Nantucket Founders

Our ancestors and their close relatives participated in half of the original 10 partnerships of Nantucket Island.  Many were Quakers, Baptists and other dissents looking to escape harsh Puritan rule in New England.

Navigate this Report

I. Overview
II. Fun with Nantucket

III. Nantucket Partners
1. Thomas Mayhew and John Smith
2. Tristram Coffin Sr. and Nathaniel Starbuck
3. Thomas Macy and Edward STARBUCK
4. Richard Swain and Thomas Look
5. Thomas Barnard and Robert Barnard.
6. Peter Coffin and James Coffin
7. Stephen Greenleaf and Tristam Coffin Jr.
8.John Swain and Thomas COLEMAN
9. William Pile
10.Christopher Hussey and Major Robert Pike
Half-Share Men

IV. The Half-Share Revolt

Nantucket Settlers Monument

1. Overview

The First Purchasers of Nantucket included ten men.   The ten needed to raise additional capital, and in 1659 at a meeting at Salisbury, Massachusetts it was agreed that each of the ten could invite in a partner.  It was agreed at the meeting that Major Pike would keep the Salisbury records of the First Purchasers and that Thomas Macy would keep the Nantucket records.

Town of Nantucket, Dukes County, Mass.

Purchaser Partner
1. * Thomas Mayhew John Smith
2. Tristram Coffin Sr.
(Son of Peter COFFIN)
Nathaniel Starbuck
(Son of Edward STARBUCK)
3. Thomas Macy (Deeded his Amesbury house to Anthony COLBY when he fled to Nantucket) Edward STARBUCK
4. Richard Swain Thomas Look
5. * Thomas Barnard Robert Barnard
6. Peter Coffin
(Grandson of Peter COFFIN)
James Coffin
7. * Stephen Greenleaf
(Son of Edmund GREENLEAF)
* Tristram Coffin Jr.
(Grandson of Peter COFFIN)
8. John Swain Thomas COLEMAN
9. * William Pile
(Sold his interest to Richard Swain )
Didn’t choose a partner, share eventually divided between John Bishop and the children of George Bunker
10. Christopher Hussey (Son-in-law of Rev. Stephen BACHILER) Major Robert Pike
(Son-in-law of Joseph MOYCE)

* Never moved to Nantucket


Nantucket Map — 2010  year-round population 10,172

Anxious to add to their number and to induce tradesmen to come to the island, the total number of shares were increased to twenty-seven. The original purchasers needed the assistance of tradesmen who were skilled in the arts of weaving, milling, building and other pursuits and selected men who were given half a share provided that they lived on Nantucket and carried on their trade for at least three years.

Nantucket House Lots of the original purchasers

These half share allotments were made at various times from 1659 to 1667, and their owners came to be known as “half-share men.” The original ten shares (including the one Mayhew held for himself), with the ten shares granted to the respective partners of the original ten proprietors, and the fourteen half or seven whole shares issued later, as above stated, together constituted what have since been known as the twenty-seven original shares, under which all the land of the island, except Quaise or Masquetuck (reserved by Mayhew) and the houselots assigned to each settler, was held in common for many years; and some of it is undivided even to this day. Each whole share carried ownership of one undivided twenty-seventh

By 1667, twenty-seven shares had been divided between 31 owners.

The Indian deed of 1671 was to “Tristram Coffin, Thomas Macy, Richard Swayne, Thomas Bernard, John Swayne, Mr. Thomas Mayhew, Edward Starbuck, Peter Coffin, James Coffin, Stephen Greenleafe, Tristram Coffin, Jr., Thomas Coleman, Robert Bernard, Christopher Hussey, Robert Pyke, John Symth, and John Bishop.

Half Share Men

Half-share men Occupation
John Bishop
Nathaniel Wier
Joseph Coleman
(Son of Thomas COLEMAN)
Eleazar Folger Shoemaker & Blacksmith
Peter Folger
(Grandfather of Benjamin Franklin)
John Gardner Seaman
Joseph Gardner Shoemaker
Richard Gardner Seaman
Nathaniel Holland Seaman
Thomas Macy Weaver
Samuel Streeter Tailor
William Worth Seaman

II. Fun with Nantucket

The ease of rhyming Nantucket with certain vulgar phrases has embedded the opening line “There once was a man from Nantucket” in our collective imagination.

The earliest published version appeared in 1902 in the Princeton Tiger:

There once was a man from Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
But his daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.

Other publications seized upon the “Nantucket” motif, spawning many sequels. Of these, perhaps the two most famous appeared, respectively, in the Chicago Tribune and the New York Press:

But he followed the pair to Pawtucket,
The man and the girl with the bucket;
And he said to the man,
He was welcome to Nan,
But as for the bucket, Pawtucket.
Then the pair followed Pa to Manhasset,
Where he still held the cash as an asset;
But Nan and the man
Stole the money and ran,
And as for the bucket, Manhasset.

This ribald version was published in 1927

There once was a man from Nantucket
Whose dick was so long he could suck it.
And he said with a grin
As he wiped off his chin,
“If my ear were a cunt, I would fuck it.”

While explaining a joke kills the humor, The poem has an iconic example off fine art, whose vulgarity and simple form provides an unexpected contrast to an expected refinement.

Woody Allen and China Lee in What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966)

In Woody Allen’s 1966 film What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, the protagonist Phil Moskowitz reads the opening line of “ancient erotic poetry”: “There once was a man from Nantucket”. In Steven Soderbergh’s 2002 film Solaris, the male protagonist tries to impress his girlfriend with his knowledge of poet Dylan Thomas, but when she asks him for his favorite poem he comes up with “the one he is most famous for, which starts, um, ‘There once was a young man from Nantucket'”. On the television show Laverne and Shirley, Laverne often started the poem, but was always stopped after the first line.

In his Below the Beltway column of July 11, 2010 for the Washington Post Magazine, humor writer Gene Weingarten recast this limerick as an Elizabethan Sonnet.

