There is a song or poem, titled The Nantucket Girl’s Song that was written in the 19th century by one or another woman traveling in the south Pacific on a ship.  The poem appears in the back of a journal kept by Eliza Brock as she experienced life on the Lexington on a whaling voyage from May 1853 to June 1856.  She accompanied her husband Peter Brock who was master of the Lexington, out of Nantucket.  It isn’t certain who wrote the poem but it is transcribed into the journal with the name Martha Ford appended to it.  Martha Ford was the wife of a physician in New Zealand.  I first saw a part of the poem in an exhibit at the Nantucket Historical Society’s museum and it spoke to me.  A friend with wonderful creative skills made me a watercolor map of Nantucket with the portion of the poem inscribed over the island.

The portion reads:

“Then I’ll haste to wed a sailor, and send him off to sea,
For a life of independence is the pleasant life for me,
But every now and then I shall like to see his face,
For it always seemes to me to beam with manly grace,
With his brow so nobly open, and his dark and kindly eye,
Oh my heart beats fondly towards him whenever he is nigh,
But when he says Goodbye my love, I’m off across the sea
First I cry for his departure, then laugh because I’m free”

The independent spirit of women on the small spit of land that is Nantucket Island tells me about the some of the women who were my ancestors.  Three or maybe four of the women born on Nantucket migrated to the southwestern Ohio area just after Ohio became a state – two of my g-g-g grandmothers and two of my g-g-g-g grandmothers.  Two came with husbands and families (or maybe only one: the second one died in 1815 and either on Nantucket or in Ohio), one came as a young girl and the other came as a widow with several children, including her youngest son who was about 8 years old.  Although all had been members of the Society of Friends on Nantucket only some transferred that religion to Ohio.

My g-g-g-g grandmother, Sarah (Sally) Folger Coffin (1761-1822) was the wife of Isaiah Coffin (1757-1813).  She left Nantucket about a year after her husband’s death and migrated west to Cincinnati where 2 or 3 of her oldest sons and a number of other friends and relatives from Nantucket had already settled.  She was issued a certificate from the Nantucket Monthy Meeting of the Society of Friends in April 1814 and received into the Miami Monthly Meeting in August 1814.  Sarah and 3 children (Reuben, Eliza, and Christopher Folger) were received.  The records show that on the same date, and based on a certificate with the same April date, her son Benjamin along with his wife and 3 children were also received in the Miami Meeting.  The records become a little confusing though, since there is also another line showing Sarah Coffin and daughter Elizabeth, and Sarah Barnard Coffin also being received on a certificate with that April 1814 date.  Is this my Sarah and a daughter whose name doesn’t match any of the children I know about, or a different one?  And who is Sarah Barnard Coffin?  These questions are my latest Bright Shiny Object to chase – probably not related to me but intriguing nonetheless.  To be continued.

I’ve been having great fun the last couple of weeks corresponding with someone who is interested in tracking the O’Shaughnessy family. It turns out that he is descended from another brother than the man I have been interested in (who I didn’t know about) so I think we’ve both learned some things.

In describing his grandmother, C. Louis Coffin wrote: “… a remarkable woman, Lucy Barry, who had previously married a Quaker and adopted that faith. Her father had been a British Civil Servant in Dublin. Left a widow in 1834, she attended the famous 1837 lectures between Alexander Campbell and Bishop Purcell and announced her opinion that, ‘There is not halting ground between Catholicism and infidelity’. She married Thomas O’Shaughnessy in 1837 after the lectures.” This is a very brief description of the woman I am interested in, but an intriguing one in terms of the amount of information packed into it.

Lucy Barry, was born about 1808 or 1809 in Dublin I think. Certainly by the time she married Josiah S. Dalton on 1 October 1827 in Dublin, she was reported to be a member of the St. Nicholas Without parish and he was not. Their first son, Stephen was born 26 December 1828 and his baptism was reported to have taken place on 4 February 1829. Thomas George Dalton was born to them on 16 January 1831 and he was duly baptized on 23 March 1831. During this period the family lived on Coombe Street in Dublin. While the marriage and then baptisms suggest to me that Lucy had not converted to the Society of Friends, it is possible that her husband Josiah had been a member and maybe continued to be.

