William Franklin, Colonial Governor of New Jersey

Is your surname Franklin?

Research the Franklin family

William Franklin, Colonial Governor of New Jersey's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

William Franklin

Birthplace: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
Death: November 17, 1813 (82)
Middlesex, London, England (United Kingdom)
Place of Burial: Franklin Township, Bergen, New Jersey, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Benjamin Franklin, Signer of the "Declaration of Independence" and mother of William Franklin
Husband of Elizabeth Franklin and Mary Franklin
Partner of mother of William Temple Franklin
Father of William Temple Franklin
Half brother of Francis Folger Franklin and Sarah “Sally” Bache

Occupation: Last Colonial Governor of New Jersey
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About William Franklin, Colonial Governor of New Jersey

William Franklin

  • Birth: 1731 - Philadelphia Philadelphia County Pennsylvania
  • Death:  Nov. 17, 1813 - London, Greater London, England
  • Parents: Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), unknown woman
  • Married:    1) Elizabeth Downes 2) Mary Johnson, widow d'Evelin  * only child: William Temple Franklin (by an unknown mistress)

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Franklin

William Franklin (ca. 1731 – November 17, 1813) was an American soldier and colonial administrator. He served as the last Colonial Governor of New Jersey. Franklin was a steadfast Loyalist throughout the American War of Independence, despite his father Benjamin Franklin's role as one of the most prominent Patriots during the conflict, a difference that tore the two apart. In 1782 he went into exile in Britain, where he died.

Early life

He was born in Philadelphia, the illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin. His mother's identity is unknown though evidence suggests she was a "Low Woman".[1] He was raised by Benjamin Franklin and Deborah Read, Benjamin's common-law wife. There is some speculation[citation needed] that Deborah Read was William's mother, and that because of his parents' common law relationship, the circumstances of his birth were obscured so as not to be politically harmful to William. He accompanied his father on several missions, including his trips to England. Although often depicted as a young child when he assisted his father in the famed kite experiment in 1752, William was 21 years old at the time.

Military service

William joined the American Regiment and fought in Albany in the King George's War, eventually obtaining the rank of captain. He completed his education in England, and was admitted to the bar. William and Benjamin Franklin were partners and confidantes, working together to pursue land grants in the Midwest.

William was engaged to Elizabeth Graeme, daughter of prominent Philadelphia physician Dr. Thomas Graeme and granddaughter of Pennsylvania's 14th Governor, Sir William Keith. Neither family approved of the match, and when William went to London to study law, he left with the understanding that Elizabeth would wait for him. While there, however, he married another Elizabeth - Elizabeth Downes {1728-1777}- on September 4, 1762 and had one son, William Temple Franklin, who may or may not have been illegitimate, and who, by mutual decision, was raised by Benjamin Franklin.

Governor of New Jersey

When the family returned from England, in 1763, he carried a commission from George III to be the Royal Governor of New Jersey, secured in large part based on his father's lobbying efforts. As Governor, William Franklin signed the charter for Queen's College, which would evolve into Rutgers University.

Owing to his father's pivotal role as a Founding Father of the American Revolution and William's loyalty to Britain, the relationship between father and son was strained past the breaking point. When Benjamin finally decided to take up the patriot's cause, he tried to convince William to join him, but the son stayed steadfastly loyal to the Crown.

William remained as governor until he was arrested in 1776 by the Provincial Congress of New Jersey, an entity which William refused to recognise, regarding it as an "illegal assembly"[2]. For two years, he was held as a prisoner, first in Wallingford then Middletown where he surreptitiously engaged Americans in supporting the Loyalist cause. Discovered, he was incarcerated in Litchfield, Connecticut under appalling conditions for eight months. When finally released in 1778,[3] for an American prisoner of war, he moved to New York City, which was still occupied by the British. He was active in the Loyalist community of New York, becoming prominent on the Board of Associated Loyalists. He sought a guerilla war and active reprisals against the rebels but was frustrated by General Clinton. Franklin played a role in the hanging of Joshua Huddy.


