The Reverend Mr. David Craft
COLONEL JOHN FRANKLIN
THE name of Col. John Franklin has been frequently mentioned in the chapters which relate to the Connecticut claim and the Revolutionary war; but he was a man every way so remarkable, and occupied so important a position in Pennsylvania history, that a more extended notice seems to be demanded in a work devoted to the history of the county where he spent the greater part of his life, and where his ashes are entombed.
Of the early life and history of this remarkable man but little is known. His father, John Franklin, was of English descent, and was born in 1716. Settled and died in Canaan, Conn. He married Kezia Pierce. The result of this union was the following children, to wit:
February 2, 1774, he married Lydia Doolittle (born in Canaan, Conn., Aug. 13, 1751), and in the spring following moved to Wyoming, and settled in Plymouth. Here his family remained until the summer of 1776, as both his sons were born in this township, viz., Billa, Nov. 3, 1774, and Amos, June 4, 1776. Colonel Franklin’s father had become a proprietor in the Susquehanna purchase, and located his rights in the township of Huntington. Thither John, leaving his family in Plymouth, went solitary and alone in the spring of 1775, and made his "pitch" on the banks of the Huntington creek, in Luzerne county. Having circumscribed the limits of his claim by notching and blazing the bark of the trees, he overturned some of the turf with the pole of his axe. These were the formalities of appropriating the forest, and this was his warrant of entry. No white man had preceded him in this vicinity; he was the first, and the unmolested choice of the virgin soil was before him, and here he made his selection and dedicated his future home.* During this year he erected his log house, cleared and sowed some three or four acres to grain, and in the summer of 1776 moved his family into the wilderness. His nearest neighbor was at the Susquehanna river, a distance of some seven or eight miles. For the next two years he was busily engaged on his farm, attending the town-meetings, where he was quick to debate, and able to defend his opinions, and was soon looked upon as one of the foremost men of the valley. When the Twenty-fourth Regiment of Connecticut militia was organized, John Franklin was made captain of the Salem and Huntington company. At the battle of Wyoming Franklin and his company were directed to report at the Forty fort immediately, but his company was so scattered that he was unable to bring them on in time to participate in the battle. Of himself he says, as soon as he had taken care of his family (he had now three children, the third, a daughter, named Kezia, having been born at Huntington, April 11, 1778, and consequently now was less than three months old) he set out, with what few of his company could be gathered, for Wyoming, and reached the fort too late to participate in the engagement. He was present, however, to lend his advice in regard to the surrender, and his aid to the fugitives. Having done all in his power to help the sufferers, he returned to his family, and taking his wife and three little children, the oldest not four years old, started for a place of safety. Going down the river to Paxton, they remained there but a short time, and then went to Windsor, in Berks county. Here the family were attacked with the smallpox, and Mrs. Franklin died of the disease, Nov. 17, 1778. As soon as they recovered, feeling his own inability to take suitable care of his infant children, Capt. Franklin determined to place them in the care of his friends in Canaan. Hitching a yoke of oxen to a little cart, he put into it his three little children, the youngest about eight months old, tied a cow by the horns to follow, and drove on, having a cup, into which, from time to time, as occasion required, he milked and fed the babe. Thus he traveled the rough way, through forests, fording streams, and frequently sleeping under the canopy of the heavens, 260 miles, arriving at his destination in safety, and exhibiting all the patience and tenderness of a mother, as well as the care and providence of a father.
Leaving here his helpless family, he hastened to Wyoming, where some of the refugees had returned to gather their crops, and had built some defenses and shelter. Here Capt. Franklin’s ability as a leader began to manifest itself. Those who had returned to Wyoming, the better for their protection, had banded together as a military company, of which Franklin was made captain. He was also commissioned justice of the peace by the legislature of Connecticut. The duties of both offices were responsible. Constant activity was required to defend the settlers from the attacks of the savages, or pursue the retreating bands who, stealthily entering the valley, had struck a blow in some unexpected quarter and retreated with the fleetness of the wind. In the Sullivan campaign he was captain of the Wyoming volunteers, and in the attack of Gen. Hand on Chemung—or, as the old soldiers frequently called it, "Hogback Hill"---was severely wounded in the shoulder, which, of course, prevented any further participation in the campaign. Until the close of the war he was in command of the militia, who did most of the active military service in the valley.
