeman, in 1637, and he was appointed  deputy to the General Court that same year.  In 1637 he was among the 12 men appointed of the town. He served as juror during 1637 and 1638.

The town voted that every working man should devote the seventh day of the first month in 1638 to labor in repairing the highways, and Thomas Gardner was appointed as one of the three overseers to make sure the work was done and done properly.

He was called “Constable” in the town records in 1639, and various sums were recorded as being paid by him for court expenses. He also served the town as surveyor for the mending and keeper of the roads and was one of the record keepers of such.

Throughout his life Thomas Gardener’s name is found among the records in the the history of the town and he is renowned for his service to the colony. “Ole Mr. Gardener” he became known by amongst the residents of Old Salem.

Thomas first married Margaret Fryer/ Friar and they had nine children:

1. Lieut Thomas Gardner born in England and died in 1693. He first married Hannah and they had Mary, Thomas Eliza, Abigaile, Bethiah, Hannah, and Jonathan.  He then married Elizabeth Horne, daughter of 2. Deacon John Horn, and they had David, Susannah, and Dorcas.

He was a cordwainer by trade. A cordwainer (/ˈkɔːrdˌweɪnər/) is a shoemaker who makes new shoes from new leather. The cordwainer’s trade can be contrasted with the cobbler’s trade, according to a tradition in Britain that restricted cobblers to repairing shoes. He also kept a general merchandise store and owned a ketch, the “John Booneyventure,” which was used in the cod fishing industry. He was prominent in town affairs and served from time to time on the jury. He lived in a house which stood on a lane running along the eastern boundary of the meeting house lot. His second wife, Elizabeth, died in 1695

2. George born in England and was married three times.

Richard Gardner House

3. RICHARD (8th great grandfather) born 1621 Matock, Somerset, England. He  married Sarah Shattuck, Quakeress, (daughter of Samuel and Damaris Shattuck, she being the second wife of Richard’s father Thomas.) Richards first grant of land was in 1642, a ten acre lot near Mackrell Cove, and he had later grants in Salem and at Jeffrey’s Creek. His house was on the eastern side of what is not Central Street, on the site of the present Salem Fraternity building. He had a shop on the same lot. He became a devout Quaker and with others was convicted of “absenting themselves from the public ordinances. ” He moved to Nantucket not long afterward and purchased land there at Wesko, Feb 15 1667. Richard became one of the leading men of the Nantucket Island and the ancestor of many, now distributed all over the country. He served as Chief Magistrate and represented the town at New York. He died March 23, 1688. His widow died in 1724, at the age of 93. She was an energetic and leading Quaker throughout her life. Their children were Joseph, Richard, Sarah, Deborah (7th great grandmother) who married John Macy, Damarice, James. Mariam, Nathaniel, Hope, and Love.

4. Captain John born 1624 married Priscilla Grafton daughter of Joseph. He was called Captain and was a master mariner and surveyor.  He was given permission to build a mill over the South River in 1663. In 1669 he was paid for services as surveyor in the town. He lived in a house which stood near the corner of the present Herbert and Derby Streets in Salem.  He was granted 11 acres and meadow land in Nantucket upon agreement: ” unto Mr. John Gardner of Salem marrener, a seamans accommodation, with all appurtinances belonging unto it as fully as the other seamen and tradesmen have in their former grants, upon condition that come to inhabit and set up the Trade fishing with a sufficient vessel fit for the taking of Codfish.  Captain became very prominent, serving as Chief Magistrate, represetative to the General Court, “Captain and Chief Military Officer of the Foot Company,” and town moderator.

He died in May 1706, at the age of 82, and his gravestone is still preserved in the old Coffin house (horseshoe house), and a new one replacing it in the graveyard. His wife is said to have died in 1717. Their children were, John, Joseph, Priscilla, Benjamin, Rachel, George, Benjamin, Ann, Nathaniel, Mary, Mehitable (?), and Ruth.

