Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The "Find Your Roots" Tour

Several years ago I discovered that my several greats - grandfather's house was part of the historical homes of New England and was in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  My mother had always said that this side of the family was from Newport RI rather than Nantucket where there are many with the same name -- Coffin which was my middle name and my maternal  grandmother's maiden name.  She was confused about which Newport and I am sure never knew about the ancestral house.  White talking about this with my good friend Debi, she suggested we take a "road trip" and go see it.  We have taken road trips together before and always had a great time  It grew from there and we added on a stop to her ancestral home in Plymouth Notch, Vermont -- Coolidge.  Now coincidentally, the only president my mother ever shook hands with was Calvin Coolidge when he was governor of Massachusetts.  Debi is a not too distant cousin to Calvin and her great-grandfather made two of the chairs in the dining room of the Coolidge homestead.  Her cousin, Rick Coolidge, guided us around.

The above picture is of the Coffin House which was built in 1678 and is on High Street in Newbury, Massachusetts which is on the coast just south of the Maine border

Our first stop on the "roots" tour was the Coffin House which only is open with tours two Saturdays a month from July through October.  We caught the first tour of the day.  No pictures are allowed inside which I can understand!!  My side of the Coffin family descended from the original owner of this house - Tristram Coffin Jr (in fact twice as Coffin cousins married about three generations ago).  His father and mother had migrated from England (Devon) in the mid 1600's.  They were Royalists and left at the time of the hanging of Charles I and the take over by Oliver Cromwell.  Coincidentally, my paternal side (Lyon) of the family ancestors left at the same time and I suspect for the same reasons but the paternal tale is different -- supposedly they left as they were loyal to Cromwell but were horrified when they watched Charles I being hanged.  

Tristram Coffin Sr. landed in Newbury and he ran a ferry.  His wife Dionis Stevens Coffin ran a tavern in Newburyport.  She used hops twice as strong as the norm to make the beer for her tavern.  The Puritans had strict rules about the prices you could charge for beer and she charged twice as much and got into trouble for this.  She was an educated woman and illustrated to the satisfaction of her accusers that she could charge more as hers was a stronger concoction.  Of course, she had lots of customers for her strong brew!!!  Tristram Sr. evidently  had about enough of the Puritans so he along with several investors (including Folgers and Starbucks) bought an island off the coast of Massachusetts -- Nantucket!! 

My ancestor Tristram Jr. stayed behind in Newbury and this is his house.  According to the tour guide, the Coffins highly valued education (it was part of my mother's mantra for sure) and there were many ministers, lawyers and writers in the mix.  Tristram Jr.'s wife was Judith Greenleaf, who is featured in a book on wives of the mid 1600's in New England by Lowell Ulrich.  

Tristram Jr. didn't take over the ferry or the tavern but instead apprenticed to a tailor and that is how he earned his living.  So sewing must be in my DNA!!  Eventually the Coffin family became tanners.  My ancestor was Tristram Jr.'s youngest son and therefore did not inherit the house but my Coffin  ancestors remained in Newburyport until the mid 1800's.  I am curious about what they did there.  One was a captain but don't know whether that was a military or boat captain.  The tour guide said that the Coffins kept extremely good records (besides being prolific breeders) and many of those writings are in the archives in Boston.  Hopefully I will find some more online at some point!

Saturday was Debi's birthday and she found that her favorite childhood vacation spot (which she returns to each  year) was just 45 minutes away and we were in no hurry to drive to Vermont.  So off we go to York Maine where she took my picture in front of this candy shop where we got taffy and peanut brittle.  We then headed to one of her favorite restaurants for "dunch" (a combination of lunch and dinner as it was 3:30 by then).  Best fish and chips I have had!  Then we were off to Vermont and the Calvin Coolidge homestead.

Our first stop on Sunday morning (after meeting Debi's cousin Rick -- who is a Coolidge) for breakfast, was the graveyard where all the Coolidges are buried.  Debi's mother was a Coolidge and Debi is a first cousin twice removed from Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the US.

The Coolidge homestead is located in Plymouth Notch, Vermont.  The closest town of any size is Ludlow Vermont.

This is the country store which Calvin's father owned and in back is where Calvin was born.  His father swore him in as President in the middle of the night when they got word that Warren Harding died from a stroke.  Calvin was visiting family in Vermont but hurried back to Washington, DC.

This is my friend Debi and her cousin Rick standing in front of the church that Coolidge attended with his family.  As a bonus for Debi, there were Wilder homesteads around as well and Wilder was her maternal grandmother's name so it was obvious they all lived closely together in this very small town.

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