Who is James Franklin, Sumner County Settler?

On this page we will attempt to reconstruct James Franklin's life, his arrival to Sumner County and the establishment of his Pilot's Knob residence. This page will continue to be edited as we are advised by historians and family of errors and omissions to our story. We welcome any clarification to this biography. Headstone reads: Born in Maryland in 1755. Died in Sumner County, Tn 1828. 

Move West
With the promise of new land, fertile soil and a beginning to claim as their own, settlers set out west to stake a claim in Middle Tennessee. One such settler was James Franklin. Born in 1755 in Baltimore, Maryland this was the same year Ben Franklin proves lightning is electricity. While no proven kin to the famous Ben Franklin, James Franklin's family was settled near Somerset County, MD and at some point made their way to Botetourt County, VA. Research has yet to confirm exactly who James Franklin’s parents are. One story says they were French Huguenots. Another story says James' father and mother made the journey with him west as far as NC (Possible Holston Settlement) where James' father died and his mother remarries.

"Franklin Family Researchers United" carries this passage from Ben Franklin's Volume I.
James Franklin 1750 - 1819 (these dates are wrong)
DAR Vol 44 p230: James Franklin 1750-178? 5th VA reg 1778 born MD married in VA died in TN vol 76 p255 same James Franklin but says 1750-1819 died Sumter County, TN wife Mary Lauderdale born 1752 married 1782 her father John Lauderdale born PA & granted land in Franklin County, GA died GA ( see also Vol 111 p295; Vol 116 p 210 desc of William Franklin who married 1755 to Mary ____ born 1737, William Franklin r’cd bounty land in Washington County, GA for services as Pvt, GA Line, he was born VA died 1797 in Warren County, GA.

We know from our headstone with which this blog is dedicated that James was born in Maryland in 1755 and died in Sumner County, TN in 1828. We know James marries Mary Lauderdale in Botetourt County, VA. in 1776. She was 14 years old at the time. The wedding passage from family statements says simply “The husband and wife with dowry on horseback set out to make a new life.” That new life would end up near the Holston Settlement  in Sullivan County, TN. Which was then in NC. When the Revolution broke out James was enlisted in the Virginia Army. The DAR has a James Franklin recorded who served as a private and a corporal in the 3rd and 5th VA regiments in the Revolutionary War.  There is also a William Franklin who serves with him in Capt. Love's Volunteers and is wounded in Lord Dunmore's War at the start of the Revolution. Is this a father or a brother or a cousin?

The William Franklin's DAR records have him serving in the same Capt. Love's Botetourt County Volunteers. He received a revolutionary war land grant in Washington, GA where he resided with his wife Mary until his death in 1797.

Future edits to this biography will hopefully reveal more about who James Franklin's parents were. I have read possible connections to Somerset County, MD. I continue to research how James became involved with the Lauderdales. Much of what is written here is trying to piece together the migration based on family associations and what we know to be true. Ancestory.com records show a George and Susannah Franklin as possible parents to James. Notes from Kenneth Thompson's information from a Sarah Lauderdale Gardner (1834-1935) interview say James' father's name was John. 

The Lauderdale's and Path to the Holston Settlement
Mary Lauderdale’s father James Lauderdale immigrated to America from Ireland in 1714, entering through Philadelphia and settling in Botetourt County, VA. His son’s James and John also fought in the Revolution, possibly with James Franklin. The Lauderdale’s are not far behind James and Mary as they traveled West. Records have Mary's brother William Lauderdale along with sister Mary Lauderdale on the census in Sullivan County, Tn (then VA/NC) Holston Settlement in 1777. John (this writers GGG grandfather) is born there in 1777 and later son James, Jr in 1779. James Franklin is not on the census records. There is a possibility he was still filling his Army obligations with the revolution?  Or was he long hunting into Middle Tennessee with Mansker? From the time of James and Mary's marriage, the Holston Settlement move, till their move to the Cumberland we are unsure what James Franklin is doing beyond his enlistment in the Army and/or militia service. The Lauderdale documents say James was "employed by his father-in-law." I hope future research will confirm if this was while residing in Virginia or only in TN or during the migration? Did the Lauderdale's send James and Mary ahead to scout good land?

