My Father's Shoes - Our Coffin Story, Pages 51 - 63.


Returning to the Sea

William Coffin was born in 1791, at Savage Harbour, P.E.I. He was the second son of Elisha Coffin and Jane Robbins.

William grew up on his father's farm on the west side of Savage Harbour among his numerous kin who had now settled many Coffin homesteads in this area. Although farming would have been demanding most of William's time, records show that, like his brothers and cousins, he was developing an interest in returning to the sea. Fishing and shipbuilding were becoming well established enterprises on the Island, and many of the Coffins had the skills to make a good living at it. William, along with his younger brother Benjamin, became involved in the boat building trade during the late 1820's. Their names appear on various shipbuilding lists in the area.

The early 1800's saw the Island developing strong trade ties with Newfoundland involving their sealing and fish trades. Shipbuilders in P.E.I. were finding a lucrative market for their Island built fishing vessels. Between 1830 and 1833 a total of 123 schooners were built on the Island, with the majority of them finding their way to Newfoundland. William's uncle, Kimble Coffin, was a large employer involved with the shipbuilding trade. His will, dated 1830, mentions an outstanding debt owing to him for a schooner named Hanna, by a Newfoundland fisherman. Kimble, along with his father Elisha had developed shipbuilding skills, and sailing skills, from their father Captain Elisha Coffin, who himself, appears on shipbuilding records, as early as 1785 on the Island. Captain Coffin was involved with John Coffin back in Cape Sable, Nova Scotia, fishing and building boats. John Coffin had come with Elisha, from Nantucket in the early 1760's. John's family, in Nova Scotia later went on to establish a fine distinction in Maritime business and public life. John Coffin's great-grandson, the Hon. Thomas M. Coffin was a Cabinet Minister in the Mackenzie Government in the 1880's.

Although a few smaller vessels were being built at Savage Harbour, the larger shipyards in the area were located down along the Hillsborough River near the town of Mount Stewart. Many of the Coffin families built ships along the banks of the river, and then towed them down to Charlottetown, where they were rigged and prepared for their first voyages. The early part of the 1800's were important years for the smaller shipbuilding enterprises because of the development of the market in Newfoundland. It encouraged a degree of specialization, for boat builders, and showed others, that there was a demand for the type of boats that the smaller shipyards, on the north eastern part of the Island, could readily produce. The large scale builders such as the Peake Brothers and Thomas Owen, had little interest in this type of market at this time, however, in later years the Coffins were building larger vessels almost exclusively for the Peake Brothers.

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The Coffins were interested in building the smaller vessels, usually under 100 tons. In 1829 William built the schooner Rainbow, listed as 77 tons. Later that year he built the schooner, "Three Sisters", with his brother Benjamin. In 1831 they built the schooner, "Ann" and in 1833 they built "The Lady of the Lake". Although their place of residence was listed as Savage Harbour, their building facilities were located near Mount Stewart. The reason for this was that the mouth of the harbour, at Savage Harbour, was too shallow to enable the keel of a completed vessel to pass safely. Only a few small boats were ever launched there.

Most locally built ships were financed by groups of farmers or families, who would collectively finance, build and crew the completed vessels to their buyers. Before the vessels left, they would be loaded with lumber, food, and other cargo, before setting off to foreign markets. The end results, would bring home a handsome profit for all those involved. Unfortunately, the market for these boats dried up in 1834 and William returned back to fishing and farming. William's uncle, Kimble Coffin, died in 1830, however, his sons, and grandson, Duncan, William and Edwin, continued on with their father's tradition, and became major builders for mainly the Peake brothers of Charlottetown. They built beautiful ships, such as the barquentine, "Ethel Blanche" and the "Ralph B. Peake", which was launched in 1876. This ship was 757 tons, her length was 170 feet and her beam was 33 feet across. The depth of the cargo hold was 19 feet and was magnificently finished from bow to stern and considered one of the finest ships ever to be built on the Island. A portrait of Ralph B. Peake can be seen in the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. In later years, it was the introduction of the steamships, that brought an end to the wooden sailing ships, and caused the bankruptcy of their financers, the Peake Brothers. Today one can still visit the homes and offices of James Peake in Charlottetown, they have been preserved by the Government and now house the Provincial Heritage Foundation and Museum, known as Beaconsfield House.