5. SAMUEL born 1627 married first Mary White, and then Elizabeth Paine. His name appears in the Town Records in 1649 when he was ordered along with his brothers George, Thomas, and Joseph, to survey and measure from the meeting house to the parcel of meadow upon the great river Westerly from Salem” . He was often hired to survey around the town and colony. He served as appraiser and overseer of estates and had many terms of service on the grand jury and jury of trials. He was coroner, constable, selectman and deputy to the General courts, and was a leader in the affairs of the the First Church. His children were: Mary, Elizabeth, Margaret, Samuel, George, Jonathan, Hannah and Abel. He has numerous descendants who were prominent citizens of Salem, where many of them were merchants and ship owners  during the time of the town’s great maritime prosperity. Many of them had notable records in the wars of the Colony, Province, and commonwealth.  Samuel died Oct 1639.

6. CAPTAIN JOSEPH born about 1628 and died 19 Dec 1675. Joseph married Ann Downing, daughter of Emanuel Downing, “gent” a prominent lawyer in London. He with his brothers John and Samuel was a surveyor and was frequently employed in that capacity. He kept a tavern and was called a vintner in some documents. He became a freeman in 1673 and served several times on the jury. In 1672 he was appointed with Henry Bartholomew, by the General Court on a committee for Essex and Norfolk, with others from Suffolk to settle accounts with Major Pynchon for pork received for the relief of his Majesty’s fleet in the Caribby Islands. In August of 1656 Lucy Downing, with the consent of her husband, Emanuel Downing, granted to him the plot of ground upon which the State Armory was built. As his dowry and marriage portion with Ann. The lot measured “fower acres of ground Intire”.

In the Massachusetts Bay Records May 15, 1672 it was recorded: “it is ordered that Joseph Gardiner be lieutenant to the foote company under the command of Walter Price, captain at Salem”.  They marched with troops from Boston on the 8th. The 15th two of the men were killed and another wounded by Indians. Capt. Joseph Gardner, and others of the town went out immediately and killed an Indian who had slain one of the Salem troops and was wearing his cap.

The forces of Plymouth, Connecticut and Massachusetts attacked the Narragansetts in a swamp. After a three hour battle, the English took the enemy’s place and fired at their wigwams. One thousand of the Indians were killed.  Eighty five of the English soldiers were killed or died of their wounds, and one hundred and forty five were wounded. Among those killed were Captain Gardner and six of his company, and eleven more of them were wounded.

“Major Church spying Capt. Gardner amidst the wigwams in the east end of the Fort made towards him; but  suddenly, while looking at each other, Capt. Gardner settled down. The Major stepped up to him and seeing the blood run down his cheek, lifted his cap and called him by name. He looked up but spoke not a word, being mortally wounded, shot through the head, and observing the wound the Major ordered care to be taken of him.”

His widow, Ann, married, in 1676, Governor Simon Bradstreet. She died April 19, 1713, at the age of 79 years. Captain Joseph Gardner had no children.

7. SARAH born about 1630 and died Apr 5, 1686; married around 1650 to Benjamin Balch, the “Planter,”  born in 1629 and lived in his father’s homestead. In 1930 the house was still standing on the corner of Cabot and Balch Streets in Beverly.  He married two more times after her death.

They had seven sons and four daughters.

8. MIRIAM born about 1632 and died before Aug 1664 married John Hill who was born in Bristol, England around 1635. He was a wheelwright by trade ( a person who makes or repairs wooden wheels.) John and Miriam had two daughters, Miriam and Susanna.

9. SEETH was baptized October 25, 1636 and died the 17th of April, 1707.  There has been some suggestion that her name could be a surname pasted down. She first married Joshua Conant, the son of Roger Conant, the “Planter”. He was a sea captain and lived in Marblehead. They had one child Joshua. Joshua (1) died in England in 1658 and Seeth married John Gratfton son of Joshua and Mary Grafton. After the death of Seeth, Mr. Grafton marriedd Judith Clark in Boston. He was a mariner and they had six children.


By now if you have been reading the history of our founding father’s you are starting to see the mention of several surnames that seem to intertwine.  We are cousins of cousins for sure, but what an interesting story we have to tell.

I hope you have enjoyed this issue. If so please leave me a comment in the section below and let me know. If you have something to add I’d love to hear it also!

Happy Hunting!











Tristram Coffin

Researching Tristram Coffin comes quite easily as much has been written about him through out the history of the United States. Some of which is fact and some assumed so therefore you will find much conflicting information about him.  He was one of the nine purchasers and founders of Nantucket Island and to him much credit is given. There are over 500 family trees on that connect to him so it could be said that he was also monumental in populating the United States from sea to shining sea.

