On My Great(3)-Grandfather Reuben Coleman

Jim Mason
3 min readJan 4, 2022

A character at sea in the 18th to 19th Centuries

Photo from family of the author. This might be the son of Reuben’s also named Reuben.

All of us have both laudable and questionable ancestors somewhere in our backgrounds. I’m lucky enough to have detailed accounts from the life of one of mine that you might enjoy for their glimpses into 18th and 19th Century English history. The first is from a grandson of Reuben’s, Charles Wesley Coleman:

“Reuben … was born at St. Helen's in 1777, and there
married Maria, daughter of Capt. Richard and
Mary (Braffett) Matthews, and grand-daughter
of Capt, William Matthews, Bushire pilot. The
greater part of Reuben Coleman 's life was spent
at St. Helen's, where his family was raised.
During his later years he lived at Ventnor. He
was a sea-captain, and at one time he owned
several coasting vessels. He died Oct. 22, 1861,
at the age of eighty-four, and was buried at
St. Helen's, beside his wife. One incident of
his earlier years gives some idea of his character.
Sometime after his marriage, during the
war with France, he was, very much against his
wish, "pressed" into the Navy. On leaving
home he requested his wife to be at a certain
point on the shore with dry clothes and to await
him there. When the man-of-war, into the service
of which he had been pressed, came within
ten miles of this point, he jumped overboard
and swam ashore to meet his waiting wife. He
made good his escape, and subsequently returned
to his home, where the rest of his life was
spent. Their children were: William and Reuben,
both seafaring men ; and James, father of
the subject of this sketch.”

The second account, from 1841, is of the trial and conviction of Reuben Coleman for liquor smuggling. Note the minor variation in the spelling of his name:

Both stories suggest that Reuben was interested in peaceful and cordial relationships between individuals in England and France, despite enmities and economic differences between their governments.

Jim Mason

I study language, cognition, and humans as social animals. You can support me by joining Medium at https://jmason37-80878.medium.com/membership