Cliff McCarthy, 2017
Last updated 1 April 2017
Robert Coe, the son of Henry and Mary Coe, was baptized at Thorpe-Morieux, County Suffolk, England, in 26 October 1596. His father was a yeoman farmer and probably a clothmaker, and was a church warden and a man of standing in that community.
In 1625, Robert was in Boxford, County Suffolk, eight miles south of Thorpe-Morieux, where, on April 18th of that year, he was elected overseer of cloth. He was chosen “questman” of the Boxford church in 1629, which was a position of responsibility. Robert Coe first married in about 1623 to Mary (surname unknown), who was the mother of all his children. The Boxford burial records state: “Marie Coe the wife of Robert Coe the 27th of October, 1628.”
His second marriage is recorded at Assington, Suffolk, which abuts Boxford, as “Robert Coe & Hannah Dearslay, April 29th 1630.” This Hannah (or Anna) is the woman who accompanied Robert and his children to America.
In the spring of 1634, the family left Boxford, being among the eighty-three passengers who embarked for New England from Ipswich in the ship Francis, commanded by Captain John Cutting, on April 30. The passenger list includes: Robert Cooe, aged 38, Anna, his wife, aged 43, John Cooe, aged 8, Robert Cooe, aged 7, and Benjamin Cooe, aged 5. They reached Boston in July 1634 and settled at Watertown, Massachusetts, where on 3 September 1634, Robert was admitted a freeman.
In 1635, “all the towns in the Bay began to be much straitened by their own nearness to one another.” Accordingly, leave being granted by the Council, families from Watertown, Newton and Dorchester formed settlements along the Connecticut River at Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield. Robert Coe was among those that settled at Wethersfield, first known as “Pyquag,” which they purchased from the native people. On 26 April 1636:
“[w]hereas there was a dismission granted by the Church of Waterton in Masacusetts, dated 29th of March last to Andrewe Warde, Jo[hn] Sherman, Jo[hn] Stickland, Rob[er]te Coo, Rob[er]te Reynold & Jonas Weede, with intent to form anew in a church covenant in this River of Conectecott, the said parties have so accordingly done with the public allowance of the rest of the members of the said churches.”
His house was situated at what is now the northwest corner of East Main and Broad Streets at Wethersfield. In the Wethersfield land inventory on 28 April 1641, Robert Coe held six parcels of land, all apparently granted by the town. They included: “one piece whereon his house standeth containing three acres”, “one piece in the great meadow containing seven acres”, “one piece lies in beaver meadow containing five acres”, “one piece in long row in the dry swamp containing thirteen acres”, “one piece in the west field containing thirty & nine [?] acres”, and “one piece on the east side of the Conecticutt River containing threescore & eighteen acres.” Then, he purchased from Mathew Mitchell a parcel of 900 acres on the east side of the river.
However, a difficulty soon arose in the church and, after fruitless efforts to effect a reconciliation by the church at Watertown and by Mr. Davenport at New Haven, it was proposed by Mr. Davenport that one party should relocate. Accordingly, on the 30 October 1640, Mr. Andrew Ward and Mr. Robert Coe, on behalf of themselves and about twenty other planters, purchased Rippowams (now Stamford, Connecticut) from the New Haven Colony for 33 pounds, and settled there.
At Stamford, Robert Coe was granted a home lot of fourteen acres. On April 5, 1643, he was appointed a magistrate and also served as deputy to the General Court in 1643 and 1644.
In the autumn of 1643 a deputation was sent from Stamford to Long Island, to examine the country; and in the spring following (1644) Robert Coe, Richard Denton (pastor of the Stamford church) and several others formed the first English settlement at Hempstead, L.I., and of which he became elder. He remained there until 1652, when he removed further west to Mespat [Maspeth], which had been previously settled in 1642, but destroyed in an Indian attack the following year. It was then called Middleburg and, in 1665, it was renamed Newtown. A new church was organized, Reverend John Moore was chosen pastor, and Robert Coe, was chosen elder. During the four years he remained there, he served as magistrate.
In 1653 he represented the town as deputy in Boston to invoke the protection of the Massachusetts Bay Colony against a threatened attack by Indians. In The Great Migration Begins, Robert Charles Anderson wrote:
In May 1653 “Robert Coo” was one of two men from “Midlebrough” [Newtown] who supported a Hempstead petition to the United Colonies, requesting guidance on the course they should take in the political struggles between the English and the Dutch. (On 9 May 1653, Robert Beacham deposed that “Mr. Coe, magistrate, said he could not believe that the Dutch governor was so base and vile to hire the Indians to cut off the English; but after I debated the matter with him, the said Mr. Coe, he did acknowledge that he had been with the Dutch governor two days before, and he told him that if the English came against him he had spoken to Indians to help him against the English the which the said Mr. Coe said the Dutch governor would not deny.”
Robert Coe then met in a conference with the Dutch government at New Amsterdam for the same purpose. Again, Anderson reports:
On 26 November 1653 and on 10 December 1653, Robert Coe was one of two Newtown delegates to conventions in New Amsterdam, the first to “devise and recommend measures for the public security, and to put a stop to the piracies and robberies of one Thomas Baxter,” and the second to “represent the state of the country to the authorities in Holland.”
