"ERECTED A.D. 1881. BY

1609 - TRISTAM COFFIN - 1681
1598 - THOMAS MACY - 1682.
1604 - EDWARD STARBUCK - 1690
1617 - PETER FOLGER - 1690.
1624 - JOHN GARDNER - 1706
1664 - JOHN SWAIN. JR. - 1738.
1644 - JOHN COLEMAN - 1715.
1626 - RICHARD GARDNER - 1688.
1640 - WILLIAM BUNKER - 1712.
The Settlers of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
Douglas Black
John Gardner
Priscilla Grafton
Richard Gardner
Sarah Shattuck
Eleazer Folger
Sarah Gardner
Percis Arthur
Thomas Gardner
Margaret Fryer
"Once upon a time there lived on the Atlantic coast a giant who used Cape Cod as his bed.  One night, being restless, he tossed from side to side until his moccasins were filled with sand.  This so enraged him, that upon rising in the morning, he flung the offending moccasins from his feet, one alighting to form Martha's Vineyard, while the other became the island of Nantucket."

The name Nantucket is derived from a Native American word meaning "faraway island" or "land far out to sea."  Nantucket was populated with approximately 3,000 Native Americans of the Wampanoag Tribe when it was discovered and charted in 1602 by Captain Bartholomew Gosnold.  It was originally part of the Colony of New York.

In 1641, Thomas Mayhew, Sr. bought Dukes County, Massachusetts (Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and the Elizabeth Islands) as investment property for 40 pounds and two beaverskin hats from William Alexander, the 2nd Earl of Sterling, who in turn was acting as agent for the Crown.

The  settlement of the island begins in 1659, when Thomas Mayhew sold 19/20th his interests to the nine original purchasers:

Tristram Coffin v
Peter Coffin
Thomas Barnard v
William Pike
John Swain
Thomas Macy
Christopher Hussey v
Richard Swayne
Stephen Greenleafe

The cost was "thirty pounds...and two beaver hats, a decent profit.  Mayhew also reserved 1/20 of the island for himself.

It had been agreed upon by the Nantucket-9 that each one should be allowed to choose an associate, so the following names were added to the proprietary:

Tristman Coffin, Jr.
James Coffin
Robert Barnard v
Robert Pike
Thomas Coleman v
Nathaniel Starbuck
Edward Starbuck v
John Smith
Thomas Look

These were the Full-Share Owners.
Eunice Black
(1740-        )
(1761-        )
Margaret M.
(1823-        )
Thomas McCaan
(1809-      )
John B. Perkins
(1843-      )
Helny S. Forare
George W. Perkins
Mildred Perkins
William J. Donahue
Jean F. Lupien
(1939-      )
William G. Donahue
(1935-     )
Pamela A. Masters
(1967-      )
Brian P. Donahue
(1965-     )
Harrison W. Donahue
(1991-     )

Nancy L. Orpin
George H. Perkins
Miriam Manter
Gilbert Perkins
Jerusha Long
Joseph Manter
(          )
Samuel Long
(            )
Christian Conde
(1673-      )
Deborah Austin
Sarah Starbuck
Joseph Austin
Catherine Reynolds
Edward Starbuck
Richard Folger
Ebenezer Cleveland
John B. Orpin
(1793-     )
Miriam Cathcart
Whitten Manter
Phoebe Coleman
Robert Cathcart (1670-1717)
Joanna Folger
John Coleman
Tristram Coffin (The Feudal Lord)

Tristram came from money.  He was the Churchwarden (lay leader/usher) of his local Anglican church, and a Parish Constable in his town.  In 1630, he married fellow church-goer, Dionis Stevens.

In 1642, amidst personal legal issues and civil war, he emigrated to Salisbury, Mass. with his family.  He quickly built a business empire including an inn, a ferry service up in Newburyport and a saw mill in Dover, NH.

He got in more hot water with the Puritans over the strength of the beer he served at his inn.  This prompted him in 1659 to organize a company for the purchase of Nantucket Island with 8 others, where he and his family soon moved to escape religous persecution.

