He joined the Quakers of New Garden in 1818, and soon after began a Sunday school in the schoolhouse adjoining the meeting house. As an opponent to slavery, he joined Guilford County’s first manumission society. Together with his cousin Vestal Coffin, he began a school for slaves, teaching them about Christianity and hosting Bible reading on Sunday afternoons. Slave owners opposed this and forbade their slaves to attend. Within a few years Coffin moved to Newport, Indiana.
Newport, now known as Fountain City, was on a route of the Underground Railroad, through which slaves escaping to freedom passed. Coffin and his wife joined the movement and made their house a “station” to shelter runaways and provide safe passage into Canada. During the 20 years they lived in Newport, the Coffins helped about 2,000 slaves escape to safety. One of those was the slave “Eliza,” depicted by Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Every one of the slaves who passed through the Coffin house reached freedom.
Other related resources:
· James City, a book from North Carolina Historical Publications on an underground railroad community
· The highway marker in Guilford County that honors Coffin
· Mendenhall Plantation in Guilford County, which is associated with Coffin