SpongeBob Reading a Limerick

In SpongeBob SquarePants season 8 episode 157, SpongeBob is preparing for an opera and pulls out a note with “There once was a man from Nantucket…” written on it. He proceeds to read it to a crowd who gasps before he corrects his error.

Sinclair and Delenn discussing poetry

In the pilot episode of the TV series Babylon 5The GatheringCommander Jeffrey Sinclair notes to Ambassador Delenn about his like for poetry. She asks “Poetry?”. Sinclair describes it as a metrical verse. She responds, “Ah. There Once was a Man from Nantucket.”

Nantucket Partners

1. Thomas Mayhew and John Smith

Thomas Mayhew, Sr. (1593 – 1682)   In 1641, Thomas secured Martha’s Vineyard , Nantucket, the Elizabeth Islands, and other islands as a proprietorship from Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Lord Sterling.  He bought the County for 40 pounds and two beaverskin hats from William Alexander, the 2nd Earl of Sterling. To resolve a conflicting ownership claim, he also paid off Sir Ferdinando Gorges, thereby acquiring a clear title.

In 1659, he  sold his interest in Nantucket to a group of investors, led by Tristram Coffin, while retaining one share and Quaise/ Masquetuck “for the sum of thirty Pounds…and also two beaver hats, one for myself, and one for my wife”.

Thomas was born in Tisbury, Wiltshire, England. He married Anna (also called Hanna and Abigail) Parkhurst.  In 1621 they had a son, Thomas, Jr., in Hanna’s home town of Southampton. Two years later they had another child, Robert Parkhurst Mayhew, in Tisbury, Wilts, England.

The family left England in 1631 during the Great Migration. Thomas had been accepted with the agency of Matthew Cradock of London to manage properties in Medford, Mass, and to engage in trade and shipbuilding. In or around 1633, Anna Parkhurst died. In about 1634, Thomas returned to England for a business meeting with Cradock. While in England, he married Jane Gallion (1602–1666), and brought her back to New England with him. Hannah Mayhew was born in 1635. Three more children – Mary Mayhew (1639), Martha Mayhew (1642), and Bethiah Mayhew – followed.

Thomas’ 1641 purchase of  Martha’s Vineyard enabled him to transfer his business operations there. With the help of son Thomas, a settlement was established. Farming and whaling enterprises began.

Thomas established himself as governor of Martha’s Vineyard in 1642 and sent his son, Thomas Jr., with about 40 English families to settle there. He followed four years later. Together he and Thomas Jr. established Martha’s Vineyard’s first settlement and called it Great Harbor, now Edgartown.

Mayhew and his fellow settlers found a large and economically stable native population of about 3,000 living in permanent villages, led by four sachems. Relations between the first settlers and their Wampanoag neighbors were peaceful and courteous. Under the leadership of his son, a minister, they instituted a policy of respect and fair dealing with the Wampanoag natives that was unequaled anywhere. One of the first Mayhew rulings was that no land be taken from the native island people, the Wampanoags, without consent and fair payment. From this time forward, the colonial settlers and Indians lived without the bloodshed that marked American history elsewhere.

From the beginning the elder Mayhew had worked to preserve the original political institutions of the Indians. Religion and government are distinct matters, he told the Indian chiefs. When one of your subjects becomes a Christian, he is still under your jurisdiction. Indian land was guarded against further encroachment by white settlers. So successful were these policies that during the bloody battles of King Philip’s War, in 1675-1676, the Vineyard Indians never stirred, although they outnumbered the English on the island twenty to one.

In the fall of 1657, Thomas Mayhew, Jr., sailed for England on a trip combining an appeal for missionary funds with personal business. After leaving Boston Harbor, the ship was never seen again.  The death of his only son at thirty-six was a heavy blow to the father and greatly increased the burdens he carried in old age. He made repeated efforts to find a replacement to continue his son’s ministry to the Indians, but no minister who knew the language or was willing to learn could be induced to settle permanently on the island. So Thomas Mayhew, who had started as a merchant, then turned landed proprietor, became at age sixty a missionary in his son’s place.  For the next twenty-five years he traveled on foot as far as twenty miles to preach once a week at the Indian assembly or to visit the native camps.

By 1660 there were about 85 white people on Martha’s Vineyard living peaceably among the natives, earning their living by farming and fishing.

Change was in the air though, for the world outside this small island was unsettled. There were more visitors from off island and some stayed, challenging the Mayhew government, while Baptists and Methodists arrived to make converts from the established Congregational Church.

Through a maze of conflicting land grants, changing political allegiances, and settler unrest, Thomas Mayhew (self-styled “Governour Mayhew”) began to rule his island with an iron hand. The most serious threat to his control came in 1665 when Martha’s Vineyard was included in the lands placed under the Duke of York. After much delay a settlement, worked out in 1671, confirmed the Mayhew patent and named Thomas Mayhew “Governour and Chiefe Magistrate” for life. At the same time a patent was issued erecting the Manor of Tisbury in the southwestern part of the island. The Governour and his grandson were made “joint Lords of the Manor of Tisbury,” and the inhabitants became manorial tenants subject to the feudal political jurisdiction of the Mayhews. This full-fledged feudal manor appears to have been the only such institution actually established in New England.

The attempt of the Mayhews to create a hereditary aristocracy on the Vineyard met with increasing opposition as more and more colonists arrived. When the Dutch temporarily recaptured New York in 1673, open rebellion broke out and lasted until the English re-won New York and restored the authority of the Mayhews on the island.

Several of our ancestors including Thomas BAYES, Robert PEASE Sr., Philip TABER, Lt. Andrew NEWCOMB Jr.,  Nicholas NORTON, and Isaac NORTON were Mayhew’s “subjects”  See  Nicholas NORTON’s and  Robert PEASE’s pages, for details about the 1673 Dutch Rebellion on Martha’s Vineyard.

The old patriarch died in 1682 at eight-nine. Nine years later the political rule of the family ended when Martha’s Vineyard was annexed by Massachusetts after the Glorious Revolution in England, but the problem of manorial tenancy remained. Although some of the Mayhews clung to the “pleasant fiction” of their manorial rights almost until the American Revolution and received token quit rents as late as 1732, feudalism on Martha’s Vineyard died the same slow, lingering but certain death it did elsewhere in the colonies.