Coffin contolled 1/3 of the ownership share of the company.  This gave him control of the best land on the island and allowed him a monopoly on the import of wood from his saw mill.   

Coffin’s house was the largest in the village and frequently was the site of town meetings and trials. He named the beach to the east of his house “Northam” after an area in England. The beach to the west he named “Dionis” after his wife.

He is said to have treated the indians  considerately and to have employed them in farming the land he acquired.  However, some white settlers foolishly sold rum to the Indians, who soon became drunk and troublesome as a result. As the first chief magistrate of the island, appointed in 1671, Tristram (with his opposite number from Martha's Vineyard, Thomas Mayhew) had to promulgate a law prohibiting the sale to Indians of intoxicating drink - perhaps the first liquor law on record.

The first settlers on the island were sheep -herders.  They needed tradesmen to make the island work.  They enticed in people like John Gardner (fisherman) by offering a half-share in the corporation.  This only led to a conflict between the full-share owners like Coffin, and the half-share owners like Gardner.  This split between the older and established Coffins and the newcoming Gardners would later ignite the Half-Share Revolt. 

Nonetheless, Coffin’s astute investment and prudence brought the island into the world of colonial New England. While his dream of seeing Nantucket as his own country manor may have faded, the island was shaped by his presence.
Thomas Coleman (Swain's Stooge)

Thomas Coleman was the original man of the name to be connected with the affairs of Nantucket. He came from Wittshire, England and landed in Boston June 3, 1635. He first settled in Newbury. According to the records of the town of Newbury he was engaged by Richard Saltonstall and others in England and America in November 1635, "for the keeping of horses and sheep in a general place for the space of three years." His work proved unsatisfactory, and each of the contractors was authorized to provide for his own. In the original purchase of the island of Nantucket, Thomas Coleman was chosen by John Swain as his partner. At what time he removed to the Island is not clear but evidently it was very early. It may be assumed that he was a resident as early as 1664.

Thomas Coleman's house lot" was 1,000 feet square, bounded on the north by the lot of Christopher Hussey, on the east by the Long Woods and on the south by the lot of Capt. Pyke." On his decease, the house and lot descended to Tobias, his son.

It is Thomas' son, John Coleman, who is named on the Settlers' monument above.

Peter Folger (The Town Clerk)

Peter Folger (1617–1690) was a poet and is more commonly known as the maternal Grandfather of Benjamin Franklin, and was instrumental in the colonization of Nantucket Island in the Massachusetts colony.

Peter Folger was born in Norfolk, England, son of John Folger, in 1617. He came to America in 1635 with his father, settling initially in Watertown, Massachusetts, and later moving to Martha's Vineyard,[1] where he worked as a teacher and surveyor. In 1644 He married Mary Morrill, whom he may have met on the voyage from England.[2] At the Vineyard Folger supported himself by teaching school and surveying land. He also worked with Thomas Mayhew to convert the native American population to Christianity, during which time he learned to speak the native language.

From time to time between 1659 and 1662, Folger journeyed to Nancucket in order to survey it for the proprietors. In 1663 Folger moved to Nantucket full time, having been granted a half a share of land by the proprietors, where he was a surveyor, an Indian interpretor, and clerk in the courts. Shortly thereafter, Folger's daughter, Abiah, was born, later to become the mother of Benjamin Franklin.[3]

A Baptist missionary, teacher, and surveyor his dealings with the native population promoted harmony between the Native Americans and European settlers. His grandson, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, son of Peter's daughter Abiah, referred to him fondly in his autobiography.

Edward Starbuck (The Anabaptist)

Edward Starbuck, a native of Derbyshire, England, migrated to America after marrying his wife (of Wales). He settled at Dover, now in New Hampshire but then a part of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. The first mention made of him on the record is in 1643 when he is recorded to have received "a grant of forty acres of land on each side of the Fresh River at Cutchechoe."