I am proud to say that he is my 9th great grandfather. Our Pierce line descends from his daughter Mary “Great Mary” Coffin Starbuck  who was the wife of  8th great grandfather Nathaniel Starbuck, son of Edward and  Katherine Reynolds Starbuck (also 9th great grandparents) of which I will write at a later date.


The first of the Coffin name  of which there is any record is of Sir Richard Coffin who removed to Normandy, England in 1066 where he entered the English Army and had land granted to him and he was Knighted by the King.  He was of Scandinavian decent like all Nobles of Normandy. The Vikings were settling in Normandy around the 800’s AD through conquest and they were granted the “Duchy of Normandy” by the French King “Charles the Simple” as a defense against other Viking Armies. The First “Duke of Normandy” was Hrolf or Rollo 911AD (an ancestor of “William the Conqueror”).

Sir Richard, as he was called,  fought as a General for “William the Conqueror” (formally “William the Bastard”) at the Battle of Hastings, during the Norman invasion of England and Williams successful claim for the English Crown.

We learn from Prince’s “Worthies of Devonshire” that the ancient family of the name settled at Portledge by the seaside in the Parish of  Alwington, five miles from Biddeford and flourished there from the Conquest  from the time of King Henry I to the age of King Edward the II.  For two hundred years each successive heir of this family bore the name of Richard. (that’s a lot of Richards!)

Coffins are also in the Williams “Doomsday book” (1080) as current inhabitants of England, probably settlers from France at an earlier date. The Coffins spread out to Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire and Cornwall. By 1252 the name in its different forms (Colvin, Corvin, Cophen and Coffyn) are frequently found in records. The name is disputed in its origins. Welsh “Coffyn” meaning hill top boundary, English and French:  occupational name for a basket maker, from Old French cof(f)in ‘basket’ (Late Latin cophinus, Greek kophinos). The modern English word coffin is a specialized development of this term, not attested until the 16th century.
and the most likely  is  meaning of “Coffer” or treasure box.

A short distance from Fallaise, a town of Normandy, stands the old chateau of Courtition,  the home of the Norman Coffin.

The last Miss Coffin married Le Clerc in the late 18th century and since that time Le Clerc family  occupied the Norman estates.



Tristram Coffin (Coffyn as was signed by him) was born to Peter and Joanna (Kember) Coffin (10th great grandparents)and baptized in the parish of Brixton near Plymouth, England, on 11 March 1609/10. He married Dionis Stevens in 1630 and they had nine children,  the first five born in England. He was of the the landed gentry, or simply the gentry, which is a largely historical British social class consisting in theory of landowners who could live entirely from rental income, or at least had a country estate.

Charles I inherited the throne of England in 1625 and initiated a long struggle with his parliament, which wanted to abolish bishops from the House of Lords which is an upper house of Parliament,  and limit the king’s powers. Things came to a head when Charles raised his royal standard at Nottingham in August 1642, and England soon descended into Civil War (1642–1651).

Tristram Coffin’s brother John received a mortal wound at Plymouth fort, although it is not known exactly when or  which side he was fighting on. It could be for reasons associated with these political upheavals, Tristram Coffin decided to leave his estates in England and emigrate to the new America though some suggest that it was after the death of his father that he decided to remove.

The Coffin House at Portledge

He bought with him his mother, and  his sisters, Mary and Eunice, as well as his wife and the five children born in England.

Tristram  immigrated to Massachusetts from England in 1642, and lived in Salisbury, Haverhill, and Newbury for sixteen years.  For a short time he ran an inn in Salisbury, Massachusetts. He then moved to the new settlement of Pentucket, now Haverhill, Massachusetts. His children Mary Starbuck and John (the first John having died at the same place in 1642) were born at Salisbury. In 1648 he removed to Newbury, where his youngest son, Stephen was born. His name appears on a deed dated 15 November 1642 recording the sale of the land for the settlement by the local American Indian people.


He is said to have used a plow that he had made himself to cultivate the land. In 1648 he left the farm and moved  to Newbury, Massachusetts and he operated a ferry across the Merrimack River .  He and his wife Dionis ran a tavern in Newbury. In 1653 Dionis was “presented” for selling beer above the legal price of two pennies per quart but she was acquitted when it was found that her beer was much stronger than the ordinary. Coffin sold the inn and ferry in 1654 or 1655 and moved to Salisbury, Massachusetts, where he signed himself “Tristram Coffyn, Commissioner of Salisbury”.

