Indian Trails Chapter hears tales of ancestors


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President Kay McIntire presided over the recent Indian Trails Chapter of the Colonial Dames of XVII Century meeting held at Cape May.

Joyce Peters shared a story she found in the obituary of her grandmother Susan Rittenhouse. The obituary recalled a tragedy from the Civil War. Mrs. Rittenhouse was one of seven children of Mrs. Able Seymour McMechen whose husband was killed during the border warfare in Missouri. In 1852 the McMechen family moved from Ohio to Harrisonville County, Missouri on the Mason-Dixon Line.

Mr. McMechen was a Northern Democrat and his sympathy was with the North. In spite of the fact that endeavored to preserve his neutrality, he was taken from his home and shot down by the bushwhackers.

The McMechen family had an estate of 500 acres. During the next three years all of their livestock was driven off by the Confederate sympathizers and the property burned. During this time the deed to the property was also destroyed when the Courthouse was burned and all the land records were destroyed.

Mrs. McMechen and the seven children came back to Ohio to Chillicothe. Later efforts were made to recover the property in Missouri, but as all available records had been destroyed and squatters had taken over the land, the efforts were in vain.

Susan Henry shared the stories of Tristram Coffin, Sr. and his daughter Mary Coffin Starbuck.

In 1642 Tristram Coffin, Sr. and his family came to America and first settled in Newburyport, Massachusetts. In the late 1650s he and a few others purchased Nantucket Island from Thomas Mayhew for the price of 30 pounds and two beaver hats.

Coffin served as the governor of Nantucket in 1671 and 1674-1680. He died in 1681 and is buried on Nantucket Island but the exact site is unknown.

Mary Coffin was the seventh child of Tristram and Dionis Coffin. She came to Nantucket as a 15-year-old and married Nathaniel Starbuck when she was 17. It was the first marriage recorded on the island and she gave birth to first white child born on the island. Mary Coffin Starbuck is known as the “mother of the settlement” and was also known as the person who brought Quakerism to the island and many of its settlers.

She was a well-spoken woman, could read and write all qualities that helped her run the family trading post that served as the island’s commercial center. She became a Quaker at the age of 56. She held meetings in her home converting many of the other settlers on the island until they were able to start their own yearly meeting and build a meetinghouse.

How interesting to have such historical events within one’s family.

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