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2/22/1787 - 2/21/1868
(Ed. Note: Reuben & Sarah Coffin are two of many G-G-G-G grandparents)
Reuben Coffin and his bride of two years arrived in
Lysander, Onondaga County with their clumsy covered wagon in 1810. It gave
a final lurch and came to a creaking stop before the Palmer's log cabin
one May day in that year. The trek from Washington county had been long
and tedious, with the homespun linen cover to the heavy wagon their only
shelter from the noonday sun. One of the last nights on the trail had been
spent in camp in what is now the heart of Syracuse, the present site of
the Lincoln store. A few days were spent in the Palmer cabin while the men
fashioned a similar one farther east, on the bank of a swift stream. Here
on Lot 37 lay the 600 acres of land claimed by Reuben and Sarah Bassett
Coffin. Here beneath the tall pines that grew along the stream, the women
of the settlement gathered on wash day to make use of the excellent spring
water, and exchange bits of news, and assist each other in daily tasks.
Not far from the spring and near the cabin,, Reuben hung an iron kettle on
a tripod for cooking and general purposes.
His wife, Sarah Adams (Bassett) Coffin was born on Martha's Vineyard in 1787. Her father Ebenezer served in the sea coast defense of 1776 and his occupation was that of innkeeper. Sarah's mother, Abigail, was one of fifteen children born to Captain Mayhew Adams and Rebecca(Mayhew) Adams. Captain Mayhew Adams is of the same lineage as John Adams, second President of the United States.
Sarah Bassett was twelve when her parents and family moved to Easton, Washington Co., New York, in 1799. The laws of nations at this time permitted mariners to impress into their service any man in the time of emergency. If a vessel lacked hands at any given port, the captain could compel the first able bodied men they cam across, of given age, to go sea in order to manage the ship. Sarah's parents home was within sight of the sea and because there were a number of boys in the family, they decided to move inland in order to provent the boys from being forced to follow the life of a sailor.
Sarah Adams Bassett married Reuben Coffin in 1808. About two years after their marriage, in 1810, they left Easton, Washington Co., New York. They had decided to go west to seek a fortune as the western fever raged in them as did it in may of the people of that time. They went in all about 175 miles with a team and covered wagon, a linen sheet constituted the covering, which was probably woven by the young and enterprizing wife. Another team went with them and four families accompanied each other through a country in places wild in extreme, over impassable and trackless wastes where the hideous and frightening howling of the wolves must have been familiar night experieces.
They left Snow Bridge (now Jack Reefs) for Palmertown (now Jacksonville). This march was made in a day. The only marks they had to follow were the blazed trees which told the way some kind traveler had taken before them. The forest stretched in one unbroken mass from the river to Palmertown. A road had not been cut out, so they picked the way for their teams by winding through the thick woods as best they could. For seven miles no houses were to be seen until that night, worn out with fatigue, they arrived in Palmertown on May 3, 1810.
Jonathan Palmer, an old Revolutionary soldier, had a lot granted to him in pay for his continental services where he had built a log house. Sarah and Reuben Coffin were welcomed to Jonathan's log house. It is not known how large it was, but the hospitality of that early time made almost any house commodious and they stayed with their host for four days. In the meantime, Reuben Coffin rolled one log above another, notched to fit, until a house stood ready for occupancy. On the fifth day they occupied their own dwelling. The lot was number seven and embraced 600 acres.
No saw mill was found so they built the first one in town. The nearest grist mill was situated at Camillus. That was so far that some way had to be improvised to prepare the corn for bread. Jonathan Palmer was equal to the emergency. He scooped out a large beech stump, smoothed it by burning the inside hollow, and thus made a mortar mill for pounding corn to meal. The other part was a pole that would bend. One end was put in the ground, the upper end was placed across the limb of a tree. The limb acted as a fulcrum.A large iron called a pestle was attached to the upper end of the pole, and then worked into the beech mortar by the powerful hand of early settler, until corn was converted to meal and wheat to flour. Of course the heavy pestle was carried up by the bent pole only to come down again and again, until it had scientifically ground the grist. One man preferred another method. He put his bag of corn or wheat inside of a deer skin and with the hairy side upon the ground he dragged the deer skin with corn or wheat all the way to Skaneateles Lake to the mill, and back he came with it ground, making a round trip of forty-eight miles.
In 1816, the settlers experienced the rigors of a severe winter. It was an extremely cold season and the frost had spoiled their winter wheat. One day some visitors came. What should they do for bread? Just then the good hostess remembered that several barrels of bran had been standing in the chamber a year. Immediately the bran was sifted, short cake made, served and the company retired well filled and merry in heart, not knowing the ruse that was played upon them for a good while. The hostess and family, with becoming fortitude, continued to live upon the products of corn meal during that year.
There were two ways to secure somthing besides bread without eating the herd and the flock. One was to go fishing. As there was no dam across Oswego River, the salmon trout swam and leaped in the waters of Three Mile Creek east of Little Utica. Hither went the Coffins with pitch forks and speared trout frequently weighing 10 pounds. When they wanted a change of fare, all they had to dowas to visit the denizens of the forest, knock over a bear aslice him up. Bear soties were stricitly truthful then, one of which Sarah relates. Rueben, her husband, with his brothers John and Peter, assisted by Mr. Dutcher, killed a bear with their axes west of George Allen's grocery store. That bear, when dressed, wighed 400 pounds.