Nantucket Island


In 1659, he made a voyage of inquiry and observation to the group of islands off the Massachusetts coast, with a view to this change of residence.  He first visited Matha’s Vineyeard, and taking from there Peter Folger as an interpreter of the Indian language, proceeded to Nantucket.

He along with Thomas Macy led a group of nine investors that bought Nantucket Island from Thomas Mayhew for thirty pounds and two beaver hats made by his son, Tristram JR .  Coffin was among the  prime movers of the enterprise and was given first choice of land. In 1659 he settled near the western end of the island near Capaum pond.It has been supposed that religious persecution was the cause of these frequent changes and of his final departure from the main land.

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 became one of the first prominent citizen of the settlement and  was appointed the first chief magistrate of Nantucket on 29 June 1671 being the most respected and wealthy settler on the Island.

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 to meet with Governor Francis Lovelace and secure their claim to Nantucket. In 1677 he was again appointed chief magistrate for a term of four years and it was said by Benjamin Franklin Folgers, the historian,   that he always exhibited a fair Christian character “in all the varied circumstances and conditions of that infant colony,” both to Indians and white settlers.


The first settlers had bought their rights to Nantucket with the intent of using the land for their own benefit. But, as more and more people came to Nantucket to live and work in the late seventeenth century, the newcomers began to resent their limited power and representation in the island’s government.

Led by ambitious newcomer John Gardner (a great uncle of the Pierce line), many of the “half-share men” staged a peaceful revolt against the proprietary government led by Tristram Coffin. Through several appeals to the provincial government in New York, the half-share men eventually succeeded in having the original proprietary transformed in favor of a more democratic, town-meeting-based government, where all men who held property had equal voting rights.

At first Tristram Coffin was the leading spirit politically and little was done without his approval and sanction. And he also had the backing of the Mayhews who still retain their interest. After John Gardner arrived in 1672, who was also of strong and forceful personality, there was trouble. He soon became prominent in the affairs of the Island and was appointed Captain of the Fort Company by Governor Lovelace. Tristram and John Gardner soon locked horns.

In 1673 the freeholders were required to name two men for Chief Magistrate and Edward Starbuck (9th great grandfather) and Richard Gardner (eighth greath grandfather) were submitted The governor chose the latter and named his brother Jim for Captain of the military company. This did not please the Coffins as it made their rivals hold two of the principal offices and so began the long fight whenever there was a meeting held .It was noted on the records, Mr. Tristram Coffin enters his dissent whereupon all the other members of his party followed suit but Tristram has been well called the great dissenter. The Coffins believed that the whole share men should have two votes and the half -share men one vote while the Gardners stood firm for equal power.

Each faction were soon appealing to the authorities in New York and the first round was won by the Coffins.

In 1674 the Gardner faction still being in control fined Stephen Hussey for contempt for telling Captain John to “meddle with his own business”.

In 1676 Thomas Macy, then Chief Magistrate and William Worth sided with the Coffins and they regained control of affairs. William Worth was chosen clerk and Gardner and Folger were arbitrarily disfranchised and refused any participation in the affairs of the town.

On Feb 10, 1677, Peter Folger was arrested for contempt of His Majesty’s authority. He was bound over for 20 pounds to appear in Court and in default was committed to jail where he remained in “durance vile coery vile” according to Peter for the greater part of a year.

Tobias COLEMAN,and Eleazer Folger and his wife Sarah..(Richard Gardner’s daughter) were arrested and fined for criticizing the Court.

Peter Folger refused to deliver up the Courts books. So things went on till August 1677 when Governor Androstook took a stand  and ordered a suspension of all further proceedings and later decided that Gardner and Folger’s disfranchisement was null and void.

Mayhew and Coffin were furious but Captain Gardner had won and the hatchet was soon after buried.

Finally, in June of 1678, everyone gets tired of the in-fighting and a settlement is reached. The Full-Share men will allow other parts of the island to be bought from the Natives and developed while the half-share men agree that it will all involve the town.

Coffin and Gardner  still hate each other, but everyone else is willing to live and let live.Then, in September of that year, Tristram Coffin finds himself in very hot water. A French ship wrecked itself on the shoals and Coffin had supervised the salvage operation. After all the gear was grabbed from the boat, it needed to be stored and guarded. Coffin botched the job and was brought before the Admiralty Court. Faced with possible jail time and a steep fine, Coffin appealed to John Gardener to help him.

