Saturday, November 26, 2011

Who are James Franklin’s Parents?

I’m putting this post up with hope some Franklin Family researchers will stumble upon my little blog and help pass on clues about James Franklin’s family. What we know to be true is his birth in Maryland around 1755 and his death in Sumner County, TN in 1828. We know he married Mary Lauderdale of the Botetourt County, Looney Creek, VA Lauderdales around 1776. And we know he had some kind of military service in the VA militia and the Revolution between 1774 and 1779. Beyond those major facts, there are only disconnected clues as to who Jame Franklin was and where he grew up.

To establish myself as a reliable source, I descend from James’ son John who was born in Sullivan County, TN (NC) in the Holston Settlement, Jan 4, 1777. His son Dr. John W. Franklin (1819-1905) was a physician in Sumner County, Gallatin, TN. The house called “Oakley” on the Nashville/Gallatin pike that he built for his second wife Sara Baber still stands in 2011. My father visited that home as a child to see his Uncle John and Aunt Sue who still owned the home in the 1940’s. I have in my possession John W.'s medical diploma from Transylvania Medical College in Kentucky.
Many of the clues about James Franklin’s past are in the biographies of his children and grandchildren. But, there is much conflicting information. I’ll begin sourcing it here and follow each source with my thoughts.

From History of Tennessee From the Earliest Time to The Present
Goodspeed Publishing Co. Nashville, TN 1887
Dr. John W. FRANKLIN, physician and farmer of the Fourth District, is a son of John and Elizabeth (RAWLINGS) Franklin, and was born in Sumner County in 1819, being the ninth child in a family of seven sons and three daughters. The father was of Irish ancestry, born in Sumner County in 1776. The grandfather, James Franklin, was a native of West Virginia; he went to Eastern Kentucky when a young man, where he had an elder brother, and finally moved to what is now Sumner County, where he erected a station, Camp Fort, and made his future home.

Blog Rebuttal John W.’s Bio.
Father of Irish ancestry: taking the Lauderdale lineage this would be true. And since the Lauderdale’s also immigrated to Sumner it is possible John W.’s father felt stronger ties to his mother’s Irish background and would have even known Mary Lauderdale’s father James Lauderdale (1709 - 1796) who was born in Ireland and died in Sumner County, TN.

I have a birth date of 1777 for Jame Franklin’s son John in the Holston Settlement. Why John W.’s bio says his father is born in Sumner County is unknown? Names for settlements appear in several ways. That area of the Holston is now Sullivan County, TN. Prior to its 1779 incorporation it was Washington County, VA and/or Sullivan County, NC. North Carolina extended all the way to the Cumberland Settlements. Davidson County was originally established as Davidson County, NC. The Holston Settlement was used as a staging ground for people taking the Wilderness Road leading to Kentucky through Cumberland Gap. We can only assume that during a time of immigration these names were passed orally in confusion. My research needs to document John Franklin’s birth with first source info. I need to confirm ties to the Walnut Hill Settlement of the Holston. Some research points there.

The statement that says James is a Native of West Virginia is confusing along with the statement about his brother in Kentucky. James is enrolled in the Militia in the early 1770’s where he defends the VA/West VA border. He is tied to Fincastle and Botetourt County through is Militia service and his association with the Lauderdale family. The battle at Point Pleasant where he and his assumed brother William are listed on the muster rolls means he did spend time in West Virginia and Kentucky. The question to answer is when did James Franklin leave Maryland for the Virgina/West Virginia frontier?

Isaac Franklin’s Bio Floating around the net.
Father was Capt. James Franklin of Baltimore, Maryland and mother was Mary Lauderdale, the daughter of James Maitland Lauderdale, James Franklin's employer. James Franklin moved with Mary to East Tennessee as a "Long Hunter" in the 1770s for trapping and exploration. He participated in the Revolutionary War and was listed by General James Robertson as one of the "Immortal Seventy" who received and was granted 640 acres (2.6 km2) of land by the state of North Carolina.[1]

ISAAC FRANKLIN:  By Wendell Holmes Stephenson
pp. 12-14
' A biographical sketch published soon after Issac's death states that his father, James Franklin, was born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, but a more recent account asserts that his Huguenot ancestor moved to North Carolina where James was born and reared .  However that may be, upon his mother's remarriage James and two sisters started for the tramontane region of North Carolina with sundry slaves, but were overtaken by the stepfather who forced the girls and all but one of the servants  to return with him. With the one slave James continued westward to become a pioneer in the settlement of Tennessee. (Blog comment: wish I knew the slave’s name. Will try to find.)

