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from Biography & Historical Record of Ringgold County, Iowa

Lewis Publishing Company of Chicago, 1887, p. 385


Byron W. COFFIN, engaged in agricultural pursuits on section 10, Tingley Township, was born in Mahaska County, Iowa, near Oskaloosa, January 22, 1856, a son of Jacob F. and Maria (McCLAIN) COFFIN, the father being a pioneer of Mahaska County. Our subject was reared to agricultural pursuits, his father being a farmer by occupation, and his education was obtained in the common schools of his native county. He was married in June, 1878 [Mahaska County], to Lydia SHOEMAKER of Mahaska County, and to this union have been born two children - Charles and Arthur J.

In the spring of 1882 our subject came with his family to Ringgold county, and settled in Tingley Township on part of his father's farm, of 320 acres, he having eighty acres of well-improved land.

Jacob F. COFFIN, father of our subject, was born in Jackson County, Indiana, June 7, 1834, a son of Samuel and Sophia (FISHER) COFFIN, the former born in North Carolina in 1809.

Jacob was nine years of age when his parents settled in Lee County, Indiana, and a year later moved to Mahaska county, Iowa, where he was married to Maria McCLAIN who was a native of that county. They have four children living. Mr. and Mrs. Jacob F. COFFIN now make their home in Ringgold County, Iowa, where they own a fine farm of 320 acres located on section 10, Tingley Township.

The country northwest of Oskaloosa and bordering on the Skunk River timber was seized by . . . men . . . who came in '43 and '44. There were the TROYS, the LITERS, the PADGETTS, the COFFINS, Samuel and John, all of whom made claims, and with their families endured the same kind of crude living I have so often described. Their little cabins were built along the edge of the timber, with plenty of prairie for farming lying to the south. There were numerous groves a little way out from the main timber, which made that region attractive in its primeval state. The land, like all other land in this region, was rich and lay well for farming. John COFFIN and Samuel were brothers. Their land joined. Both had families, each having several children. John COFFIN was killed by a horse inthe summer of 1851, and was buried in the Friend's burying ground at Spring Creek. His wife Eleanor remained on the farm where they first settled and brought up her children, who are respected and useful members of society.

I knew more about Samuel COFFIN and his family than any I have mentioned of the early inhabitants of that neighborhood. Though Samuel COFFIN was a distant relative of mine, I never met him until the fall of '44. He was then about thirty-six years old, tall and straight and full of vigor, pluck and energy. He had all the qualities necessary in battling with the hardships which attend the settling of a new country. He was honest, honorable and brave. His ancestors were Nantucket whale-fishers, who were not afraid of small things, and Samuel COFFIN inherited many of the traits of character which those hardy seamen were said to have possessed. They were said to be fearless, honorable, with an innate principle of justice pervading their whole nature. They were a "law unto themselves," I think Samuel COFFIN possessed every trait which I mentioned, and all his old neighbors will agree with me in saying: If Samuel COFFIN ever did a mean or dishonorable act, he did violence to his own nature. He provided well for his own household, and was always ready to help a friend or neighbor if he found them in trouble. Samuel COFFIN was a fine looking man when in his prime. His hair and eyes were dark. There was a look of strength and genuineness in his face which inspired one with confidence. Even when in trouble himself, he could always find a comforting word for those who sought his sympathy and help. A man like Samuel COFFIN is a blessing to any neighborhood. His wife Sophia, who came with him to this fair wilderness, and shared with him the inconvenience of a little cabin in a new country, was a handsome woman, with dark hair and dark blue eyes, and a complexion like cream and roses, which the prairie winds even could not spoil. She was not only handsome, but a lovely, gentle, sweet-spirited woman.

My husband and I would mount our horses and go dashing over the hills and hollows, many a time to Samuel and Sophia COFFIN's, where we were sure to be received with a smiling welcome from both. Samuel would take Gorrell off to look at his big corn and his pigs, and after a while they would come back with their arms full of great luscious melons. While our husbands were looking at the crops, I would help Sophia get dinner, and such quantities of fried chicken and cream gravey and peas and potatoes, and hot biscuit and honey and butter and coffee with good rich cream, we would have on the table in that little cabin when our husbands returned. We hardlyever saw an apple and never a peach in those days, but when the time of year came around we had melons and blackberries and plums. . . .

Samuel COFFIN was not only a successful farmer and cattle raiser and pig raiser, but could find a bee-tree if there happened to be any where in his region. When a man found a bee-tree he would cut his name or initials on it, and it was about as dangerous to "jump" a bee-tree as it was to "jump" a claim.

Samuel and Sophia COFFIN had an interesting family, four sons and three daughters, bright, handsome children. They added to their acres and other possessions, and were beginning to be comfortably fixed, when death broke into that happy family and took the beautiful and gentle wife and mother.