There is so much going on in the Holston Settlements. The Watauga compact was established in 1772. James Robertson is leading the way establishing law, court order and government structure. His group of educated settlers are working the system of law to establish settlements and stake land with Indian treaties and land grant designations. The Lauderdales were also educated. There is evidence that says James is not.  But, Kenneth Thomson rebuts that fact 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.

New conclusions around the reason James is not on the rolls of the Cumberland Compact, nor is he recorded much past what is required to participate in the migration or the war was because he aligned himself with Mansker. And made his business escorting settlers. He was a hunter, trapper, farmer and soldier, not a lawyer or surveyor. Isaac Franklin's bio as well as Franklin family lore said he was a Long Hunter and that he and Mary came over land to TN. This research continues.

Families of the Cumberland Settlements

More Lauderdale connection reveals James McKain* who is listed in the Donelson Flotilla as married to Mary Lauderdale's sister Margaret. They have a son traveling in the party named Peter Looney, Jr. (Luna) from Margaret's first marriage to Peter Looney Senior. Mr. Looney died and she remarried James McKain.  James Franklin and James McKain go on to build the Station Camp Creek Settlement together. But, did they come to Tennessee together?  Did James Lauderdale send both of his son-in-laws to stake out land?

A passage in the Rounsavall diaries compares the Donelson Flotilla travel choice to the overland through Kentucky choice as the two ways to leaving the Holston Settlement and make the move to the Cumberland. "Since the overland journey through Kentucky was not deemed feasible for the women, children, servants and animals, it was decided that John Donelson would lead a flotilla of flatboats down the Holston River, to the Tennessee River, from the Tennessee to the Ohio River, and then down the Cumberland River to the Nashville settlement. This was the actual plan that was carried out.

The Robertson expedition through Kentucky in the fall of 1779 was not really one large group, but, separate trips by several parties of settlers called companies. Robertson was the leader of the largest company. Isaac Rounsavall was one of the individuals who went on the overland expedition, but, he was not with the Robertson company. Instead, Isaac was with Amos Heaton's company, which is one of the first to arrive at Nashville. Isaac "Rounsever", along with Amos Heaton, Haydon Wells, Frederick Stump, William Loggins and a man named Winters, along with others erected Eatons Station after the Heaton company arrived on December 24, 1779. They immediately began to construct Heaton's (Eaton's) Station, located about 1.5 miles northwest from the center of what is now Nashville, clearing the ground, planted corn, built cabins with stockades from one to the other, and port-holes and bastions.

David Rounsavall and the rest of the family came by boat in the Donelson flotilla. David departed Fort Patrick Henry (Kingsport, Tennessee) on December 22, 1779 on the Holston River in command of one of the thirty boats under the command of Col. John Donelson. The Donelson Flotilla, bound for French Salt Springs (Nashville, Tennessee) was almost immediately halted due to ice flows in the river and remained aground until February 20, 1780. They arrived at the Big Salt Lick (Nashville), on Monday, April 24th, 1780, after a 985-mile boat trip. John Donelson's journal, "Journey of the Good Boat Adventure", describes a trip filled with Indian attacks, the perils of negotiating icy and swift rivers, disease, hunger and hardship."

Isaac Franklin's diaries talk of his father James coming in overland through Kentucky. Was Mary strong enough to take the overland passage? She had two small sons (John and James. Jr.) with her. Or did people just make travel choices based on timing, who they worked best with and how they were comfortable traveling? It would seem Kasper Mansker is James Franklin's alliance to the Cumberland based on this passage from the Mansker Chronicals. "In the fall of 1779, Mansker in company with Amos Eaton**, Daniel Frazier, and "a number of other immigrants" followed the Kentucky trail and arrived on the frozen middle Cumberland close on the heels of the party guided by Captain James Robertson, probably in January, 1780. Mansker, assisted by William Neely, Daniel Frazier, James Franklin, and others, built a fort on the west side of Mansker's Creek, located three or four hundred yards downstream from the later site of Walton's Campground. Mansker's Fort and was situated on or near land that he would soon claim under his presumption right as one of "the immortal seventy." (Clarification: building the fort would have had to have happened in Spring of 1780 due to weather conditions and James Franklin's Revolutionary service ending in December of 1779.)

*Later James Franklin, Jr. marries Prudence McKain. They were first cousins once removed.
** Amos Eaton of the same Eaton Station mentioned in the party with David Rounsavall? Does that mean James Franklin's family was in that party too? And the Rounsavall party mentions Amos Heaton, but are they really referring to Amos Eaton?