As a justice, his decisions were usually final. Indeed, most of the cases brought before him for adjudication were comparatively trivial. Mr. Miner has preserved some of the records of Franklin’s justice’s court, two of which are the following: Aug. 19, 1780, ------ -----, of Westmoreland, found guilty of playing cards; therefore, ordered that he pay a fine to the treasury of the town of Westmoreland of ten shillings, lawful money, with costs. The other, a party was accused of secreting goods, when the justice put him under oath, and condemned him on his own testimony to pay a fine and restore the goods.
Besides, we find Capt. Franklin one of the justices of the quorum, frequently the moderator of the town-meeting, appointed on the most responsible committees, and at the same time engaged in his farming, enjoying a hunt, in short, occupied in the multifarious business which the situation required.
After the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania over the Susquehanna company’s purchase had been affirmed by the Trenton decree, contrary to all expectation, the government, instead of confirming the settlers in their possessions, declared that nothing could be done to interfere with the claims of those holding Pennsylvania title, and instead of quiet, the New England people were given to understand that they must purchase their land at the land-holders’ own prices. In the contests which have been detailed in another chapter, Capt. Franklin took the lead.
When the people began to realize the difficulties of their situation, an association was formed for the purpose of purchasing a large tract of land in the State of New York, and Capt. Franklin was sent out on an exploring expedition. He was absent from the 15th of May to the 7th of June, exploring the valley from Oquago up the Chenango, but for some reason the purchase was never consummated. Several parties, as Lieut. Roswell Franklin, the Gores,** and some others who were subsequently settlers in this county, went up there, but came back the same season. Franklin returned, determined to resist every act by which an attempt should be made to wrest from the settler his claim to the lands which were bought with the blood of his kindred. The struggle which ensued need not here be repeated. The various historics of Wyoming are filled with the details, and the public papers of this period, published in the Pennsylvania Archives, are minute in their delineations.
In 1784, Hon. John Boyd, John Armstrong, Jr., James Reed, and John Okely were appointed a commission to visit Wyoming and make inquiry into the claims and complaints of the Connecticut people. One evening it was alleged that an assault was made upon the house where they were lodged, and forthwith John Armstrong, the secretary of the Commonwealth, issued an order to Sheriff Antes to raise a posse and arrest John Swift, John Franklin, Elisha Satterlee, and fifteen others for riot; but they never were brought to trial.
In the various conferences which were held with commissioners and other officials, in writing letters, in visiting various parts of the Wyoming settlements, in circulating petitions, pleading the cause of the Connecticut people before the supreme executive council and the legislature of Pennsylvania, Franklin was constantly busy, and ever true to the people whom he represented and for whom he spoke, challenging not only the unqualified confidence of the settlers, but calling forth the bitterest epithets from the partisans of the Pennsylvania land-holders. In a brief sketch like this, it will be impossible to go into the details of all the movements of each party in this long and bitter conflict; but it may be set down as a fact, that whenever the rights of the Connecticut people were assailed, he ever stood ready for their defense, whether it was against the overbearing and haughty Patterson, or the treacherous Armstrong.
In nothing was Col. Franklin more distinguished than in his wonderful versatility in devising means for the accomplishment of his purposes. When it became evident that the legislature of Pennsylvania was controlled by the land-holders, the first scheme was to secure a court in which the private right to the soil could be tried. Failing in this, the next movement was to interest the Connecticut government in behalf of the suffering settlers; but in this the government declined to use anything but the moral influence of its opinions on the executive council of the commonwealth. Next was the new State plan, in which it was intended, through the aid of the Susquehanna company and the sympathy felt for the New England people at Wyoming, to bring on a sufficient force to wrest the territory from the grasp of the commonwealth. It must be remembered that at this time we were under the old confederation, which in time of peace, hardly bound the States to anything, and left each State to take care of its own interests as best it might, and maintain its own territorial integrity by its own force.
While this new State scheme was pending, the Pennsylvania legislature, in connection with the Land-holders’ Association, proposed to erect the Wyoming settlements into a new county, and quiet the old settlers in their possessions; and Timothy Pickering was sent to carry into effect the measures. Franklin was willing to enter into the arrangement, provided if, instead of requiring their submission to Pennsylvania first and confirming their titles afterwards, the titles should be confirmed first, and the half-share men should be provided for. The propositions of Franklin were directly opposed to the schemes of Pickering and his friends.
