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Coffin Sisters: The Belles of the Lovell, Maine



From L-R: Sara Jane Coffin (1845-1926); Mary Swan Coffin (1841-1927); and Esther Coffin (1843-1927) from the private collection of David Garcelon

The six daughters of Caleb Swan Coffin, born between the years 1833 and 1859, appear to have been the "belles" of the Lovell, Maine area during the Civil War era and into the 1880's. Caleb was married twice. He had four sons and a daughter, Eunice E. Coffin, with his first wife, Nancy Swan. After Nancy died in 1838, Caleb married Mary C. Burbank on June 17, 1839 and they had five daughters: Nancy was born in 1841, Esther Coffin was born in 1843, Sarah J. Coffin was born in 1845, Sylvia Coffin was born in 1848, and Laura M. (Lottie) Coffin was born in 1859. Caleb's first four daughters went on to be married. It is not known whether Laura or Nancy married. Laura was was only 23 years old when she died and no record of a marriage or death for Nancy has been found.

The most notable of the marriages was that of Esther Coffin, who at the age of 28, married Charles Augustus Garcelon from Lewiston, Maine. At the time of their marriage, Charles was working as a conductor for the Pullman Palace Car Company out of St. Louis, Missouri, and that is where he and Esther made their first home. It is said that Esther made Charles conductor's uniforms; many years later the photographs of Charles and their two sons taken in Lovell show them in caps somewhat similar to conductors caps, which makes one wonder whether Esther made them. Esther's husband, Charles Augustus Garcelon, went on to become the General Manager of the Pullman Palace Car Company at their headquarters in Pullman, Illinois (now a part of Chicago), and was the General Manager from 1889 to 1906, when he retired. As a result, Charles became quite wealthy, and his largess toward the Coffin family was shown by his willingness to help Esther buy the Coffin Farm in Lovell in 1890 from Stephen Coffin and give the Coffin descendants lifetime rights to live at the farm. There are many photographs of Charles, Esther, their sons Albert and Charles, as well as the Coffin "girls" and their families at the old Coffin Farm in Lovell.

Eunice, Esther's step-sister, married Amos E. McAllister. Sarah J., Esther's sister, married Alvah H. Hill. Sylvia, also Esther's sister, married Stephen F. Harriman

Written by David Charles Garcelon, Great Grandson of Esther Coffin.


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