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Subject: Cleveland link to Benjamin Franklin


Author:
Jim Hand
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Date Posted: Mon, Dec 16 2013, 14:20:16

I noted a mention (can't find it now) that there may be a connection between Benjamin Franklin and the Clevelands, and the note that such a connection appears to actually lead to another Benjamin Franklin. However, there is a connection between the Clevelands and Benjamin Franklin, “the first American,” as he was called by recent biographer H.W. Brands. I am a direct descendant of Moses Cleveland of Woburn, MA, and am also a first cousin (9 times removed) of Benjamin Franklin.

The connection comes through Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Islands. An easy, complete background of the Vineyard Clevelands is accessible online at: http://history.vineyard.net/clevelan.htm. It is largely adapted from The History of Martha’s Vineyard by Charles Edward Banks. Referring to that link: Moses1 Cleveland (b. 9/1/1651) was the son of Moses Cleveland and Ann Winn of Woburn, MA. My descent from the Vineyard Moses is through his third son, Ebenezer (b. 1681); then that Ebenezer’s second son, Ebenezer (b. 1708); then, the second Ebenezer’s second son, Zabdiel (b. 1749); then, Zabdiel’s first son, Sylvanus (b. 1775); then, Sylvanus’s first son, Henry Warren Cleaveland (b. 1799); then, Henry’s second son, James Freeman Cleaveland (b. 1824); then, James’s third daughter, Mabel Wilder Cleaveland (b. 1861). Mabel Wilder Cleaveland married Thomas Coffin and their children included daughters Barbara (Coffin) Walker, my maternal grandmother, and Dionis (Coffin) Riggs, my great aunt.

Now, the Franklin connection: Heading back up this line of descent, the wife of Ebenezer Cleaveland (b. 1708), and mother of Zabdiel Cleaveland (b. 1749), was Susanna Folger. Susanna was the daughter of Richard Folger (b. 1698). Richard was the son of John Folger (b. 1659). John’s father was Peter Folger (b. 1617, Norwich County England, emigrating to Massachusetts in 1635); John’s mother was Mary Morrill (married to Peter in 1644). Notice the notes at: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~parisho/f/folger.html. See, also: http://www.faubourgmontmartre.com/pf1617.html. One of Peter and Mary’s daughters (and one of John’s sisters) was Abiah Folger (b. 1667 on Nantucket). Abiah Folger married Josiah Franklin and one of their sons was Benjamin Franklin (b. 1/17/1706). Franklin noted his fondness for his grandfather, Peter Folger, in his autobiography.

A few notes on other interesting reading related to this:

I mentioned my grandmother above for the connection to me, but mentioned my great aunt, Dionis Coffin Riggs, because 73 years ago she published a book about her maternal grandmother, Mary Carlin Cleaveland (b. 1835) and her voyage toward San Francisco during the Gold Rush from her childhood home in Australia. The vessel on which she traveled stopped at the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii), where she met, fell for, and married whaling captain James Freeman Cleaveland (b. 1824). The story of this romance, island life, and later years at sea together was documented in the book From off Island. See link about the Cleaveland House in West Tisbury, MA, on Martha’s Vineyard (now run as a bed and breakfast by my cousin, Cynthia Riggs, Dionis Coffin Riggs’s daughter) at: http://www.cynthiariggs.com/index.html. This house was built by Squire George Athearn and later purchased and remodeled by Captain James Freeman Cleaveland. It is pictured in the book and remains in the family. There was a 1993 paperback reprint of From off Island out, and several used copies of the 1940 hardback are available inexpensively through bookfinder.com or amazon.com. (Cynthia, meanwhile, has taken up mystery writing and has several Martha‘s Vineyard mysteries out on the market.) From off Island has photographs of various Cleaveland family members from whaling times and plenty of family information, though it does not address the connection to Ben Franklin.

It is fun to look at Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Chapter XXIV, where Ishmael, now embarked in the whaling profession with Queequeg, is in the midst of answering protests about whaling being disreputable:

“. . .[W]halemen themselves are poor devils; they have no good blood in their veins.
No good blood in their veins? They have something better than royal blood there. The grandmother of Benjamin Franklin was Mary Morrel; afterwards, by marriage, Mary Folger, one of the old settlers of Nantucket, and the ancestress to a long line of Folgers and harpooneers – all kith and kin to noble Benjamin – this day darting the barbed iron from one side of the world to the other.”

Finally, yes, there is a connection between Peter Folger and the coffee by the same name. He is the ancestor of the founders of the Folger Coffee Company. See: http://www.folgerscoffee.com/about-us/folgers-history.aspx. I find it interesting that the company was founded in San Francisco during Gold Rush times, the place where my 3-greats grandmother was headed when she was swept off her feet and diverted in Hawaii to travel back to Martha’s Vineyard on a whaling ship, having married the 3-greats grandson of a Folger. As an Australian, she was, indeed, considered on the Vineyard to have been “from off island.”

My research is not the greatest; without others’ work I wouldn’t have very much to go on at all. However, I believe all of the above information to be accurate, though I can’t speak for some of the links above.

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