The family must have left Dublin almost immediately after Thomas’s birth and baptism, since they appear on the passenger list of the Britannia from Liverpool to New York, arriving 6 July 1831. Josiah was listed on that list as a grocer. Two letters of reference for Josiah have survived, both from gentlemen in Dublin attesting to his good character and dated May 1831.

I don’t know why the young Dalton family moved to Cincinnati or exactly when, however that was where they settled, before 1832-33. Although there was a Meeting of the Society of Friends already established in Cincinnati, Josiah apparently did not become a member. In 1832 or 33, their son Richard was born. The 1834 city directory for Cincinnati listed Josiah Dalton at Johnston and Dalton, an auction and Commission store, although in April of 1834 Josiah Dalton died. So he must have been established in this partnership prior to 1834. His death left Lucy a young widow (about 26 years old) with two or possibly three young boys. Whether it was two or three is not certain. The oldest son, Stephen, did not appear to be with the family in the 1840 census when he would have been about 12 years old, although the two younger Dalton boys were there. However, there are no records found yet that show a death for Stephen.

As Louis Coffin wrote, Lucy met and married Thomas O’Shaughnessy in 1837. This date has also not yet been confirmed by any official records, but their first daughter was born in September 1838. Her youngest Dalton son was just about 5 years old. Lucy and Thomas went on, as shown in the timeline above, to have 5 children together all of whom survived to adulthood.

The two Dalton sons lived with the O’Shaughnessy family well into adulthood. Richard married my great grandaunt, Jessie Malvina Coffin in 1859 when he was 26. Tom was still living with the family at age 29 in 1860, but left sometime between then and 1870 as he is not with the family for the 1870 census. Thomas O’Shaughnessy died in 1862, and Lucy still had all 5 O’Shaughnessy children at home with her as of the 1870 census.

The O’Shaughnessy home began to be broken up when Lucy died, apparently unexpectedly, in January 1875. She had “congestion of the lungs” it was reported. The unmarried O’Shaughnessy descendents continued mostly to live together in Cincinnati, although Francis was no longer in the same residence as of 1880 and soon after the others moved on to their own establishments. Lucy continued to be missed by her children, as Tom Dalton wrote to his married sister Mary O’Sh Coffin in Argentina in 1875:

Entrance, Ohio Military Institute

Having recently written about my mother’s high school experiences, I decided I should do the same about my father. I don’t have a copy of his high school yearbook. I just discovered that the school (which was a military institute) did have yearbooks while he was a student, but I haven’t yet found a copy. What I do have is several pages from his mother’s scrapbook showing pictures and handwritten notes about her son.

As I have written before, my paternal grandmother lost her first husband and then her second within less than 10 years. She had few job skills and little way to provide for herself and her son. She had moved from the family farm into Felicity, Ohio and that is where my father started school and went through elementary and junior high school. At the same time, she was frequently away from home doing nursing jobs and her mother, Elizabeth Boothby, took care of my father. Thus, the two of them showed up in Felicity Ohio in the 1930 federal census while my grandmother was in Cincinnati living in a tuberculosis sanatorium as a nurse when the census was taken. My grandmother was apparently exhibiting increasing mental problems during this time period, of what variety I am not sure. She was overly attached to my father, that I do know.

Clifford B. Salt, 1931

At any rate, when my father got to be high school age, several people (including a physician my grandmother worked for and my father’s aunt) recommended strongly that my father be sent to a local boarding school rather than attending high school in Felicity and living at home with his mother and/or grandmother. So it was arranged that he would attend the Ohio Military Institute in Cincinnati. In September 1931, 3 months shy of 14 years old, he started high school at Ohio Military Institute.

The scrapbook record shows that my father joined the fraternity, Alpha Chi Sigma, played basketball for several years,

Basketball team, 1932-33


and was a good student who progressed through the ranks. I haven’t yet found out anything about the fraternity he joined, besides the name. There is a college fraternity of that name which is a chemistry and chemical engineering society but I don’t know that this is the same one. Based on Wikipedia, there do seem to be two different ones, but the high school fraternity isn’t any further described.

Newsclippings included in Carrie’s scrapbook show that my father won scholarship honors (not sure what that means exactly) and was promoted to

Award for best-drilled company


cadet captain. His graduating year he was selected best all-round cadet officer, and his company was the best-drilled. My grandmother was clearly very proud of him.

