When I think about Benjamin Franklin I think about bifocals, kites and lightening, his ambassadorship to France, and the fact that he was the oldest person to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776. I most certainly don’t think about the Salem Witch Trials. After all the witchcraft frenzy that gripped Salem Village happened almost 85 years before the American Revolution.
Benjamin Franklin’s mother, Abiah Folger was born in the summer of 1667 in Nantucket. In the fall of 1689, she married English born Josiah Franklin in the Old South Church in Boston. Within just a few years a wave of hysteria spread throughout colonial Massachusetts sweeping many of the early settlers up in the ensuing confusion.
Abiah’s sister, Bethshua Folger Pope was an active and theatric participant in the events in Salem Village proper. She suffered “hysterical blindness” and convulsions, and in the middle of one trial she threw a shoe at the accused’s head. Her accusations contributed to the death-sentence of at least one convicted witch, Martha Corey.
Tonight on Timeless, the Time Team finds themselves in Salem in 1692 where they meet Abiah Folger Franklin. I’m excited to see how the show portrays her involvement in this story that has gripped the imagination of Americans for more than 300 years.
The series of trials and executions ended in May 1693. A short 13 years later, Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston. I wonder which parts of the story he was raised hearing and whether or not he knew about his family’s involvement. Before now I hadn’t realized that one of the darkest chapters of our nation’s history was only a life span away from one of the brightest.
And, that makes me wonder about the involvement and awareness of my own Massachusetts ancestors. Guess what I’ll be researching while watching Timeless tonight.