Mansker Station
What we know: From "Kasper Mansker Cumberland Frontiersman", by Walter Durham says - Mansker's elusive tracks are picked up again in the spring of 1779 when he, with others whom we do not know, came to Cumberland at French Lick, where Nashville now stands, and found Captain James Robertson's company making preparations to establish a settlement the following autumn. It is likely that Mansker knew of Robertson's plans for settling in middle Tennessee before he arrived at French Lick in 1779. It is not unlikely that the coincidental arrival of both parties was planned well in advance and that it was their purpose to make preliminary arrangements for their later return with settlers for the middle Cumberland." This author thinks it was all very planned. Mansker had his best interests at hand when he signed on to lead settlers into the Cumberland. He wanted to protect his claim. Mansker and his party of settlers had their eyes on Sumner County.

Sumner County was a dangerous place in 1778. Indian attacks were frequent. 'Early Middle Tennessee History' states “Kasper Mansker as previously noted was by no means new to the Cumberland country. Now taking with him Neely, James Franklin, Daniel Frazier and others he went twelve miles north of the Bluff to the region of the he had discovered while hunting eight years before the west side of Mansker's Creek and three or four from what was later known as Walton's camp built a fort which was called Mansker's Station located near Goodlettsville."

Mansker’s Station was ready for occupancy in 1779/1780. Isaac Franklin’s bio says his mother and father move from Eastern, TN and took up residence in the fort with their two young children in 1780. By the end of 1780 Mansker Station would fall to the Indians and the fort was abandon. Everyone relocated to Fort Nashborogh which was constructed a year earlier by James Robertson. In 1780 the Cumberland Settlement census records show James Franklin and family (Mary, James, Jr. and John) on the rolls in Davidson County at Nashborough.

Defending The Fort and The Immortal 70
Also arriving at Nashville at about the same time in 1780 is John Donelson’s flotilla via the banks of the Cumberland. During this time they all rally and force back the Indians and with Donelson and Robertson during the “Battle of the Bluff” defend the fort from Dragging Canoe’s ChickamaugaCherokee war party.  It is this time period from 1780 till 1783 that James Franklin, Kasper Mansker, James McKain and others would be listed on the immortal 70, having help defend the fort during the final months of struggle to retain settlement rights in Middle Tennessee.

Station Camp Settlement
In 1782-83 James Franklin helps build up the Station Camp Community near Pilot Knob on Station Camp Creek in Sumner County. This encampment was originally carved out by Mansker's and Bledsoe's hunting parties in 1772. It is assumed James Franklin's family remained here until his pre-emption was granted in April of 1786. Though some sources say there may have been a Lauderdale homestead nearby at that time and the Franklins may have stayed there. Other families at the settlement in 1783 included James McKain, Elmore Douglass and Charles Carter according to Water Durham's 'The Great Leap Westward.'

Station Camp was one of several forts established around the Gallatin area that would offer protection from Indian attacks and bring in settlers to populate Sumner County. It is around this fort location at the mouth of Station Camp Creek and the Cumberland River that the Franklin's settled the area. Read more about the major roll of the station camps in settling the Cumberland.

More Family Joins the Migration
Middle Tennessee was safer to live in now and rich in land. Between 1783 and 1789 James Franklin’s extended family joined him. Brother-in-law William Lauderdale, Brother-in-law George Watwood along with sister Margaret Franklin Watwood were recorded in the Lauderdale and Watwood genealogy stories to have arrive here around 1786-87. William Lauderdale is also recorded to receive his pre-emption land grant near Fort Greenfield in 1786. The more of the Lauderdale clan would arrive via Ga, SC and VA in 1794 and would go on to establish Trousdale county and produce war heroes and statesmen for which landmarks and counties are named. 

Pilot Knob
On 640 acres land grant pre-emption on the West Fork of Station Camp Creek is where in 1788 James Franklin would build Pilot Knob, which is recorded to be the first brick home in Sumner County. It is there in 1789 that son Isaac is born and 4 more children would follow. (Sara, William, Betsy and Albert)

Kenneth Thomson records of an interview with Carrie Franklin Childress in the 1930's, grand daughter of James Franklin, Jr. says that Mary Lauderdale Franklin is buried in the plot next to James but her grave stone was destroyed and documented as such in the 1930's. Divining rod surveys detected two graves in 2014. She dies before 1828. Research still to be done on specifics of her death.

