Nielsen Hayden genealogy

Peter Folger

Male Abt 1617 - 1690  (~ 73 years)


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  • Name Peter Folger  [1, 2
    Born Abt 1617  Norwich, Norfolk, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [3, 4
    Gender Male 
    Alternate birth Aug 1617  Norwich, Norfolk, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Died 1690  Nantucket, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location  [3, 4, 5, 6
    Alternate death Apr 1690  Nantucket, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location  [7
    Buried Founders Burial Ground, Nantucket, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location  [8
    Person ID I17434  Ancestry of PNH, TNH, and others | Ancestor of BJS, Ancestor of TWK
    Last Modified 2 Jan 2019 

    Father John Folger,   b. Norwich, Norfolk, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Abt 1660, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Mother Merrable Gibbs,   d. Aft 1663, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married Bef 25 Jan 1609  [6
    Notes 
    • Some confusion has transpired over whether Merrable Gibbs was the mother of Peter Folger. In his 1862 NEHGR article "The Folger Family," William Coleman Folger wrote "John Folger died about 1660. Meribell Folger his widow was living in 1664. Her surname is supposed to have been Gibbs. According to tradition, John was a widower when he came over [in 1635]; if this be correct, he must have married her after his arrival in America."

      But Benjamin Franklin was certainly aware that Merrable Gibbs was the mother of his grandfather Peter Folger. In 1759, M. Foulger of Illington, Norfolk wrote to Franklin that "John Foulger married to Mirriba Gibbs in Old England by hir he had one sone named Peter and one Daughter than married a Pain on Long Island." And in 1932 George Andrews Moriarty discovered and published the will of "John Gibbes of Frendes in the County of Norff[olk] yeoman," dated 25 Jan 1609, which included a bequest to his daughter "Merrable Folser." So the "tradition" that John Folger emigrated as a widower would appear to have been incorrect; he was certainly married to Merrable Gibbs before 25 Jan 1609, and she certainly outlived him by four years and died on Martha's Vineyard in or after 1664.
    Family ID F10708  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Mary Morrill,   b. Abt 1620, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1704, Nantucket, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 84 years) 
    Married 1644  Nantucket, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location  [4
    Children 
    +1. Bathshua Folger
     2. Bethia Folger,   d. 6 Jun 1669
     3. Eleazer Folger
    +4. Abiah Folger,   b. 15 Aug 1667, Nantucket, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 18 May 1752, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 84 years)
     5. Experience Folger,   b. 1668, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 4 Jun 1739, Nantucket, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 71 years)
    Last Modified 2 Sep 2019 
    Family ID F10706  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • Maternal grandfather of Benjamin Franklin; also an ancestor of J. A. Folger (1835-1889), founder of the Folgers coffee company.

      From the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

      Folger, Peter (1617–1690), interpreter and public official in America, was born in Norwich, the son of John Folger and Meriba Gibbs. Little is known of Folger until 1635, when he and his widower* father moved to Massachusetts. During the voyage Folger met Mary Morrill, an indentured servant, and apparently fell in love for he spent the next nine years of his life working as a weaver, miller, surveyor, and shoemaker to raise the £20 to buy out her contract and marry her in 1644. The couple had nine children that survived infancy. During the 1640s the family moved to Martha's Vineyard, an island settlement that was effectively ruled by the senior and junior Thomas Mayhew. There Folger began a long and prosperous career as an interpreter and cultural intermediary with the American Indian population. At the Mayhews' puritan mission he evangelized the native inhabitants and mastered Algonquian, a major Amerindian language family that would have enabled communication with the vast majority of American Indians in New England. About 1648 the younger Thomas Mayhew extended the mission to nearby Nantucket Island, part of the Mayhew proprietorship, which was home to several thousand American Indians. In 1659 Folger, who was by then familiar with the island through his missionary work, aided a group of white settlers who had purchased the island from the younger Thomas Mayhew in surveying Nantucket. That same year Folger also publicly declared himself a Baptist at a Martha's Vineyard town meeting, which undoubtedly agitated the puritan Mayhews and prompted Folger to move to the more tolerant colony of Rhode Island.

