Peter Folger and Mary Morrell
Peter Folger was born, according to Sparks, in 1617. He was the son of John Folger and Merrable Gibbs. According to tradition, Peter came to America with his father in 1635 from Norwich, Norfolk, England. He settled at Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts and then Martha’s Vineyard, Dukes, Massachusetts. He was a missionary and interpreter among the Indians there.
Peter married Mary Morrell in 1644. According to tradition, which has been disputed, Mary was an indentured servant of Hugh Peters, Peter “bought her” by paying off her indenture, and Peter stated that she was “the best appropriation of money he had ever made”.
Around 1663, the Folgers moved to the Island of Nantucket (Massachusetts), where he was among the first settlers. According to Sparks, Peter was “a man of considerable learning, particularly in mathematical science” and was a surveyor in both Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, becoming one of the five commissioners appointed to measure and lay out land on Nantucket. He was a teacher, was “not only well informed in theology, but in political affairs”, served as a clerk of the courts, and supposedly preached (as a Baptist) from time to time.
Sigourney and Mooney report that Peter was “called ‘white chief’s old-young man’ by the Nantucket Indians, meaning he was wise for his age.” Sparks quotes one Mr. Prince, who mentioned “an able and godly Englishman, named Peter Foulger, employed in teaching the youth in reading, writing, and the principles of religion by catechizing; being well learned likewise in the Scriptures, and capable of helping them in religious matters.” Cotton Mather called Peter “a godly, learned Englishman”. Peter wrote poetry, including A Looking-Glass for Our Times.
Mary was said to have “widened out in later years” and that, because of that, she had a special chair she carried with her when she visited her neighbors.
Peter died in 1690 and Mary died in 1704.
Peter and Mary's children are:
- Eleazur Folger, born in 1648 in Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusetts, married Sarah Gardner in 1671 in Nantucket, Massachusetts, a blacksmith, may have died in 1716 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, survived the accident that killed his sister Bethia, reportedly died in 1716 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts.
- John Folger, born in 1659, married Mary Barnard, died 23rd 8 mo 1732 in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
- Joanna Folger, married John Coleman, died 18th 5 mo 1719 in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
- Bethia Folger, married John Barnard 26 Feb 1668 in Nantucket, Massachusetts, died (drowned with husband John and Isaac Coleman when the boat they using to cross from Nantucket to Martha’s Vineyard was upset) 6 Jun 1669 between Nantucket Island and Martha’s Vineyard, Dukes, Massachusetts.
- Dorcas Folger, married Joseph Pratt in 12 Feb 1675 in Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusetts, died in 1762 in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
- Bethshua Folger, married Joseph Pope, according to Savage she may have been “infirm of mind”.
- Patience Folger, married 1) Ebenezer Harker and 2) James Gardner.
- Experience Folger, married John Swain, Jr., died 4th 6 mo 1739 in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
- Abiah Folger, born 15 Aug 1667 in Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusetts, married Josiah Franklin (soapboiler and candlemaker) in 1690 in Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusetts, became the mother of Benjamin Franklin, called by son Benjamin “a discreet and virtuous woman” with “an excellent constitution”, died in 1752, buried at the Granary Burying Ground, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts.
- International Genealogical Index (extracted from original source by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), Marriage records: (Batch # M501853, Dates: 1850, Source Call #0823704 IT 1-2, Type: Film); Birth records (Batch # C501851, Dates: 1850, Source Call #0823703 IT 1-2, Type: Film).
- Savage, James, A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1990 (originally published Boston, 1860-1862).
- Franklin, Benjamin, Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Harvard Classics, 1909, pgs. 3-4.
- Gravestone of Josiah and Abiah (Folger) Franklin, Granary Burying Ground, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts.
- Sparks, Jared, Life of Benjamin Franklin: A Continuation of Franklin’s Autobiography, Boston: Hilliard, Gray, & Co., 1836-40.
- Weis, Frederick Lewis, The Colonial Clergy and the Colonial Churches of New England, Lancester, MA, 1936, p. 86.
- Starbuck, Alexander, History of Nantucket County, Island and Town, including Genealogies of the First Settlers, (originally published 1924), Rutland VT: Chas. Tuttle Co., 1969.
