Tales of the Past

ship_h10.jpg (4533 bytes) Simon Willard Feelings he had on leaving Kent and a Letter to his descendents written about 1640          

ship_h10.jpg (4533 bytes) John Derby - Stories from the American Revolution - Richard Derby  -At the Salem Bridge

ship_h10.jpg (4533 bytes)Dr. Nathaniel Coffin -Medicine in Early America

ship_h10.jpg (4533 bytes) Daniel Dennison Rogers - Businessman and details of his House in Boston written by his Grandson   

ship_h10.jpg (4533 bytes)John Rogers the man and Excerpts from a Civil War Diary

ship_h10.jpg (4533 bytes)Elias Haskett Derby - Salem ship Merchant

ship_h10.jpg (4533 bytes)Henry Bromfield - a businessman

ship_h10.jpg (4533 bytes)Ann Marbury Hutchinsona woman who stood  for religious freedom

ship_h10.jpg (4533 bytes)Henry Post New York businessman and close friend of DeWitt Clinton

ship_h10.jpg (4533 bytes)Roger Williams - Founder of Rhode Island

ship_h10.jpg (4533 bytes)Letters and excerpts of the diary of Martha Coffin Derby on her trip through Europe 1802-4

ship_h10.jpg (4533 bytes) Major General Daniel Denison a Letter

ship_h10.jpg (4533 bytes) Major Samuel Appleton in King Philips War

ship_h10.jpg (4533 bytes) Edward Winslow - Curing of Massassoyt

Sept 11th Memorial Page

My Children and Grandchildren have used some of these stories in their study of American History in school.



This Page was last updated on Thursday, January 24, 2002 10:35:15 AM



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Coffin House in Newbury

                              DR NATHANIAL COFFIN    efnc.gif (11305 bytes)


Dr Nathaniel Coffin came to Portland in 1738 from Newburyport, his native place where he studied with Dr Tappan. In 1739 he married Patience Hale by whom he had eight children

Dr Coffin had an arduous task in pursuing his professional duties, having nearly the whole eastern county to attend to from Wells to Kennebec. He was frequently called to perform operations on people who had been tomahawked and scalped by Indians. He was so much respected by these that they always furnished him with safe conveyance through their settlements, and treated him with kindness and hospitality. From his studies in Newburyport he could not have acquired the information he possessed and which made him so extensively useful, particularly in surgery, but it may be easily accounted for, by the opportunity he had of intercourse with young gentleman who came out in the ships as surgeons, After serving their apprenticeship in London, they were admitted for one year or more into some of the hospitals there to finish their education,

Discovering their superior advantages he always made them welcome in his house and provided them with means of accompanying him on his visits to his patients, In this way he obtained yearly information on every new discovery and improvement relative to the science of medicine and surgery. In May 17~3 he was attacked with a palsy, notwithstanding, he perceived in this intention of sending his son London to attend the hospitals of St Thomas and Guy in the borough. Jan 1766, he had another attack of Palsy of which he died aged 50 years.