2. Tristram Coffin Sr. and Nathaniel Starbuck

Tristram Coffin was born in 1609 Plymouth Brixton Parish, Devon, England. His parents were Peter COFFIN and Joane KEMBER. He married Dionis Stevens 1630 Brixton, Devon, England. Tristram died2 Oct 1681 Nantucket, Mass

Nathaniel Starbuck was born 20 Feb 1633/34 in Dover, NH. His parents were Edward STARBUCK and Katherine REYNOLDS. He married Tristram’s daughter Mary Coffin in 1663 in Nantucket, Mass. Nathaniel died 6 JUN 1719 in Nantucket, Mass.

The Tristram Coffin House is the oldest structure in the Newbury Historic District. Built in 1654 by one of Newbury’s first settlers, Tristram Coffin, the House represents one of the outstanding examples of First Period architecture in New England.

Coffin House

The House was continuously occupied by the Coffin family from 1654. The seven succeeding generations of occupants participated actively in the socio-economic, political and educational life of the town. The Coffin House has a number of outstanding features including the original kitchen, a rare 18th-19th century built-in dresser, 18th century chamber with plaster of clay and straw with exposed boards, a buttery with pine woodwork preserved in its original state, and a collection of Coffin family furniture.

Tristram Coffin moved to Nantucket Island in 1659 with his wife, his mother, and some of his children.  In 1671, he was appointed as Chief Magistrate of Nantucket.  Tristram Coffin Sr. was  a Royalist by education and environment.

Tristram Coffin sailed to America from Devon, England in 1642. He became one of the original purchasers of Nantucket Island in 1659. At one time, with his sons, he owned one quarter of the island. He became Chief Magistrate and was viewed by the other settlers as the patriarch of the island. The historian Benjamin Franklin Folger said of his service as Chief Magistrate 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.

One of these sons was the famous Tristram Coffyn, the ancestor of the numerous families of the name now in this country.  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.  He was born at Brixton, near Plymouth, in the County of Devonshire, England in the year 1605 (another account say 1609), married Dionis Stephens, and in 1642 came to New England, bringing with him his wife, mother, two sisters and five children.  The names of these children were Peter, Tristram, Elizabeth, James and John.

He first settled at Salisbury, Mass, thence moved the same year to Haverhill, where his name appears on the Indian Deed of that town, Nov 16, 1642, and where his children Mary Starbuck and John (the first John having died at the same place in 1642) were born.

In 1648 he removed to Newbury, where his youngest son, Stephen was born.  After residing there several years (during which time he was licensed to keep an inn and a ferry over the Merrimac River), he returned to Salisbury, where he became a county magistrate, and in 1660 or 1661 he abandoned New England, and with his wife, four children and his aged mother settled upon the island of Nantucket.

Prior to his last removal (and early in the year 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, the grandfather of Benjamin Franklin, as an interpreter of the Indian language, proceeded to Nantucket.  It has been supposed that religious persecution was the cause of these frequent changes and of his final departure from the main land.

He was one of a company of ten who first purchased Nantucket from the Indians, which factg appears in a conveyance from the Sachems, Wanackmamack and Nickanoose, dated May 10, 1660.  The original manuscript of this instrument is still extant, bearing the signature of Peter Folger as one of the witnesses to its execution.

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 spirt 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 Jamews 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.  It will be observed that Tristram used the letter ‘y’ instead of ‘i’ in writing the family name.  It is said, whether truthfully I do not know, that his ancestors spelled it in the same manner.  The letter of administration appended to the bond fixes the date of his death (Oct 3, 1681) beyond question.

Tristram Coffin Medal – 1827 – Copper. 54.2 mm. 1,206.6 gns. Coffin’s standing figure, date on pedestal; four hands clasped in unity forming a cross manua

Tristram Coffin Medal Reverse

The original pieces were struck by Sir Isaac Coffin, a Boston-born British Navy captain who founded a sailing school on Nantucket in 1826, long after he followed his Loyalist leanings to England. The medals were struck to mark the school’s founding and were distributed on Nantucket. One is known brightly gilt in its original presentation case — it was in Lucien LaRiviere’s collection and is now at Colonial Williamsburg. 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 provides that the Trustees shall all be the descendants of the above mention Tristram Coffin in the male or female line.

3. Thomas Macy and Edward STARBUCK

Thomas Macy was born about 1608 and is believed to have originated from Chilmark, Wiltshire, England. Acccording to Hoyt, he was a planter, clothier, and merchant. Thomas married Sarah Hopcot 9th 6 month 1639 in Chilmark, Wiltshire, England.  Thomas died 19 April 1682 on Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Thomas was one of the first settlers in Newbury, Mass and was admitted freeman 6 Sep 1639. The Macys settled in Salisbury, Mass by the end of 1640.

The Macy-Colby house in nearby Amesbury, which Thomas built, still stands. Here, he was a representative in 1664, according to Savage. Austin states that he was one of those given “full powers to order all the affairs of the town” in 1643, 1647, and 1653 and served as a juryman in 1648 and deputy in 1654.  According to Silvanus J. Macy, Thomas was a merchant, planter, selectman, juryman, and a Baptist. That he was a Baptist, however, has been questioned by Hoyt.

Thomas was brought before court for “entertaining Quakers”. Four men had stopped at the Macy home to ask directions on rainy morning, staying about three-quarters of an hour. Because Thomas was ill and unable to get a horse on the day of the trial, he wrote a letter to the court to explain the circumstances. Nonetheless, Thomas was fined.

He sheltered Edward Wharton, William Robinson, merchant of London, and Marmaduke Stephenson, of Yorkshire, England.  The two last named were among the Boston Martyrs hanged 27 Oct 1669.

Thomas Macy was one of the original purchasers of Nantucket in 1659. Tradition states that he fled to Nantucket from persecution as a result of the case against him concerning the Quakers. John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a romanticized version of the legend in his poemThe Exiles”. The voyage by ship with his family and several others to the island was said to have been stormy. On 10 May 1661, Thomas was one the men chosen to lay out and measure the land on Nantucket.

