About Owen Vincent Coffin, Governor Conn
OWEN VINCENT COFFIN HON OWEN VINCENT COFFIN , ex-governor of Con necticut, president of the Middlesex Mutual (Fire) Assurance Company of Middletown, Connecticut, was born in Union Vale, Dutchess County, New York, June 20th, 1836. His first ancestors in America were Tristram and Dionis (Stevens) Coffin, who came from England to Haverhill, Massachusetts, in 1642, Tristram Coffin later becoming the chief magistrate of Nantucket. His father was Alexander Hamilton Coffin, a farmer by occupation.
The usual interests and tasks of life on a farm filled the days of Mr. Coffin's boyhood. Farming, reading, and school took most of his time. He was, and remains, very fond of music. His favorite study was natural philosophy, which he began to study at school at the age of nine. He inclined to very general reading, with a particu- lar interest in history and with Cowper as his favorite poet. His education was acquired at the Cortland Academy, Homer, New York, and at the Charlottesville (New York) Seminary. At seven- teen he went to New York to be a salesman for a mercantile house, and two years later, in 1855, he became the New York representative of a prominent Connecticut manufacturing firm. In 1858, Mr. Coffin married Ellen Elizabeth Coe of Middletown, Connecticut, by whom he has had two children, a daughter and a son. The latter, Seward Vincent Coffin, is the only one now living, and is connected with the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company. When the Civil War broke out, Mr. Coffin was a strong supporter of the Union cause, though he was physically debarred from active service; but he fur- nished a substitute, though not required to do so. He was president two terms of the Brooklyn, New York, Y. M. C. A., which aided largely during the period of the War in valuable field hospital work, and he was also active in the same work in connection with his membership of the New York Committee of the United States Christian Commission. In 1864 Mr. Coffin moved to Middletown, where he has since made his home. During his residence in Connecticut he has been connected as president, secretary, treasurer, and director with banking, rail- road, fire insurance, manufacturing, and other business corporations. Since 1884 he has been president of the Middlesex Mutual (Fire) Assurance Company. From 1865 to 1878, when he suffered a serious breakdown in health, he was secretary and treasurer of the Farmers and Mechanics Savings Bank of Middletown during the most im- portant period and most rapid growth of that bank and he held the same offices and that of director for several years in the old Air Line Eailroad Company. He has been for years and remains a director of the reorganized Boston & New York Air Line Eailroad Company. In politics he has always been a Republican, but per- sonally decidedly averse to standing for any public office, then, or later for other positions, until his candidacy for governor seemed to come in sight. From 1872 to 1874 he was mayor of Middle- town. He was tendered a renomination by leading men of both parties and assured of unanimous reelection, but felt obliged by other engagements to decline. In 1887 and 1889 he served as State senator two terms, and was urged to accept the unanimous nomina- tion when tendered for a third term, but pressure of business duties led him to decline. In 1894 he was nominated for governor. His popularity with the people carried him through, thousands of Demo- crats voting for him, and he was elected governor of Connecticut by the greatest majority recorded up to that time, a fact considered prophetic of his successful career as the chief magistrate of the State. Mr. Coffin has been as prominent in ecclesiastical, intellectual, and social affairs as he has been in those of state and business. In church classification he is a Congregationalist. He was a member of Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, New York, for many years, and after coming to Connecticut to reside joined the old First Church of Middletown, in which he retains membership. He was first assistant moderator of the Triennial International Congregational Council in Portland, Oregon, in 1898; superintendent of Sunday schools in Brookl}Ti and in Middletown for many years; moderator of the Congregational Council of Connecticut one term, and president of the Middletown Y. M. C. A., the Middletown Choral Society, and many other public or semi-public organizations. Though not a col- lege man Mr. Coffin has had the honorary degree of LL.D. conferred upon him by Wesleyan University and is an honorary member of the college fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon. Aside from this Greek letter society he is not connected with any secret organization. He is a member of the old local literary society called the Conver- sational Club. The sports he most enjoys are shooting and fishing. He was for years president of the Middletown Rifle Association and he was vice-president of the Connecticut Rifle Association during the presidency of the late General Hawley. He is interested in athletics and considers regular outdoor exercise invaluable for people of sedentary occupations.