Benjamin Franklin and Catharine Ray Greene: Their Correspondence, 1755-1790

By William Greene Roelker | Go to book overview

Catharine Ray is the figure around whom the correspondence centers. She was married, baptized, and buried as Catharine, although nearly all writers have persistently written Catherine. The place where she was born and raised, Block Island, is twelve miles out at sea from Point Judith, the extreme southernmost point of Rhode Island. It must have been a dreary abode for an intelligent, fun-loving, and attractive girl of twenty-three! All three of her sisters were married, and she lived alone with her aged parents. Her father, Simon Ray, was then eighty-two and her mother sixty-five. The youngest sister, Phebe, was the wife of John Littlefield, an Islander. The other sisters had married on the mainland: Judith was the wife of Thomas Hubbard of Boston; Anna had married Samuel Ward, son of Richard Ward, former Governor of the Colony of Rhode Island. Franklin was well acquainted with the numerous Ward family of Newport and Westerly, all of whom were tied by family, political, or business associations with the large body of descendants of Surgeon John Greene, a founder of Providence and Warwick. Truly a New England family association.

"Katy," as Franklin addressed her, or "Caty," as she signed herself, in 1758 married her second cousin, William Greene of Warwick, the son of Governor William Greene. Her mother, Deborah (Greene) Ray, was a great-granddaughter of Roger Williams, and also a member of the extensive Greene family. Other Greenes who enter prominently into the correspondence are Nathanael, the Revolutionary General, who married Caty's niece, "Kitty" Littlefield; and his brother, Elihu, who married Franklin's grandniece, Jane Flagg.

On the Franklin side, after Benjamin himself, by far the most prominent is Jane, his favorite sister and wife of Edward Mecom of Boston. Jane early became attached to Caty, whom she met at the Hubbard mansion at Cornhill, Boston, after John Franklin, Benjamin's brother, had married the widow Hubbard in 1753. Caty and Jane were some twenty years apart in age, and their relationship was in a way that of parent and child, Caty calling her "my mama and friend." When Boston was under siege by the American Colonials in the spring of 1775, Jane Mecom fled the town and took refuge with her friend Mrs.

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Benjamin Franklin and Catharine Ray Greene: Their Correspondence, 1755-1790
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • I. the First Meeting 1755-1757 6
  • Ii. the Hostess 1758-1774 30
  • Iii. the Eve of Independence 1775-1776 48
  • Iv. Franklin at Paris 1776-1785 83
  • V. Twilight 1785-1790 126
  • Index of Persons 141
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