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Leon Settler Left Impact On His Descendants

Pictured is the Leon Hollow Cemetery in Cattaraugus County. James Franklin first settled in what became the town of Leon and later donated land for the cemetery. Submitted photo

The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution requires members to have ancestors who were veterans of the American Revolution. Often, the ancestors of these members have interesting stories.

For Myra Johnston of the Benjamin Prescott Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, this ancestor is James Franklin.

“He lived the life of a private but accomplished great things and left a legacy that carried the independence dream even further,” said Johnston, Franklin’s fifth great-granddaughter. “He had four sons that fought in the War of 1812, several grandsons that fought in the Civil War for the Union cause, and in all the conflicts since, defending the country. His descendants live all over the world and we call ourselves ‘cousins.'”

Franklin was born in Massachusetts and lived through the English taxation that began the American Revolution. He moved his family to New Hampshire with the hope of escaping the English, and when he could not he joined the war.

“In 1775, he left his wife and children in Winchester, New Hampshire, and served as a volunteer at Bunker Hill under Ensign Seth Alexander, as part of Captain Ashley’s Company of Militia and in another Company commanded by Captain Alexander for about two months, then was discharged from service,” Johnston said. “More help was needed so he ‘Signed an Oath of Allegiance’ and enlisted in February 1776 in Captain William Humphrey’s Company of Militia in the Regiment commanded by Joshua Wingate and marched to Charlestown, then to Rutland, Vermont, then to Ticonderoga and ‘went over upon Mount Independence.’ He was discharged in September 1776.”

Following the war, the Franklin family moved to Chili, New York and then Franklin proceeded to be the first settler in what became the town of Leon in Cattaraugus County. He moved with his son to Lot 50 in Leon in September 1818 and built a log house, to be followed by many more later. Franklin lived in Leon for the rest of his life, passing in 1835.

“While researching him for my admission to the DAR, several things amazed me,” Johnston said. “One, he was not listed as an ancestor in Washington with the DAR. There are many Revolutionary War Patriots that are still not listed, as no one has made the application for them to be included by proving their service. Two, how many more Patriots you find after you find the first one in your family tree. Three, he served as a Private yet he was literate and very well read. This shocked me. I expected him to sign with an ‘X’. No, he actually wrote his complete pension request himself at 80, with beautiful flowing handwriting. And four, after I learned he was literate and read about him in his own words, I became angry. He wrote and most likely spoke with a definite English Brogue accent. I thought, ‘What! He is American! What is this all about?’ He grew up in an English Colony. Of course he would speak and write as an Englishman. He was previously an Englishman. Winning the Revolutionary War didn’t change everything at once.”

Franklin died as a pauper, a story that Johnston said seems to follow a lot of veterans. He donated land to the town for the use of a cemetery, which he was later buried in. Over the years, residents of Leon have tried to clean up said cemetery, though it remains unknown the exact location that Franklin was buried in.

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