In the ” Macy Genealogy” it is related that ” in 1659 he embarked at Salisburv in a small boat with his wife and children and such household goods as he could conveniently carry, and in company with Thomas COLEMAN’s son Isaac Coleman age 12 and Edward STARBUCK age 55 set sail for Nantucket. Isaac drowned when he was 22 on 6 Jun 1669 with John Barnard and Bethiah (Folger) Barnard out of a large freight canoe between Martha’s Vinyard and Nantucket while returning from a supply trip. Bethia’a older brother Eleazer Folger survived by clinging to the drifting canoe. It is assumed that the Nantucket Indians who were crewing the large canoe also drowned. Bethiah was Benjamin Franklin’s aunt.

Thomas was again at Salisbury in 1664 but then sold his house and moved to Nantucket permanently.   The Macy/Colby house was acquired by prominent Amesbury citizen Anthony COLBY I or his widow Susannah.   Susannah had to defend her homestead against the claim of Thomas Macy from whom it had been purchased. At about the time of the sale, Macy had fled to Nantucket,  but later he denied the sale and tried to expel the widow and her family by legal process.  He was unsuccessful and the premises were in the possession of Susannah’s descendants as late as 1895. In 1678, the son of Thomas Macy was deeded half of all the lands remaining in consideration of services rendered to the widow, and in 1682 the homestead was deeded to Susannah’s son, Samuel Colby, who cared for her during the infirmities of old age.

259 Main Street, Amesbury, MA The Macy-Colby house is open on Saturdays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm during the summer. Other times are available by appointment. To arrange an appointment contact: Kathy Colby 978-388-3054


Hearth of the Colby House from an old postcard “Macy Colby House Fireplace, Amesbury, Massachusetts”

The house remained in the Colby family for nine generations, and was used as a private residence by Colby’s descendants until 1958, after which time it was acquired by the Daughters of the Revolution, which owned it up until 2000.  The Friends of the Macy-Colby House have maintained the house as a museum since 2000.

Macy was Nantucket’s second chief magistrate in 1676. There seems to have been a controversy a year later when his commission was up. The governor did not appoint a new chief magistrate, so Thomas continued to serve. Peter Folger rebelled, witholding records as the clerk. Macy won a vote in his favor and Folger was later arrested for refusing to comply.

Captains Of Industry Or Men Of Business Who Did Something Besides Making Money – James Parton 1884 – 1891

In August 1659 in Salisbury, Mass, Thomas Macy was caught in a violent storm of rain, and hurried home drenched to the skin. He found in his house four wayfarers, who had also come in for shelter. His wife being sick in bed, no one had seen or spoken to them. They asked him how far it was to Casco Bay [Maine]. From their dress and demeanor he thought they might be Quakers, and, as it was unlawful to harbor persons of that sect, he asked them to go on their way, since he feared to give offense in entertaining them. As soon as the worst of the storm was over, they left, and he never saw them again. They were in his house about three quarters of an hour, during which he said very little to them, having himself come home wet, and found his wife sick.

He was summoned to Boston, forty miles distant, to answer for this offense. Being unable to walk, and not rich enough to buy a horse, he wrote to the General Court, relating the circumstances, and explaining his non-appearance. He was fined thirty shillings, and ordered to be admonished by the governor. He paid his fine, received his reprimand, and removed to the island of Nantucket, of which he was the first settler, and for some time the only white inhabitant.

Edward STARBUCK  was born about 1604 in Draycot, Derbyshire, England. His father was also Edward STARBUCK.  He married Katherine REYNOLDS about 1630 in Derbyshire, England.  He migrated to America about 1635, settling at Dover NH.  Edward died  4 Dec 1690, at Nantucket Island, MA age 86.

Edward settled at Dover, now in New Hampshire but then a part of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. The first mention made of him on the record is in 1643 when he is recorded to have received “a grant of forty acres of land on each side of the Fresh River at Cutchechoe.”

On the 20th, 2 mo. 1644 it was ordered that Mr. Edward Starbuck, Richard Walderne & Wm. Furber be wearesmen for Cotcheco fall & river during their lives or so long as inhabitants. Various other grants were made to him, two of those being one of the Mill privilege at Cutchechoe 2nd Falls and one of timber to ‘accomodate’ in 1650. In “Landmarks in Ancient Dover” mention is made of Starbuck’s Brook in 1701 as a boundary of property which Peter Coffin (Edward’s son-in-law) conveyed to John Ham.

Starbuck’s Marsh was granted to Edward August 30, 1643, and Starbuck’s Point and Marsh, now called Fabyan’s Point, were granted to Edward in 1643. He is recorded several times as called on to be one of the “lot-layers.” He was Representative in the General Court in 1643 and 1646, was an Elder in the church and in other ways enjoyed the respect and esteem of his fellow-citizens. In 1640, Edward was an agent for Mr. Valentine Hill and Partner with Richard Waldron in lumbering on the Me. side in 1648. In 1653 he sold 1/2 his sawmill gr. To Peter Coffin, in 1657 sold to Thomas Broughton 1/4 the mill above Capt. Waldron’s mill at Cochecho.

In 1644 an act was passed by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay banishing from the Colony all who should either openly or privately oppose the baptism of infants. While the punishment meted out to some of the offenders was severe, banishment was not always inflicted. Edward Starbuck was one of those who subscribed to the proscribed doctrine and the record of the General Court, under the date of 18 October 1648, says:

“This Court, being informed of great misdemener committed by Edward Starbucke, of Douer, with p’fession of Anabaptisme, for which he is to be p’ceeded agaynst at the next Court of Assistants, if evidence can be p’pared by that time, & it beinge very farre for wittnesses to travill to Boston at that season of the yeare, it is therefore ordered by this Court that the secritary shall give commission to Capt. Thomas Wiggan & Mr. Edw. Smith to send for such p’rsons as they shall haue notice of which are able to testifie in the s’d cause & to take theire testimonie uppon oath & certifie the same to the secritary so soone as may be, that further p’ceedings may be therein if the cause shall so require.”