The year 1834 was not only the end of William's enterprise with building boats for Newfoundland, it was also to be the start of new beginnings, with his engagement and marriage to his cousin, Margaret Anderson Davison. Margaret, a widow, was the daughter of David Anderson and Helen Robbins Anderson. William's parents were, as before stated, Elisha Coffin and Jane Robbins Coffin, This made William and Margaret, first cousins, through their mothers. Margaret was the widow of the former Captain Robert Davison. Davison was born in Scotland in 1768. He married Margaret Anderson in 1818. Davison was heavily involved with the trade to Newfoundland. His first recorded voyage from the Island that has been found to date, was aboard the 35 ton schooner, "Mary", on May 8th, 1813 destined for Newfoundland. It is of interest to note that this schooner had been attacked by the Americans off Cape North six months earlier. The Royal Gazette reported that on Septmeber 10th, 1812, the schooner, "Mary" 35 tons, from Tracady P.E. Island, Captained by Archibald Cambell, fell in with the American schooner, "Teazle", of New York. Cambell's ship was plundered of 600 wt. of butter, 6 pigs, salted beef in barrels, all provisions including clothing and money. The privateers also attacked two other

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Savage Harbour
Coffin Properties, Savage Harbour, 1810 Survey.

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Island boats and served them in a like manner. Another incident tells the story of a man named O'Hanley from Cable Head, PEI, who fell into misfortune returning from St. Pierre. He had taken a shipment of cattle or produce over to that Island and on the return voyage, after payment, was attacked at sea, murdered and thrown overboard by robbers who had followed his vessel from the Island. I found these attacks on the schooners involved with the Newfoundland trade interesting and after viewing the records of outgoing and incoming vessels to PEI during this period, I had noticed that many of my ancestors' boats would leave at the same time and often return together, within days of each other. I had assumed that this was in case of foul weather, they could depend on each other for times of emergency when one boat was in danger of floundering during a storm. Having seen the above mentioned attack stories, I have come to realize that they also travelled in pairs for protection from thieves who were more than willing of relieving the Captains of their earned profits.

Margaret and Robert had two daughters Elizabeth, born 1819 and Helen born (?), and two sons, Henry born 1821 and Robert born 1828. After Margaret's remarriage on February 5, 1834, Margaret and William lived in the scenic area of St. Peter's Bay, in a town called Greenwich. This was Anderson country, which leads to the speculation that the newlyweds were given property, or was it that William moved into the Davison farm? In my visit to this area in 1996, I was stunned by the beauty of St. Peter's Bay. The gentle green hills, rolling down to the narrow bay, with the white steeples of the churches made for a postcard like setting. The French had settled here in the early 1700's and called it Saint Pierre. this community proved to be one of the few success stories during the early years of french settlement.

St. Peter's Bay is a long narrow inlet, working its way eastward from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Approximately 9 miles long, from the north shore of the Island, its endings are inland at the town of St. Peter's. About half way along the Bay, on the north shore, lies the tiny community of Greenwich. The bay itself is only about one mile across. The history of St. Peter's Bay is an interesting one, beginning with the Mic Mac Indians, hundreds of years before. This area provided the natives with plenty of fresh fish and small game. At the time, the forests came down to the water's edge providing shelter from the cold and wood for their camps. The forests were teeming with deer, bear, raccoons and foxes. The bay provided salmon, trout, clams and lobsters. Early in the 1700's the French were attempting to settle P.E.I. or Isle St. Jean, as it was then known. They saw great potential in the harbour at St. Peter's Bay and started a fishing village called St. Pierre. Along with this village they built a fort at the mouth of the harbour in which today some remnants still remain. The Mic Mac were more or less a peaceful people, who shared the land with the French, trading furs and game with them. Eventually St. Pierre developed a reputation as a trading center, and prospered until the late 1750's, when the French were conquered by the British. The British tried to expel the Acadian population, their success was being hindered by the lack of British transport ships, however, many Acadians were rounded up and shipped back to Europe, and south to America. In the early 1760's, the British divided the Island into lots. It was determined that St. Peter's was to be located on lot 41, in Kings County.