Franklin successfully farmed and bread horses until his death in 1828. James Franklin is recorded as one of the first white settlers that helped found Sumner County. His marked grave still lies 300 yards south of his Pilot Knob home: the now Golden Era Plantation. His children and grand children would go on to make Sumner County one of the richest counties in the State of TN prior to the Civil War, becoming doctors, merchants and business men or in the case of the daughters, marrying the same. Their homes and farms still dot the Nashville Pike to this day on the West side of Gallatin, having been subdivided and some stripped of their historic designation.

Sources: Ancestory.com census records, birth and marriage records, Sumner County Roots Web, 'Old Sumner' by Walter Durham and 'Isaac Franklin, Slave Trader' by WH Sephenson, 'The Cumberland Settlements' by Puryear, Drake and Masters, 'Mansker Chronicals' and 'Kasper Mansker, Cumberland Frontiersman' by Durham, DAR revolutionary service records

Why the title Captain Franklin?
James Franklin reached the rank of corporal in the Revolutionary War. His DAR records state he served  as a private and a corporal in the 3rd and 5th. SOURCELineage book, Volumes 144-145‎ - Page 207
James Franklin (1750- 1828) served as private and corporal in the 3d and 5th
Virginia regiments ... He was born in Maryland ; died in Sumner County, Tenn.

There is another James Franklin listed as Captain in the VA 10th, commissioned on the 19th of Nov in 1776 an resigned in 1778. This is not our James Franklin. Officer Franklin was from Amherst, Va having married Nancy and he dies in 1813.  

There is confusion around the title of Captain. It is possible the rank/title of Captain could have been bestowed with Kasper Mansker and his Militia defending the settlement. Another theory gives him title based on his participation in river trading as a riverboat captain.  The thought is that the title came of fond respect not of an officer's military service; similar to Commodore Vanderbilt who was never actually a Commodore.

Important dates:

1714 - James M. Lauderdale Immigrates from Ireland

1755 - Capt. James Franklin Born in Maryland

1775 - James Serves in the VA Army

1776 - James Franklin Marries Mary Lauderdale

1776 - James Franklin Arrives in Eastern TN/NC Holston Settlement

1776 - Declaration of Independence signed

1776-79 - James Franklin Long Hunts into Middle, TN and is also shown to be enlisted in the Virginia Army at this time. (Continental Army 1777-78-79 with furlough that might correspond to time in the North Holston Settlement - then considered to be Washington County, VA.) There may be three James Franklins serving in the Revolution? One is an officer from Amherst. One is a corporal enlisted. And one serves in the militia and defending the Western Frontier. (updated 11-20-2014)

1777 - John Franklin Born in Sullivan County, TN Holston Settlement

1779 - James Franklin, Jr. Born in Sullivan County TN Holston Settlement

1779 - Nashville Founded, Fort Nashborough Built

1779-80 - Mansker Station Completed

1780 - James and Mary Franklin Reside at Mansker Station

1780 - Donelson Flotilla Arrives at Nashborough

1780 - James and Mary move to Nashborough

1780 - Bledsoe Lick Established

1781 - Battle of the Bluffs at Nashborough

1781 - Mansker Station Burns

1782-83 - Station Camp Fort Built built on Station Camp Creek

1784 - Rock Castle Built by Daniel Smith

1785 - John Shelby Born – the first white child born in Sumner Cty

1786 - William Lauderdale receives his Land Grant

1786 - James Franklin's Land Grant

1786 - Sumner County Founded

1788 - Pilot Knob Built by James Franklin

1789 - Washington Elected First President

1789 - Isaac Franklin Born

1794 - Treaty of Tellico brought an end to the Chickamauga Wars

1794 - VA Lauderdale's follow James Franklin to Middle, TN

1796 - Tennessee becomes a State

1798 - John Franklin, James’ oldest child, Marries Elizabeth Rawlings

1828 - James Franklin Dies

Map supplied by Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, DC 20540-4650

1 comment:

  1. https://www.facebook.com/groups/229156200146/10152565619270147/

    Tenn/Kentucky Brummett, Brumett family research.