Gardner weighed in on the Coffin side and Tristram was set free. One year later, Tristram died.Without Coffin, the compromise began in earnest. The half-share and full-share men began talking and working again. Moreover, the Natives were granted grazing rights for their own horses and all three parties were at peace.The final symbolic closure came in 1686 when Peter Coffin’s son Jethro  married John Gardner’s daughter, Mary. John Gardner gave the new couple land for a new house and Peter Coffin supplied the lumber. They built, atop Sunset Hill, a house now known as the oldest house on Nantucket.



Tristram Coffin


He and his wife, Dionis, had five sons who perpetuated the Coffin family name. 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, though when researching his history little is said about that part of his life.

Several Nantucket families, including the Coffins, Gardners, and the Starbucks (from all we decend), began whaling seriously in the 1690s, and by 1715, the Coffins owned three whalers and a trade vessel.

In 1642 there were only 455 people living in Newbury. The town’s economy was primarily a combination of agriculture and husbandry. There was a limited number of artisans and manufacturers. Some of the earliest were weavers, tanners, and shoemakers.

Tristram Coffin and his sons at one time owned about one-fourth of Nantucket, and the whole of the little island adjacent to it on the west, called Tuckermuck, containing 1,000 acres, which he purchased of the old Sachem Potonet at the time of his visit in 1659.

He appears to have been a leading spirit among the first settlers, and was frequently selected by the inhabitants to transact important public business.  His letters to the Colonial Government of New York (Nantucket was at that time a dependency of New York), are preserved in the Archives of the Department of State at Albany.“At a Court of Sessions held the 29th of November 1681 there granted administration unto me James Coffin, John Coffin and Stephen Coffin on the estate of Mr. Tristram Coffin deceased the 3rd Oct 1681 they having given security according to law.”The body of the Oath was evidently written by Peter Coffin (son of Tristram), the signature is an autograph.

During the years before his death, he had bestowed much of his property on his children and grandchildren.

Tristram Coffin died on 2 October 1681 at the age of 76.He was buried on his property on Nantucket Island

At his death he left seven children, 60 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

Nearly all his descendants are enabled, by means of the accurate genealogical records in existence, to trace their linage back to him, although nearly two centuries have elapsed since his death.Almost all notable Americans with roots in Nantucket are descended from Tristram Coffin,


Their daughter, Mary, married Nathaniel Starbuck and became known as “Great Mary” for her leadership in the early community and her conversion to Quakerism, looking to escape harsh Puritan rule in New England.








Stephen died on 1 Dec 1690 in Drowned off Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, at age 62 .



As the family grew, they added partitions and lean-tos so that different generations could continue to live together under one roof. In 1785 two Coffin brothers legally divided the structure into two separate dwellings, each with its own kitchen and living spaces. With rooms from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, Coffin House depicts the impact of an expanding economy and new concepts, such as the notion of privacy, on architecture and modes of living.
The significance of Coffin House lies partly in the age of the original building but more importantly in the way in which it reveals how a home, built in 1678, grew and changed over the years to accommodate the needs of six generations of one family. The earliest part of the house, the southwest ell, is an example of what is known in New England as First Period or Post-Medieval style.When Tristram Coffin Jr. came to Newbury with his parents, siblings, aunts, and grandmother in 1643, it was a frontier settlement with Indian tribes nearby, wild animals, few roads, and most travel by water.

Most of the occupants of this house are buried across the street in the First Parish Burying Ground. Judith and Tristram JR.  are buried on the left side of the burying ground if you are facing the front gate.


From Wikipedia we find this information on some of the Coffin descendants.


[6] His sons Peter Coffin, Tristram Coffin Junior and James Coffin also received land on the island.[13] [15][18] .[6] One of his grandchildren calculated that by the year 1728, the number of his descendants was 1582, of whom 1128 were still alive.

[19]Several of his descendants achieved prominence. His daughter Mary Coffyn Starbuck became a leader in introducing Quaker practices into Nantucket.

[20] A grandson, James Coffin, was the first of the Coffins to enter into the whaling business.

