Mary Morrell Folger

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Mary Morrell Folger
Mary Morrell (Morrel/Morrill/Morrills/Morill)

Circa 1620[citation needed]
Known forGrandmother of Benjamin Franklin and being noted in Herman Melville's fictional Moby-Dick
SpousePeter Folger
ChildrenNine children, including Abiah, wife of Josiah Franklin
RelativesGrandson, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin

Mary Folger (née Morrell (Morrel/Morrill/Morrills/Morill); c. 1620–1704) was the maternal grandmother of Benjamin Franklin, a Founding Father of the United States.[1] In Herman Melville's Moby-Dick she was cited as ancestor of the Folger whalers.

Personal life[edit]

Folger immigrated to Massachusetts Bay Colony from Norwich, England in 1635[2] with Rev. Hugh Peters and his family. She was an indentured servant, working for the family as a maid[3][4] on the same ship as Peter Folger and his parents.[2] Peter Folger paid Hugh Peters the sum of 20 pounds to pay off Mary's servitude, which he declared was the best appropriation of money he had ever made.[5][4]

She married Peter Folger in 1644.[3] They lived in Watertown, Massachusetts before moving in 1660 to Martha's Vineyard, where he was acquainted with the Mayhews. He was a strict teacher, surveyor, and translator for the Wampanoag people.[2]

They had nine children. Eight of their children were born on Martha's Vineyard.[6] In 1663, they moved to Nantucket,[2] where they were among the few people of European heritage.[3] Their youngest daughter, Abiah (1667–1752) was born there. She married Boston candle-maker Josiah Franklin and they had a son, Benjamin Franklin.[1][7]

Her husband died in 1690,[2] and she died in 1704.[3] They are both buried at the Founders Burial Ground on Nantucket.[8][9]


Folger was referenced in defense of the whaling industry in Herman Melville's fictional Moby-Dick.[10] In it, Melville sets up a series of objections to that industry, one of which is "No good blood in their veins?" The response is:

They 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.

— Herman Melville, Moby-Dick[10]


  1. ^ a b Phil Wallace Payne (September 30, 2011). Writes of Passage: Threads in the Fabric of Our Times. Xlibris Corporation. p. 20. ISBN 978-1-4653-4861-6.
  2. ^ a b c d e Robert Alexander Douglas-Lithgow (1914). Nantucket: A History. G.P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 63–64.
  3. ^ a b c d Jared Sparks (1844). The Works of Benjamin Franklin: Containing Several Political and Historical Tracts Not Included in Any Former Edition, and Many Letters, Official and Private, Not Hitherto Published; with Notes and a Life of the Author. C. Tappan. p. 543.
  4. ^ a b Eva Celine Grear Folger (1911). The Glacier's Gift: With Fourteen Illustrations. Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Company. p. 20.
  5. ^ Memorial Biographies of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. The Society. 1882. p. 321.
  6. ^ Robert Alexander Douglas-Lithgow (1914). Nantucket: A History. G.P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 225–226.
  7. ^ Robert Alexander Douglas-Lithgow (1914). Nantucket: A History. G.P. Putnam's Sons. p. 366.
  8. ^ "Nantucket Founders Burial Ground Information". Nantucket Historical Association. Retrieved February 14, 2017.
  9. ^ "Mary Morrill Folger (1620-1704) - Find A Grave..." Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  10. ^ a b Herman Melville (1892). Moby Dick. St. Botolph Society. p. 107.