On the 20th, 2 mo. 1644 it was ordered that Mr. Edward Starbuck, Richard Walderne & Wm. Furber be wearesmen for Cotcheco fall & river during their lives or so long as inhabitants. Various other grants were made to him, two of those being one of the Mill privilege at Cutchechoe 2nd Falls and one of timber to 'accomodate' in 1650. In "Landmarks in Ancient Dover" mention is made of Starbuck's Brook in 1701 as a boundary of property which Peter Coffin (son-in-law of Edward) conveyed to John Ham. Starbuck's Marsh was granted to Edward August 30, 1643, and Starbuck's Point and Marsh, now called Fabyan's Point, were granted to Edward in 1643. He is recorded several times as called on to be one of the "lot-layers." He was Representative in the General Court in 1643 and 1646, was an Elder in the church and in other ways enjoyed the respect and esteem of his fellow-citizens. In 1640, Edward was an agent for Mr. Valentine Hill and Partner with Richard Waldron in lumbering on the Me. side in 1648. In 1653 he sold 1/2 his sawmill gr. To Peter Coffin, in 1657 sold to Thomas Broughton 1/4 the mill above Capt. Waldron's mill at Cochecho.

In 1644 an act was passed by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay banishing from the Colony all who should either openly or privately oppose the baptism of infants. While the punishment meted out to some of the offenders was severe, banishment was not always inflicted. Edward Starbuck was one of those who subscribed to the proscribed doctrine and the record of the General Court, under the date of 18 October 1648, says: "This Court, being informed of great misdemener committed by Edward Starbucke, of Douer, with p'fession of Anabaptisme, for which he is to be p'ceeded agaynst at the next Court of Assistants, if evidence can be p'pared by that time, & it beinge very farre for wittnesses to travill to Boston at that season of the yeare, it is therefore ordered by this Court that the secritary shall give commission to Capt. Thomas Wiggan & Mr. Edw. Smith to send for such p'rsons as they shall haue notice of which are able to testifie in the s'd cause & to take theire testimonie uppon oath & certifie the same to the secritary so soone as may be, that further p'ceedings may be therein if the cause shall so require."

There seems to be no indication from the record that the complaint was prosecuted, notwithstanding the severe penalty contemplated by the law. The action of the Court did not seem to affect his standing in his community for he continued to be called upon to lay out land.

He accompanied Tristram Coffin on his voyage of discovery and Thomas Macy on his voyage of settlement. He deeded his Cochecho house, goods, cattle, etc. to his son-in-law Coffin on 9 Mar. 1659-60 and moved to Nantucket where he died. Dover lost a good citizen and Nantucket gained a much respected one; He was a leading man on the Island and at one time a Magistrate. He is described as courageous and persevering. When he came to the Island he occupied a house which he built at Madeket. His house lot as laid out was about 1000 feet square, extending northward from the head of Hummock Pond to Macy's Pond.

Edward's influence over the Indians was so great that if at any time a suspicion or alarm arose among the early settlers, he was always in requisition to explain the apparent cause thereof, and to suggest a palliation for their rude and inexplicable action, which served to allay the fears of the more timid. That he was well esteemed among the Indians is evidenced by the deeding of Coatue to him by Wannackmamack and Nicanoos (of the Sachem Indians) "of our free and voluntary willes."
John Gardner (The Socialist)
John Gardner was a resident of Salem before moving to Nantucket. He was given a grant of land on the island in 1667-1668, but does not appear otherwise in the records until 1672-1673.

In 1673, he was appointed "Captain and Chief Military Officer of the Ffoot Company." Here is a copy this document from the Secretary of State, Albany, New York, Deeds book III, p 88:

"Commiffion for Capt John Gardner of the Ifland of Nantucket, to bee Capt. of the Foot Company there.