Family tradition has it that Franklin was a "Long Hunter" who spent several months in the central part of the future commonwealth in the early seventies, and that temporary residence there later induced him to become a permanent settler. In a mass of such untrustworthy evidence, it is a relief to find reliable authority for his association with James Robertson in the defense of the Cumberland region during the Revolution and for his acquisition in 1784, as one of the "immortal seventy", of title to 640 acres of land by act of the North Carolina assembly.  

It is reasonably certain also that James Franklin aided Lieutenant Colonel Kasper Mansker in building a fort near Goodlettsville either in 1779 or 1780 and that two or three years later he assisted in erecting one near Pilot Knob. (See new evidence here forthcoming 11-2014 that Revolutionary service records might indicate more clearly his role in settling the Cumberland. Hope to provide a blog post link here to explain. Writing not complete yet.)

The marriage of James Franklin to Mary Lauderdale, a native of Botetourt County, Virginia, is not of record, although it is probable that the union materialized near the beginning of the Revolution.  In 1776, newspaper sketches inform us, they removed to the Holston Valley " with the usual outfit of Tennessee pioneers, a horse, which carried the wife and her marriage portion, and a rifle with which the husband was to make his way in the world.  They resided in East Tennessee till the spring of 1780, when they removed westward, and were inmates of the fort at Mansco's (Mansker's) Lick, about a year , and until the occupants of the place were compelled by the Indians to abandon it, and seek safety at...(Nashborough)."  

A more recent account says that young Franklin, before marriage , resided with the Lauderdale family near Bledsoe's Lick, which implies that the ceremony was not performed until after he arrived in the Cumberland region.  In the 1784 Franklins settled upon the pre-empted section not far from Pilot Knob, and here their ten children were born, five boys and five girls." ( James, John, Isaac, William, Albert, Jane, Ann, Sally, Betsy, and a fifth daughter who married one Purvis)

"That James Franklin was unlettered is attested by the fact that he signed all legal documents with his mark; that he was a prosperous farmer is indicated by sundry conveyances in the deed records and will books of Sumner County... " This  unlettered fact is refuted by Kenneth Thomson 
saying that James was a man of letters. There are multiple records in the Sumner County archives of his participating in every phase of community life. He began settling land in 1788, witnessing a variety of legal documents, serving on jurys, etc. It was assumed he was unlettered due to the X on his will. But, it was due to blindness in later life. he was blind, as was his son William.

In his will, recorded in 1828, James Franklin bequeathed his land on the north side of the West Fork of Station Camp Creek to his sons Isaac and James.  To John he gave $ 100; to William two slaves, Jacob and Moses. Ann Wood and Betty Franklin, daughters, were each willed a slave valued at $500 a piece.  The remainder of his negroes and property of whatever kind was to be divided into five equal parts and distributed to his daughters Jane and Ann  Wood, Sally Gardiner, and Betsy Frankin, the fifth part to be equally divided between his son Albert and his grandson Isaac Purvis. The will further stipulated that his negroes and their increase were not to be sold by the legatees; should Betsy die without issue her share of the property was to be divided among the other daughters.  Finally, James Franklin, Jr. and John Wood, a son-in-law, were appointed executors.  They gave bond to the amount of $12,000.'

Blog Rebuttal Isaac’s Bio
This passage has been a pillar of much of my research trails. And much has been substantiated on this blog or brought evidence that points to some truth in the Isaac Bio. I have heard this story about James Franklin’s father dying and family squabble that causes him to run away. When? Who is this father? And who is this step-father and the mother that remarries? We have multiple sources that state James Franklin is born in Maryland. But, somewhere according to Stephenson there is an oral tradition he was born in Mecklenburg County, VA. Could the Franklins have immigrated from Maryland to Mecklenburg? Could the death of James’ father caused a move to be with other family? Could family upheavals caused James Franklin and his sisters to leave for Botetourt/Fincastle area where his brother William was living?

Kenneth Thomson's notes from Mollie Gardner (1834-1935)- daughter of C Bryant Gardner and Sarah Lauderdale:
The story goes that James Franklin's father dies. Some research says his father's name was John. His mother remarries a person James did not like. So he and his two sisters run away. He ends up in Botetourt County, Virginia and secures employment with James Lauderdale (1709-1796). When James and Mary are married in 1776 they leave immediately for the Holston Settlement on the Va/NC border.
Research on the sisters have a Susannah Franklin marrying Joseph Peck in 1792 and settling in Fincastle. The Peck family is well documented. But, I have yet to find out who Susannah’s parents are. Margaret Franklin married George Watwood in Botetourt County, VA in 1779 and they follow the migration party to the Cumberland, settling in Sumner County. This is documented in the Watwood genealogy with ties to James and the Lauderdales. But, again Margaret’s parents are not mentioned. They all seem to be friends with or somehow tied to the McCains (McKains, Cains). James McCain is well documented, having married Margaret Lauderdale Looney. Sister of Mary Lauderdale and widow of Peter Looney of the Botetourt County Looney family. McCain’s family is on the Donelson Flotilla to Nashville and is very political, with bondsman records, marriage and will witness, jury duty and recorded participation in government affairs from Virginia to Sumner County.