Nathaniel Coffin, son of the preceding, was at the time of hi decease the oldest and one of the most eminent surgeons in the state of Maine, The first ancestor of his family who came to this country was Tristam Coffin who emigrated from England in 1642. Dr Coffin was born in Portland May 3 f?) 1744, in which place he always lived and where he closed his long and useful life. The country at the time of his birth, for many miles around Casco Bay including the site of Portland, was called Falmouth, afterwards the part most thickly settled, lying on the harbor, was incorporated into a separate town called Portland. He completed his preparatory medical education under his father, but the limited means of the scientific improvement then existing in this thinly peopled section of the country, enduced the son with the advice of his father to embark for England at the age of 18. He then prosecuted his studies at Guy's and St Thomas Hospitals under the distinguished Hunter, Akenside, McKenzie and others; and returned to commence the practice of his profession at the early age of twenty-one, The time which be passed in a land, then as far excelling his own in the advancement of the arts and sciences, as this vigor of manhood excels the weakness of infancy, was faithfully improved. His industry and desire for knowledge was greatly promoted by ready tact and practical good sense which were distinguishing features of his mind; At the time of the death of his father, which occurred in 1766, he was a qualified in no ordinary degree to succeed to an extensive and arduous practice. He married in his twenty - sixth year of his age the only daughter of Isaac Foster Esq. of Charleston by whom he had 11 children. In consequence of the rapid increase of the population in this port of the country after the close of the war, his labors, though greatly multiplied soon became confined to his native town His father who had resided in the same spat with himself, and within the memory of his son had been compelled to travel with his healing art over an extent of country reaching forty miles west and more than fifty on the east, the only messenger of consolation that could be procured within these limits, while the son found in his native town and vicinity a constant demand for his time, his talents and his benevolence. At the commencement of his career, Dr Coffin might be often found traveling through unfrequented and dangerous roads, to visit patients who possessed none of the comforts and scarcely the necessities of civilized life, while the cannon of the enemy was sounding in his ears, and before his eyes lay all the desolation with which war ravages the land. Could this amiable and enterprising physician while watching in the abodes of misery, have relieved the tedious hours with an anticipation of the peace and prosperity which would so soon to reward the consistency of his countrymen, how his benevolent heart would have cheered at the prospect! He loved his country and ardently desired her freedom and advancement, but few persons at that period dreamed of independence. It was not long, however, before the prospect brightened and America, though struggling with a power incalculably superior to her own, gave signs of a resolution not to be overcome. The inhabitants of Falmouth caught the general spirit of patriotism, which was daily gaining ground, and determined to relinquish their commerce with England. This resolution was first enforced upon Mr. Coulson, an English resident there; who had married a sister of Dr Coffin. In consequence of these offensive proceedings an order was obtained from an Admiral on the station for the destruction of the town, and Captain Mowatt drew up his navel forces to execute the order. On this occasion Dr Coffin with two others was employed by his townsmen to repair on board the "Cancean" to expostulate with the commander upon the severity of his commission, and to endeavor to avert or midget this evil. In this attempt he was not successful. Captain Mowatt was determined to burn down the town, and a short interval was obtained for the inhabitants to remove some of their effects, and to escape to the adjacent country. This excellent man continued to share the lot of his suffering townsmen during that trying season and his faithfulness deserves to be recorded with that of the respectable and worthy pastors of the flock who abode by their charge in their dispersion. After the alarm had a little subsided, the inhabitants ventured to return to their ruined homes and began gradually to rebuild their ruined houses, Dr coffin was the first to enter the town, and to animate by his courage and his cheerfulness the hearts of the people, sunk into despondency by the melancholy spectacle which on all sides met their view. His services were at this time particularly acceptable to his fellow citizens, as a physician, harassed by a foreign enemy and liable to all the diseases and misfortunes incident to perilous times. Sickness is one of the roost severest aggravations of poverty and misfortune; It unnerves the strong arm and stout heart, which in the vigor of health find new resources and new enterprises from peril and difficulty, During this period of the Revolution, sick and disabled seaman and soldiers were often brought by our ships into Portland. Dr Coffin was thus offered repeated opportunities for a display of those principles of practice which he had previously acquired in foreign hospitals, and which a rare skill and discriminating judgement enabled him at all times to apply the most successful results. As a surgeon, Dr Coffin was in his native town ranked at the head of his profession, always prompt and ready, with a resolution that never wavered in the boldest operations, with an eye steadily fixed on its object and a hand that never trembled, and all the practical knowledge of anatomy essential to the successful treatment of surgical diseases, he was prepared to accomplish what no other practitioner around him presumed to undertake. If he possessed a peculiar facility in any one branch of his profession it was certainly operative surgery. Some of his operations were performed at the age of eighty, with all the promptness and decision of a youthful practitioner. His reputation was also high as a medical practitioner, and what is said of the learned and distinguished Dr Baillie with truth may be applied to him: " He had a most natural, unassuming but decided manner, in which the exercise of his professional duties was the same to all persons on all occasions, His mind was always quietly but eagerly directed to the investigation of the symptoms of the disease, and be was so distinct and systematic a mode of putting questions that an answer often presented a correct view of the whole and could not fail to impress the patient with his clear and comprehensive knowledge. He was honored by all those professional distinctions which his merits and attainments so truly deserved. The honorary degree of Doctor of Medicine was conferred on him by the College of Brunswick. He was the first President of the Medical Society of Maine, and for many discharged the duties of hospital surgeon for marine patients in the district of Maine. Possessing a constitution naturally healthy and vigorous, and a mind resolute and intelligent, there was no peril which he was not prepared to encounter, and no adversity which he could not endure, and he has well deserved the distinction awarded him by the public for his constant and unremitted exertions during a period of sixty years.

Dr Coffin was surrounded in the early part of his career by suffering friends and patients, but his life was closed amid the blessings of freedom and independence. In the peaceful evening of his days, all the enjoyments of prosperity and affection clustered around his dwelling, but it should not be forgotten that the respectability and happiness that he experienced were the well earned reward of his virtues, talents and faithfulness of the early years. In his manners, he was a polished specimen of the state of American Society existing before the Revolution, he was one of the most gracious gentlemen of the old school, and his deportment was marked by a uniform and captivating urbanity. His long experience added to his varied knowledge rendered his services valuable to the last and the facilities of his mind retained a singular freshness even to the ordinary decays of nature. He made an early profession of his religious principles, and was one of the first united with Rev. Dr. Freeman of Boston and for a number of years, he was associated with the Church of the First Parish in his native place.