"Francis Lovelace, Esqr., &c: Governor Genall under his Royall Hs James Duke of Yorke and Albany, &c; of all his Territoryes in America; To Capt. John Gardner of ye Island Nantuckett. Whereas, You are one of the two Persons returned unto mee by the Inhabts of your Ifland, to bee the Cheife Military Officer there, having conceived a good opinion of your fittnefs and Capacity; By Verture of the Commiffion and Authority unto mee given by his Royall Highneffe, James Duke of Yorke and Albany, I have Constituted and Appointed, and by these Presents doe hereby Constitute and Appoint you John Gardner to be Captaine and Chiefe Military Officer of the ffoot Company rifsen or to beee rifen within the Iflands of Nantuckett and Tuckanuckett; you are to take the said Company into your Charge and Care as Captaine therof, and them duly to Exercise in Armes; and all Officers and Souldyers belonging to the said Company are to Obey you as their Captaine.

"And you are to follow fuch Orders and Inftructions, as you fhall from Time to Tme Receive from mee or other your Superiour Officers according to the discipline of Warr; for the doeing whereof this fhall be your Comiffion.

"Given under my Hand and Seale at Fort James in New Yorke this 15th Day of Aprill in the 25th Yeare of his Maties Reigne, Annoqe Domini, 1673.

"Fran. Lovelace"

He was magistrate at Nantucket in 1680, and judge of probate from 1699 until his death. Cotton Mather described him as being "well acquainted with the Indians, having divers years assisted them in their government, by instructing them in the laws of England and deciding difficult cases among
Richard Gardner (The Quaker)
Richard Gardner lived at Salem from 1643 to 1666; he and his wife were persecuted for attending Quaker a Meeting, and went to live in Nantucket.

In 1673, Governor Lovelace commissioned him as chief magistrate of Nantucket. Here is a copy of that commission from Deeds book III, p 89, from the Secretary of State in Albany, New York:

"Letter from the Secretary to ye Inhabts of Nantuckett.

--By the Governors Ordr I am to acquaint you, That hee Received your Letter (bearing Date the 3d Day of Aprill) about three weeks fince, by the Hands of Mr. Richard Gardner, together with eight Barrels of ffifh for two Yeares, Acknowledgement, and a Token of fifty weight of ffeathers, for which your Care of the Former and Kindnefs in the Latter hee Returns you Thanks. There came to the Governor in the Winter a Letter from Mr ?Tristram Coffin about your Election, but no other from you; in anfwer to which you had heard from him fooner, but the Difficulty of Conveyeance hindered. You will now underftand the Governors Choice, by the Bearers hereof Mr. Richard and Captain John Gardner;

"That is, Mr Richard Gardner for Cheife Magiftrate this Yeare, and Capt. John Gardner for Chiefe Military Officer, for which thery have Commiffions. They have alfo with them fome Additional Inftructions and Directions to Communicate to you; moft of which were Propofed by thofe two ffriends you sent who have prudently Managed the Truft you Repofed in them. They have alfo with them a Booke of the Lawes of the Government, and three Conftables Staves;

"As to your Nonperformance of the Acknowledgement according to the Strictnefs of the time, his Hornor being fenfible that Opportunityes doe not very frequently prefent between these Places, hee is very well Satisfyed with your Civill Excufe. If at any Time you have other Propofalls to make, for the Good of yor Inhabitants, you may reft affured of his Horors ready Complyance therein. This is all I have in Charge to Deliver unto you from the Governour, foe take Leave and Subscribe; Your very humble Servant "Matthias Nicholls


At first Tristnam Coffin was the leading spirit politically and little was done without his approval and sanction. And he also had the backing of the Mayhews who still retain their interest. After John Gardner arrived in 1672, who was also of strong and forceful personality, there was trouble. He soon became prominent in the affairs of the Island and was appointed Captain of the Fort Company by Governor Lovelace.  Tristnam and John Gardner soon locked horns.  Here are the two sides:

Full-Share MenHalf-Share Men

Tristram CoffinJohn Gardner
Thomas Mayhew    Peter Folger
John SwainThomas Macy
Christopher HusseyWilliam Worth
Nathaniel StarbuckColemans
Richard SwainBunkers
Myers and others