- Mooney, Robert F., and Sigourney, Andre R., The Nantucket Way, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980.
- Downs-Watson, Kim (Coordinator, Peter Folger Project for the Nantucket Historical Association), Historic Nantucket, as quoted by http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~parisho/f/folger.html.
- Folger, Peter, Excerpts of A Looking-Glass for the Times; or, The former spirit of New England revived in this generation,1675, compiled by Robert M. Lawson, http://kinnexions.com/smlawson/folger.htm.
- Thoreau, Henry David, Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861, http://www.niulib.niu.edu/thoreau/
- Vital Records of Nantucket, Massachusetts to the Year 1850, Vol. I—Births (A-F), Boston: New England Historical & Genealogical Society, 1925.
- Vital Records of Nantucket, Massachusetts to the Year 1850, Vol. III—Marriages (A-G), Boston: New England Historical & Genealogical Society, 1927.
- Vital Records of Nantucket, Massachusetts to the Year 1850, Vol. V—Deaths, Boston: New England Historical & Genealogical Society, 1928.
- Melville, Herman, Moby Dick, chapter 24.
Portrait believed to be of Abiah (Folger) Franklin
Vital Records: Births
Nantucket BirthsPage 465
Abiah, daughter of Peter, August 15, 1667. [wife of Josias Franklin of Boston (“The parents of Dr. Franklin”), daughter of Peter [q. v.] and Mary Morrell, 5th, 8 mo., P. R. 38.]
Bethiah, wife of John Barnard (son of Robert 1st and Joanna), daughter of Peter [q. v.] and Mary Morrell, —, P. R. 38.
Bethshua, wife of Joseph Pope, daughter of Peter [q. v.] and Mary Morrell, —, P. R. 38.
Dorcas, wife of Joseph Pratt, daughter of Peter [q. v.] and Mary Morrell, —, P. R. 38.
Eleazer, husband of Sarah (son of Richard Gardner 1st and Sarah), son of Peter [q. v.] and Mary Morrell, —, 1648, P. R. 38.
Experience, wife of John Swain (son of John and Mary), daughter of Peter [q. v.] and Mary Morrell, —, P. R. 38.
Joanna, wife of John Coleman (son of Thomas 1st), daughter of Peter [q. v.] and Mary Morrell, —, P. R. 38.
John, husband of Mary (Barnard), son of Peter [q. v.] and Mary Morrell, —, 1659, P. R. 38.
Patience, wife of Ebenezer Harker, wife of James Gardner (son of Richard 1st), daughter of Peter [q. v.] and Mary Morrell, —, P. R. 38.
Peter, “Came to Nant. in 1663,” husband of Mary Morrell, son of John “came form the city Norwich in England in 1638,” —, 1618 [in England], P. R. 38.
Source: Vital Records of Nantucket, Massachusetts to the Year 1850, Vol. I—Births (A-F), Boston: New England Historical & Genealogical Society, 1925.
Vital Records: Marriages
Page 439Nantucket Marriages
Abiah (second wife), daughter of Peter and Mary, and Josias Franklin of Boston, —, 1690 [sic], P. R. 38.
Bethiah and John Barnard, February 26, 1668. [Bethia, daughter of Peter 1st and Mary Morrell, and John Barnard, son of Robert 1st and Joanna Harvey, P. R. 38.]
Dorcas, daughter of Peter 1st and Mary, and Joseph Pratt, son of Phineas of Charlestown, —, 1675, P. R. 38.
Eleazer, son of Peter and Mary Morrell, and Sarah Gardner, daughter of Richard 1st and Sarah (Shattuck), —, 1671, P. R. 38.
Peter, son of John (“came from the city of Norwich in England in 1638”), and Mary Morrell, —, 1644, “Came to Nantucket in 1663,” P. R. 38.
Source: Vital Records of Nantucket, Massachusetts to the Year 1850, Vol. III—Marriages (A-G), Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1927.
Vital Records: Deaths
Page 37Nantucket Deaths
Bethia, wife of John, “drown’d…between Nantucket & ye Vineyard,” June 6, 1669. [Bethiah, wife of John (son of Robert 1st and Joanna), daughter of Peter Folger 1st and Mary Morrell, 6th, 6 mo., P. R. 38. Bethiah, 6th, 6 mo., P. R. 63.]