      In 1663 Folger returned to Nantucket at the request of the island's proprietors in order to soothe worsening tensions with the native population that had arisen mainly from the interference of the white settlement's cattle with Amerindian crops. As an enticement he was awarded a half share in the proprietorship (full shares were reserved for families of original white settlers). Nantucket was something of an anomaly in the puritan New England context in that established religion did not gain a substantial foothold among the whites until the eighteenth century. The only churches on the island in Folger's time, therefore, were found among the American Indians. In such tolerance Folger comfortably settled his family, acted as an intermediary with the American Indians, and continued his highly successful evangelizing efforts. He also worked as a teacher, surveyor, miller, and farmer, and even served as the clerk of courts.

      Folger's greatest triumph as chief diplomat to the American Indians came in 1665, when Metacom 'King Philip', arrived with a number of his warriors in pursuit of John Gibbs. Gibbs, an Amerindian from Nantucket who had recently finished his studies at Harvard, had insulted the powerful Pokanoket sachem by publicly speaking his father's name, Massasoit, which was an offence punishable by death. Gibbs was most likely a close friend of Folger, who had baptized the American Indian and given him the Christian name John Gibbs, which was the name of Folger's maternal grandfather. Neither the Amerindian nor the white population (about 100 people) was in a position to thwart Metacom through force, but Folger intervened to save Gibbs, offering his pursuer a ransom in exchange for Gibbs's life. Metacom agreed, but the people of Nantucket were only able to raise £11—significantly less than he wanted. An angry Metacom threatened to destroy the settlement, but the islanders called his bluff, threatening to attack him unless he departed, which he promptly did. A decade later Metacom led a coalition of Amerindians against New England in what became known as King Philip's War. The brutal fighting saw extensive slaughter and murder on both sides, but did not touch Nantucket.

      Folger died on Nantucket Island in 1690. He was survived by a substantial family that would produce a number of prominent American scientists, merchants, and politicians, the most famous of whom was Benjamin Franklin, Folger's grandson.

      -----
      * Editorial footnote: The Oxford DNB notwithstanding, John Folger was not a widower in 1635; he married Merrable Gibbs in England no later than 25 Jan 1609 and she outlived him on Martha's Vineyard by at least four years. For further particulars see the note on the marriage of John Folger to Merrable Gibbs.

  • Sources 
    1. [S2271] A History of the Dorchester Pope Family. 1634-1888: With Sketches of Other Popes in England and America, and Notes Upon Several Intermarrying Families by Charles Henry Pope. Boston, 1888.

    2. [S2744] The Life of Benjamin Franklin, Containing the Autobiography, with Notes, and a Continuation by Jared Sparks. Boston: Tappan and Dennet, 1844.

    3. [S2273] The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004-ongoing.

    4. [S2274] William Coleman Folger, "The Folger Family." The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 16:269, 1862.

    5. [S2272] Vital records of Nantucket, Massachusetts to the year 1850. Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1925-1928. Also online here and here.

    6. [S2310] Nathan W. Murphy, "Gibbs and Robertson Ancestry of Merrable Gibbs, Wife of John Folger of Martha's Vineyard, and Anne Gibbs, Wife of Rev. John Fiske of Chelmsford, Massachusetts." The American Genealogist 88:286, October 2016.

    7. [S2310] Nathan W. Murphy, "Gibbs and Robertson Ancestry of Merrable Gibbs, Wife of John Folger of Martha's Vineyard, and Anne Gibbs, Wife of Rev. John Fiske of Chelmsford, Massachusetts." The American Genealogist 88:286, October 2016., year and place only.

    8. [S2278] Nantucket Founders Burial Ground Information.