In 1673 the freeholders were required to name two men for Chief Magistrate and Edward Starbuck and Richard Gardner were submitted The governor chose the latter and named his brother Jim for Captain of the military company. This did not please the Coffins as it made their rivals hold two of the principal offices and so began the long fight whenever there was a meeting held.  It was noted on the records, Mr. Tristnam Coffin enters his dissent whereupon all the other members of his party followed suit but Tristnam has been well called the great dissenter. The Coffins believed that the whole share men should have two votes and the half -share men one vote while the Gardners stood firm for equal power. Each faction were soon appealing to the authorities in New York and the first round was won by the Coffins. In 1674 the Gardner faction still being in control fined Stephen Hussey for contempt for telling Captain John to "meddle with his own business".  In 1676 Thomas Macy, then Chief Magistrate and William Worth sided with the Coffins and they regained control of affairs. William Worth was chosen clerk and Gardner and Folger were arbitrarily disfranchised and refused any participation in the affairs of the town.     On February 10, 1677, Peter Folger was arrested for contempt of His Majesty’s authority.   He was bound over for 20 pounds to appear in Court and in default was committed to jail where he remained in "durance vile coery vile" according to Peter for the greater part of a year. Tobias Coleman and Eleazer Folger and his wife Sarah..(Richard Gardner’s daughter) were arrested and fined for criticizing the Court. Peter Folger refused to deliver up the Courts books. So things went on till August l677 when Governor Andros took a hand and ordered a suspension of all further proceedings and later decided that Gardner and Folger’s disfranchisement was null and void.

Mayhew and Coffin were furious but Captain Gardner had won and the hatchet was soon after buried.

Finally, in June of 1678, everyone gets tired of the in-fighting and a settlement is reached. The Full-Share men will allow other parts of the island to be bought from the Natives and developed while the half-share men agree that it will all involve the town. Coffin and Gardner still hate each other, but everyone else is willing to live and let live.

Then, in September of that year, Tristram Coffin finds himself in very hot water. A French ship wrecked itself on the shoals and Coffin had supervised the salvage operation. After all the gear was grabbed from the boat, it needed to be stored and guarded. Coffin botched the job and was brought before the Admiralty Court. Faced with possible jail time and a steep fine, Coffin appealed to John Gardner to help him. Gardner weighed in on the Coffin side and Tristram was set free. One year later, Tristram died.

Without Coffin, the compromise began in earnest. The half-share and full-share men began talking and working again. Moreover, the Natives were granted grazing rights for their own horses and all three parties were at peace.

The final symbolic closure came in 1686 when Peter Coffin’s son married John Gardner’s daughter, Mary. John Gardner gave the new couple land for a new house and Peter gave them the wood. They built, atop Sunset Hill, a house now known as the oldest house on Nantucket.
Thomas Coleman
(            )
The early settlers, who mostly worked as sheep herders, started settling the island in the early 1660's.  Business was good and the Coffin family had a monopoly on both the land and the trade.  But they needed tradesmen to support the infrastructure, who were induced to the island with a half-share interest in the corporation. 

Two half-shares of the company were granted to:

John Bishop
Richard Gardner. v

One half share was granted to 

Peter Folger v
Eleazrir Folger
Thomas Macy
Joseph Coleman
Joseph Gardner
Samuel Stetor
John Gardner v
Nathaniel Holland
William Worth
Nathaniel Weir.

These were the Half-Share Owners and this set-up was to lead to the Half-Share Revolt.  See below.
The Players
Rebecca Hood
Solomon Alley
Theodate Collins
Richard Hood III
Rebecca Hussey
Samuel Collins
(1659-      )
Rebecca Perkins
John Hussey
Theodate Bachelor
Christopher Hussey
Susanna Gardner
(1774-     )
John B. Orpin
Silvanus Gardner
Ebenezer Gardner
Ebenezer Gardner
Hope Gardner
Nathaniel Barnard, Sr.
Mary Barnard

Thomas Barnard
Robert Barnard, Sr.
(     -1682)
Joanne Harvey