There seems to be no indication from the record that the complaint was prosecuted, notwithstanding the severe penalty contemplated by the law. The action of the Court did not seem to affect his standing in his community for he continued to be called upon to lay out land.

He accompanied Tristram Coffin on his voyage of discovery and Thomas Macy on his voyage of settlement. He deeded his Cochecho house, goods, cattle, etc. to his son-in-law Coffin on 9 Mar. 1659/60 and moved to Nantucket where he died. 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. When he came to the Island he occupied a house which he built at Madeket. His house lot as laid out was about 1000 feet square, extending northward from the head of Hummock Pond to Macy’s Pond.

Edward’s influence over the Indians was so great that if at any time a suspicion or alarm arose among the early settlers, he was always in requisition to explain the apparent cause thereof, and to suggest a palliation for their rude and inexplicable action, which served to allay the fears of the more timid. That he was well esteemed among the Indians is evidenced by the deeding of Coatue to him by Wannackmamack and Nicanoos (of the Sachem Indians) “of our free and voluntary willes.”

4. Richard Swain and Thomas Look

Richard Swain and John Swain had the southern most area of the land.

5. Thomas Barnard and Robert Barnard.

Thomas, a planter and husbandman, was born ca 1608 in Lowestoft, Suffolk, England. With his brother Robert, he came to New England and first settled in Salisbury. Thomas was one of the founders of the town, Amesbury. He bought land on the west side of Powow river, now in Amesbury, and lived there. His wife’s name was Eleanor, but her maiden name and ancestry is unknown.

Thomas was selected as a partner by his brother, Robert, who was among the first ten purchasers of Nantucket. Thomas himself never lived at Nantucket. He was one of the signatories to articles of agreement between the inhabitants of the “old Town” and the “New Town” in May 1654 in company with Thomas Macy, John Severance and others. He transferred one-half of his share to his brother, Robert, and his son Nathaniel represented him on the Island in the other half share.

Regarding his home, “East of the Elihu Coleman house is the Mill-Brook, and a short distance further east, on the south side of the road near a cluster of willow trees, was once a house which was the homestead of Thomas Barnard. Directly across the road lived Nathaniel Barnard. The present road was merely a path for many years. The house lot of Thomas Barnard on which the house of Nathaniel was located, was about 1000 feet square, and southwest of it was the lot of Robert Barnard. These lots extended northeast and southwest, and comprised twenty acres each. The house of Robert cannot be exactly located, neither can the bounds of the lots be identified. But the high land between the Mill-Brook swamp and the Indian boundary line was substantially comprised within the two Barnard lots.”

Thomas was killed by Indians on July 7, 1677 and Eleanor was appointed administratrix of his estate.

6. Peter Coffin and James Coffin

James Coffin was born 12 Aug 1640 in Brixton, Devon, England to Tristram Coffin and Dionis Stevens. He was one of the first white settlers on Nantucket, arriving after a stormy journey by boat with the Macy family and others in 1659. James was the partner of his brother, Peter Coffin, in the ownership of a share of Nantucket. He, however, settled in Dover, Strafford, New Hampshire in 1662, where he was a freeman in 1671. James married Mary Severance 3rd 12 month (3 Dec) 1663 in Salisbury, Essex, Massachusetts. In 1673, James was a merchant on the Ketch Neptune and was captured by the Dutch. James returned to Nantucket, where he was one of a number of men purchasing land on Nantucket from Wanackmemack in 1671. James served as the first judge of probate on Nantucket. He was also elected selectman numerous times and assessor twice. He was an assistant Magistrate and representative to the General Court. His lot was on a hill west of the Maxey’s Pond. James died 28th 7 month (28 July) 1720 in Nantucket, Mass.

7. Stephen Greenleaf and Tristam Coffin Jr.

Capt. Stephen Greenleaf was born 10 Aug 1628 St. Margaret’s parish, Ipswich, England. His parents were Capt. Edmund GREENLEAF and Sarah MOORE. He first married Elizabeth Coffin 13 Nov 1651 Newbury, Mass. He next married Mrs, Esther (Weare) Sweet 31 Mar 1679 Newbury. Stephen died 1 Dec 1690, drowned off Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Stephen was a representative to the General Court from Newbury, 1676 – 1686. He was appointed Ensign in 1670, Lieutenant in 1685, and Captain of the Militia in 1686. “As a Captain of the Militia, he went with the disastrous Phips expedition against Port Royal, 1690, to Cape Breton, and was there wrecked in a vessel and drowned in company with nine others.”

21 Nov , 1686, ” Deacon Nicolas Noyes, deacon Robert Long and deacon Tristram Coffin were at the request of the select men chosen standing overseers of the poore for the town of Newbury.”

1 Dec 1686 , “Captain Daniel Pierce and Captain Stephen Greenleaf were added to the deacons as overseers of the poore,” and any three of them had power to act.

In 1686, and in 1689 was appointed as a consultant “for the conservation of the peace of the Country.”

Stephen died on 1 Dec 1690 in Drowned off Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, at age 62 . In the French and Indian War, Captain Stephen Greenleaf, Lieutenant James Smith, Ensign William Longfellow, Sergeant Increase Pillsbury, William Mitchell and Jabez Musgrave were cast away and lost on an expedition against Cape Breton.

“The expedition under Sir William Phips, consisting of thirty or forty vessels, carrying about two thousand men, sailed from Nantasket on the ninth day of August, 1690, but did not arrive at Quebec until the fifth day of October. Several attempts were made to capture the town, without success; and, tempestuous weather having nearly disabled the vessels and driven some of them ashore, it was considered advisable to re-embark the troops and abandon the enterprise. On their way back to Boston, they encountered head winds and violent storms. Some vessels were blown off the coast, and ultimately arrived in the West Indies. One was lost upon the island of Anticosti, and several were never heard from. Capt. John March, Capt. Stephen Greenleaf, Lieut. James Smith, Ensign William Longfellow, and Ensign Lawrence Hart, of Newbury, Capt. Philip Nelson, of Rowley, and Capt. Daniel King, of Salem, were among the officers commissioned for service in the expedition to Canada, under the command of Sir William Phips.”