In order to test the general sentiment of the people, a meeting was called to decide whether they would accept of Col. Pickering’s propositions or not. Pickering opened the discussion. In a set speech---and he was a good talker---he portrayed the advantages of the proposed plan, the honesty of the intentions of the legislature, the folly of arraying themselves against so powerful a State, and urged them to seize the present opportunity to avail themselves of the generosity of the State and of the land-holders. The old settlers, many of them, caught at the hope thus held out to them, and if they could be secured in their homes were willing to accept the conditions on which they were offered. Here, as everywhere, Col. Franklin represented the half-share men and the company. His speech is spoken of as one of marvelous power. He held in his memory the whole story of the sufferings of the Yankees. How had Pennsylvania ever befriended Wyoming? When they were threatened by savages, she lent them no aid; when fathers and husbands were slain, she gave them the poor consolation by expressing the hope they would not again attempt to occupy Wyoming; in every proposition for compromise she had been partisan against them, and even then failed to carry into effect the promises which she had made. As he went on to delineate the brutality of the soldiers sent for their subjugation, the frauds which had been practiced by Pennsylvania officials, every eye was upon him, and every heart beat in sympathy with him. Pickering and his friends, to divert attention, brought on a disturbance in the meeting, and a vote taken was decided to have been in favor of the State scheme. Mr. Miner thinks Col. Franklin was not eloquent. But if eloquence is the art of persuasion, Col. Franklin certainly could not have been wanting. It is said when the hearers of the great Roman orator listened to his carefully-wrought and highly-polished orations, they went away saying, "What a great orator Cicero is!" but when they went from hearing Demosthenes, they said, "Let us fight Philip." Col. Franklin’s hearers went saying, "We will have nothing to do with Pennsylvania; we abhor her treachery, we despise her fickleness."
In Timothy Pickering, Col. Franklin found a "foeman worthy of his steel." Co-operating with him were some of the leading names in Wyoming,---the Hollenbacks, Butlers, Denisons, and the like; but Franklin bent all his wonderful energy to unite the people against the new county scheme. For two months he was engaged night and day. Riding up and down the valley, visiting from house to house, talking to little knots and gatherings of the people, writing letters to the prominent men of eastern New York and of New England, making frequent trips eastward, he was using all his energy and all his powerful influence in opposition to Pickering and his supporters. Matters were becoming desperate. The plan of Pickering to divide the Wyoming settlers was likely to come to naught, and his efforts to bring a portion of them into acquiescence with his project to be frustrated. Some decisive action must be taken. On his representation of the state of affairs at Wyoming to the supreme executive council, Charles Biddle, acting president, writes to Pickering, under date of Sept. 1, 1787, "Understanding that John Franklin is at the head of this opposition, we have thought it necessary to send a warrant to apprehend him." The warrant was issued by Chief Justice McKean, and on the 26th of September the council commanded Col. John Craig to take what force was deemed necessary, proceed to Wyoming, and there apprehend John Franklin, John Jenkins, Zera Beach, and John McKinstry, and bring them to Philadelphia. He was especially cautioned, "If you take Franklin at Wilkes-Barre do not proceed any farther, or run no risk of losing him by endeavoring to apprehend the others." The charge brought against Franklin was high treason. Mr. Miner thus details the particulars of executing the warrant:
"Colonel Franklin, at the close of September, had been making a political tour down the west side of the river to Huntington and Salem, and returned by Hanover and Wilkes-Barre, when, as he stood by Mr. Yarrington’s, near the ferry, it being about two o’clock in the afternoon, a person whom he knew came up and said, ‘a friend at the red house wished to speak with him.’ Unconscious of danger, he walked down, when suddenly he was seized behind, and an attempt made to pinion his arms. By powerful efforts he shook himself loose; was again seized, but by the most vigorous exertions kept his opponents from their purpose, till a noose was thrown over his head, and his arms confined, the power of four men being requisite to tie him. To get him on horseback was the next object. Colonel Franklin now cried out, ‘Help, help! William Slocum! Where is William Slocum?’ and drawing his pistols, for he went armed, discharged one of them without effect, when a heavy blow struck him for a moment almost senseless, and covered his face with blood. The hour had been judiciously chosen,---in the midst of seeding time. William Slocum, with nearly all the male population, were at work in distant fields sowing grain….‘From the river-bank Captain Erbe,’ who had been deputed by Colonel Craig to make the arrest, and was accompanied by three men, ‘had got his prisoner into the main street, near Colonel Pickering’s, but with tremendous power, and in spite of his four captors, Franklin threw himself from the horse as often as placed on him, when Colonel Pickering was obliged to come from behind the curtain, and decisively to interpose. Accompanied by his servant, he ran to the door, armed with a loaded pistol, which he held to Franklin’s breast, while George, the servant, tied his legs under the horse and bound him to one of his captors….Thus subdued by six, he was hurried with painful speed to Philadelphia.’" Here he was confined in jail with great rigor, and every expression of indignation for the act on the part of the Wyoming people was made a pretext for inflicting new severities. All Wyoming was in commotion on hearing of the abduction of Franklin and the part Pickering had taken in it. Nothing had ever occurred in all the controversy which so stirred the people. Franklin was their beloved leader, their personal friend, their trusted counselor. The blow which struck him down had been aimed at them. Franklin’s enemy was an enemy to them; what had been inflicted upon him was ready to be meted out to them if opportunity offered. His cause was theirs, and his sufferings were on their behalf. It was well understood that about this time was formed what was popularly called the "Wild Yankee League," a confederation among the half-share men for their mutual protection, in which, after recounting their claim and possession, they conclude: "Therefore, we humbly, jointly, and severally pledge our honors and all our properties, real and personal, that we will use our utmost exertions for the protection and defense of each other in the possession of the lands aforesaid against all invaders, and for the defense of all such as will join with us in this combination, and that we will unequivocally adhere to everything comprised in the foregoing declaration. We also hereby declare to the public that we will lay no claim to lands under any other title but that of the Susquehanna company, in the before-mentioned purchase." This league was signed by upwards of sixty, more than one-half of whom were Bradford County men.
Immediate measures were taken by the wild Yankees and their friends to seize Colonel Pickering, and hold him as a hostage for the release of Franklin. Informed of their purpose, Pickering escaped from home in the night, and made his way to Philadelphia, only in time to save himself from capture, for "under the lead of Swift and Satterlee, the Tioga boys, or wild Yankees, surrounded the house in the evening and demanded admittance, threatening in case of refusal or resistance to set the buildings on fire." After assuring themselves that Pickering had fled, they sent a party over the mountain to intercept him, but he was too vigilant, and had stolen a march on them. On the report of Pickering, council on the 8th of October passed the following order: that,
"Taking into consideration the intelligence received from the county of Luzerne since the capture of John Franklin, the principal of the banditti lately assembled at Tioga, and the public safety at this time requiring that the said John Franklin should be closely confined, therefore
"Resolved, That the sheriff of the city and county of Philadelphia be directed to confine the said John Franklin in one of the upper rooms of the jail, in irons, to suffer no person or persons whatsoever to speak to him without leave from council, or one of the judges of the supreme court, and to debar him the use of pen, ink, and paper."
Whatever may be thought of the policy of Pickering and the party acting with him, the vindictiveness with which Franklin was pursued, the absolute certainty that he had committed no crime against the law, that at the most the offense charged was only a political one, and made for nothing but political purposes, must forever stigmatize the cruelty of Franklin’s treatment as inhuman and disgraceful. It is a dark spot on the otherwise fair name of Colonel Pickering, and casts a shadow over an otherwise unsullied character which, were it not that the truth of history requires it, would gladly have been allowed to pass unnoticed. After a fortnight’s confinement in a cheerless dungeon, without bed or fire, manacled like a felon, shut off from friends, books, and writing materials, with no clothing but the summer suit he had on when captured, through the cold, damp, October days, council so far relented that the sheriff was permitted to furnish him a "mattress and three blankets," and on the 26th of October to take off the irons, on Franklin giving his parole that he would not escape. This was not done, however.
