Skip to main content

Joshua Coffin Papers

Joshua Coffin Papers

1 of 2
Open Finding Aid
small (250x250 max)
medium (500x500 max)
Extra Large
large ( > 500x500)
Full Resolution

JOSHUA COFFIN (1792-1864) PAPERS,1647-1862


Processing of this collection was funded by a grant from the NHPRC (National Historical Publications and Records Commission).

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Coffin, Joshua, 1792-1864
Title:Joshua Coffin Papers
Quantity:4.75 linear feet (7 boxes)
Abstract:The Joshua Coffin Papers include correspondence, family genealogies, legal documents, church records, military records, and town records for Newbury, Massachusetts.
Identification:MSS 457

Series List

SERIES I. Newbury Vital Records
A. Volume 1
B. Volume 2
SERIES II. Correspondence and Research
SERIES III. Genealogies

Scope and Content Note

The Joshua Coffin Papers include correspondence, family genealogies, legal documents, church records, military records, and town records for Newbury, Massachusetts. This collection has been arranged into three series.

Series I. Newbury Vital Records includes original documents collected by Joshua Coffin while researching his book A Sketch of the History of Newbury, Newburyport and West Newbury. This series has been arranged into two subseries. Subseries A. Volume 1 and Subseries B. Volume 2 include similar records that were previously removed from bound volumes. In an effort to maintain this arrangement, the documents have been arranged by subject matter within their original volumes. Records within these two subseries include church records such as petitions for new parishes, divisions within churches, and lists of attendees. There are also legal documents created by individuals living in Newbury, such as deeds, last wills and testaments, marriage settlements, attorney appointments, and insurance policies. Military records are included in these volumes as well, such as muster rolls, enlistment papers, regimental orders, and equipment returns. Town of Newbury records include warrants, financial records, boundary line disputes, and notices to assemble. All records within these two subseries are arranged chronologically within subject folders. Selections of material found in both subseries were published in the Essex Institute Historical Collections (EIHC), Volume 35. The bracketed page number next to a document identifies the original location in the bound volume, as cited in the EIHC.

Series II. Correspondence and Research includes personal correspondence, collected Newbury history materials, Anti-Slavery writings and publications, membership documents for local historical societies, and town clerk records. This series includes handwritten copies of documents that aided Coffin in his research, such as lists of births and deaths in Newbury and a list of the original grantees of Newbury. Additional research material includes handwritten copies of Sebastian Ralle's work among the Indians in 1720; Samuel Rolfe's journal from 1750; Caleb Haskell's journal with the Continental Army in 1775; and a description of a tornado at sea in 1841. There is also a bound journal that Coffin labeled "Collections from Ancient Records," which includes additional handwritten copies of original documents. Correspondence between Coffin, fellow genealogists or and Newbury locals, reveal Coffin's working methods and areas of historical interest. The material in this series is arranged chronologically within subject folder.

Series III. Genealogies include genealogies of Newbury families created by Joshua Coffin and his correspondents. This material is arranged alphabetically by family name. Correspondence and lists of multiple family names, along with complied notebooks of families appear at the end of the series.

Biographical Sketch

Joshua Coffin (1792-1864) was born in Newbury, Massachusetts on October 12, 1792 to Joseph Coffin (1762-1805) and Judith Toppan (1758-1801). Coffin graduated from Dartmouth College in 1817 and taught school for many years. One of his pupils was well-known poet John Greenleaf Whittier, who wrote the poem "To My Old School-Master" in reference to Coffin. On December 2, 1817, Coffin married Clarissa Dutch and they had two daughters, Sarah B. (b. 1818) and Lucia Toppan (1820-1878). After Clarissa's death in 1835, Coffin married Anna Wood Wiley on April 25, 1835. The two had three daughters: Elizabeth W. (b. 1836); Anna L. (b. 1838); and Mary H. (b. 1840).

Coffin was a teacher, an historian, a genealogist, and an abolitionist. He was one of the founders of the New England Anti-Slavery Society in 1832. He was elected a corresponding member of the New-England Historic Genealogical Society in 1845, and was also a member of the Massachusetts Historical Society. He published A Sketch of the History of Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury from 1635 to 1845 in 1845, along with family histories for the Woodman, Little and Toppan families. Joshua Coffin died on June 24, 1864 in Newbury and was buried in the First Parish Burying Ground.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Adams family
Boynton family
Chase family
Choate family
Coffin family
Coffin, Joshua, 1792-1864
Greenleaf family
Hale family
Huse family
Toppan family
Woodman family
Family history (Genealogy)
Byfield (Mass.)--History
Newbury (Mass.)--History
Newburyport (Mass.)--History
West Newbury (Mass.)--History
Church records and registers--Massachusetts--Newbury


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Request for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Joshua Coffin Papers, MSS 457, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


Material from Volume 1 was presented by George E. Woodbury of Lynn, MA on November 5, 1870. The Alcove No. 11 photograph was a gift of Joshua Coffin Chase in 1946. Additional material was found in the collection. This material was originally arranged as Fam. Mss. 187.

Processing Information

Collection processed and cataloged by Halley Grogan, November 2012.

Related Material

"Joshua Coffin Papers." Essex Institute Historical Collections. Vol. 35. 129-168, 212-242. Salem, Mass: Salem Press Co., 1899.

Coffin, Joshua. A sketch of the history of Newbury, Newburyport and West Newbury, from 1635 to 1845. Boston, Mass: Samuel G. Drake, 1845.

Coffin, Louis. The Coffin Family. Nantucket, Mass: Nantucket Historical Association, 1962.

New England Historic Genealogical Society. Memorial Biographies of the New-England Historic Genealogical Society. Vol. 6. 1-9. Boston, Mass: Stanhope Press, 1905.

Newbury, Massachusetts, Town Records, EC 22

Coffin Family Tree

you wish to report:

Select the collections to add or remove from your search