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John Coffin

Birthplace: Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusetts, United States
Death: Died in Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of William Coffin and Anne Coffin
Husband of Isabella Coffin
Father of John Coffin; William Coffin, Brevet Major UK; Thomas Coffin; Nathaniel Coffin, AG Upper Canada War 1812; Francis Holmes Coffin, Esq., Rear Admiral and 4 others
Brother of William "Billy" Coffin; Nathaniel Coffin; John Coffin; Ann Deblois; Rebecca Coffin and 6 others

Occupation: merchant, distiller, and shipowner
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About John Coffin

John Coffin, the third son of William and Ann Coffin, was born in Boston, August 19, 1729, and was brother of Nathaniel, the Cashier, and uncle of General John, and Admiral, Sir Isaac Coffin. In the confiscation Act he was described as distiller, and combined this business, no doubt, with that of merchant and ship owner. Loyal to the core, and knowing that he was a marked man. he resolved early in 1775, to place his family in safety. Embarking, therefore, his household goods, his wife and eleven children, on board his own schooner, the Neptune, he brought them around safely to Quebec where on the 23d August, 1775, he bought from "La Dame Veuve Lacroix" a piece of land at the pres de ville, well known during the siege which followed as the "Potash." He went to work with characteristic energy to establish a distillery, when his work was interrupted by that celebrated event. In the autumn the Revolutionary forces under Arnold and a former British officer, Montgomery, invaded the Province, and Quebec was invested. Late in the year John Coffin joined the Quebec enrolled British militia and the building he had designed for a distillery, became a battery for the defence of the approach from Wolfe's cove. The battery was armed with the guns of a privateer frozen in for the winter. Her commander, Barnsfare, and his seamen handled the pieces, and by his side John Coffin, the Boston Loyalist, shared the merit of the defence.

Before that battery, on the memorable morning of the 1st January, 1776, fell, General Montgomery, and the chief officers of his staff, and with them the last hopes of the Revolutionary cause in Canada.

In a paper prepared by his nephew, Lieutenant-Colonel Coffin of Ottawa, read before the Literary and Historical society of Quebec Dec. 18, 1872, it is shown on the testimony of Sir Guy Carleton, then Governor of Canada, and of Colonel Maclean, Commandant of Quebec, "that to the resolution and watchfulness of John Coffin, in keeping the guard at the pres de ville under arms, awaiting the expected attack, the coolness with which he allowed the rebels to approach, the spirits which his example kept up among the men, and to the critical instant when he directed Captain Barnsfare's fire against Montgomery and his troops, is to be ascribed the repulse of the rebels from that important post where, with their leader, they lost all heart."

There can be no question but that the death of Montgomery and the repulse of this attack, saved Quebec, and with Quebec, British North America to the British Crown, and that of the brave men who did this deed John Coffin was one of the foremost.

John Coffin died September 28, 1808, aged 78, as the record of his burial has it, "One of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace of the City of Quebec and Inspector of Police for said City."

He had thirteen children born to him, 11 survived him. Directly, or indirectly, all throve under the fostering protection of the Crown and a grateful government. The eldest daughter, Isabella, married Colonel McMurdo. Her sons served in India, a grandson was captain in the Royal Canadian Rifles, when that fine regiment disbanded at Kingston in 1870.


''The loyalists of Massachusetts and the other side of the American Revolution
By James Henry Stark''
view all 12

John Coffin's Timeline

August 19, 1729
Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusetts, United States
Age 31
Boston, MA, USA
Age 31
Boston, MA, USA
Age 32
Boston, MA, USA
Age 36
July 12, 1768
Age 38
Boston, MA, USA
Age 41
Boston, MA, USA
Age 50
September 28, 1808
Age 79
Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusetts, United States