Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ellenwood Bunker Coleman (1862-1919)

   The first profile for August takes us to Nantucket County, Massachusetts and one of that area's more oddly named residents, Ellenwood Bunker Coleman. Mr. Coleman was a prominent physician in Nantucket for many decades and was later elected to one term in the Massachusetts General Court during the late 1900s. The amount of pictures that I was able to find of this obscure man (a total of three) is truly amazing and the number of articles that give a good overview of his life and exploits are also a welcome find!
  Ellenwood Bunker Coleman was born on May 31, 1862 in Nantucket, the son of Henry and Elizabeth Coffin Coleman. Ellenwood received his education in Nantucket at the Coffin School and at age 16 went to sea on board the whaling ship Niger. Coleman remained at sea for several years before fracturing his ankle while serving on the St. David, a ship traveling from New York to San Francisco. This injury proved to be a catalyst for Coleman, who after entering the Marine Hospital in San Francisco as a patient, decided to pursue a career in medicine. In 1886 he enrolled at the Chicago Homeopathic College and graduated from this institution in 1888. 
  Coleman returned to Nantucket following his graduation and here established a successful medical practice. He married on June 15, 1887 to May Anna Brayton (1865-1929), and this union produced four daughters, Eda (1888-1952), Alice (1891-1918), Frances (1895-1921) and Rozelle Brayton (1901-1974).

   In addition to his medical practice Coleman was also a member of the Massachusetts Homeopathic Medical Society, and in 1889 was elected as a member of the Nantucket Public school board. His tenure on the school board lasted over fifteen years, and from 1901-04 served as its treasurer. Coleman also held a seat on the Nantucket Board of Selectmen, County Commissioners and Board of Health from 1899-1904. In addition to his local political activities, Coleman had extensive involvement in a number of civic and fraternal organizations in Nantucket, including being a past master of the Union Society of Masons, a member of the Nantucket Odd Fellows Lodge, and treasurer of the John B. Chase Engine Company No. 4.
  It wasn't until 1906 that Coleman became active in state politics, and it was in this year that he launched a campaign for the Massachusetts State House of Representatives. On election day he eked out a narrow win over W.C. Dunham, with 281 votes to 260. During his one term in the legislature (1907-1909) Coleman served on a number of committees, including the following: Fisheries and Game, Election Laws, and Education. 

            This portrait of Coleman appeared in the Souvenir of Massachusetts Legislators, 1908 edition.

   In the years following his legislative service Coleman continued with his earlier medical practice and in 1915 was elected to another three-year term as a member of the Nantucket School committee. Coleman is also listed as being a member of the Nantucket Historical Society for many years and served on the Building and Finance committees for this organization. He died at age 56 on February 27, 1919, and was preceded in death by his daughter Alice, who died aged 27 in 1918. Coleman's wife May survived him by a number of years, dying in January 1929 at age 63. Ellenwood Coleman and his family were all subsequently interred in the Prospect Hill Cemetery in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

                  A death notice for Coleman that appeared in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal.

  In an interesting addendum to this article, I've located the name of Ellenwood B. Coleman in a family genealogical work detailing the history of the Coffin family of Nantucket, Massachusetts! This book was brought to my attention by my grandmother Barbara Coffin Lundin (1929-2011), and because of this particular book, I've found that our earliest descendent, a Tristram Coffin (1609-1681) had a great number of sons and great-grandchildren, including a certain John Coffin (the second). 
  Down through John Coffin's lineage, there was a descendant of his named Elizabeth Ellenwood Coffin (1820-1881), who married Henry B. Coleman (1815-1894), and eventually, this union produced a son, Ellenwood Bunker Coleman! Exhausting what little resources there are detailing the history of the maternal side of my family, it's quite interesting to relate that this oddly named Massachusetts legislator is a sort of "shirt-tail" relation to my family!  Below is a scanned passage from The Coffin Family, published in 1962, detailing the lineage of John Coffin and his later descendants. Ellenwood Coleman's name is located below the lineage of his father, Henry B. Coleman.


  1. As a great grandson of Dr. Coleman, I thoroughly enjoyed your blog about my great-grandfather. I wish to point out one grievous error regarding his marriage and offspring. You write: "He married on June 15, 1887 to May Anna Brayton, and this union produced one daughter, Alice (1891-1918)."
    This is totally incorrect as you later extract from "The Coffin Family" shows clearly Dr. Coleman had three daughters: #1 Eda, #2 Alice, and #3 Rozelle (my maternal grandmother). Sadly he died after contracting the Spanish Flu from treating all the other sick islanders with the flu at the same time in 1919.

    1. Hello Howard!

      Glad to see you enjoyed reading about Ellenwood and thank you for your tidbit as to his death from Spanish Flu. I've also amended the above article to include his two other daughters that I inadvertently left out. Thank you for bringing that to my attention!

      Kind regards,