8.John Swain and Thomas COLEMAN

John Swain and Richard Swain had the southern most area of the land.

John Swain moved his family from the swampy lands in Madaket to Polpis harbor. There he owned a great deal of land as well as many homes (which may have been built after his death). The John Swain house was the oldest standing home on the island until it burnt from a lightning strike in 1902. A recreation has been built elsewhere on the island, and the John Swain property in now personally owned.

Thomas COLEMAN was born about 1602 in Marlboro, Wiltshire, England. His father was also Thomas COLEMAN. He married  Susanna RAULINES on 24 Nov 1623 in Wootton Rivers, Wiltshire, England. Thomas Colman was one of fifty-three men (plus women and children) who shipped at Southampton on 6 April 1635, on the brig “James” and landed at Boston on 3 Jun 1635.   The year after Susanna died, he married Mrs. Mary Johnson 11 Jul 1651 in Hampton, NH. He married (3) Margery Fowler about 1655.   Thomas was one of the original Nantucket partners and removed to the island before 1663 where he died 14 Aug 1685..

Thomas  first settled in Newbury. According to the records of the town of Newbury he was engaged by Richard Saltonstall and others in England and America in November 1635, “for the keeping of horses and sheep in a general place for the space of three years.” His work proved unsatisfactory, and each of the contractors was authorized to provide for his own. In the original purchase of the island of Nantucket, Thomas Coleman was chosen by John Swain as his partner. At what time he removed to the Island is not clear but evidently it was very early. It may be assumed that he was a resident as early as 1664.

Thomas Coleman’s house lot” was 1,000 feet square, bounded on the north by the lot of Christopher Hussey, on the east by the Long Woods and on the south by the lot of Capt. Pyke.” On his decease, the house and lot descended to Tobias COLEMAN, his son.

It is Thomas’ son, John Coleman, who is named on the Settlers’ monument above.

10 May 1660. Thomas was chosen by John Swain as his partner.

1661 – Thomas was an original signer at Hadley Mass

29 Jan 1671 – Thomas’ name appears among the grantees of a deed of the Island of Nantucket made by the Wanackmanak Chief, Sachem of the Island

30 Oct 1673 – Thomas is recorded as “drawn on jury” in Nantucket..

9. William Pile

William Pile sold his whole tenth to Richard Swain in 1663.

10.Christopher Hussey and Major Robert Pike

Christopher Hussey was born 18 Feb 1599 in Dorking, Surrey, England. His parents were John Hussey and Mary Wood. He was perhaps a relative of the mayor of Winchester of the same name who married a daughter of the Hampshire Puritan Renniger.  He married 15 Jan 1628 in England to Theodate Bachiller, daughter of our ancestor Rev. Stephen BACHILLER. Christopher died 6 Mar 1686 in Hampton, Rockingham, New Hampshire.

Christopher Hussey was one of the original settlers of Hampton, New Hampshire ; in 1636 he was ” chosen by as one of the ” seven men,” as they were first called, then “townesmen,” then “townesmen select,” and finally ” select men,” as at present. In 1639, Christopher Hussey was made Justice of the Peace, which office he held several years ; he was also town clerk and one of the first deacons of the church.

Christopher was lieutenant and then captain of the train band in Hampton. A copy of the book of abatements for Hampton was brought to court in Nov 1679, indicating that Christopher Hussey of Hampton had been granted one hundred and fifty acres of upland, meadow and marsh, for a farm.

In 1659 he became one of the purchasers of Nantucket ; subsequently he was a sea-captain.

Orders were received from the king, September 18, 1679, ” to erect New Hampshire into a separate government,” under jurisdiction of a president and council to be appointed by himself; John Cutts was appointed president and Christopher Hussey, of Hampton, one of six councillors.

In 1671 sold his land in Nantucket to his sons John and Stephen. On 6 Dec 1681 Christopher Hussey confirmed a deed of 23 Oct 1671 in which he had sold all his lands and rights on the island of Nantucket to his sons Stephen Hussey and John Hussey.

On 8 April 1673, Edward Colcord, aged about fifty-six and William Fifield deposed that “when Mr. Steven Batcheller of Hampton was upon his voyage to England they heard him say to his son-in-law Mr. Christopher Hussey that as Hussey had no dowry with Batcheller’s daughter when he married her, and that he had given to said Hussey all his estate”

On 2 April 1681 Christopher Hussey of Hampton granted to his son John Hussey of Hampton one half acre of land of “my farm in Hampton” in a place convenient for the setting up of a grist mill.

Maj. Robert Pike was born 16 Mar 1615/16, Langford, Wiltshire, England. His parents were John Pike and Dorothy Day. He married first 3 Apr 1641, Salisbury, Essex, Mass. to Sarah Saunders (b. 20 Aug 1615, Weeks, Downton parish, Wiltshire, England; d. 1 Nov 1679, Salisbury, Essex, Mass.) He married second 30 Oct 1684 Salisbury, Essex, Mass to Martha Moyce, daughter of our ancestor Joseph MOYCE. Robert died 12 Dec 1706, Salisbury, Essex, Mass.

This is Robert Pike, not Major Robert Pike (I leerned on August 13, 2018 that is is a common mistake so I will leave incorrect portrait for reference)

Robert took the oath of free. May 17, 1637; rep. 1648 and several years following; Assistant 1682 down to 1692; member of the Council many years down to 1696, and justice of the peace many more.

He was very decided in his opinions, which were liberal in advance of his time, and had difficulties with other members of the Salisbury Church. as early as 1675 and as late as 1700. He has been called “the moral and fearless hero of New England.;” “the first and strongest representative of the right of petition;” the “power which squelched the witchcraft delusion,” etc.?