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Admiral Coffin
Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin
Born in Boston, 1759. Died in England, June 23, 1839.

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Letter from Isaac Coffin

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The development included the clearing of the forests that surrounded the Bay. Development was slow due to the fact that the new settlers could not purchase their property, but instead had to pay rent to landlords, back in England. However, to the credit of the first settlers, they carried on, felling trees, removing stumps, and carving small farms from the forests. Many settlers didn't find out about the absentee landlord system until they had arrived on the Island, victims of smooth talking recruiting agents back home, in the British Isles. One such incident involved the grand parents of Anne of Green Gables author, Lucy Maud Montgomery. After their arrival from Scotland, having barely survived the ocean crossing due to fierce gales, they set foot on the Island only to find out that their was no promised land to buy. Mr. Montgomery wanted to continue to Quebec, but the violent sea crossing caused his wife much anxiety about re-boarding any ship in the near future, and there they stayed giving a future country a great author.

St. Peter's Bay, in the late 1700's and early 1800's was eventually settled by the Scots on the north side, near Cable Head and Greenwich, the Irish on the south, and scatterings of Acadian, English and Loyalists in between. Family names common to the area in the 1800's were McEwen, Sanderson, Coffin, McLaren and Anderson. Along with Lapierre, Devoe, Sinnott and Larkin. Many churches were built to serve the faithful in and around the Bay. William's farm consisted of 70 acres, and was located on the east side of Cable Head Road, where it intersects with Greenwich Road. From the Bay, it ran back across Greenwich Road, towards, and almost reaching Schooner Pond. It is back here, that the Schooner Pond grist mill was built. In later years, the Greenwich Presbyterian Church was also built along Cable Head Road. Today, the location is part of a farmer's field, however, there is a hint of the road that ran down to the Bay 150 years ago. This road, an extension of Cable Head Road ran down to the Bay from Greenwich Road to the water's edge. The farmers and merchants used to load boats, on what was known as McLean's wharf. A closer look suggests that maybe at one time there was a ferry across the Bay from this point. It would have saved the residents of the north side much in the way of travel time, if they were heading to Morell and beyond. The Book "Story of Prince Edward Island" by Blakeley and Vernon, confirms that once there was a ferry across the bay, but does not say where. Across the Bay another road leading away from the Bay suggests where the ferry may have landed. This road continues up the hill and past the Midgell Cemetery to the main Island road which leads into Charlottetown.

On the north side of the Bay the Anderson family built and operated ships. David Anderson was Margaret's father, David and his sons were also involved with the trade to Newfoundland.

In the year of 1838, the Coffins of Greenwich, welcomed their new born daughter, named Jane Margaret. Also in 1838, their eldest daughter Elizabeth, had met and married a man named Frank Sterns. Frank was the son of Dr. Benjamin and Mahetabel Sterns from Truro, Nova Scotia. The Stern family of Truro were descendants of an old New England family from Boston, who descend from a Loyalist named Isaac Stearns. In later years, the mother of President Calvin

