The Coffin family collection at the Marist Archives and Special Collections represents a
snapshot glimpse of this unique Dutchess County family. Abishai Coffin, a fourth generation descendant of Tristram Coffin, moved from Nantucket and settled in the Hudson Valley around the time of the American Revolution.
Robert Coffin was born to Abishai and Sarah Long Coffin. Coffin was born in the Town of Washington, in eastern Dutchess County, New York and would go on to represent Dutchess County in the New York State Assembly in 1832. He married Magdalene Bently, daughter of Colonel Tabor Bently and together they had ten children. Coffin was an authority and breeder of race horses. It is important to note that the Coffin family were
devout Quakers, avid abolitionists, and involved in progressive causes.
Some highlights of significant items in the collection include receipts and promissory
notes between Robert Coffin and various local merchants. Jobs performed for the family
included weaving, lumber, shoe and boot repair, meat provisions, and general labor. More revealing documents include the will, estate inventory, and probate records of Tabor Bently, Robert Coffin’s father in law. Bently, a farmer, was indentured by means of a loan to Robert Coffin and Wheeler Gilbert for the sum of $1334.94. This indenture was signed on January 1, 1821 and was fulfilled on April 12, 1827. Bently had died before the financial obligation was fulfilled in 1826. Bently had other financial troubles, evident by another 1825 bond to Henry Able for thirty five dollars and transfer of property including “mare” horses in fulfillment of that loan. It is a possibility that his limited financial means were a result of his old age and inability to work and operate a farm.
Tabor Bently is interesting in considering his unique ties to Dutchess County history. His
ancestors settled in Narragansett, Rhode Island in 1671. It is unclear where Tabor was born, however, some of his siblings were born in North Kingstown, Rhode Island just prior to his birth in 1752. Tabor’s parents, William and Elizabeth Bently are accounted for as the original settlers of the Beekman Patent in Dutchess County. Tabor was active in Beekman and the American Revolution, signing the local Articles of Association and serving as Second Lieutenant in the Beekman Militia as of 1778. In 1781, Bently served as chief witness in the hanging of three British spies, Henry Wickes, Abraham Ackerly, and John Vermillier. These men were captured near the home of Colonel James Vanderburgh in the hamlet of Poughquag.1
The collection of papers pertaining to the Coffin family and Tabor Bently end around the
year 1833 and provide brief material of the individuals involved. Bently is a unique individual and his involvement in the American Revolution and Dutchess County warrants more research to be done on his life. What exists currently is only genealogical material compiled by family members and local historians and loosely organized primary source material related to the spy incident in 1781.
Little is known of the Dutchess County line of the Coffin family other than their devout
Quaker faith, strong ties to the Abolitionist cause, and other activism in progressive politics of the time.
Elijah Bender, Marist ‘18