17 May 1637 – Admitted Freeman.  Robert Pike, we learn from the historian, Coffin, took great interest in Governor Winthrop’s campaign for the governorship against Sir Harry Vane, as the close of the latter’s term drew near. So Mr. Pike, with nine others including John CHENEY,  Thomas COLEMAN, Henry Sewall Jr, Nicholas Noyes [Cheney’s future father-in-law], Archelaus Woodman [Edward WOODMAN‘s half-brother], Thomas Smith, James BROWNE, Nicholas Holt [future son-in-law of Humphrey BRADSTREET, and John Bartlett, .walked forty miles from Newbury to Cambridge on foot to take the “freeman’s oath” and qualify themselves to vote in the election which was soon to take place.  It was by such prompt movements that Winthrop was elected and the conservative party triumphed.

Vane lost his position to the elder John Winthrop  in the 1637 election.  The contentious election was marked by a sharp disagreement over the treatment of John Wheelwright, a supporter of Anne Hutchinson [daughter of our ancestor Francis MARBURY  (1555–1611) (wikipedia)] Winthrop won in part because the location of the vote was moved to Cambridge, reducing the power of Vane’s Boston support.  In the aftermath of the election Anne Hutchinson was put on trial, and eventually banished from the colony.

Many of her followers seriously considered leaving after the election. At the urging of  Roger Williams, some of these people, including Hutchinson, founded the settlement of Portsmouth on Aquidneck Island in the Narragansett Bay (later named Rhode Island and joined to Providence to form the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations).

Vane decided to return to England, apparently with the notion that he would acquire a royal governorship to trump the colonial administration.  Before his departure, he published A Brief Answer to a Certain Declaration, a response to Winthrop’s defense of the Act of Exclusion; this act was passed after the election to restrict the immigration of people with views not conforming to the colony’s religious orthodoxy.

In 1653 he denounced the law passed by the General Court designed to restrain Joseph PEASLEE and Thomas Macy of Amesbury from preaching in the absence of a minister. He declared “that those members who had voted for it had violated their oaths as freemen; that their act was against the liberty of the country, both civil and ecclesiastical, and that he stood ready to make his declaration good.” For this he was tried, convicted, fined, and disfranchised, by the General Court.

The punishment inflicted on Lieut. Pike caused petitions to be signed by many persons in the surrounding towns, asking that the sentence be revoked. This offended the Court still more, and the signers were called upon to give “a reason of their unjust request.” In Oct 1654, out of the whole number of signers, about one-fifth, or fifteen persons, only, were reported “who have not given satisfaction,” and therefore insisted upon the right of petition. Robert Pike’s fine was paid, and in Oct 1657, his disfranchisement was removed.  In 1658 he was again elected to the General Court.

In 1675 Robert Pike resisted the authority assumed by his pastor, Rev. John Wheelwright, and was excommunicated from the S. chh.; but was reinstated the next year. In 1692 he appeared in the third great controversy of his life, in opposition to the witchcraft delusion.

At the age of thirty-two he was chosen a member of the General Court, and had a much longer service in that capacity and as councilor and assistant, than any of his contemporaries. He had a good education and wrote a fine, flowing hand. He was an easy, eloquent and forceful speaker. He was engaged in at least three conspicuous controversies during his life. The first was his arraignment by the General Court in 1653, for his hostility to the persecution of the Quakers. The second was his resistance of the dogmatic authority of some of the clergy, in the person of his pastor, Rev. John Wheelwright. The third was his bitter opposition to the witchcraft prosecutions in 1692.

In all these controversies, Robert Pike stood practically alone. He was a century in advance of his time, and a century has more than vindicated his advanced positions. The historian of the Salem witchcraft delusion says that “not a voice comes down to us of deliberate and effective hostility to the movement, except that of Robert Pike in his cool, close and powerful argumentative appeals to the judges who were trying the witchcraft cases. It stands out against the deep blackness of those proceedings like a pillar of light upon a starless Midnight sky.” Confronting the judges stood this sturdy old man, his head whitened with the frosts of seventy-six winters and protested that there was no legal way of convicting a witch, even according to the laws and beliefs of those times. It required no small amount of courage for him to take the stand he did against the opinions of the highest judicial tribunal in the province when no one was safe from the charge of having ddealings with the evil one, and he himself might be the very next one accused of being a witch!

But having the courage of his convictions he rose to the demands of the situation and proclaimed his opposition by a formal and thorough exposition: The great merit of this position, so far as it has come down to us, belongs entirely to him, and no man of his time is entitled to greater honor. It is a marvel how he breasted the storm when any resistance to the popular demamd was deemed evidence of complicity with the witches, imps and all the powers of darkness, to overthrow the true church on earth. He defended and plead the cause of several of the accused, among whom were Mrs. Mary Bradbury  (daughter of John PERKINS), who was condemned but not executed, and Susanna Martin (wife of George MARTIN), whose memory is perpetuated by John Greenleaf Whittier, the poet.

[Whittier wrote: “From all that I have read, and from the traditions of the valley of the Merrimac, I have been accustomed to regard Robert Pike as one of the wisest and worthiest of the early settlers of that region. . . . He was by all odds the most remarkable personage of the place and time.”]

May 1, 1691, he was at Wells, Me., and at the old garrison house of Lt. Joseph Storer made treaty with the Indian chiefs, Jonathan Remington, Wesombonet, William Partridge, Nonunkte, Tentomegan, Samson Hegan, Kenowonit, Rob Dony, Old Dony, and Sabadis.

He was on the Governor’s Council many years ending his public career in 1696, when he resigned and devoted the last ten years of his life to disposing of his valuable property among his children.

The Humble Immortals and Lt. Robert Pike

1653 – George MARTIN and Theophilus SHATSWELL were two of the fifteen “humble immortals” who, in 1653, stoutly and successfully maintained for the first time the right of petition for the subjects of the English crown.  Lt. Robert Pike, of Salisbury, an influential citizen, had denounced a law passed by the General Court, for which he was convicted, fined and disfranchised by the General Court.  Lt. Pike, a prominent town official and later a member of the General Court, denounced the law forbidding to preach if not Ordained. Which law was aimed at Joseph PEASLEE and Thomas Macy, believers in the Baptist Doctrine, with Quaker tendencies.