And now I understand where his stated activities and interests on his college application came from (“military drills and sports” as well as swimming, basketball and reading). I always thought the military drills sounded somewhat at odds with the college he applied to – Antioch College.  The interests in sports, especially swimming, and in reading were shared by my parents and likely some of the first things that drew them together.

Class of 1935

Although I meant to write about Uncle Henry Coffin, it is clear that his story needs the “backstory” to provide the beginning. The story of Henry Bernard Coffin and his role and influence in the family starts with his going to South America as a young man. The short story is that he got rich there (at least rich by the rest of the family’s standards), and took on the responsibility for supporting all the female relatives (both sisters and two/three nieces) who had no other means of support. Meaning they had no husband supporting them, not that they didn’t work themselves. This is, of course, much more complicated than the short story.

How the Coffins got to South America

I have never heard anything substantive about how the Coffins went to South America, or why they ended up in Argentina. Recently I found a brief manuscript written by C. Louis Coffin. In this manuscript, he described some of the Coffin story before his time and provided some information that I have never learned anywhere else. Of course it raises as many (or more) questions as it answers. Cousin Louis (1884-1972) was the son of Bernard, grandson of Telemachus, and grandnephew of my g-g-grandfather Zebulon. Bernard and Uncle Henry were first cousins.

The story from Cousin Louis was that when his grandfather, Telemachus (1802-1891) was old enough to go out on his own, he was sent to New Orleans by his mother (Abigail Butler Coffin). My guess would be that he was around 18-20 years old when this happened, so between about 1820-1822 and not many years after the family had migrated to Cincinnati. His mother had purchased a flatboat and loaded it with produce. She reportedly told her son to sell the contents and the boat and to seek his fortune. He did as she had bid. Once in New Orleans, Telemachus found a whaler, which was captained by one of his Nantucket uncles, and he signed on as cabin boy. This is undoubtedly what he would have done had he still been on Nantucket. He was said to have made voyages to “the Western Islands”, Africa, and Brazil, and the River Plate (the Rio de la Plata) in Argentina.

In Argentina Telemachus met and married Brigida Kiernan (c 1811-1884) in 1831. Her father was described as having been a Deputy Collector of Customs in St. John, New Brunswick before migrating to Argentina because he could not advance in Canada. The Reform Act of 1827 was cited as happening after this migration and because of Mr. Kiernan’s job limitations. I’m guessing that he was from Ireland and that was a strike against him in the late 1700s and early 1800s in Canada. The date of the Reform Act suggests that the Kiernans left Canada before 1827. Brigida was born about 1811, perhaps in England (on Louis’s death certificate), perhaps in Buenos Aires, The Argentine (the Barney Genealogical Record at the Nantucket Historical Association website seems to suggest this).

I do not, yet, have anything that documents their marriage or where it took place. It seems likely that it was in Argentina. I have found a passenger list from 1832 that shows Telemachus, Brigida, and a 15 month old baby arriving in New York from Buenos Aires.

passenger list, the Brig Orient

I do not have any pictures (that I know of) of either Telemachus (click his name) or Brigida (click here), but found these miniatures on the Nantucket Historical Association website. These paintings were probably done right around the time of their marriage. A quick study of some Cincinnati city directories helps place Telemachus in Cincinnati from about 1834 to 1842. He was not listed in directories for 1819, 1825, 1829, and 1831. He was also not listed in directories from 1846, 1859 and 1885. My guess is that he was living in Argentina around 1830, lived there with his new wife and family until about 1832, and then came back to Cincinnati to introduce his wife and daughter to the family. It looks like they lived in Ohio from about then to about 1843. After that he and his wife and family returned to Argentina.

There is a record in the Nantucket Historical Association’s Research Library website that describes Telemachus’s bankruptcy in 1843 in Ohio which may be connected to this. It seems likely that this bankruptcy was related to his business in Cincinnati with his brother H.B. Coffin (who died in 1841). I haven’t yet found the documents associated with with bankruptcy.

Louis wrote that his grandfather had accumulated a fortune trading with the U.S. (presumably from Argentina) but lost it through his partner in New York. Telemachus reportedly sent his son, Bernard (1832-1917), presumably from Argentina to the U.S., to salvage what he could for the family.