Johanna, 18th, 5 mo. 1719. [Joanna, wife of John (son of Thomas 1st), daughter of Peter Folger and Mary Morrell, P. R. 38. Joanna, P. R. 63.]
Eleazer, husband of Sarah (daughter of Richard Gardner 1st and Sarah), son of Peter and Mary Morrell, —, 1716, P. R. 38. [Eleazer 1st, age 68 years 6 months, P. R. 63.]
John, husband of Mary (daughter of Nathaniel Barnard and Mary), son of Peter and Mary Morrell, 23d, 8 mo. 1732, P. R. 38.
Mary Morrell, wife of Peter (son of John of England), —, 1704, P. R. 38.
Peter, “Came to Nantucket in 1663,” husband of Mary Morrell, son of John (“came from the city of Norwich in England in 1638”), —, 1690, P. R. 38.
Abiah, wife of Josiah of Boston, “The parents of Dr. Franklin,” daughter of Peter Folger and Mary, —, 1752 [? in Boston], P. R. 38.
Dorcas, wife of Joseph (son of Phinehas of Charlestown), daughter of Peter Folger 1st and Mary, —, 1762, P. R. 38.
Experience, wife of John Jr. (son of John and Mary), daughter of Peter Folger and Mary Morrell, 23d, 8 mo. [duplicate entry, 4th, 6 mo.], 1739, P. R. 38. [4th, 6 mo., P. R. 63.]
Source: Vital Records of Nantucket, Massachusetts to the Year 1850, Vol. V—Deaths, Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1928.
Savage's Genealogical Dictionary
JOHN, Nantucket, only son of Robert of the same, married 25 February 1669, Bethia, daughter of Peter Folger, and they were drowned 6 June following.
*ELEAZUR, Nantucket, son of Peter, probably eldest, married about 1671, Sarah Gardner, had Eleazur, born 2 July 1672; Peter, 28 August 1674; Sarah, 24 August 1676; Nathan, 1678; and Mary, 14 February 1684; was a blacksmith, and reportedly died at Boston 1716; and his widow died 19 October 1729.
JOHN, Nantucket, son of Peter, married Mary, daughter of Nathaniel Barnard.
PETER, Nantucket, son of the first John, went early from Watertown, probably with Thomas Mayhew, to the Vineyard, married Mary Morrill, bestowed great pains in teaching the Indians as successor to Mayhew, and removed about 1663, to the island where his name has ever since been in high regard, had Eleazur, born about 1648; and John, about 1659, beside seven daughters Joanna who married John Coleman; Bethia, who married 25 February 1669, John Barnard, and with him was drown. 6 June following when her younger brother Eleazur was saved; Dorcas, who married Joseph Pratt; Bathshua, who married Joseph Pope of Salem village; Patience, who married Ebenezer Harker, and next, James Gardner; Experience, who married John Swain, jr. He died 1690, and his widow Mary died 1704. His youngest child Abiah, born 15 August 1667, married Josiah Franklin as his second wife and was mother of the celebrated Benjamin, who in his genealogical inquiry was led to infer that the family was Flemish, and came to England in the days of Elizabeth. Some verses by him, occasioned by Philip’s war, under the whimsical title of Looking-Glass for the Times, printed after ninety years circulation in MS. (manuscript?) are sought for sometimes, less for poetical value, than bibliographical curiosity.
JOSIAH, Boston, s. of Thomas of Eaton, Northamptonshire where he was born 23 December 1657, came about 1683, with wife Ann and three children Elizabeth born 2 March 1678; Samuel, 16 May 1681; and Hannah, 25 May 1683; all born at Banbury in Oxfordshire followed in Boston his trade of soapboiler and maker of candles, had here, by her; Josiah, born 23 August 1685; Ann, 5 January 1687; Joseph, 5 January or 6 February 1688, died soon; and Joseph, again, 30 June 1689. The first wife died and he married not very long after, we judge, Abiah, daughter of Peter Folger, who died 1752, in 85th year, had John, baptized 7 December 1690; Peter, born 22, baptized 27 November 1692; Mar., 26 September 1694; James, 4 February 1697; Sarah, 9 July 1699; Ebenezer, 20 September 1701, died at 2 years; Thomas, 7 December 1703; Benjamin, 6 January 1706, the celebrated philosopher and statesman, baptized the same day, as his father lived very near to Old South church; Lydia, 3 August 1708; and Jane, 27 March 1712; so that there were seventeen children. He died 16 January 1745…
EBENEZER, Nantucket, married Patience, daughter of Peter Folger, but whether he had issue I know not. His widow married James Gardner.