Pickering, believing that the excitement had subsided, returned to Wilkes-Barre in January, 1788, where he imagined he could now live in safety. Although warned of the danger to which he was exposed, he regarded the warning rather as a threat, which he was determined to defy. On the night of June 26, 1788, while in bed, he was seized by a party in disguise, and quietly taken away, and before the community were alarmed his captors were beyond the reach of pursuit, and conveyed their prisoner to the wilds of Bowman’s, and afterwards of the Mehoopany creek, where he was kept under guard. The object of the capture was to procure from Pickering a letter to the authorities at Philadelphia asking for Franklin’s release. This Pickering steadily refused to do, when he was at length released by his captors, and returned to Wilkes-Barre after a captivity of twenty days.
Franklin had been kept in confinement for more than a year, deprived of the very necessaries of life, kept without fire, and ironed, held without trial and refused bail, in such palpable violation of the spirit of the Federal constitution, which affirmed the right of every man accused of crime to a speedy trial, that the conduct of the Pennsylvania authorities was reprobated all over the Union. On Oct. 14, 1788, Governor Huntington of Connecticut, addressed a second letter*** to the governor of Pennsylvania, in which he suggests, "whether it be consistent with the free constitution of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania to hold any person a close prisoner from year to year, merely upon accusation, without admitting him to bail, or the liberty of a trial, when government is in profound peace and full exercise." The answer of David Redick, acting president, is weak and equivocal, and amounts simply to this: that the conduct of Franklin had been bad, and people must not believe all they hear.
In the mean time Franklin had sent a memorial to the council, stating that he was sick, and far from home and friends, was suffering from the rigors of his confinement, whereupon, on Feb. 8, they ordered the irons to be taken off from him, and the severity of his confinement mitigated as far as was consistent with safety. Assurances had been given Franklin that if he could obtain bail in the sum of two thousand pounds he should be liberated; but, on naming a number of his friends as his security, he was met with the contemptuous remark from one of the council, that no ten persons in Wyoming were worth two hundred pounds, much less two thousand. Finally, stricken down by a severe sickness, induced by confinement and the want of the customary necessaries of life, he addressed the supreme executive council a letter, dated, PRISON, Philadelphia, Sept. 17, 1788. This letter is too long for publication entire****, but is in substance his willingness to do anything that may be required of him, his disappointment that he had not been liberated on bail, according to previous assurances, declaring in case he had been thus liberated his purpose to return to Wyoming and use his influence to quell the disturbances there. Mr. Miner remarks, "The lion being tamed, the purpose of a new and independent government being abandoned, and the pledge contained in his letter to the committee being received with confidence, Colonel Franklin was visited by the magnates of the city and treated with all the respect and courtesy of a prisoner of state, detained on political considerations not affecting his moral integrity or personal character. Knowing his great influence, particular pains were taken to conciliate him and bring him into the scheme of compromise devised by Colonel Pickering. Without committing himself on that point, he satisfied those interested that he would offer no further obstruction to the introduction of the laws." A session of the supreme court was held in Wilkes-Barre, Nov. 8, 1788, by Chief Justice McKean, supported by Judge Jacob Rush. Colonel Franklin was brought up from the city, and was indicted on a charge of high treason "in endeavoring to subvert the government, and to erect a new and independent State in the room and stead thereof," but, on the ground that important witnesses were wanting, the trial was postponed, Franklin admitted to bail, and set at liberty, and the prosecution, after remaining some years unacted upon, was abandoned.
Some time previous to his arrest, Colonel Franklin had married Abigail, daughter of Captain Stephen Fuller, and the widow of Captain James Bidlack. Captain Bidlack at the time of the battle was in command of the lower Wilkes-Barre company, consisting of thirty-eight men, was captured by the enemy on the evening of that fatal 3d of July, was forced upon a burning log-heap, and held there with pitch-forks until burned to death. The precise date of Colonel Franklin’s second marriage we have not been able to ascertain. Immediately after his release from prison he moved to Athens, and for the remainder of his life was a resident of Bradford County.