The manner of his decease is briefly told, in 1823 he had a slight attack of asthma, which disappeared in a few days, but it returned in April 1824 and brought extreme debility which threatened his life and ended by a general breaking up of his robust and healthy constitution. From this period, he began to decline, while a gouty affection appearing, produced, according to its ordinary effects on a debilitated system, hydrothorax, which at last proved fatal and notwithstanding the unremitted and affectionate attention of an family, the constant services of his medical friends, with as bodily suffering as could be expected, and a mind but slightly anxious little impaired, he expired on the 18th of October 1826. It may be noticed that he died on the anniversary of the destruction of Portland, which he survived 51 years. Copied from Dr Weeks paper on History of Colonial Medicine in America. In our Family Papers




wpe1.jpg (24070 bytes)Elias Haskett Derby

Elias Haskett Derby was born in Salem August 16 1739. In the memoir by his son, E.H. Derby it is stated that he was of English extraction. His ancestor, Roger Derby was born in 1643, emigrated to America in 1671 from Topshire near Easer in the south of England. He settled first  at Ipswich, but removed to Salem where he embarked in trade, reared a large family, and acquired respectable property. His son Richard, born 1679, died at an early age of 35, married in 1702, Martha Haskett. He left a son Richard born in 1712, who was the father of Elias Haskett Derby, the subject of this sketch. Losing his father in infancy, Richard was raised by an energetic mother, and in his 24th year 1736, he was the master of the Sloop Ranger from Salem to Cadiz to Malaga, in which he made a very good voyage. He retired from the sea in 1757 and became a merchant of Salem.

Elias Haskett Derby, his second son, in his early years seems to have kept the books, conducted the correspondence of his father and seems to be the accountant of the family. At an early age, he married a Crowningshield, while his sister married a Crowningshield, thus making a double connection between the families. From 1760 - 1775, he not only took charge of his fathers books, wharves and other property, but imbibling the spirit of his father and acquiring through him and his Captains, a knowledge of commerce, he enlarged extensively in the trade to the English and the French Islands. At the commencement of the Revolutionary war, he was the owner of no less than seven sail vessels, in the trade of the West Indies varying from sixty to one hundred tons and by frugality and industry had acquired a property of $ 50,000. At this period, most of the rich men of Mass clinged to the mother country, but none of the Derby name followed their example, and the subject of this sketch esposed the cause of the Colonies. His trade and that of Salem was ruined by the war and his property seriously impaired. Mr. Derby, indignant, united with his townspeople and took a prominent part in the equipment of at least ~50 vessels, fitted out from Salem during the Revolution, mounting more than 2,000 cannon and manned by gallant seamen of Salem, Beverly and Marblehead. He subscribed 10,000 dollars toward the building of the frigate Essex. He had been successful but he welcomed peace with joy, for his tastes were pacfic. He was prepared, by the speed and capacity of his vessels to meet the mercantile fleet of England in fair competition. He sent his vessels to Europe and to " rich ports of the far east " and he acquired a handsome property. He built a handsome mansion, in what is now Derby Square. He did not live long to enjoy it, He died on Sept 8 1799. His property was valued at $ 1,000,000, was the largest single fortune in New England, if not in the whole country.

Salem Vessels and their Voyages by George Putnam - Essex Institute Historical Collections Vol. 20 and 21



jrogers.bmp (196678 bytes)  John Rogers

John Rogers, A.M., & resident member, admitted Jan. 9,1874, was born in Boston May 11, 1800, and died in same place June 15, 1684, aged 84 years, I month and 4 days.
His father was Daniel Dennison Rogers, born in Exeter, N. H. May II, 1751, and his mother was Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Bromfield, of Boston. In a brief record which he made of his own life and his ancestry he says: " I claim descent from John Rogers the Martyr, but am aware there is a deficiency of evidence beyond John Rogers, minister of Dedham in England. From him, however, the succession is clearly established." It has, however, been very definitely settled that John Rogers the Martyr was not the ancestor of the famous Puritan minister of Dedham.
The descent of Mr. Rogers from John Rogers of Dedham, Eng., runs through Nathaniel Rogers, Minister of Ipswich, Mass from 1638 to l655, who was educated at Cambridge University, Eng. His son. John Rogers, was graduated at Harvard College in 1649, was assistant minister with his father at Ipswich, and was afterwards president of the college. A son of the last named was John Rogers, who was graduated at Harvard in 1684, and was minister also at Ipswich from 1693 to 1745. A son of the last John was Daniel, graduated at Harvard in 1725, and minister at Exeter. N. H., from 1742 to 1785. Here are five continuous generations of ministers. A son of the Exeter pastor was Daniel Denison, already noticed.
The Subject of this sketch followed in the ways of his ancestors, and in the year 1819, at the age of sixteen, he entered Harvard, and was graduated in 1820.
He was united in marriage June 5. 1827, with Miss Sarah Ellen Derby, daughter of John Derby, esq., of Salem. By the marriage there were eight children; Ellen Derby, John (the Well-Known sculptor), Laura Derby, Clara Pomeroy, Martha Derby, Elizabeth Bromfield, Frances S. and Henry B.
One who has lived in the daily knowledge of his later life, says of him: " He was a man of singular purity and uprightness of character, perfectly disinterested and unselfish, and thorough gentleman, but of great reserve, so that his outside relations were few, though he was deeply interested in all the questions of the day. He held the position of president of the Roxbury Charitable Society for some years, and he was also president of the Roxbury Home for Aged Women for many years. This latter office he resigned two or. three years before his death on account of increasing deafness, which made it difficult for him to preside at the monthly meetings. He was also treasurer of the Vermont and Massachusetts Railroad for some years. and was treasurer of the Music Hall Association when the Music Hall was first built."   From New England Historical - and family papers. He wrote a Diary during the Civil War which I shall add later.


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