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Coolidge, proved to be a Stearns, as was the poet and Nobel Prize winner, T.S. Elliot. The T.S. stood for Thomas Stearns. In Canada the Stearns, dropped the "a" from their name, to spell "Sterns". After the Sterns' arrival to Nova Scotia, a Minister by the name of Robert Douglas came to Truro, Nova Scotia and became very close to the Sterns family. After awhile, Reverend Douglas moved onto P.E.I. and settled in the town of Morell, near St. Peters. The following summer the Sterns' daughter, Nancy, went to visit the Reverend Douglas and met William's cousin, Kimble Jr. After a short courtship, they were married and settled near St. Peters. Soon after, Caroline, Nancy's sister, came to visit and fell in love with William's brother Benjamin, they too were married and settled near Savage Harbour. Shortly after, the brothers Frank and William came to the Island, settling at Morell. Frank was a carriage builder and William was involved with the retail grocery and postal business. Later Frank met Elizabeth Davison Coffin, William and Margaret's daughter, and they were married. During this time in 1838, William was doing more farming than fishing. He lists his trade, on his new daughter's birth certificate as that of a farmer. His family now numbered six. It is probable that William's main crops were hay and oats. Their personal garden would have been potatoes, turnips, squash and beans. Some of the hay and oats would be used as currency to trade for other materials. An old merchant's ledger, which dates back to 1812 shows William, Elisha, Andrew and Kimble all listed as purchasers of various items such as tea, sugar, buttons and nails. One common purchase was rum. The alcohol was not only used for social gatherings, but was also the medicine of the day. In some cases such as in Donald Macormicks case, the rum was used to preserve his dead father until distant kin could make the journey for his funeral. Most items were paid for by oats and hay, or in exchange for labour, as money was very scarce on the Island. In 1840, Margaret gave birth to their son William Montague. William was born September 23rd and baptized the following March.

The following years marked the beginning of what was to become some sorrowful years. The death of Margaret's father in 1842 at the age of 70 came as a blow to the community of Greenwich. Margaret along with her brothers and sisters, 12 in all, lost a father and community leader. David Anderson's signature appears on many of the important documents I have in my possession. Perhaps the death of Margaret's father prepared her for what was to come. In the fall of 1842 their daughter, Elizabeth, gave birth to a baby named Mehetabel, but the birth had complications, and Elizabeth died. Frank Sterns became a widower with a new born and a three year old son named Robert. Elizabeth was only 23 years old, and died on the 17th of October 1842.

During these years, William was fishing for a living in the waters off the north coast of the Island. They fished for cod, mackerel, herring and lobster off the north coast, just a few miles off shore. Today one can still find the boats fishing the same waters. The danger with this location on the north coast, during the old days of sail, was that the Island, being shaped like a crescent moon, with the gulf being on the north side, easily trapped unsuspecting boats if the wind suddenly changed and came in from the north. Often the warnings of a gale, was a calming of the winds, "the calm before the storm", as it is known. The lack of wind would trap the boats off the

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coast, robbing their sails of power. Unable to make for shore or round the ends of the Islands, the boats would only have time to reef sails, and pray, before a wall of wind came down on them like an avalanche, often with driving rain or sleet, only the lucky escaped unscathed, the rest were remembered in song and verse:

The Drowned

On the bar of St. Peter, where the loud roaring billows
Heaved their form-crest tips with the tempests that rave
The stranger lies buried; there no sweet drooping willows
Will point out the spot 'tis a chill watery grave
Far, far from his home

The storm may grow louder, Heaven's power may be shaken
He heeds not, he hears not, he's free from all pain
He sleeps his last sleep, from earth's scene he was taken
No sound will awake him, to action again

Thus closes the tale Death fells a man in his glory
Today all is well, we rejoice with a smile
Tomorrow, alas, brings a heart wrenching story
And is then we see plainly how hopes often beguile

And leave a sad wreck to be forgotten in death's tale.

St. Peter's Bay 1848 by J.M.K.