[21] A poem by Thomas Worth written in 1763 says six Captains named Coffin were sailing out of Nantucket.[3] Sir Isaac Coffin (1759–1839) served during the American Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic Wars and became an admiral in the British Royal Navy.[22] He founded a school on the island in 1827 to educate descendants of Tristram Coffin – which included almost all the children on the island – with emphasis on nautical skills.[23] Lucretia Coffin Mott (1793–1880) was a Quaker born on Nantucket, who became a prominent abolitionist and women’s rights activist. She helped write the Declaration of Sentiments during the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, and will be included on the back of the U.S. $10 bill to be newly designed by 2020.

Some branches of the Coffin family were prominent in New England, grouped among the so-called Boston Brahmins.[24] For example, Elizabeth Coffin, daughter of a wealthy merchant from Nantucket, was mother of the prominent Massachusetts industrialists Henry Coffin Nevins and David Nevins Jr..

[25] Charles A. Coffin (1844–1926) born in Somerset, Massachusetts, became co-founder and first President of General Electric corporation.

[26] Some retained the family links to Nantucket after the whaling industry had collapsed and many people had left the island. In the eighth generation, Elizabeth Coffin (1850–1930), an artist, educator and Quaker philanthropist, was known for her paintings of Nantucket and for helping revive Sir Isaac Coffin’s school with a new emphasis on crafts.

[27] Among the ninth generation, Robert P. T. Coffin (1892–1955) was an American poet who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1936 for his book of collected poems called Strange Holiness.

Tristram Coffin Medal


After the original struck medals were produced in 1826, the medal was cast and recast for family reunions on Nantucket, perhaps even as late as the first few decades of the 20th century.In the year 1826, Sir Isaac Coffin, a native of Boston (who went to England in early life and became a Baronet, and an Admiral in the British Navy), visited Nantucket and founded the ‘Coffin School’, which is still flourishing.

The Act of Incorporation provides for the establishment of a school by the name of Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin’s Lancasterian School, for the purpose of promoting decency, good order and morality, and for giving a good English education to youth who are descendants of the late Tristram Coffin who emigrated from England” etc.  The act further provided that the Trustees shall all be the descendants of the above mention Tristram Coffin in the male or female line.


If you are interested in more history of the Starbuck, Macy, Coffin, Gardner line some great reads are

North American Family Histories

A genealogical History of Clark and Worth Families and other Puritain Settler in MA Bay Colony

Macy Genealogy

Life of Tristram Coffin

Netherlands Genealogy Online

Colonial Families of the USA

The Great Migration Begins

Encyclopedia of American Biographies

As Always thanks for stopping in. Hope you are enjoying our family history…and please leave a comment below! I love hearing from you!


happy hunting


Geneva More than ” just a Cat”

GenevaGeneva was my Momma’s cat. She had two cats, Geneva and Charlotte, she got as kittens from sister Gilly back in 2004, a few months before sister Charline died of cancer.

Charlotte liked being outside and would sometimes disappear for months at time. Geneva, not so much, and mostly was an inside cat.

Geneva wasn’t a very social cat when she was with Mom. When other people were around she would hide under the covers in Daddy’s bed. Occasionally though, she would come and snuggle up with me if I was visiting. She could be a bit of a nuisance, as I was not as much a cat person but more of   a dog person.

Daddy died in 2015 and we lost our Momma in April 2017 in a terrible accident. We were all overwhelmed with decisions afterwards and one was what to do with Momma’s animals.

Sister Beth inherited the property and her son moved into the house with the understanding that he was to take care of the animals. He said he was allergic to cats and put them out of the house.


One night I was getting ready for bed and my dogs started raising a fit outside. I went to see what was going on and found a cat sitting in the darkness on a chair on the patio, In the dark I couldn’t see and believed it to be a stray. I didn’t know if it was a wild cat that might scratch if I picked it up, so I got the dogs out of the way and with the broom tried to shoo it away. It wasn’t budging and the dogs are not helping. So I got the dogs in the house but before I could get the door shut the cat darted into the house with the dogs on her tail.

They cornered her in the utility room. I got the dogs corralled and moved them to the bedroom and went back to get the cat. I turned the light on and found the cat scared and cowering in the corner behind the sewing machine. It’s Geneva, momma’s cat.

I picked her up and loved her. She was thin and hungry and scared. I wasn’t sure what do. Since it was late, I fixed her some food and a bed in the computer room and kept her there for the night. I wasn’t aware that she had been put out.