William Franklin is on the Militia muster rolls during the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774 with James Franklin. The William Franklin's DAR records have him serving in the same Capt. Love's Botetourt County Volunteers. William received a revolutionary war land grant in Washington, GA where he resided with his wife Mary until his death in 1797.
Many, many founders of the Cumberland are tied to the Battle at Point Pleasant and the Va Militia.

At this point all possible siblings are dead ends to the source of parents. Some directions I will be heading in the coming months will be based on a passage I found in The “Franklin Family Research Volume 20.” It states:  

 p. 658: Sumner Co., Tennessee .... same of earliest settlers .... James Franklin
p. 662: John Franklin who was left off the “early settler” list of Sumner Co., thought his brother James Franklin is listed, was born 1776 probably in NC. This John Franklin was the father of Dr. John Franklin, one time a well know physician who was born in Sumner Co., where he lived in,1819.
p. 662: Sumner Co., This Franklin family was related to the Cleveland family and was the same family to which Jessee[sic] Franklin, once Governor of NC, belonged.
p. 664. Sumner Co., John Franklin and William and Richard Franklin, John Donelson, William and Samuel Round, Thomas and John Purnell, Ince and John Stockley, the Crosbys and Capt. Henry Smith and William Walton were all neighbors at Snow Hill, Somerset Co., MD.: all belonged to the same church and persons bearing the same names found their way to the Cumberland settlements nearly 100 years later, intermarried and prospered.

Snow Hill, Maryland is a well known Huguenot settlement. So this trail could be interesting. If anyone doing research on this branch of the family has information please contact me by commenting on this blog. Thank you.

Picture sources:


  1. I also descend from James's son John born Jan 4, 1777, through John's daughter Jane Franklin Collie born 1810. Can you tell me who John was married to ? At first I had Unknown Fletcher as his wife, but I'm wondering if she was Elizabeth Rawlings ?

  2. Hello Cousin Tina. Yes, John marries Elizabeth Rawlings. I have heard some interesting stories about Elizabeth Rawlings told by Franklin genealogy expert Ken Thomson. But, I have never looked to see if they are written down or researched. Apparently after John dies (or maybe while he was sick), Elizabeth runs off with the overseer. Her family was not happy about this and it tore the family apart. John and Elizabeth's children scattered. And I have yet to research the different locations they ended up. But. all did not stay in Sumner County, TN. I would love to hear were Jane's family ended up. I know some Franklins ended up in Texas in the 1800's.

  3. Jane Franklin married William Collie, they had 7 children, 45 grandchildren. They lived in Arkansas where William died in 1852. Jane than moved to Texas where she died in Cass in 1860.
    She had 3 out of the 7 children living in Texas, the rest were in Arkansas. Family names are Browning & Fulbright. Collies, Brownings moved back and forth between Arkansas, Texas & Oklahoma.

    Lots of sets of twins in the family. My grandmother Rachael Alberta Collie Browning was a twin, she had a set of twins. Her eldest daughter my Aunt Pearle had twins, her son my Uncle Claude had twins.

  4. Wow. This is a lot of information. Very interesting. I just started on this side of my family. It is my mother/grandmother's side. I will be back when I learn more.

  5. Do you know if Richard Franklin, 1779-1862, died in Sumner County is related to James Franklin?

  6. I have seen a Richard. Will try to make time to look that up ASAP. Thanks for reading. Hope it was informative.

  7. I have begun poking around to determine who Richard Franklin is. At this point I would conclude he is related. Possible he is James seniors brother or cousin. While I have found no conclusive evidence they are connected beyond the fact they run parallel to all things Franklin in Sumner and Trousdale County, the Richard Franklin line can be traced back to the same area of Maryland where James is born. And they route the same route of migration. They are neighbors to the Lauderdales. Names are reused. But, I believe Richard arrived in the Cumberland after 1805 around the same time as the Lauderdale brothers and the Watwoods. I noticed Richard and his Wife Mary Thompson have a son George W. (1827-1893). If George is named for his uncle George Watwood, married to Margaret Franklin, that would be a solid connection.