The Colonial Herald on June 24, 1843 reads as follows:
Melancholy Accident - We regret to learn that on the 15th inst; while Mr. William Coffin, of St. Peter's was returning to that harbour upon his fishing boat, accompanied by a young man in his employment, the boat was struck by a sudden squall, which caused her to upset. The boat instantly disappeared, and both the individuals who were in her suddenly met a watery grave. Mr. Coffin has left a widow and several children, and numerous relatives and friends, to lament his loss. Peculiar sympathy is felt for Mrs. Coffin, as this is the second bereavement of this nature that she has been called upon to suffer, both having occurred near the same place, and in similar manner. Her former husband, Captain Robert Davison, was returning from Newfoundland, some years since, and having arrived within sight of his home, fell overboard and drowned.

On July 1, 1843 The Colonial Herald read:

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The body of Mr. William Coffin, senior, of St. Peter's, whom we noticed last week as having been lost at sea, was found on Monday the 19th, in the surf near Black Bush (Hermanville), fully twenty miles to the eastward of where he went missing. He was buried on Wednesday last.

On July 18, 1843 The Royal Gazette read as follows:

The body of a young man named Oliver Scott, who it appears was in the boat with the ill fated Mr. William Coffin, when she upset, was spotted floating up with the tide in the mouth of St. Peter's Harbour on Tuesday last. The body was brought to shore and decently interred in the burial ground of that place. The deceased was about 20 years of age and was nearly a stranger in this country, but was the son of a respectable farmer back in England. We do not know from which county he came, but there is a possibility that this notice may meet the eyes of some of his friends, if copied into English papers and they may learn the end of his worldly career.

Once again Margaret was being called upon to grieve for a drowned husband. William had been taken from her by the sea on June 15, 1843, leaving her a widow for the second time in her 43 years. When I was in St. Peter's Bay visiting the sights of our ancestors recently, I could imagine back to that sorrowful time, picturing the wake at the house as was common back then, with the casket containing William's body lying in the living quarters, then being carried by carriage down to McLean's Wharf at the end of Cable Head Road and on to a waiting boat for the ride across the Bay, up the hill on the other side, to where the small chapel once stood in what is now Midgell Cemetery. William, was buried beside his step-daughter Elizabeth, and was among one of the first graves dug in the cemetery. Today the chapel no longer stands, however a marble bench in the cemetery marks the spot close to where it once stood. The four Coffin tombstones are distinctive by there originality and age.

From left to right lies William Coffin's head stone which reads as follows:

"William Coffin who drowned in the harbour of St. Peter's on the 15th day of June A.D. 1843, age 52 years. His remains are here interred." It is interesting to note that when I saw William's grave stone for the first time in 1996 it was almost illegible due to the 150 years of moss, dirt and weathering it had endured. The following year I returned to show my daughter, Sarah and to my amazement the stone had been brought back to life through some kind soul's hours of scraping and washing. The timing of this is a little eerie seeing that for 150 years of being left to weather, my first visit saw the old and shortly after, my second visit with my daughter, saw the new. I was beginning to understand why many refer to spirits that wander the Island.

Margaret Anderson Coffin, wife of William Coffin, died at Charlottetown on the 12th day of March A.D. 1893 age 93.

Elizabeth Sterns, wife of Franklin Sterns, died October 17, 1842, age 23.

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View Meacham's Atlas Map of Lot 38

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Robert Davison Coffin, died April 10, 1850, age 21. He was distinguished for his innocence of manner and purity of character and he submitted to the last foe of man with cheerfulness and resignation. Also to commemorate the death of his father, Captain Robert Davison who was accidentally drowned off St. Peter's Harbour on the 7th day of December A.D. 1827, age 59.

After the death of William, Margaret continued on with their farm in Greenwich. The next twenty five years are a mystery to my research, which are periodically brought to life by events such as Margaret's purchase of John Leslie's grist mill in 1848, on Schooner Pond. This was an unusual purchase for a lady in these times, but once again it shows the determination of this Scot, to carry on despite the pitfalls along life's journey. In 1850, another death in their family, with the sudden illness and death of her son Robert, whom Margaret, had given birth to, shortly after her first husband Robert Davison had drowned.