The next morning, I opened the door and Geneva went out and I assumed she would go home. However, a few days later Beth came by and told me about her son having put her out and how upset she was with him for it and they had no clue where she was. I told her about her coming to me. It was as though Momma had sent her… Go to Susan, she will take care of you. We decided if we found her I would take her though I wasn’t real thrilled at the idea. A few days later Beth found Geneva in the ditch and brought her to me.

I didn’t want her. I’m not a cat person and I know nothing about taking care of them…and I have four dogs that also are not cat lovers. But she was Momma’s cat…someone had to love her.Moses and Geneva

It took over a month for the dogs to accept her, especially Moses. Everytime she made a moved he would bark and go after her. Gradually she begins to come out of the computer room and took refuge in the utility room. Then one night she got brave enough to move through the kitchen and living room and cautiously climbed into my lap and worked her way to my chest and layed her head in the crook of my neck. This became a routine with her, every time I sit in my chair, there was Geneva on my lap to cuddle. She wormed her way into my heart.

She then became brave enough to join us at night. She wanted to be right in my face, and would drive me crazy We finally came to an agreement that she could lay behind me and lay her head in the crook of my neck, and this is how we slept at night. 


She seemed to know if I was hurting or when my heart was sad and had a special way of soothing my sorrow. I started calling her my healing cat. She would wrap her paws around my neck and hug and nuzzle me sometimes so hard that it would cause her to grunt. It was a though Momma was alive in her, and it reminded me of the love my mom always had for me and eased the loss of Momma to a degree. 

I couldn’t sit at the computer without her constant attention. She would walk in front of my computer screen and stop and stretch on her way by so I would have to stop and wait for her. I would get so irritated with her. She would sit on my desk and rest her head on my hand disrupting my movement of the mouse until I would push her away. Within seconds she would be back. She was insistant. 

Unlike when she was with Mom she became quite social and greeted visitors with overwhelming affection. If there were more than one person, she made the rounds making sure everyone got their share of her attention. 

Every morning she would greet me with cries of hunger the minute I got out of bed and would lead me to the computer room for breakfast. She insisted on her breakfast before my coffee. I came to develop a unique fondness for her. Even Moses, who had the hardest time learning to accept her, became the best of friends with her. I would find them often cuddled together sleeping. At times they would nuzzle each other and clean each others faces. She became one of the family and when the dogs would beg there was Geneva sitting in the half circle begging right along with them. 

Moses and GenevaWhen summer came she learned to use the dog door and would come and go just like the dogs. She liked being outside in the sun but never left the yard. She would often join us in the grain bin, again, showing affection to everyone there. 

She has been a part of my life now for almost two years and offered me only love an attention. 

Geneva died this morning on route to the vet.

I am so very thankful that she chose to come to me that night. She somehow knew that I would care for her as Momma did, and that I have, but how was I to know how she would care for me. My heart is so overwhelmed with sadness that it aches. Such  comfort she gave me in my grief for Momma, and now I greive for her. Another piece of Momma has joined her in heaven, of this I’m sure. 

Nantucket Island and our Quaker Ancestors

As discussed in my last post of our Quaker Ancestors…researching them has been made simple by the wonderful records that were kept, and stretching far back in our history we will find much written of their lives and travels. Following our lineage from the early days in the America’s can sometimes be confusing due to the many uses of like names and the tangling of our ancestors as they traveled together and intermarriage amongst each other. One will find that our lines cross over and over again down through the years.When trying to decipher the DNA matches you will find it difficult to find that common match due to the criss-cross in the lines. Our history from Nantucket Island and our Quaker Ancestors is proof of this for sure.


In 1659 it is recorded of Thomas Mayhew that the land in Nantucket was sold to nine men namely

Tristen Coffin, Thomas Macy, Christopher Ilussey, Richard Swain, Thomas Bernard, Peter Coffin, Stephen Greeleaf, John Swain, and William Pike.

Still suffering persecution in Massachuttes Thomas Macy and Tristen Coffin, set out to find a place of peace among them. They purchased the land from William Mayhew for 30 pounds and two Beaver Hats, one for William, and one for his wife. Seeing the promise of their plans William Mayhew chose to become a partner in the land also, and bought in his share. By the deed recorded it is observed that a share of the island was retained by Thomas Mayhew and in this way he became one of the proprietors who are said in all histories of the place to have founded the settlement.