JAMES, Nantucket, son of Richard the first, who had removed thither from Salem, married Mary, daughter of Nathaniel Starbuck, who was said to be the first white child born on that island 30 March 1663, had Samuel; Jethro; Barnabas, born 12 April 1695; Jonathan, 12 September 1696; Elizabeth and Mehitable. By second wife Patience, daughter of Peter Folger, widow of Ebenezer Harker, he had no children but he took third wife Rachel, widow of John Brown of Salem, daughter of John Gardner, his father’s brother and had James; but by fourth wife Mary Pinkham, widow of Richard, and daughter of James Coffin, had no children and died 1 June 1723, and his widow died 2 March 1741.
JOSEPH, Salem, son of the preceding (Joseph Pope also of Salem), living at the village which was made Danvers, freeman 1690, married Bathshua Folger, had Nathaniel, born 20 November 1679; Joseph, who died young; Bathshua, 9 April 1683; Gertrude, 27 August 1685; Joseph, again, 16 June 1687; Enos, 6 June 1690; Eleazer, 4 December 1693; and Jerusha, 1 April 1695; and he died 1712. His will of 25 January probated 3 March of that year names all the children but the first two, and notes that the eldest daughter was infirm of mind, as probably had been her mother, at least she was much afflicted in the witchcraft days; also names Mary, and Sarah, children of his son Nathaniel deceased before 1711.
JOSEPH, Charlestown, perhaps son of Phineas, married 12 February 1675, Dorcas Folger, had Joseph, born 19 October 1677, Bethia, 11 February 1680; Benjamin, 19 January 1682, died soon; Dorcas, 2 April 1683, died soon; Phineas, 18 January 1684; Joshua, 18 June 1686; Lydia, 28 November 1688; and the living three son and daughters were baptized 10 February 1689, when unluckily only Joseph is named in the record.
Source: Savage, James, A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1990 (originally published Boston, 1860-1862).
From The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Josiah, my father, married young, and carried his wife with three children into New England, about 1682. The conventicles having been forbidden by law, and frequently disturbed, induced some considerable men of his acquaintance to remove to that country, and he was prevailed with to accompany them thither, where they expected to enjoy their mode of religion with freedom. By the same wife he had four children more born there, and by a second wife ten more, in all seventeen; of which I remember thirteen sitting at one time at his table, who all grew up to be men and women, and married; I was the youngest son, and the youngest child but two, and was born in Boston, New England.
My mother, the second wife, was Abiah Folger, daughter of Peter Folger, one of the first settlers of New England, of whom honorable mention is made by Cotton Mather in his church history of that country, entitled Magnalia Christi Americana, as “a godly, learned Englishman,” if I remember the words rightly. I have heard that he wrote sundry small occasional pieces, but only one of them was printed, which I saw now many years since. It was written in 1675, in the home-spun verse of that time and people, and addressed to those then concerned in the government there. It was in favor of liberty of conscience, and in behalf of the Baptists, Quakers, and other sectaries that had been under persecution, ascribing the Indian wars, and other distresses that had befallen the country, to that persecution, as so many judgments of God to punish so heinous an offense, and exhorting a repeal of those uncharitable laws. The whole appeared to me as written with a good deal of decent plainness and manly freedom. The six concluding lines I remember, though I have forgotten the two first of the stanza; but the purport of them was, that his censures proceeded from good-will, and, therefore, he would be known to be the author.
Because to be a libeller (says he)
I hate it with my heart;
From Sherburne town, where now I dwell
My name I do put here;
Without offense your real friend,
It is Peter Folgier.