In 1792, Col. Franklin was elected high sheriff of Luzerne. In the commission issued to him by Governor Mifflin, he says, "reposing special trust and confidence in your patriotism, integrity and ability." When it is remembered that this is less than four years from the period of his incarceration in Philadelphia for high treason, the fact becomes significant. From the expiration of his term as sheriff he was busy for a number of years as one of the commissioners, and as the clerk of the Susquehanna company. It will be remembered that this was a period of great activity with the company, in which they were making prodigious efforts to retain their purchase. At the August sessions of the court, in 1801, John Franklin, John Jenkins, Elisha Satterlee, and Joseph Biles were indicted for unlawfully combining and conspiring for the purpose of conveying, possessing, and settling on lands within the limits of the county of Luzerne, under a certain pretended title not derived from the commonwealth, nor from the Proprietaries previous to the Revolution; also of combining and conspiring to lay out townships by persons not appointed or acknowledged by the laws of this commonwealth. This case created great excitement throughout Luzerne county, because of the standing of the parties who were defendants, and because it was regarded as a test case under the intrusion law. Joseph B. McKean, attorney-general, was the prosecutor. The case was called up May 4, 1802, before Judges Yates and Brackenridge,---but three witnesses were sworn on the part of the commonwealth, and none for the defense. It was proved that the defendants had surveyed and granted townships, and lots of land, under the Susquehanna company’s title. The defense was the unconstitutionality of the law. Upon this the whole case turned. The jury returned a special verdict, in which they found Satterlee and Biles not guilty, Franklin and Jenkins guilty if the law was constitutional, otherwise not guilty. On the question of the constitutionality of the law the court was divided in opinion. Judge Yates gave a long list of quotations from English and American authorities in support of an argument for the constitutionality of the law. Judge Brackenridge, however, took the ground that it was against equity and justice, and thus contrary to the spirit of the constitution, both State and national. A bill of exceptions was filed by the defendants, but most of the points were merely technical. From the favorable progress of the compromise measures the prosecution was dropped.
In 1781, while Connecticut still claimed jurisdiction over the New England settlements on the Susquehanna, and representatives from "Westmoreland" were sent to the general assembly at Hartford, Col. Franklin represented the town for one session. In the years 1795 and 1796 he represented Luzerne county in the assembly of Pennsylvania. In 1799 to 1803, inclusive, he was in the assembly every term. Mr. Miner says of him: "A few months before an election, with great tact Franklin would commence his essays, awaken old and new prejudices and hopes, kindling the spirit of the people to that degree of warmth that ‘Col. Franklin must go to the assembly,’ and he went." As an evidence of his popularity in this county, in 1801 he received in the Tioga district every vote, and in the Wyalusing district all but sixteen; in 1802, every vote but three in the three election districts of which the county was composed, and in 1803 all but ten.
In the legislature, on all those questions which related to the title of lands, he was earnest in his defense of the half-share men and unsparing in his reproaches and withering sarcasm of the "land-jobbers." An attempt was made in the session of 1802-3 to expel him from the assembly on account of his indictment under the intrusion law, but on account of political reasons many in the land-holders’ interest were induced to vote against his expulsion. Determined, however, to get rid of him, the legislature, in 1804, passed an act dividing the county of Luzerne, and setting off that part which contained the residence of Col. Franklin to Lycoming. It is said that the first draft of the bill included that part of Luzerne west of the Susquehanna and north of the Towanda. When the bill was read, Col. Franklin arose in his seat and remarked "he wished to inform the gentlemen that he lived east of the river." The boundaries were accordingly changed so as to include him in the dismembered portion. In 1805, however, much to the chagrin of his enemies, he was elected by the people of Lycoming, and appeared in triumph at Lancaster and took his seat. As it was his crowning, so it was his closing victory. Old age had dampened his ardor and chilled his ambition, and the remainder of his days were spent in the quiet of his own home. Here, surrounded by friends who loved and revered him, it was his delight to recount the scenes of his early days, and tell the story of the suffering and toils of his companions and associates.
Many of the older people at Athens still remember him. His tall, stalwart frame was bent with age, the gleam of fire in his eye had faded, the sandy, bushy hair had become bleached, the scars left by the smallpox were mingled with the wrinkles and seams of age, but all his neighbors rose up before the hoary head, and listened with reverence to his words of counsel. It was his custom, later in life, whenever he attended the burial of one of the old citizens, at the grave to make some remarks about the deceased. These words and the impression which they made are still remembered by many.