In 1782, Franklin left with other loyalists for England [2], never to return. William would see his father one last time in 1785, when Benjamin stopped in Britain following his return from a trip to France. On August 14, 1788 William married Mary Johnson d'Evelin.

In his will, Benjamin Franklin left William virtually none of his wealth, except some territory in Nova Scotia, stating that had Britain won the war, the elder Franklin would have had no wealth to leave to his son anyway[4]. Neither does Benjamin mention his son in his autobiography except indirectly by the inclusion of a newspaper article in which Benjamin notes that his (then still in good standing) son may make contracts for the procurement of carts for the British army[5].

William tried without success to reconcile with his father through a letter sent on August 16, 1784.

William Franklin died in 1813, and is buried in St Pancras Old Church churchyard.

Franklin Township, in Bergen County, New Jersey was named in his honor, rather than for his father, as was the borough of Franklin Lakes. Franklin Township, in Somerset County, New Jersey, site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Middlebush, was believed by many to have been named for him, though no document exists to prove so[6]. In 2000, the Franklin Township Council determined it should espouse the hypothesis that the Township was indeed named for Benjamin Franklin. Downe Township, Cumberland County, New Jersey was named after the maiden name of William's wife, Elizabeth. The "s" on Downes was dropped.

Benjamin Franklin's autobiography is dedicated to his son William, and begins with the heading: "Dear Son:..."




Birth: 1731 Philadelphia Philadelphia County Pennsylvania, USA Death: Nov. 17, 1813 London Greater London, England

Last Colonial Governor of New Jersey. The illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin, he remained loyal to England during the American Revolution, leading to a virtually complete break with his famed father. Raised in Philadelphia, the identity of his mother remains a matter of conjecture; she was probably either a prostitute, or Franklin's future wife, Deborah Reed. He was well educated under his father's direction, became a captain of militia during King George's War, and assisted Dr. Franklin in the persuit of land grants, and in the famous kite experiment. While in England to finish his education, William was admitted to the bar, and married Elizabeth Downes (deceased 1777); his only son, William Temple Franklin, was to be raised by, and later become an aide to, his grandfather. William returned in 1763 with an appointment as Royal Governor of New Jersey. While in office, he signed the charter for Queen's College (now Rutgers), and remained loyal to the Crown despite the growing spirit of independence. Arrested in 1776, he was held prisoner in Connecticut for two years, then became active in the Loyalist community of New York City. William fled to England in 1782, never to return. An attempt to patch up relations with his father via letter in 1784 came to nought. The two met for a final time in London in 1785, the meeting devoted mainly to business arrangements; thereafter, correspondence was polite, but scant. William was left little in Dr. Franklin's will, lived out his days in London, and died essentially broke. (bio by: Bob Hufford)

Family links:

 Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)
 Deborah Read Franklin (1708 - 1774)
 Elizabeth Downes Franklin (1728 - 1777)*
 Mary Johnson d'Evelin Franklin*
 William Temple Franklin (1760 - 1823)*
 William Franklin (1731 - 1813)
 Francis Folger Franklin (1732 - 1736)*
 Sarah Franklin Bache (1743 - 1808)*
  • Calculated relationship

Burial: St Pancras Old Church Churchyard St Pancras London Borough of Camden Greater London, England

Edit Virtual Cemetery info [?]

Maintained by: Find A Grave Originally Created by: Bob Hufford Record added: Jun 10, 2009 Find A Grave Memorial# 38157262 http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=38157262


p. 4



view all

William Franklin, Colonial Governor of New Jersey's Timeline

September 1, 1731
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
February 22, 1762
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
November 17, 1813
Age 82
Middlesex, London, England (United Kingdom)
St Pancras Old Church churchyard., Franklin Township, Bergen, New Jersey, United States