… I think you may like to know something of his (Josiah Franklin’s) person and character. He had an excellent constitution of body, was of middle stature, but well set, and very strong; he was ingenious, could draw prettily, was skilled a little in music, and had a clear pleasing voice, so that when he played psalm tunes on his violin and sung withal, as he sometimes did in an evening after the business of the day was over, it was extremely agreeable to hear. He had a mechanical genius too, and, on occasion, was very handy in the use of other tradesmen’s tools; but his great excellence lay in a sound understanding and solid judgment in prudential matters, both in private and publick affairs. In the latter, indeed, he was never employed, the numerous family he had to educate and the straitness of his circumstances keeping him close to his trade; but I remember well his being frequently visited by leading people, who consulted him for his opinion in affairs of the town or of the church he belonged to, and showed a good deal of respect for his judgment and advice: he was also much consulted by private persons about their affairs when any difficulty occurred, and frequently chosen an arbitrator between contending parties.
At his table he liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or neighbor to converse with, and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of life; and little or no notice was ever taken of what related to the victuals on the table, whether it was well or ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad flavor, preferable or inferior to this or that other thing of the kind, so that I was bro’t up in such a perfect inattention to those matters as to be quite indifferent what kind of food was set before me, and so unobservant of it, that to this day if I am asked I can scarce tell a few hours after dinner what I dined upon. This has been a convenience to me in travelling, where my companions have been sometimes very unhappy for want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate, because better instructed, tastes and appetites.
My mother had likewise an excellent constitution: she suckled all her ten children. I never knew either my father or mother to have any sickness but that of which they dy’d, he at 89, and she at 85 years of age. They lie buried together at Boston, where I some years since placed a marble over their grave, with this inscription:
And ABIAH his Wife,
Lie here interred.
They lived lovingly together in wedlock
Without an estate, or any gainful employment,
By constant labour and industry,
With God’s blessing,
They maintained a large family
And brought up thirteen children
And seven grandchildren
From this instance, Reader,
Be encouraged to diligence in thy calling,
And distrust not Providence.
He was a pious and prudent man,
She, a discreet and virtuous woman.
Their youngest son,
In filial regard to their memory,
Places this stone.
J.F. born 1655—Died 1744—Ætat. 89.
A.F. born 1667—Died 1752, —— 85.
Source: Franklin, Benjamin, Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Harvard Classics, 1909, pgs. 3-4.
From Sparks' Life of Benjamin Franklin
There is a tradition in the family, that John Folger, and his son Peter Folger, (the name was then written Foulger) crossed the Atlantic in the same vessel with Hugh Peters, in the year 1635. They came from Norwich, in the county of Norfolk, England. Peter was then eighteen years old, and of course was born in the year 1617. The father and son settled at Martha’s Vineyard. The time is not exactly known, but it is supposed to have been very soon after they came to the country. It has not been ascertained whether John Folger’s wife came with him, or whether she had died in England, and he married again in America. The name of his wife, Meribell, is mentioned in the records of Martha’s Vineyard. He died about 1660. His wife was living in 1663. Peter was his only child.
In the year 1644, Peter Folger married Mary Morrell, who had been an inmate in Hugh Peters’s family. He resided at Martha’s Vineyard till 1663, when he removed to Nantucket, being among the first settlers of that Island. He was a man of considerable learning, particularly in mathematical science, and he practised surveying both in the Vineyard and Nantucket. He was one of the five commissioners first appointed to measure and lay out the land on the Island of Nantucket; and it was said in the order, that “whatsoever shall be done by them or any three of them, Peter Folger being one, shall be accounted legal and valid.” This mode of wording the order shows the confidence that was placed in his integrity and judgment.
He acquired the Indian language, and served as interpreter, both in affairs of business, and in communicating religious instruction to the Indians. He rendered assistance in this way to the Reverend Thomas Mayhew, the distinguished missionary at Martha’s Vineyard. Mr. Prince, in his account of Mayhew, says, that he had “an able and godly Englishman, named Peter Foulger, employed in teaching the youth in reading, writing, and the principles of religion by catechizing; being well learned likewise in the Scriptures, and capable of helping them in religious matters.” He is said to have preached on some occasions. There is a long letter from him to his son-in-law, Joseph Pratt, containing religious counsel, with much use of Scripture, according to the practice of those times. Indeed his poem, entitled A Looking-Glass for the Times, published in 1676, shows that he was not only well informed in theology, but in political affairs, such as they then were in New England. He died in 1690, and his widow in 1704.
