Francis Folger Franklin’s Grave Marker

I noticed something yesterday (1/14/2014) at Christ Church Burial Ground that I had overlooked before. The epitaph for Francis Folger Franklin reads

“FRANCIS F. Son of
Benjamin and Deborah Franklin
Deceased Novr 21st 1736
Aged 4 years 1 month, and 4 days
The delight of all that knew him”

I took this photograph:

Francis’ Epitaph, photographed January 17, 2014

This conflicted with my recollection in the number of days (I recalled “1 day” rather than “4 days”) and the birth date implied (I thought it was October 20th, not the 17th). I checked this morning (1/18/2014) and found the following:

* James Parton, Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin (writing in 1861, published Boston 1882, vol. 1): the original tombstone described as reading:

Son of Benjamin and Deborah
Deceased, Nov. 21, 1736,
Aged 4 years, 1 month, and 1 day,
The delight of all that knew him.”

Parton describes the tomb being repaired a few years before 1861 (when the aperture in the wall was made), and Francis’ stone being set up more properly. This was still, of course, the original upright stone.

* Carl Van Doren, Franklin (1938): Francis was born [page 106] October 20, 1732, and [page 126] died 21 November 1736.

* in the Papers of Benjamin Franklin Franklin, volume II (Yale, 1960), p. 154, n.2:
describes Francis as born October 20, 1732 [and] died November 21, 1736. The the genealogy in vol I has the same dates (page lxiii).

I discussed some of this with the historian at Christ Church in January 2015 at the annual celebration, and he showed me his copy of a book publishing the contents of each tombstone, and the wording of the current stone matches that one.

On January 12, 2016 I noticed this photo of that earlier marker on Find A Grave, added to the site on July 15, 2005 and used by permission of DeLoss McKnight III:


Grave Marker in 2005

Please note: this plaque was certainly not the original stone, which was quite worn away, and I believe the number of days here was in error.

Various images of the grave site follow:

This 1890 photograph shows the original stone:

Franklin’s Gravesite in the 1890s

A postcard from the 1930s shows the original old stone:


1930s Post Card

Questions Going Forward

So my questions at this point are

1) When was this flat stone put into place? My current understanding is that the grave site was stabilized in preparation for the Bicentennial in 1976.

2) Do we know what happened to the original upright stone? Several years ago, I discussed this with the current historian at Christ Church, who did not know, but had the nice theory that it was done when the grave site was stabilized, and maybe the Francis stone was “folded into the grave.”

3) What exactly was “the book publishing the contents of each tombstone” published? Is it available? Were the papers preparing for this book preserved? They might clarify the source of the error (a slip of the pen, a misreading of poorly written notes, etc.).

4) If the “4 days” specification was a change on purpose, on what evidence? If the “4 days” specification was not on purpose, has this been pointed out or discussed before?

5) When was the green marker in red brick (photographed in 2005) replaced with the white marble marker photographed in 2014?

6) To confront this as an error, what was the source for the Papers?

7) In the repair of the crack on Benjamin’s stone between 2014 and 2019, was any evidence of the Francis stone found “folded into the grave” if & when the main stone was lifted?

Comments are welcome by email to [email protected].