Although Bernard was born in Cincinnati, he had lived for some time in Argentina. He was the only child of Telemachus and Brigida to survive to adulthood. He had spent about the first ten years of life in Cincinnati and he was close friends with a number of his Coffin cousins as a result. This included Jessie, Henry, and Katie Coffin, the three children of Zebulon. It was likely during this trip to figure out the family fortunes, that Bernard met and married Mary O’Shaughnessy. Mary’s half-brother, Richard Dalton, was married to g-g-grandpa Zebulon’s older daughter, Jessie.

As Louis reported it, his parents were married in 1874 in the Cathedral of Cincinnati (St. Peter’s Cathedral). Bernard and his wife also lived mostly in Argentina, traveling to visit family in the Cincinnati area when possible and sending some of their children to school at times in Cincinnati. Two of their children, Louis and his oldest sister, were born in Cincinnati while the other children were born in Argentina.

At this point I am left with a series of questions about Telemachus and his life in Argentina. I think Telemachus owned land and raised cattle, which would be what he traded with the U.S. In order to get Uncle Henry’s story in order I need to know more about this. I know that Uncle Henry went to him as a young man, about 1866, and learned from him. So the story is to be continued.

Zebulon B. Coffin

Zebulon B. Coffin was one of the first ancestors I learned about, going back to when I was about age 8 or 9. His picture was in the old-fashioned hard-covered thick-paged photo album that my mother kept in the linen closet. (I don’t know why she kept it there.) Although he was relatively young in this picture, he looks much the way he seems to have always looked.

When I got more serious about genealogy and family history, I figured out that Zebulon was my great-great-grandfather. He was also grandfather to the little girl in the tintype I wrote about earlier who so intrigued me, Mary Alice Dalton. So she and were related, how exciting!

Zebulon was born in Cincinnati, not long after his family had arrived there from Nantucket. He was the second son to carry that name. His next older brother who had been named Zebulon died in August 1814 and my Zebulon was born November, 1815. I wonder what they would have named him if his brother hadn’t died? I don’t know anything (yet) about his earliest life, although I assume he went to school and did what most other boys of the time and place did. When he was about 13 years old his next older surviving brother died at age 18. His remaining two older brothers who were still in the Cincinnati area were 8 and 10 years older than he was. His oldest brother, Telemachus, was 13 years older, and already out of the house and traveling the world. (He will be part of a later Coffin story.)

Zebulon (often listed as Z.B.) was married, to Catherine Elizabeth Justice, in October 1839 a month before his 24th birthday and 2 months before her 18th. I don’t know exactly how they met and courted, but her father owned a business in Cincinnati and was active in the community. Zebulon went into the grocery business around the time of his marriage, and had his own business for his whole working life. He was not listed in the Cincinnati city directory for 1836-37, but was in the 1839 directory. He was a hard worker, who was active in his community and church. He was a member of the Cincinnati Independent Fire Engine and Hose Company, one of the early volunteer fire groups.

fire hydrant opener

In 1846 he was made an Honorary Member for life. The picture is of a large (maybe brass?) tool that was used for opening the water hydrants when a fire broke out. It is engraved with Zebulon’s name and the date 1835.

For much of his adult life, Zebulon was the patriarch of the Cincinnati-based family. His mother died in 1858, and his wife and father in the next ten years. At the time of Catherine’s death, his older daughter was married with a young daughter and his son Henry and younger daughter Katie still lived at home. Henry was just 20 years old and Katie was not yet 14. Henry left home to go to South America right around the time of his mother’s death. This will also be part of a later Coffin story.

Zebulon and his family had moved across the Ohio River to Newport, Kentucky by the time of the federal census of 1850. Susan Justice, his mother-in-law, and Anthony Burton, a young man “adopted” by the family lived nearby or with Z.B, at different times. Daughter Jessie Dalton and her family also lived either next door or with him after he was widowed. The family belonged to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Newport and Zebulon and his daughters were active in the Church.

Although Zebulon was widowed for a long time, just about 39 years, there were no family stories or any documentation that he had any other relationship. He never remarried. He kept his store until after his 70th birthday. He got interested in the family history and attended the 1881 family reunion of Coffins on Nantucket. In 1880 he was appointed by the Tristram Coffin Reunion Association along with William E. Coffin as the Executive Subcommittee tasked with creating a Coffin genealogy. He worked long and hard on this endeavor, sending out letters to all Coffins asking for information. It was the resulting manuscript that was the base for the book edited years later by Louis Coffin, entitled “The Coffin Family” which was published by the Nantucket Historical Association.