The children of Peter and Mary Folger were, 1. Johannah, who married John Coleman. 2. Bethiah, married John Barnard, February, 1668-9. They were both drowned four months afterwards by the upsetting of a boat, while crossing from Nantucket. to the Vineyard. 3. Dorcas, married Joseph Pratt 4. Eleazer born 1648, married Sarah Gardner. 5. Bethshua, married — Pope. 6. Patience, married Ebenezer Harker. 7. John, born 1659, married Mary Barnard. 8. Experience, married John Swain 9. Abiah, born August 15th, 1667, married Josiah Franklin.
Joseph Pratt lived at one time in Nantucket, but is supposed to have removed to Boston. Some of the descendants of Pope also lived in Boston. John Pope was a physician of some eminence. Joseph Pope was ingenious in mechanics, and constructed the orrery in Harvard College. Robert Pope was a watchmaker, skilful in his art. The other children of Peter Folger and their descendants have nearly all resided in Nantucket. A son of Eleazer, of the same name, served as register of probate forty-seven years, and died in 1753, aged eighty-one. He was succeeded by his son Frederick, who held the same office thirty-seven years, and died in 1790, at the age of sixty-five. Peleg, a brother of Frederick, wrote many pieces in prose and verse, and was distinguished for his piety and estimable character; he died in 1789, aged fifty-five. Nathan, another son of the first Eleazer, had several children. His son Abisha was justice of the peace, and for thirty years represented the town in the legislature. Barzillai, another son of Nathan, commanded a vessel in the London trade. Abisha had a large family of children. Among them were William, George, and Timothy; the last of whom was justice of the peace and a merchant. He took an active part with the patriots at the beginning of the Revolution. There is a portrait of him by Copley. Barzillai likewise had many children. Among them was Walter, a man of great strength of mind, of strict probity and honor, a good mathematician, at one time commander of a vessel, and for many years a merchant and ship-owner. He died much respected in 1826, in the ninety-second year of his age. His son, Walter Folger, known as the astronomer of Nantucket, was born in 1765, and is still living (in 1839). Many years ago be invented and constructed a very ingenious astronomical clock. He also made a telescope with a magnifying power of about five hundred. The above are descendants of Eleazer, the son of Peter. His other son, John, had children, from whom have sprung descendants, but they are less known.
Source: Sparks, Jared, Life of Benjamin Franklin: A Continuation of Franklin’s Autobiography, Boston: Hilliard, Gray, & Co., 1836-40.
Weis' Colonial Clergy
Peter Folger, b. England 1617/8, son of John Folger of Martha’s Vineyard; came to New England with his father from Norwich, Eng., 1635; was in the service of the missionary corporation as assistant to Rev. Thomas Mayhew, Jr., and was left in charge of Mayhew’s mission when the latter sailed for England in 1657; missionary to the Indians at Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, 1656-1661; sett. Nantucket, 1663; grandfather of Benjamin Franklin; was learned in the Indian tongue and served as an interpreter; author of “A Looking Glass for the Times,” 1675; d. Nantucket Island 1690.
Source: Weis, Frederick Lewis, The Colonial Clergy and the Colonial Churches of New England, Lancester, MA, 1936, p. 86.
Starbuck's History of Nantucket County
Peter Folger came from Norwich, County Norfolk, England in 1635, went early to Watertown, to Martha’s Vineyard, probably with Thomas Mayhew. He bestowed great pains in teaching the Indians, and removed about 1663 to the island, where his name has ever since been in high regard…Peter wed Mary Morrill in 1644, having bought her of Hugh Peters, to whom she owed service, and paid the sum of £20 which he very gallantly declared was the best appropriation of money he had ever made. Peter Folger’s houselot was on the road extending from Main street west, about two miles from the Upper Square. It may be readily identified by a monument erected on the site by the Daughters of the American Revolution, in honor of his daughter, Abiah. (Peter Folger and Mary were the grandparents to Benjamin Franklin. Their daughter, Abiah Folger wed in 1690 to Josiah Franklin, the father of Benjamin. Josiah was not from Nantucket.)
