One of the most intriguing questions surrounding the history of the Coombs family is why there were so many Coombs along the frontier of the Kennebec River in Maine before 1686 and how, if at all, they were related?
As we will see, there were at least four different people named Coombs living in this small area prior to 1686:
Hardman COOMBS – about 1607
Thomas COOMBS – 1662
Allister COOMBS – 1665
Henry COOMBS – 1676
In addition, there were at least two more people named Coombs living in Wells, ME around 1689:
Anthony COOMBS – 1684
Michael COOMBS – 1689
Plus, there was also an additional immigrant who sailed from Bristol to New England:
Henry COOMBS – 1669
There is no known date when the first Coombs set foot in New England. However, there is an interesting mention of a very early family member that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, in an article written by John Gould entitled, “Who Says They Were First?”5 In this article Mr. Gould tells of Hardman COOMBS, “who was found by a British frigate afloat in an open boat off Seguin Island, with five women and no oars” long before the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth. When Mr. Gould was asked for the source of this story he replied “I picked him out of an old book somewhere, and have no idea where – though it may have been in the Bowdoin College library. As I remember it, he was recorded in the log of a British patrol boat, as being picked up offshore.”6
Unfortunately, nothing further is known about Hardman Coombs. However, it is instructive to note that Seguin Island is located at the mouth of the Kennebec River, near the site of the Popham settlement, and just east of the New Meadows area.
Very little is actually known about whom the Thomas Coombs was that took the oath of allegiance in 1665. However, the history of the area contains the following clues:
There was a Thomas Coombs who sailed from Newfoundland to New England on 20 Oct 1662 in the ship Joan. To pay for his passage he bound himself for five years service to Thomas Beard. Beard, a carpenter who resided in Dover, NH,7 subsequently assigned Thomas indenture to his neighbor, John Woodman, who resided on the “west side of Wm. Beards creek.”8
Nothing further is known of where this Thomas Coombs went. The Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire suggests that perhaps this is the Thomas who was at Kennebec in 1665.9
On 8 September 1665, Thomas Coombs is listed as a signer of an oath of allegiance to King Charles of England:
“A list of those persons on the Western side of the Kennebecke River who acknowledged their submission & obedience to our Soveraigne Lord King Charles the second by takeing the oath of allegiance & supreamacy the 8th day of September, 1665. In the 17th yeare of our Soveraigne Lord King Charles the secund.10
Mr. Edmund Patishall
Mr. Edward Pryar
Mr. John Rugg
It is extremely interesting that not only Thomas Coombs was listed as a resident of the area, but so is Allister Coombs. Our information about Thomas is as sketchy as our knowledge of Allister, but see below [next page] for what is available.
Following the outbreak of hostilities with the Indians, it is assumed that if he survived the Indian attacks Thomas relocated to the west, perhaps he went as far as Massachusetts.
It is unknown whether the vital records in Hull, MA refer to this same Thomas Coombs or, possibly a son of Thomas, when they record the family of Thomas and Elizabeth [Pipen] Coombs:
Based on the information at hand, there is no way to know whether we are looking at a single Thomas Coombs or three different people. However, if we make an assumption that the Thomas from Newfoundland was about 20 years old when he arrived in Maine, he would have been born around 1643. When the oath of allegiance was taken, this same Thomas might have been about 23 years old. However, when his son, John Coombs, was born in 1695, Thomas would have been about 52 years old; possible, but not very likely. If these Thomas Coombs are all related, it is more likely that the Thomas who married Elizabeth Pipen was the son of the Thomas from Newfoundland/Kennebec.
To further complicate this relationship, there were other branches of the Coombs families living in the Hull area at this same time (see Robert Coombs, below) that cannot yet be tied together.