There is a map of this area, entitled, "The Lake Map of 1863. On this map directly across the Greenwich Road, lies a store on the Greenwich Road. Could this store have belonged to Margaret? In later years her son William, my great-grandfather, would find himself involved with running a general store, and it is possible that this store provided a start to the Coffins' new life after the death of William.

Margaret Coffin, later moved with her son to Charlottetown, in the year 1873, and continued on as a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother until her death in Charlottetown on March 12, 1893, age 93. Margaret was buried beside her husband William in Midgell Cemetery, and her legacy of courage should be remembered, by those who can envision her hardships and loss through her long life.

The Children of Captain William and Margaret Coffin.

Elizabeth Davison Coffin married Franklin Sterns and lived in Morell. They had two children Robert and Mehetabel. Elizabeth died in 1842 at the age of 23.

Henry and Helen Davison Coffin were born sometime between 1820 and 1826. I have no other knowledge of their lives except that they appear on their brother, Robert's, will in the year 1850.

Robert Davison Coffin was born in 1828, he never married, and died in Charlottetown on April 10, 1850 at the age of 21.

Jane Coffin was born in 1836 and married Reverend Henry Crawford. They had two children that I know of, both died in infancy, and are buried beside their grandfather, William, in Midgell

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William Montague Coffin was born in 1840 in St. Peter's Bay and married his step-niece Mehetabel Sterns (his step-sister, Elizabeth's, daughter) in 1869. They had six children Ida, Joseph, Franklin, Florence, Earnest and Robert.

Robert James Coffin was born in 1841. He never married and died in April of 1863 at the age of 22.

The Mariner Connection

During the early 1800s many Island mariners were involved with building boats, loading them with Island produce and delivering their cargo to foreign ports, mainly Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick. The following Captains are of direct ancestry:

Captain Elisha Coffin (my g.g.g. grandfather)

b. 1763 (Nantucket)
m. 1785
Jane Robbins b. 1765
Children: Kimble, Eunice, William, Margaret, Harriet, Benjamin, James, Rebecca and Phebe.

Voyages taken by Captain Elisha Coffin

23 May, 1815 - "Industry" of 45 tons, for Halifax.
06 July 1815 - "Industry" of 45 tons, for St. John's, NFLD
30 Aug. 1815 - "Industry" of 45 tons, for St. John's NFLD
15 Aug. 1823 - "Two Sisters" of 62 tons from Miramichi, N.B.
27 Sept. 1823 - "Two Sisters" of 62 tons from St. John's NFLD
19 Nov. 1824 - "Two Sisters" - of 62 tons from Miramichi, N.B.
10 Aug. 1825 - "Two Sisters" of 62 tons from St. John's, NFLD
21 Nov. 1825 - "Two Sisters" of 62 tons from Miramichi, N.B.
09 June 1826 - "Two Sisters" of 62 tons from St. John's, NFLD
06 Sept. 1826 - "Two Sisters" of 62 tons from St. John's, NFLD

Captain Robert Davison ( my g.g.g. grandfather)

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b. 1768 (Scotland)
m. April 1, 1818
Margaret Anderson (my g.g.g. grandmother on female side, g.g. grandmother on male side)
b. 1800
Children: Elizabeth, Henry, Helen and Robert.

