Benjamin Cromwell Franklin, judge and legislator, the eldest son of Abednego (?) and Mary Graves (Cleveland) Franklin, was born in Georgia on April 25, 1805. He was educated at Franklin College in Athens, Georgia, and admitted to the bar in 1827. In 1835 he traveled to Velasco, Texas, and shortly afterward joined an expedition against Indians. In December 1835 at a public meeting at Columbia he was among those who favored immediate declaration of war against Mexico. On April 7, 1836, he was commissioned a captain in the Texas army by President David G. Burnet, but since he was not assigned to the command of a company at San Jacinto, he fought there as a private in Capt. Robert J. Calder's company. On April 23, 1836, Secretary of War Thomas J. Rusk directed Franklin to proceed to Galveston Island and inform President Burnet and his cabinet of the victory at San Jacinto. Franklin later received a bounty warrant for 320 acres for his service and was among the first to purchase land at the future site of Houston.
He was the first man to hold a judicial position in the Republic of Texas. The Pocket, a brig owned by a citizen of the United States, was captured in March 1836 by the Invincible, a Texas armed schooner. Realizing that the affair might alienate the United States, the government of Texas took immediate steps to have the matter thoroughly investigated. The judiciary not having been organized, the government established the judicial district of Brazoria in which to try the case, and Burnet appointed Franklin district judge. The exact date of his appointment has not been ascertained, but it was before June 15, 1836. The position had been tendered to James Collinsworth on April 12, but he declined.
On December 20, 1836, Franklin was appointed judge of the Second or Brazoria Judicial District by President Sam Houston. The appointment automatically made Franklin a member of the Supreme Court of the republic, of which James Collinsworth was chief justice. Franklin held his first court at Brazoria on March 27, 1837. He resigned from his judgeship on November 29, 1839, and moved to Galveston to practice law. He was elected to represent Galveston County in the House of Representatives of the Third, Fifth, and Eighth state legislatures. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was too old for military service and was suffering from rheumatism. He retired to a small farm near Livingston, Polk County, and remained until 1870, when he returned to Galveston. Governor E. J. Davis appointed him commissioner to revise the laws of Texas, but he declined the appointment.
Franklin's first wife was Eliza Carter Brantly, whom he married on October 31, 1837; they had two children. After her death on September 24, 1844, Judge Franklin married Estelle B. Maxwell of Illinois, on November 3, 1847. He died unexpectedly on December 25, 1873, after several weeks of illness and was buried in Galveston. The act establishing Franklin County does not state for whom the county was named, but it is generally accepted as having been named for Judge Benjamin C. Franklin.
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DeWitt Clinton Baker, comp, A Texas Scrap-Book (New York: Barnes, 1875; rpt. 1887; facsimile rpt., Austin: Steck, 1935). Henry Lewis Bentley, Experiments in Range Improvement in Central Texas (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry Bulletin No. 13 [Washington: GPO, 1902]). Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Founders and Patriots of the Republic of Texas (Austin, 1963-). William DeRyee and R. E. Moore, The Texas Album of the Eighth Legislature, 1860 (Austin: Miner, Lambert, and Perry, 1860). Sam Houston Dixon and Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto (Houston: Anson Jones, 1932). Zachary T. Fulmore, History and Geography of Texas As Told in County Names (Austin: Steck, 1915; facsimile, 1935). James D. Lynch, The Bench and Bar of Texas (St. Louis, 1885).
Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
Politics and Government
Third Legislature (1849-1850)
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
L. W. Kemp,
“Franklin, Benjamin Cromwell,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed July 02, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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