Sometimes the bears and wolves tried to get even with the settlers. Once Reuben's sheep got out of the fold and the wolves held high carnival as they salted down eight of them. Two or three years after they reached Palmertown, a Mr. Neal had a cow browsing in the woods and one evening she did not return as usual. They searched after her; her bones were found but the cow had slipped off of them, gone down rapacious throats of the wolves.
Sometimes during the long winter months they found themselves short of hay and the cattle and hogs were compelled to hunt their own feed. The cattle would browse on buds of the felled Basswood trees and the hogs on beech nuts. They got fat by this method, but the pork was rather strong and oily.
But while the men were industrious and frugal and the bears and wolves were too neighborly, the face of perseverance of Sarah Coffin knew no bounds. The first year business was carried on principally by trading one article for another. Little money was in circulation. The time to pay taxes on the 600 acres rolled around. How could they meet the $4 due? She resolved to meet the demand. She had woven a fiece of flannel, and no doube extra pains were taken to weave it as nicely as possible, for it was a dress pattern to be worn by herself. However, she willingly gave up the labor of her hands and a new dress by selling the dress pattern for $4 and with it paid the taxes.
Cloth, like sugar, could not be bought from the outside world, so maple sugar and home made material answered all purposes. The children and grown folks seldom wore shoes. No shoes were worn in summer by the children and not in winter unless they went to school. But how could those going to school get shoes? The shoemakers were as scarce as the saw mills. Only one way was open. The itinerant shoemaker, like the itinerant pracher, went from neighborhood to neighborhood. He came to the COffin house and for a stipulated price shod all the children up that needed shoeing, and then went on his way rejoicing.
Sarah Coffin belonged to the old line of good housewives. In additon to keeping house, churning, baking in the large oven, which mischevious boys comtimes emptied of her splendid hot pies without legal notification, and which she took as a joke by saying "Well, I can bake more", she would spin and weave linen for summer and flannel for winter. Many a time has her daughters seen her spinning while taking care of a baby. She used to wear an apron made with arm holes. The apron was quite long, so she picked up the lower part of her apron, tied the corners about her neck, and dumped the baby in the apron. In this manner it was carried to and from the big wheel while she spun her yarn. No wonder that eleven of the fifteeen children grew up, became married and reared families of their own under more favorable circumstances.
Sarah Coffin lived to see the forest gradually recede from her dwelling by the woodsman's axe. Yearly she opened her eyes upon a wider prospect. She was, no doubt, delighted to see settler after settler appear, house after house dotting the clearing, field after field free from stone and unnecessary trees, school house and church erected of modern pretentions, roads opening, railroads laid, steam car rolling along and a market opened to the state.
Mrs. Sarah Coffin united with the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1820. Reverend Mr. Bangs was the pastor. The first meetings were held in their barn north of the creek; she remembers seeing a Mr. Weaver ordained to the ministry in that barn. It is quite certain that her faith and hope in Christ sustained her all those years and made it possible for her to round out a century of existence.
Mrs. Sarah Adams Coffin celebrated her One Hundredth birthday at the residence of her son, Alexander M. Coffin near Little Utica, on May 7, 1887, with friends and relatives assisting in properly observing the day. Sarah was no rolling stone. After her marriage to Reuben Coffin, she lived 77 years in only two houses, the original log cabin built in 1810 and the house where she died.
Family records from this article have been incorporated into the file. The information contained in this article was taken from accounts of Sarah Adams Coffin's One Hundreth birthday from the Baldwinsville Era of May 14, 1887, family records, and research.
Last Will and Testament of Reuben Coffin
County Book # 34 , Vol #M, Page # 90
In the matter of proving the last will and testament
of Reuben Coffin, deceased, Onondaga County, NY. Be it remembered that
heretofore upon the petition of Edward Bentley and Robert Coffin, the
executors named in the last will and testament of Reuben Coffin, late of
the town of Lysander in said county, deceased, in said county, for that
purpose, to the Surrogate of said county, a citation was duly issued in
this matter which citation with the proofs of service thereof was
thereafter duly returned to said Surrogate, and which said petition and
citation, with the proofs of service thereof, are now on file in the
office of said Surrogate. And thereupon the last will and testament of the
said Reuben Coffin, deceased, with the proofs thereof were produced and
are as follows, to wit:
I, Reuben Coffin, of the town of Lysander in the County of Onondaga and State of New York of the age of seventy five years and being of sound mind and memory do make publish and declare this my last will and testament in manner following that is to say after paying all my debts and funeral charges I give and devise to my wife Sarah Coffin all my personal and real estate lying and being in the town of Lysander, county of Onondaga, State of New York during her natural life excepting, what I hereby set apart to my son E. B. Coffin. To my son E. B. Coffin I give thirty acres of land lying and being in the state of Iowa, county of Tama, being the same deeded to me by E. B. Coffin and Almira his wife bearing date Sept. 22nd 1857 and also a Judgement obtained in said State of Iowa for the sum of about two hundred and twenty dollars the same as he has a power of attorney to collect. And after the decease of my said wife my property is to be divided between my children as follows, first to my son Robert Coffin five hundred dollars and to my son Alexander M. Coffin five hundred dollars. The remainder of all that may be left to be divided in equal shares with my sons Jacob Coffin, Robert Coffin, and Alexander M. Coffin and my daughters Harriet Borgardus, Elizabeth Chaffee, Sally Ann Harrington, Hepsibah Woodruffe, Susan Fuller, and Mary Bentley and to their heirs after them.
I hereby appoint Edward Bentley and Robert Coffin Executors of this my last will and testament hereby revoking all former wills by me made. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this thirtieth day of August A.D. 1862
Reuben Coffin L.S.
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