Source: Starbuck, Alexander, History of Nantucket County, Island and Town, including Genealogies of the First Settlers, (originally published 1924), Rutland VT: Chas. Tuttle Co., 1969.
Mooney and Sigourney's The Nantucket Way
Pete Folger was called “white chief’s old-young man” by the Nantucket Indians, meaning he was wise for his age. Peter was a surveyor, Town clerk, Clerk for the General Court. He ground his own eyeglasses and made the frames. He was a public servant, miller, machinist, blacksmith, schoolmaster, author, poet, and preacher all rolled into one. His wife, Mary Morrill came to the New World as a bondservant. Peter paid off her indebtedness over nine years and then married her. It is said she so widened out in later years, that she had to sit in a special chair which she carried with her whenever she went visiting neighbors.
Source: Mooney, Robert F., and Sigourney, Andre R., The Nantucket Way, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980.
Downs-Watson's Historic Nantucket
Peter Folger was probably of Norman (French) descent, rather than Flemish, as supposed by his grandson, Benjamin Franklin, linking him to families knighted by William the Conqueror in the eleventh century. Through his mother, Peter is related to an Italian monk, named Larentius, buried in Kent in 916…a Learned and Pious monk…and to Sir Robert Lawrence, therefore to the Past President of Harvard College and our own George Washington.
The story that Peter “bought” Mary Morrill’s indenture from Rev. Hugh Peter in order to marry her, is most likely just a story. Documentation to date cannot be located mentioning Rev. Hugh Peter as having an indentured servant named Mary Morrill. Only two indian girls can be found in his service. Mary Morrill’s origins, are most elusive. She may have been an orphan from England, as many suppose. She may have arrived in New England several years after Peter. Remember they were not married until 1644.
Source: Downs-Watson, Kim (Coordinator, Peter Folger Project for the Nantucket Historical Association), Historic Nantucket, as quoted by http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~parisho/f/folger.html.
Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography
FOLGER, Peter, colonist, born in England in 1617; died in Nantucket, Massachusetts, in 1690. He left Norwich, England, in 1635, with his father, settled in Watertown, Massachusetts, and removed to Martha’s Vineyard in 1641, where he taught, surveyed land, and assisted Thomas Mayhew, the missionary, in his labors among the Indians. He afterward became a Baptist minister, and in 1663 he removed to Nantucket, having been offered by the proprietors a half share of land if he would serve there as surveyor and interpreter. He was one of five commissioners to lay out land; it was voted that, “whatever shall be done by them, or any three of them, Peter Folger being one, shall be accounted legal and valid.” He was also a clerk of the courts for a time. Cotton Mather, in his “Ecclesiastical History of the Province in New England,” refers to Folder as pious and learned.
He was familiar with the scriptures, taught them to the youths, and occasionally preached. Among other lesser pieces, he published a poem entitled “A Looking Glass for the Times; or, The Former Spirit of New England revived in this Generation” (1675; 2d ed., 1763). Of it Benjamin Franklin, in his autobiography, says: “The poem, in familiar verse, appeared to be written with a manly freedom and a pleasing simplicity, agreeably to the tastes of the times and the country. The author addresses himself to the governors of the colonies, speaks for liberty of conscience, and in favor of the toleration of sects, among them the Quakers and Anabaptists, who had suffered persecution.
His daughter, Abiah, born in Nantucket, 15 August 1667, married Josiah Franklin, and became the mother of Benjamin Franklin.
His great-grandson, Peleg, sailor, born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, 13 October 1733; died there, 26 May 1789. His life was passed on a farm until he was twenty-one years old, when he changed from land to sea, and for several years was engaged in the cod and whale fisheries. He kept a journal of his voyages, which is written in a much more scholarly manner than could be expected from his limited education. Some of the verses that he introduced into his journal were quoted in Macy’s “History of Nantucket,” and seem to be those of a scholar rather than a sailor. On his retirement from the sea, his counsel was much sought by his neighbors. He was a member of the Society of Friends.
Source: Wilson, James Grant and Fiske, John (ed.), Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography, New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1887-1889.
