'Great Mary' Starbuck (Coffin)

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'Great Mary' Starbuck (Coffin)'s Geni Profile

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Mary Starbuck (Coffin)

Also Known As: "Great Mary"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Haverhill, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, (Present USA)
Death: Died in Nantucket Island, Nantucket County, Province of Massachusetts, (Present USA)
Place of Burial: Quaker Burial Ground, Nantucket, Nantucket County, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Tristram Coffin, Sr.; Tristram Coffin; Dionis Coffin and Dionis Coffin
Wife of Nathaniel Starbuck, Sr. and Nathaniel Starbuck
Mother of Mary Gardner; Elisabeth Coffin (Starbuck); Nathaniel Starbuck, Jr.; Barnabas Starbuck; Eunice Gardner and 6 others
Sister of Tristram Coffin; Hon. James Coffin; Elizabeth Greenleaf; Peter Coffin, Sr.; Deborah Coffin and 3 others

Occupation: 8th great aunt. Quaker leader on Nantucket
Managed by: Gene
Last Updated:

About 'Great Mary' Starbuck (Coffin)

"Reverend" Mary Coffin was born February 20, 1644/45 in Haverhill, Massachusetts just two years after her parents' arrival from Devonshire, England. She moved to Nantucket Island with her father, Tristram Coffin, who led the colonization of the island in 1660-1661. In 1662 she married Nathaniel Starbuck, a prosperous farmer, local official, and partner with her father in purchasing the area from the Indians.

"Great Mary," or the "Great Woman," as she is frequently referred to, was an exceptional woman. Born off-island in 1645, she and her husband Nathaniel were the first English couple married on Nantucket and parents of the first white child (a daughter, Mary) born on Nantucket Island, in 1663.

Mary (the mother) was the island's first storekeeper and Nathaniel invested in whaling. In later life she had a deep commitment to Quaker ideals and was instrumental in the growth and development of Nantucket's Religious Society of Friends.

Mother of ten children, of whom five daughters and three sons lived to maturity, Mary and her eldest son Nathaniel helped make Quakerism the leading religion on the island sometime after her own conversion from Puritanism by the Quakers of Providence, RI in 1701 at the age of 56. She was a minister, as were her children and grandchildren.

"The islanders esteemed [Mary Starbuck] as a judge among them, for little was done without her, as I understood," wrote Englishman John Richardson, describing his 1701 visit. He bestowed on her the epithet "the great woman," and in the same journal entry deprecated her husband as "not a man of mean parts but she so far exceeded him in soundness of judgment, clearness of understanding, and an elegant way of expressing herself ... that it tended to lessen the qualifications of her husband."

Mary was a "most extraordinary woman, participating in the practical duties and responsibilities of public gatherings and town meetings, on which occasions her words were always listened to with marked respect." For several years, Meetings or worships as well as Nantucket's political affairs were held in the "great fore-room" of her home which became known as "Parliament House," situated on what is now known as Island View Farm between the Macy's and the north head of Hummock ponds.

Despite Mary's involvement in the weighty matters of religion, she did not neglect domestic issues, as evidenced by a letter which Lydia Hinchman quotes in Early Settlers of Nantucket. In the aftermath of a fire experienced by her granddaughter, Eliza Gorham, Mary wrote to her:

Nantucket 17th of 1st mo 1714

Dear Child E.G.

These few lines may certify thee that thou art often in my remembrance, with thy dear husband and children, with breathings to the Lord for you, that you may find rest in all your visitations and trials: and also that there is a trunk filled with goods which is intended to be put on Eben Stewards vessel, in which are several small tokens from thy friends which thou may particularly see by the invoices here enclosed, and by some other marks that are upon the things.

Thy Aunt Dorcas in a new pair of Osnaburg sheets, thy Aunt Dinah in a pair of blankets. Thy Grandfather intends to send thee a bbl. of mutton, but it is not all his own, for cousin James Coffin sent hither 17 pieces. Cousin James said he intended to send thee two or three bushels of corn.

There is likewise sent from our women's meeting £7 which thy uncle Jethro said he would give an order for, for thee to take to Boston.

Sister James told me she intended to send thee two bushels of corn and some wool and likewise that Justice Worth said he would send thee some corn.

More meat and corn will be sent which will be in larger quantities, which thy uncle Jethro STarbuck will give thee an acct. of or to thy husband.

I should have been glad if he had come over with Steward, but I hope we will see him this summer, if not both of you.

So with my kind love to thee and thy husband, children and to all our frds. committing you to the protection of the Almighty who is the wise disposer of all things and remain thy affectionate grandmother.

Mary Starbuck

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Mary Coffin Starbuck formed the Society of Friends on Nantucket Island and became a Quaker preacher.

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Nathaniel’s wife Mary Coffin(b. 20 Feb 1645, Haverhill, Mass; d. 13 Sep 1717, Nantucket) was seventeen at the time of her marriage and was eighteen when her first child Mary was born. Mary was the first white child born on the Island of Nantucket. Nathaniel and Mary had ten children. Mary Coffin Starbuck, who became known as "The Great Mary" of Nantucket, was a woman of great power and influence and early became a convert to Quakerism and her personality was so great that soon the entire population of the Island became Quakers. Town Meetings which were frequently held in her home. For several years meetings for workshops were held in the "great fore-room" of her home known as 'Parliament House' situated on what is now known as Island View farm between the Macy's and the North Head of the Hummock ponds. John Richardson an early Quaker preacher said of her " The Islanders established her a Judge among them, for a little of moment was done without her advice". She held religious meetings in her own home, being herself a preacher of power and eloquence.

Mary coffin was a most extraordinary woman. She raised a family of ten children and operated the islands first store she had the respect of everyone that knew her. She was convinced of the folly of infant baptism and shared her friend Peter Folger's aversion of the rigid doctrines of Puritan congregationalists.

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'Great Mary' Starbuck (Coffin)'s Timeline

1645
February 20, 1645
Haverhill, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, (Present USA)
1662
1662
Age 16
Newburyport, Essex County, Massachusetts, United States
1663
March 30, 1663
Age 18
Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusetts

First English child born on Nantucket.

1665
September 9, 1665
Age 20
Nantucket Island, Dukes County (Present Nantucket County), Province of New York (Present Massachusetts), (Present USA)
1665
Age 19
of Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusets

First English wedding on the island.

1668
August 9, 1668
Age 23
Nantucket Island,Nantucket Co.,Massachusetts
1671
December 14, 1671
Age 26
Nantucket, Nantucket, MA, USA
1673
December 12, 1673
Age 28
Nantucket, Massachusetts, United States
1674
April 1, 1674
Age 29
Nantucket Island, Nantucket, Massachusetts, United States
1676
August 24, 1676
Age 31
Nantucket Island, Dukes County, Province of New York