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
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
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)
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.
? Watkins JC
In Albion's Seed: Four British
Folkways in America (America: a cultural history), historian David Hackett
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).