The Columbia Encyclopedia
1617–90, British settler on Nantucket. He was associated with Thomas Mayhew on Martha’s Vineyard, becoming missionary, schoolmaster, and surveyor. He moved to Nantucket in 1663, added other duties to those he possessed in Martha’s Vineyard, and became a leader in the community. Folger was a Baptist and was opposed to the intolerance of the Massachusetts leaders. He wrote A Looking Glass for the Times (1676), which his grandson, Benjamin Franklin, described as a defense of liberty of conscience in “homespun verse—written with a good deal of decent plainness and manly freedom.”
See F. M. Anderson, A Grandfather for Benjamin Franklin (1940).
Source: The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, Columbia University Press, 2001.
Some of Peter's Writings
(There are supposed to have originally been 400 lines in this ballad. The following 52-line extract was compiled by Robert M. Lawson from the following sources: The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, Dec. 29, 1854 entry, A History of American Literature, 1607-1765, by Moses Coit Tyler; and an essay about Catch 22 on the internet (http://www.smithtown.k12.ny.us/frshcamp/english/catch.htm). The Catch 22 essay has the lines as shown below from “If that the peace…” to “It is Peter Folger”.)
From “A Looking-Glass for the Times;
or, The former spirit of New England revived in this generation”
By Peter Folger, written 1675
Sure, ‘tis not chiefly for those sins
That magistrates do name,
And make good laws for to suppress
And execute the same.
But ‘tis for that same crying sin
That rulers will not own,
And that whereby much cruelty
To brethren hath been shown.
The sin of persecution
Such laws established;
By which laws they have gone so far
As blood hath touched blood.
The cause of this their suffering
Was not for any sin,
But for the witness that they bare
Against babes sprinkling.
The church may now go stay at home,
There’s nothing for to do;
Their work is all cut out by law,
And almost made up too.
‘Tis like that some may think and say,
Our war would not remain,
If so be that a thousand more
Of natives were but slain.
Alas! these are but foolish thoughts;
God can make more arise,
And if that there were none at all,
He can make war with flies.
If that the peace of God did rule
With power in our hearts,
Then outward war would fall away
And rest would be our part.
If we could love our brethren
And do to them, I say,
As we would they should do to us,
We should be quits straightway;
But if that we do smiting go
Of fellow servants so,
No marvel if our wars increase
And things so heavy go;
I am for peace, and not for war,
And that’s the reason why,
I write more plain than some men do,
That use to daub and lie.
But I shall cease, and set my name
To what I here insert;
Because, to be a libeller,
I hate it with my heart.
From Sherborne town, where now I dwell,
My name I do put here;
Without offence, your real friend,
It is Peter Folger.
From Thoreau’s Journal, 29 Dec 1854
At the end of Obed Macy’s Hist of Nantucket are some verses signed “Peter Folger 1676” as for the sin which God would punish by the Indian war
“Sure ‘tis not chiefly for those sins
that magistrates do name,”
but for the sins of persecution & the like—the banishing & whipping of godly men–-
“The cause of this their suffering
was not for any sin,
But for the witness that they bare
against babes sprinkling.”
“The church may now go stay at home,
there’s nothing for to do;
Their work is all cut out by law,
and almost made up too.”
“‘Tis like that some may think and say,
our war would not remain,
If so be that a thousand more
of natives were but slain.
Alas! these are but foolish thoughts;
God can make more arise,
And if that there were none at all,
He can make war with flies.”
Source: Thoreau, Henry David, Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861, http://www.niulib.niu.edu/thoreau/
From Moby Dick by Herman Melville
They [the whalers of Nantucket] 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.
 Meaning “whom see”.
 Note in Vital Records: “Intention not recorded.”
 Note in Vital Records: “P. R. 38—private record, from the William C. Folger genealogical records in possession of the Nantucket Historical Association (This compilation has been used because of the valuable clues it affords, but its statements should be received with caution, as it is not free from errors. It should also be understood that in many instances the events recorded did not take place in Nantucket, and in a few cases attention has been called to the question of residence.)”
 Note in Vital Records: “P. R. 63—private record, from a copy of a manuscript kept by Hon. Isaac Coffin, Judge of Probate, in the possession of the Nantucket Atheneum.”
 Savage: “[[* = asterisk]] shows, that he was a Representative.”
 See Matthew’s Indian Converts, p. 291.
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Author: Michelle A. Boyd
Last updated 17 Feb 2016