An anecdote has been related which illustrates Col. Franklin’s retentive memory. This he retained to the last. He could tell the events, in their order and with great minuteness, which had occurred in the valley from the period of its first occupation by the white people. He knew every man and his history on the Susquehanna company’s purchase, and the history of every tract of land which had been occupied. In all questions relating to settlement or occupancy, his testimony was invaluable and conclusive. Many of those depositions, where they could be obtained, have thrown great light on our early history.
He was a ready writer. His pen was constantly employed. In writing the history of the purchase, in taking copies of legal papers and documents, in writing letters, in keeping a journal, the amount of writing done by him was enormous. Many of those papers have been preserved, but the great mass have been scattered and destroyed.
He was earnest in his convictions, and ardent in maintaining them. He believed the claim of the Susquehanna company was a valid one. No person can read his argument in its defense without amazement at the amount of labor expended in procuring and arranging the facts, and the skill with which they are made to answer his purpose. It has been said that as respects the great principles on which real estate is held in this country, his knowledge has never been surpassed.
In his earlier years Franklin and his wife were communicants in the Congregational church. After the death of his first wife, and in the excitement and conflicts of his middle life, his religious feelings seem to have been kept in the background; but in his latter life they returned with renewed vigor. To his friends he confessed his departures from his professions, and his determination to live a better life. This he did, spending much of his time in reading the Bible and in devotion. There are old people now living who remember with great distinctness his long, earnest prayers.
In politics Col. Franklin was a zealous Federalist, and wielding so large an influence in Luzerne, in the then nearly balanced state of parties in Pennsylvania, he was courted or countenanced by eminent men, and even the heart of his old enemy, Timothy Pickering, so far relented that they exchanged civilities, and, it is understood, dined together at the secretary’s table. Although usually grave an dignified in his demeanor, there was a vein of sly humor often mingled in his conversation. At one time, in giving his evidence before court, referring to some transaction which took place about the time of his abduction, he observed that about that time he was called "on important business to Philadelphia; he had just gone in company with several gentlemen to that city." At another time he referred to his moving to Athens as immediately after his return from a protracted visit to Philadelphia.
Col. Franklin died at Athens, at his home, March 1, 1831, aged eighty-one years three months and five days. He was buried on a little gravel bluff overlooking the highway, and in plain view of Tioga Point, only a few rods north of his mansion. A view of his burial-place is here given. Abigail, the colonel’s last wife, died in Athens, Jan. 30, 1834, in her eighty-third year. She was buried beside him, and a plain marble slab marks their graves.
Of his children, Billa settled first at Palmyra, N.Y., afterwards at St. Alban’s, N.Y., where he died, leaving a family of nine children; Amos, by profession a physician, settled at Cayuga village, and died there, Oct. 11, 1804, leaving one son, Henry, who died without children. The daughter, Kezia, married Dr. Solomon Beebe, settled at Geneva, N.Y., and died without children. The widow Bidlack had, previous to her marriage with Col. Franklin, Stephen, who was seven years old at the time of the massacre, settled at Spencer, N.Y., and died there; Sally, married a Mr. Chitsie, and settled in New York state; Hettie, married William Patrick, settled first in Wysox, and then moved to Michigan---she was the mother of the late Gen. Welles’ first wife; and James, who settled in Sheshequin.
*Col. Wright’s Sketches of Plymouth.
**"Mr. Gore, of this Place, who had been sent some time ago to the Assembly of the state of New York with a Petition for a Grant of Land thirty miles Miles Square at Aghquague on this Side of the Lake near the Head of the River Susquahannah, returned last Night and brought the News that the Petition of the Wyoming Settlers had been granted, and that he was going up & chuse the Place."---Capt. Shrawder to Pres. Dickinson, March 29, 1783.
***The answer to this letter is in Pa. Ar., vol. xi. pg. 238. It must have been written about Feb. 1, 1788.
****This letter is published in Miner’s
History of Wyoming, p. 433, and the original is among the papers
of the Bradford County Historical Society. It is also published on Tri-Counties
Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
Bibliographic data for your source citations: Craft, The Reverend David; 1770-1878 History of Bradford County, Pennsylvania with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominient Men and Pioneers, originally published 1878 by L. H. Everts & Co., Philadelphia, Reprint edition published by Tri-Counties Genelaolgy & History by Joyce M. Tice (rootsweb.com/~srgp/jmtindex.htm) 1999-2004.