Voyages taken by Captain Robert Davison

08 May 1813 - "Mary" of 35 tons for St. John's, NFLD
20 July 1813 - "Mary" of 35 tons for St. John's, NFLD
02 Sept. 1813 - "Mary" of 35 tons for St. John's, NFLD
24 Nov. 1813 - "Morrell" of 66 tons for St. John's, NFLD
23 May 1815 - "Mermaid" of 59 tons for Halifax, with 1 cask of ale and 4 passengers.
11 July 1815 - "Mermaid" of 59 tons for St. John's, NFLD
06 Sept. 1815 - "Mermaid" of 59 tons for St. John's, NFLD
06 Nov. 1815 - "Mermaid" of 59 tons for St. John's, NFLD
12 Aug. 1817 - "Mermaid" of 59 tons for St. John's, NFLD
29 Sept. 1817 - "Mermaid" of 59 tons for St. John's, NFLD, 18 bushels of cranberries
23 June 1820- "Elizabeth" of 41 tons from St. John's, NFLD, (Elizabeth was his newborn daughter's name)
01 Aug. 1820 - "Elizabeth" of 41 tons from St. John's, NFLD
25 Sept. 1820 - "Elizabeth" of 41 tons from St. John's, NFLD
02 Dec. 1820 - "Elizabeth" of 40 tons from St. John's, NFLD
16 June 1821 - "Elizabeth" of 41 tons from St. John's, NFLD
03 Aug. 1821 - "Elizabeth" of 41 tons from St. John's, NFLD
30 Nov. 1821 - "Elizabeth" of 41 tons from Halifax
14 June 1822 - "Elizabeth" of 41 tons from St. John's, NFLD
26 June 1822 - "Elizabeth" of 41 tons from St. John's, NFLD
07 Sept. 1822 - "Elizabeth" of 41 tons from Miramichi, N.B.
30 Nov. 1822 - "Elizabeth" of 41 tons from Halifax
31 July 1823 - "Elizabeth" of 41 tons from St. John's, NFLD
08 Sept. 1823 - "Elizabeth" of 41 tons from St. John's, NFLD
02 Dec. 1823 - "Elizabeth" of 41 tons from Halifax
21 June 1825 - "Renown" of 52 tons from St. John's, NFLD
10 Aug. 1825 - "Renown" of 52 tons from St. John's, NFLD
13 Sept. 1825 - "Renown" of 52 tons from St. John's, NFLD
05 July 1826 - "Magaret" schooner of 64 tons from St. John's, NFLD (Margaret was his new boat named after his wife).
Voyages taken by Captain Robert Davison (cont'd)

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Savage Harbour
Ross and Dave Coffin, Savage Harbour, P.E.I.
St. Peters Cem.
L-R: Elisha Coffin, Jr., James Coffin, Margaret Coffin
St. Peters Cem., P.E.I.

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15 Aug. 1826 - "Margaret" of 64 tons from St. John's, NFLD. With 50bbl. Pickled fish
03 Oct. 1826 - "Margaret" of 64 tons from St. John's, NFLD
18 Dec. 1826 - "Margaret" of 64 tons from St. John's, NFLD
19 April 1827 - "Margaret" of 64 tons headed for Bay Verte
01 May 1827 - "Margaret" of 64 tons headed fro NFLD, departs from Three Rivers
19 June 1827 - "Margaret" of 64 tons from St. John's, NFLD (arrives at St. Peter's Bay - St. Peter's Bay is where Robert's farm was)
08 Aug. 1827 - "Margaret" of 64 tons headed to St. John's, NFLD (departs from St. Peter's Bay)
07 Sept. 1827 - "Margaret" of 64 tons from St. John's, NFLD. (arrives at St. Peter's Bay)
19 Sept. 1827 - "Margaret" of 64 tons departs for Fox Island
13 Oct. 1827 - "Sarah" Brigantine departs for St. John's, NFLD, departs from Bay Fortune
20 Oct. 1827 - "Margaret" of 64 tons headed for NFLD, departs from St. Peter's Bay (Capt. Robert Davison falls overboard and drowns on the return voyage Dec. 7, 1827)

Margaret Anderson Marries:

Captain William Coffin (my g.g. grandfather)
b. 1791 (PEI)
m. Feb. 5, 1834 (William Coffin and Robert Davison were friends and possibly partners involved with the trade to Newfoundland)
Children: Jane, William, Robert

