A Soldier of Two Wars

How I found an unknown ancestor

Searching for the ancestors is a tedious and time-consuming task. Every genealogist will tell you so. This tale is how I finally found the impossible.

The story begins with my 4th great-grandfather who named his first two sons “William Franklin Smith.” Both died in infancy. After many year of research I discovered that this grandfather’s mother was Martha Franklin who married Alexander Smith, minuteman during the Revolutionary War and resident of the old State of Franklin (now NC) who settled in Wilkes County, Georgia. McCall’s Roster of Revolutionary War Soldiers revealed a Thomas Franklin who also fought in the war, enlisting from North Carolina. The end game meant searching all 18th century Franklins in every State, and narrowing it down from there. The task revealed a Franklin family in Princess Anne County, Virginia. The emigrant was Thomas Franklin who acquired a land grant ca 1650 near Ocracoke Island. I read all the wills in Princess Anne County to discover this fact and located the LWT of Thomas Franklin in 1723. I read all of the wills of the sons. The eldest son received the old homeplace, with other acreage going to the younger sons. One son, the youngest, Edward Franklin, did not receive any land. Nor did he remain in the county. Instead, he went looking for land grants. Found one out west, in Augusta County, Virginia and settled in the Blue Ridge mountains. [Note: There were three Revolutionary War soldiers with land grants in Georgia. William, William and Thomas Franklin].

That same location later fell into Spotsylvania County, and finally Botetourt County.

A great find in the Augusta County Minute Books. It seems that several Franklin boys were sent out to cut a new mountain road. They suggested a better route and in the process described exactly where they resided!

And, the deed records of Botetourt County defined a new purchase about 1736 of one, William Franklin on a nearby mountain, overlooking the James River.

Putting it together. Remember Thomas Franklin who received a land grant in Georgia for his revolutionary war service? He said that he was born on the James River! A map revealed that the James River went all the way from the Virginia east coast through the Blue Ridge Mountains! Wallah! Turns out, that Thomas Franklin left his home in Botetourt County to go to North Carolina. (He could have been named after his grandfather, Thomas Boone and actually went East to reside on the old land grant in North Carolina). There were two William Franklins also drawing land grants in Washington County, Georgia for service during the war. The task was to separate these fellows according to ages and to discern their relationships. Turns out that William Franklin of the 1736 land purchase in Botetourt County was the father of Thomas by his first wife, Rebecca Boone Franklin.* William was a son by the second wife. There is gap between the ages of Thomas and his step-brothers of about ten years.

But what was going on in the Blue Ridge Mountains about that time? Well, the Shawnee Indians were capturing white women as slaves. In fact, an old Will of Squire Boone (a brother of Daniel Boone, son of Thomas Boone of Philadelphia) in Botetourt County left a bequest to two of his daughters who were taken as slaves, “should they ever return.”*

The next step was to read up on Lord Dunmore’s war against the Shawnee Chief Cornstalk which occurred on October 10, 1774 at the falls of the Ohio river. The Indians were a big problem in Virginia, so Lord Dunmore called out all of the State Militia to go and fight Chief Cornstalk. Botetourt County had 2 militias, both of which boarded canoes into the Mississippi River and met Cornstalk at the Falls where they fought a bloody battle. (Note, the other militias did not arrive in time, so the Botetourt County militia won this one!). Both armies suffered great losses. In fact, one William Franklin was listed as wounded on October 10th, and released. Militia members began with age 21 and went to age 50. Cornstalk signed a peace which he did not keep. With the troublesome Indians still razing havok in the region, young Thomas Franklin decided to go East. He was the first of the family to do so. By 1780, his father, half brothers and sisters, were in North Carolina. The father, William Franklin, who was about 50 years of age when he fought the Indians, was nearing age 60 when he enlisted as a soldier in the Revolutionary War to fight in the critical Southern Campaign. A review of the certificates signed by General Lee as to his service and the amount of acreage drawn in the land grants, I followed the battles of General Lee. William Franklin was in the critical South Carolina battles, Kings Mountain, etc., to the surrender.

Conclusion. Thomas Franklin married into the Mercer family and became a preacher. It was said that William Franklin was the founder of Franklin College (now University of Georgia). This could have been William Sr. or Jr. However, my opinion is that Davis Smith named his first two sons William Franklin Smith to commemorate the bravery of his grandfather against the Indians and the British, in two wars! The naming of children was indeed a clue!

*Legend had it that William Franklin married Rebecca Boone. Since Squire Boone lived nearby in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Rebecca was probably one of the daughters captured by the Indians and that is why William Franklin married again and had another family.

**Note: Soldiers signed up in 3-month time frames. The land grants were based upon the length of time served. William Franklin (Sr) received over 1,000 acres near Davisboro, Georgia, while his sons, William and Thomas each served one-3-month term! The DAR marked the homeplace of William in Davisboro, but little was known about him at the time.

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