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Biographical Review: Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York
P. Gardiner Coffin

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[This information is from pp. 407-410 of Biographical Review Volume XXXIII: Containing Life Sketches of Leading Citizens of Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York (Boston: Biographical Review Publishing Company, 1899). It is in the collection of the Grems-Doolittle Library of the Schenectady County Historical Society at 920 BIO.]

P. Gardiner Coffin, cashier of the Catskill National Bank of Catskill and Supervisor of the town of Catskill, is a native of this village, and was born on August 10, 1859, his parents being Uriah H. and Elizabeth J. (Surfleet) Coffin.

The family of which he is a representative has existed for many generations in England. Tristram Coffin, the founder of the American branch, was the son of Peter and Joan (Thember or Thumber) Coffin, of Brixton, Devonshire, and a grandson of Nicholas Coffin of that place, who died in 1613. Tristram Coffin, born probably at Brixton, about 1605, married Dionis Stevens. He came to New England with his widowed mother and his family in 1642. After residing successively in Haverhill, Newbury, and Salisbury, he finally, about 1660, settled at Nantucket, where he died in 1681, and where some of his descendants live at this day. Mr. Coffin has in his possession a copy of the commission, dated June 29, 1671, granted by Francis Lovelace, Governor of New York, to Tristram Coffin to be chief magistrate over the islands of Nantucket and Tuckernuck.

Mr. Coffin's grandfather, Peter G. Coffin, was born in Hudson, N. Y., on July 30, 1794. For many years he owned and ran boats between Catskill and Albany. He died on December 5, 1858. He was three times married. His second wife, the grandmother of P. Gardiner Coffin, was before her marriage Lucy O. Green. She was born in Athens, N. Y., on November 1, 1793, and died there on February 7, 1834, having been the mother of only one child, Uriah H. Both she and her husband were Episcopalians.

Uriah H. Coffin was born on May 30, 1831. He was brought up in Athens, Greene County, N. Y., removed to Catskill, and engaged in grocery business there. He was captain for a time of the "P. G. Coffin" that ran between Albany and Catskill, and later he ran on the boats plying between New York and Catskill. After being engaged in the boating business for some years, he removed to Whitehall, N. Y. He enlisted during the Civil War, was commissioned as Captain of a company in the One Hundred and Twentieth Regiment, and remained in the service until the close of the war, being Quartermaster of the regiment, on the staff of Colonel George H. Sharp. Some time after being mustered out, he received an appointment in the post-office in New York City, and is now in charge of the record department of the registration office. In politics he is a Republican. His first wife, the mother of P. Gardiner Coffin, died at the age of thirty-five, having borne him three children. Of these the living are: Charles G., who is in the insurance business in this town; and P. Gardiner. The second wife was before her marriage Emma Johnson. She was born in Whitehall, N. Y. She is the mother of two sons now living — Arthur and Robert Coffin.

P. Gardiner Coffin lost his mother when he was an infant. He was born and brought up in Catskill, and has been a resident of this village all his life. In 1876 he was appointed Deputy Postmaster of the town; and, after filling that office in a most creditable manner for six years, he entered the Catskill National Bank as a general clerk. In a short time he was appointed teller, in 1889 he was made assistant cashier, and in 1896 was promoted to his present position of cashier, being also a member of the board of directors. This bank was organized in 1812, and is one of the oldest banks, not only in the State, but in the United States, and has a proud history. A sketch of Mr. Coffin appears on page 552, and his portrait on page 191, of the work recently issued, entitled "Prominent Bankers of America." [Editorial note: Possibly The Financier's Album of Prominent Bankers of America, 1898.]

From 1885 to 1891 Mr. Coffin was interested with his brother in conducting a large general insurance business. In 1888 he helped to organize the Catskill Building and Loan Association, and he has since been its treasurer and one of its directors. For twelve years he was treasurer of Catskill village. In politics he is a Republican. He was elected Supervisor of the town in 1896, and again in 1898 to serve one year; but by a change in the law he will continue in office until 1900. In 1898 he served as chairman of the board. For many years he was a leading member of the Republican county committee, and he was its chairman for a year. His activity in promoting the best interests of the village has been unceasing, and his townsmen award him due credit for his disinterested efforts. He is well known in both town and county, and highly respected.

Mr. Coffin was married on November 9, 1887, to Ida Brown, who was born in Petaluma, Cal. Her father, Captain John Brown, formerly interested in the boating business on the Hudson and a resident of Catskill, now resides in California. He removed to that State in 1849, and was for many years with the Southern Pacific Railroad Company as master mariner in their steamboat service between San Francisco and Oakland. He has now retired from business. Mrs. Coffin frequently visits her family in California. She has made the overland journey eight times, Mr. Coffin accompanying her once. In 1883 she and her mother were in the railway disaster at Tehachepi, Southern California, where eleven out of twenty-three persons in one car were killed. In this accident Mrs. Coffin sustained injuries which kept her in the hospital for several months, and the injuries of her mother were of such a serious character that she never fully recovered from their effects. Mrs. Brown is now deceased. She was a woman of unusual literary attainments, and was the author of a work on botany. It was through her efforts that the library in Alameda, Cal., was established. Her maiden name was Helen Walter. She was born in Catskill, daughter of William Walter, for many years a leading merchant here. For a time she lived in the family of Captain Hugh Taylor. Mrs. Coffin is the only daughter in a family of four children. Her eldest brother Thomas is manager of the Western Union Telegraph at Reno, Nev. William Brown, second brother, is travelling freight and passenger agent of the Great Northern Railroad Company of California. George W. Brown, another brother, is in the Wells & Fargo Express Company.

Mr. and Mrs. Coffin have three children — Charles G., Robert E., and Helen M. Mr. Coffin is a member of Catskill Lodge of Masons, and chairman of Finance Committee. He has held membership in the Dutch Reformed church for many years.

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