Peter Coffee

1705-1771

 
 

 

 

 

 


At the age of 23, Peter Coffee immigrated from Ulster in Northern Ireland to England in search of work and was employed by a storekeeper in London. Peter Coffee was accused and convicted of forging the storekeeper's hand on a note for some cloth. Peter Coffee (Coffey) (spelled both ways) is shown in the 1729 Sessions of London's Old Baliey and was imprisoned in London's Newgate Prison for Deception and Forgery and sentenced to death. In May 1729, His sentence was commuted by the Lord mayor of London to Transportation and banishment to the Virginia Colony in October 1730. Only 40% of the death sentences for the more serious crimes were carried out, due to the labor shortage in the English Virginia Company. Peter Coffee came from Newgate (England) on the ship "Forward Galley" which sailed October 28, 1730 and arrived on the Potomack in January 1731. Peter was one of those taken from Newgate Prison and shipped to the Colonies to atone for their crimes by penal servitude in the plantations. He served 7 years (1730-1737) as an indentured laborer at Dumfries Docks on the Quantico Creek Inlet of the Potomac River. He married Susannah Mathews, daughter of William Mathews, a tobacco merchant, in 1737. William was likely the person whom Peter Coffee Sr. was indentured to. William Mathews was from Ireland and Susannah was born in Ireland.

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The Overwharton Parish Register in Old Stafford County, VA mentions children born there in the early 1740's. Peter received a Virginia Land Patent of 220 acres in Amelia County (portion that is now Prince Edward), Sept 20, 1748. Prince Edward County, Virginia was formed in the Virginia Colony in 1754 from Amelia County.

Peter died in Prince Edward County, Virginia, in 1771, as his will was probated September 16, 1771. Susannah died circa 1795/96. She is shown on the 1790 Federal Census as head of household. She was shown on the Prince Edward County tax lists until 1796, when the taxes were charged to "Susannah Coffee's estate." Peter and Susannah had at least eleven children.

The Will of Peter Coffee is recorded in Prince Edward County, VA, in Will Book 1, 1754-1785, pages 88 and 89:

In the name of God Amen this thirty first Day of January one thousand seven hundred & seventy one. I Peter Coffee of the County of Prince Edward & Parish of St. Patrick being in a very sick and low Condition but of perfect mind and memory Blessed be God for his mercies toward me and Calling to mind the uncertainty of this Transitory life and that all flesh must yield unto Death whenever it shall please God to call Do make ordain constitute & appoint this my last will and Testament in manner and form following. And first I commit my soul into the hands of Almighty God my saviour and Redeamer nothing doubting but what I shall receive the same again with joy & gladneys by the mighty power of God at the Resurrection and my body I commit to the earth from whence it was taken to be buried in a decent Christian like manner at the Discretion of my Executor hereafter named as touching my worldly Estate wherewith it hath pleased God far above my deserts to bestow upon me I do give and dispose of the same in manner and form following.

Item I will that all those Debts which I in justice own to any person or persons whatever be paid as soon as conveniently they can after my Decease by my Executors.

Item I do lend until my Beloved wife Susanna Coffee The land and plantation whereon I now live together with the several stock of Horses Cattle Hogs and sheep now belonging to me and all other moveable Effects during her widow-hood as well manageing of the same but in case that she should prove careless or waistfull of the said Effects to then my Executor hereafter named to dispose of the Effects they shall think proper the Legates hereafter mentioned.

Item I give to my son William Coffee one hundred and fifty acres of land lying on Vaughans Creek in the County aforesaid to be laid off agreeable with the course now begun & to run for complement & being the same tract he has already obtained deed for only with some additional alterations.

Item I give to my son Peter Coffee Five Shillings Sterling

Item I give to my son Joshua Coffee Five Shillings Sterling

Item I give to my daughter Cathrina Thomas Five Shillings sterling

Item I give to my Daughter Mary Kendal Five Shillings Sterling

Item I give to my daughter Hannah Weakley Ten Pounds at my Daughter Bettie's death.

Item I give to my Daughter Lydia Coffee fifteen pounds current money at my Daughter Betties death

Item I give to my Daughter Elizabeth Coffee the land & plantation whereon I now live at her Mothers Decease During her natural life and at her Decease to be sold and all my Legacies paid there with both these before mentioned & those I shall hereafter mention and if there is anything remaining after the sale of the said land and Movables at my wife's & Daughters decease such sum over to be equally divided amongst all my Grandchildren then living. And I do appoint my wife & son William Coffee to be executor and Executrix of this my will ratifying this and none else to be my last will and Testament utterly disannulling all other wills and Bequests by me heretofore made ____

Signed Sealed Published Pronounced and Declared by the said Peter Coffee

Peter Coffee (seal)

as his last will and Testament in Presence of us

Thomas Brooks James Weakley her Hannah X Weakley mark

At a Court held for Prince Edward County September 16th 1771. This last will and Testament of Peter Coffee deceased was presented in hand and proved by Thomas Brooks & James Weakley and Ordered to be Recorded. On the Motion of Susannah Coffee and William Coffee the Executors therein named who gave bond and took the Oath required by Law. Certificate for obtaining a probate thereof in due form granted them.

Teste. ? Watkins JC

In Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: a cultural history), historian David Hackett Fischer asserts:

Some historians describe these immigrants as "Ulster Irish" or "Northern Irish". It is true that many sailed from the province of Ulster... part of much larger flow which drew from the lowlands of Scotland, the north of England, and every side of the Irish Sea. Many scholars call these people Scotch-Irish. That expression is an Americanism, rarely used in Britain and much resented by the people to whom it was attached.

Fischer prefers to speak of "borderers" (referring to the historically war-torn England-Scotland border) as the population ancestral to the "backcountry" "cultural stream" (one of the four major and persistent cultural streams he identifies in American history) and notes the borderers were not purely Celtic but also had substantial Anglo-Saxon and Viking or Scandinavian roots, and were quite different from Celtic-speaking groups like the Scottish Highlanders or Irish (that is, Gaelic-speaking and Roman Catholic).

 

 

Peter Coffee is my 6-Great Grandfather David Arthur



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