The autocratic General Court resented this and Lieutenant Pike was fined over thirteen pounds and bound to good behavior.   This punishment caused many citizens of Salisbury and the surrounding towns to petition for a revocation of the sentence.  This offended the Court still more, and the signers were called upon to give “a reason for their unjust request”.  Out of the seventy-five who signed, the above mentioned fifteen alone refused to recede or apologize, and they were required to give bonds and to “answer for their offense before the County Court”.  Their cases were never called to trial, and they thus, by their firm stand, laid the foundation for these rights, which are now granted in all the civilized world.

Joseph PEASLEE  was a lay preacher as well as a farmer, and was reputed to have some skill in the practice of medicine. In the recognition of these natural gifts, he was, undoubtedly, made a citizen of Salisbury “Newtown.”

Later this gift of preaching made trouble in the new settlement and history for Joseph.  Soon after he removed to “Newtown,” the inhabitants neglected to attend the meetings for worship in the old town and did not contribute to the support of the minister. They held meetings for-worship at private houses, and in the absence of a minister, Joseph Peaslee and Thomas Macy officiated.The general court, which had jurisdiction over territory from Salem, Massachusetts, to Portsmouth, New Hampshire (was called Norfolk county), soon fined the inhabitants of “Newtown” five shillings each for every neglect of attending meetings in the old town and an additional fine of five shillings each to Joseph and Macy if they exhorted the people in the absence of a minister. This decree was not heeded. Meetings were held and Joseph and his friend continued to preach. The general court made additional decrees and fines, which also were not heeded.

Nantucket Flag

Half-Share Men

Peter Folger – The Town Clerk (1617–1690) was a poet and is more commonly known as the maternal Grandfather of Benjamin Franklin, and was instrumental in the colonization of Nantucket Island in the Massachusetts colony.

Peter Folger was born in Norfolk, England, son of John Folger, in 1617. He came to America in 1635 with his father, settling initially in Watertown, Massachusetts, and later moving to Martha’s Vineyard, where he worked as a teacher and surveyor. In 1644 He married Mary Morrill, whom he may have met on the voyage from England. At the Vineyard Folger supported himself by teaching school and surveying land. He also worked with Thomas Mayhew to convert the native American population to Christianity, during which time he learned to speak the native language.

From time to time between 1659 and 1662, Folger journeyed to Nancucket in order to survey it for the proprietors. In 1663 Folger moved to Nantucket full time, having been granted a half a share of land by the proprietors, where he was a surveyor, an Indian interpretor, and clerk in the courts. Shortly thereafter, Folger’s daughter, Abiah, was born, later to become the mother of Benjamin Franklin.

A Baptist missionary, teacher, and surveyor his dealings with the native population promoted harmony between the Native Americans and European settlers. His grandson, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, son of Peter’s daughter Abiah, referred to him fondly in his autobiography.

John Gardner was a resident of Salem before moving to Nantucket. He was given a grant of land on the island in 1667-1668, but does not appear otherwise in the records until 1672-1673. In 1673, he was appointed “Captain and Chief Military Officer of the Ffoot Company.” Here is a copy this document from the Secretary of State, Albany, New York, Deeds book III, p 88:

He was magistrate at Nantucket in 1680, and judge of probate from 1699 until his death. Cotton Mather described him as being “well acquainted with the Indians, having divers years assisted them in their government, by instructing them in the laws of England and deciding difficult cases among them.”

Richard Gardner lived at Salem from 1643 to 1666; he and his wife were persecuted for attending Quaker a Meeting, and went to live in Nantucket. In 1673, Governor Lovelace commissioned him as chief magistrate of Nantucket.

IV. The Half-Share Revolt

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, 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. Tristnam and John Gardner soon locked horns. Here are the two sides:

 Full Share Men  Half Share Men
Tristram COFFIN John Gardiner
Thomas Mayhew Peter Folger
John Swain Thomas Macy
Christopher Hussey William Worth
Richard Swain Bunkers
Meyers and Others

In 1673 the freeholders were required to name two men for Chief Magistrate and Edward Starbuck and Richard Gardner 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 Andros took a hand 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 Gardner 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.

Jethro Coffin House

Jethro Coffin House,  also know as the Oldest House,  is the oldest house on Nantucket in its original location and is the only surviving structure from the island’s 17th Century English settlement. It is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Because of the brick design on its chimney, it is also called the Horseshoe Housd


Early settlers of Nantucket: their associates and descendants by Lydia Swain 1896

The story of old Nantucket; a brief history of the island and its people from its discovery down to the present day. by Macy, William Francis, 1867-   1915

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17 Responses to Nantucket Founders

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  12. Found your excellent website Googling William Fiske. As found great info on Thomas MAYHEW. Thank you for all your hard work. I would like to print some of the info to share with an elderly cousin I recently found. May I have your permission? I would also like to credit with a name as and of course your website.

    • markeminer says:

      Hi Susie,

      Of course you can share in any way you would like. Since this site is for family and cousins, I borrow freely from what I find.

      I am happy to pass it on to you,


  13. Janet Kincaid says:

    Christopher Hussey was one of my Great Grandfathers Didn’t know this story. Thank you

  14. Kat Grady says:

    Hi there. The portrait of Maj. Robert Pike is actually of another Robert Pike. It is an old mistake. Wanted to be sure you had the facts. You can read all about the discovery here:

    The founders, portraits of persons born abroad who came to the colonies in North America before the year 1701; with an introduction, biographical outlines and comments on the portraits, Volume 3; by Bolton, Charles Knowles, 1867-; Publication date 1926

  15. Howard S Lincoln says:

    Mark, I just discovered your most interesting web site, with its detailed history and genealogy of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Thank you for the fine work you have shared.

    My maternal ancestry traces back to to Thomas Coleman as one of the 1/2 share men, but since my maternal grandparents were both Nantucketers, I am related to nearly all of the original founders of Nantucket in one form or another.

    I will close by saying, “Thank you, cousin!”

    Howard Lincoln
    Burke, VA

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