Voyages taken by Captain William Coffin

20 June 1825 - "Elizabeth" of 61 tons from St. John's, NFLD
28 July 1825 - "Elizabeth" of 61 tons from St. John's, NFLD
26 Nov. 1825 - "Elizabeth" of 61 tons from St. John's, NFLD
27 Nov. 1826 - "Two Sisters" Schooner of 62 tons from NFLD
07 May 1827 - "Elizabeth" Schooner departs for Halifax
22 June 1827 - "Elizabeth" Schooner from Halifax arrives at St. Peter's Bay
28 July 1827 - "Renown" Schooner from NFLD
18 Sept. 1827 - "Renown" Schooner from NFLD arrives at St. Peter's Bay
03 Oct. 1827 - "Elizabeth" Schooner departs for St. John's NFLD from St. Peter's Bay
30 July 1828 - "Elizabeth" Schooner from Halifax
09 Sept. 1828 - "Elizabeth" Schooner from NFLD
(Captain William Coffin drowns during a sudden squall June 15, 1843)

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Captain Andrew Coffin
b. Dec. 7, 1796 (PEI)
m. Eliza Anderson
b. 1801
m. 1823

Andrew was Captain William Coffin's cousin. Eliza was Margaret Anderson's sister.

Voyages taken by Captain Andrew Coffin

27 July 1820 - "Success" of 50 tons from St. John's, NFLD
20 Sept. 1820 - "Success" of 50 tons from St. John's, NFLD
24 Nov. 1820 - "Success" of 50 tons from St. John's, NFLD
19 June 1821 - "Success" of 50 tons from St. John's, NFLD
06 Aug. 1821 - "Success" of 50 tons from St. John's, NFLD
27 Nov. 1821 - "Success" of 50 tons from Halifax
26 Aug. 1822 - "Success" of 50 tons from St. John's, NFLD
30 Nov. 1822 - "Success" of 50 tons from Halifax

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Leaving the Farm


William M. Coffin was born January 23, 1840 in St. Peter's Bay, P.E.I. He was the second child of Captain William Coffin and Margaret Anderson.

William's family lived on the north shore of St. Peter's Bay near the area of Greenwich. When William was three, his father died, leaving the family in a desperate situation. I feel that this period of time marked the new direction for this branch of the Coffin family. For close to 250 years, their ancestors had depended on farming and fishing for their livelihood. They lead rural, rugged lives, however, now with he sudden death of the head of the family, William's mother, Margaret and their six children, faced new challenges. In the Greenwich area, there were many relatives, both Coffins and Andersons. Surely, they must have been beneficial in helping Margaret's family through a most difficult period. Henry, the eldest child (22) most likely took control of the more difficult farm chores, while the other children, Helen, Robert, Jane and William helped out in any way possible. In 1848, Margaret bought John Leslie's grist mill, which was located near the back acres of their farm, on Schooner Pond. From this mill, along with their farm, they carved out a living, providing area farmers with a place to bring their harvest. The finished produce could then be taken down Cable Head Road to McLean's Wharf, and shipped off to market.

In 1850, William's stepbrother, Robert died, at the age of twenty one, after an illness of three months. In Robert's will, he leaves his mother, Margaret, his house in Charlottetown, and all his farm tools were to go to William, indicating that William was the next in line, to work the farm at the young age of ten. The early 1850's are a mystery, as to how the family was faring and is only brought back on record in 1856, with the marriage of William's sister, Jane, to Reverend Henry Crawford. As a side note, they (the Crawfords) had two infant sons die shortly after birth, both are buried in Midgell Cemetery, within feet of William's fathers grave.

William's family consisted of three sisters and three brothers, however, they were not all full blood relatives. Elizabeth, Helen, Robert and Henry were stepbrothers and sisters through Margaret's previous marriage to Captain Robert Davison who drowned in 1828. Jane and William came as a result of Captain William Coffin's marriage to Margaret Anderson. Also, the age difference varied greatly as Elizabeth who was the eldest, born 1819, had grown-up, married and died shortly after giving birth to her daughter Mehetabel in 1842, William, the youngest, was only two years old at the time.

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My Father's Shoes

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Cover Shot and Text © Ross Coffin

Last Updated: 1/1/2006 4:20:53 PM
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