After seeing the last spade full of earth placed and made into a mount over all that was mortal of the wife of his youth, that strong man, with a heavy heart, went back to this desolate home and sat down among his motherless children and wept. His heart was sad, the world looked dark, all joy seemed to have departed, never to return, but before long he began to realize that he could not afford to sit and nurse his grief, as there was a family of children, some of them mere babies, who had to be provided for. His cares were doubled. he had to fill the place of father and mother, too, but he possessed great strength of character, could surmount difficulties that many a man would sink under. He cast his own griefs and heart-aches in the back-ground and went on toiling and planning and doing the best he could for his own family and any others who came in his way and needed assistance. After a year or two he married Susan LISTER, a daughter of Henry LISTER, an old settler in Oskaloosa. Susan was a good girl, good looking and a conscientious Christian. To that union were born nine children, five daughters and four sons. Although Samuel COFFIN had an unusually numerous family to support, they were all well provided for. Every one of his eight daughters grew to respectable womanhood, and I have been told, married good men. Hampton CRUZEN, one of Mahaska's prosperous farmers who died a year or two ago, married Sarah, the oldest. Eliza, the next, is the wife of Mr. Stephen POMEROY, another of Mahaska's successful farmers and respected citizens. Mary . . . married Mr. Carl BARR, and is living in Ft. Madison. . . Several of that numerous household have joined the great majority their graves are as widely separated as are the living members.

Samuel and John COFFIN, like all the other COFFINS in the United States, are descendants of Tristram and Diones COFFIN, who came from England in 1642 and settled at Salisbury in Massachusetts. In 1660 Tristram COFFIN and nine others purchased the island of Nantucket. There they settled in that year and not long after engaged in the whale- fishing business. Those Nantucket people followed that business successfully through several generations. They traversed every known sea . . . and sold their cargoes in every seaport in Europe and many other parts of the world. . . .In cours of time the little island of Nantucket became so thickl inhabited with COFFINS and MACEYS, and GARDNERS and STARBUCKS and MICHELLS and FOLGERS and RUSSELLS and so forth, that they began to find homes and business inother parts of the western hemisphere. There is said to be twenty-five thousand persons in the United States who can trace their lineage directly to Tristramand Diones COFFIN, those first settlers on that island. It is said also that all the COFFINS in this country are of that family. One William COFFIN, a great grandson of Tristram, and whose wife was Priscilla PADDOCK, emigrated to North Carolina not very long before the Revolutionary war. These were the ancestors of Samuel and John. . . . The COFFINS are great people to keep track of their lineage and most of them reverence their ancestors, and many of the family names are kept going from generation to generation. Priscilla is a name common among the COFFINS. . . .Priscilla PADDOCK was a very superior woman and of an excellent family, therefore in every generation of COFFINS since her time there has been many Priscillas. Mrs. Priscilla PRINE, of Oskaloosa, a very excellent and intelligent lady, is a daughter of John COFFIN. Samuel COFFIN was a Christian and died in peace at the age of seventy-one years, honored and respected by all who knew him. The largest funeral procession ever seen in Mahaska county was said to be the one that followed the remains of Samuel COFFIN to their last resting place in Forest cemetery.

Erastus and Thomas, sons of Samuel COFFIN, own and occupy farms and have commodious residences not far from the old homestead where they were brought up. Frank, another son, lives in Nebraska. Frank is not only a prosperous farmer, but is a man amongst men. Samuel, the youngest of that numerous family, was a little boy when his father died, but now a tall, fine looking man, and people say is a veritable "chip off the old block." He lives in Colorado and is engaged in railroading. I was not at all surprised to hear a good report of "little Sammy" as we used to call him, for I had reason to know that he was an honest and honorable little boy.

"Reminiscences" by Semira Ann HOBBS PHILLIPS, Proud Mahaska

NOTE: Samuel COFFIN was born April 19, 1809, Guilford County, North Carolina, and died May 6, 1880, Mahaska County, Iowa. Sophia (FISHER) COFFIN was born in Indiana on January 24, 1814, and died in Mahaska County, Iowa, on January 24, 1850. Susan (LISTER) COFFIN was born in Indiana, circa. 1833.

Lydia (SHOEMAKER) COFFIN was born November 30, 1855, and died at the age of 34 years on August 14, 1889, with interment a Tingley Cemetery, Ringgold County, Iowa. Lydia was the daughter of Enoch SHOEMAKER (1812-1874) and Mary (HALE) SHOEMAKER (1824-1898).

Charles COFFIN, son of Byron and Lydia (SHOEMAKER) COFFIN, was born in Mahaska County, Iowa, in 1879.

Biography & Historical Record of Ringgold County, p. 385, 1887.

Phillips, Semira Ann Hobbs. "Reminiscences" Proud Mahaska, 1843 - 1900 Pp. 229-35. Herald Print. Oskaloosa, Iowa. 1900.

WPA Graves Survey

Transcription and note by Sharon R. Becker, March of 2009

Biographical Sketches Pages Index: A - F,   G - L,   M - R,  S - Z

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