He transferred his interests in Newtown to his son in 1656, and with several others purchased of the Indians a tract of land south of Newtown and founded the town of Jamaica. He was appointed magistrate by the Dutch government in 1658, and served until 1664. A house lot was granted to him at the first town meeting held, February 18, 1655/56, and on January 13, 1657/58 it was granted by the town “that Mr. Robert Coe and his son Benjamin shall take up, possess and enjoy ten acres of land apiece at ye rear off theire home lots.” The town on April 30, 1659, engaged to pay him £11-17-00. In May 1664, he was deputy for Jamaica to the General Court at Hartford, and that body appointed him magistrate or commissioner for Jamaica.
On Nov 20, 1660, Robert Coe, aged sixty-four years, deposed in regard to certain boundaries in Hempstead; and in a petition to the Dutch government dated May 9, 1661, Robert Coe refers to Richard Crabbe as his “brother-in-law.” The latter was of Wethersfield, 1637 to 1641, and then successively at Stamford and Greenwich, Conn., and Oyster Bay, L.I., where he died in 1685. Just how Robert Coe was related to Richard Crabbe has not been established, but some have used it to suggest that Richard was the brother of Robert’s first wife, thus making her Mary Crabbe.
In 1663, the English settlements on Long Island revolted against the Dutch government at New Amsterdam and transferred their allegiance to Connecticut. Robert’s son, John Coe, was prominent among the leaders of this rebellion. In May 1664, Robert Coe was deputy for Jamaica to the General Court at Hartford, by which body he was appointed commissioner (or magistrate) for Jamaica. In August of the same year, New Amsterdam surrendered to an English fleet and force commanded by Col. Richard Nicolls (see Nicolls’ Expedition) who then became governor of the English province, now named New York. Long Island returned to the jurisdiction of New York as part of York Shire. Robert Coe was appointed judge of the “courts of oyer and terminer,” held April 7th and July 2, 1669; and from October 1669 to September 1671. Later he served as high sheriff of Yorkshire from which office he retired at the age of seventy-five.
The fate of his second wife is unknown, but Robert married for a third time, at Long Island, by license dated February 15, 1674/75, to Jane Rause (or Rouse), widow of Edward Rause, who died in 1672. She was first the wife of John Smith, of Taunton, Massachusetts, whom she married about 1633. John and Jane Smith were pioneers of Maspeth, Long Island, where her husband was killed in the Indian raid of 1643. On November 29, 1678, Robert Coe bought a farm of fifty acres at Foster’s Meadow in Hempstead from Jonah Fordham, where he settled with his third wife, and passed his last years. He died in 1689.
In summary of his life, Robert Charles Anderson wrote:
Robert Coe was dearly a strong leader with a restless spirit. He was among the lay leaders in the establishment of several new towns in New England and on Long Island, most especially of Stamford, Hempstead, Newtown and Jamaica. At least the first two of these moves were made in conjunction with a prominent Puritan minister, and may have reflected a desire in those early days of New England settlement to find just the right level of interaction between church and state, and just the right amount of rigidity, or lack thereof, in these institutions. Coe’s frequent appearance as magistrate, and even as ambassador to the Dutch, is further evidence of his leadership qualities and the trust placed in him by his fellow townsmen.
Children of Robert & Mary (poss. Crabbe) COE
ROBERT COE was born 1596 in Thorpe-Morieux, Suffolk Co., England, and died Abt. 1689. He married (1) MARY (possibly.CRABBE) Abt. 1623 in England. She was the mother of all his children and died October 1628. He married (2) HANNAH DEARSLAY 29 April 1630 in Assington, Suffolk Co., England. He married (3) JANE (?) SMITH ROUSE Bet. 1674 – 1675 in Rustdorp (now Jamaica, Queens), NY. She died Aft. 1701. The Children of ROBERT COE and MARY CRABBE) are:
i. JOHN COE, b. Bef. 20 August 1625, prob. Boxford, Suffolk Co., England; m. UNKNOWN, 1656, Newtown (Maspeth Kills), Queens, NY.
ii. MARY COE, b. Bef. 19 September 1626.
iii. ROBERT COE, b. Bef. 19 September 1626; m. HANNAH MITCHELL.
iv. BENJAMIN COE, b. Bef. 18 October 1628; m. ABIGAIL CARMAN.
- Anderson, Robert Charles, Great Migration Begins, (New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, 1995, as republished on CD-ROM by MyFamily.Com Inc., 2000.).
- Bartlett, J. Gardner, Robert Coe, Puritan: His Ancestors and Descendants, 1340-1910, (Boston, MA, 1911).
- Coe-Ward Memorial and Immigrant Ancestors, (Converse Publishing Co., Meriden, CT, 1897).
- “Early History of Hempstead, L.I.,” New York Genealogical & Biographical Record, Vol. 10, January 1879.
- Hart, Frederick C., “Bartholomew Smith of Huntington, Long Island,” The American Genealogist, Vol. 78, 2003.
- Kadinsky, Sergey, “Coe’s Mill, Queens,” (Hidden Waters Blog, https://hiddenwatersblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/24/coes-mill-queens, accessed 10 November 2016), “Electronic.”
- Lawrence, Ruth, Colonial Families of America (National Americana Society, New York).
- Skillman, William Jones, “The Skillmans of America and Their Kin,” New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vols. 37-38.