Among these men I will discuss in detail those of our direct ancestors in the next few post, though for years the families of these mentioned intermarried and we will find that . we are descended in one way or another by the 16 earliest settlers of the Nantucket area. Just as in researching those Quaker ancestors that migrated to the Sugar Grove, Virginia area it seems we have relations to almost all in the area. You will find that within the migration areas (Gilford, N Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa and on westward) there are so many times intermingled relationships. Down through the years and a crossed the United States they traveled in families and groups together and married within these groups.

Pay close attention to the names mentioned within the posts, as they will come to play amongst each other.

Until the nineteenth century when more new people begin to come to the island, the very close-knit community was almost all related in one way or another. It is hard to separate the relationships among the early settlers as they each come together at some point.

Among these were men of varied experience and marked executive ability. Men who embraced every opportunity for the advancement of the settlement, and the establishment of an interesting society upon the island.



In the Parish of Chilmark, near the town of Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, Thomas Macy resided before his removal for America around 1635. We do not know the name of the ship that brought him to America but he arrived here no later than 1639. He was among the original settlers of the Salisbury, Massachusetts area and is in “The first or Original list of Englishmen of Salisbury” book of records.

It has been recorded that Thomas was “a merchant, a juryman, a preacher and one of the select men of the town. ”

Several people were prosecuted for violating the law of 1637 which prohibited entertaining Quakers. Among these was Thomas Macy, who was fined thirty shilling, and ordered an apology, and it was ordered he be admonished by the governor. It was recorded that he had sheltered Edward Warton, William Robinson, a merchant of London, and Marmaduke Stephenson, of Yorkshire, England. Of those the last two named were hanged in Boston the 27th of October in 1659.

His letter to the Court went like this:

“On a rainy morning there came to my house Edward Warton and three men more, the said Wharton spoke to me saying that they were traveling eastward and desired me to direct them in the way to Hampton, and asked me how far it was to Casco Bay, I never saw any of the men afore, except Wharton neither did I require their names, or who they were, but by their carriage I thought they might be Quakers and told them so, and therefore desired them to pass on their way, saying to them I might possibly give offense in entertaining them, and as soon as the violence of the rain ceased (for it rained very hard) they went away and I never saw them since. The time they stayed in the house was about three quarters of an hour, but I can safely affirm that it was not and hour.”

“They spake not many words in the time, neither was I at leisure to talk with them, for I came home wet to the skin, immediately afore they come to the house and I found my wife sick in bed. If this satisfy not the honored Court I shall be subject to their sentence. ”

“I have not willingly offended. I am ready to serve and obey you in the Lord.”

Thos. Macy

Thomas Macy was a Baptist, and on the Sabbath frequently exhorted (Exhort is a 15th-century coinage. It derives from the Latin verb hortari, meaning “to incite,” and it often implies the ardent urging or admonishing of an orator or preacher.) the people which was also in violation of the Massachusetts Law which prohibited all but the regularly ordained from service.

Tradition says that immediately after his sentence, Thomas Macy, left for Nantucket.

The Macy Genealogy relates that in 1659, Thomas embarked at Salisbury in a small boat with his wife and children and such household goods as he could conveniently carry, and in company with Isaac Coleman and Edward Starbuck, and set sail for Nantucket. ( James Coffin, son of Tristram is said to have accompanied him also).

Thomas basically, had had it with the authority over him, and could no longer submit to the ” tyranny of the clergy and those in authority.”

Having satisfied the requirement of the law, and paid his fine, he undoubtedly felt he could lead a more peaceful and independent life in Nantucket, and voluntarily exiled to the Island.


Before his removal to Nantucket Thomas was commissioner, and representative to the General Court of Salisbury, and the citizens of that testified of their sympathy with him by electing his friend and defender, Robert Pike as his successor.

Apparently, according to records he returned to Salisbury and again at a later date removed to Nantucket which is evident from old records, in which it is found that on October 1, 1675, he was commission chief magistrate of the town.

Thomas was the first recorder appointed on the island, and a portion of the first Book of Records in the office at Nantucket was mostly written by him.

He died April 19, 1682, at the age of 74. His wife, Sarah Hopcott, who had accompanied him from Chilmark, survived for nearly a quarter of a century after.


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