homepage logo

BE’s Benjamin Franklin finally found

By Staff | Apr 27, 2014

A few of our regular Register readers may recall a fascinating and mysterious story from a few years ago about Benjamin Franklin.

No, not the guy who flew a kite with a key on the string, and, as the kids sometimes say, “invented electricity.”

No, the Ben Franklin I am referring to is Blue Earth’s Benjamin Franklin.

Do you remember the story?

Our Ben joined the Army and fought in the Civil War. He then fought in the Indian Wars of 1862.

On a trip back from South Dakota to Fort Ridgely in the middle of winter, he was caught in a storm and nearly froze to death. He was rescued, but ended up having to have most of both his arms and legs amputated.

Before his accident, he had married a girl named Georgeana Way.

After the loss of his limbs he was given some land near Guckeen and a pension from the government. He and his wife sold the land and bought a large house on East Fourth Street and she ran a boarding house there.

That house, thought to be one of the oldest in Blue Earth, was demolished just a couple of years ago, in 2011.

Georgeana took care of her disabled husband for 30 years and ran the boarding house, as well, for 70 years. Ben made some money by having cards printed up with his photograph on it, proudly displaying his stumps, and selling the cards for 10 cents each. He even had the nickname “Stumpy” Franklin, in Blue Earth.

After 30 years of caring for him, Georgiana divorced Ben and remarried. She and her second husband lived to old age and they, and their son, are buried in Riverside Cemetery in Blue Earth, in plots which were purchased by Ben Franklin for $3 each. Her first husband, Ben, is not even mentioned in her obituary, however.

The mystery is, what happened to Ben?

Research revealed no trace of him after the divorce. And, while he owned a plot in the Blue Earth cemetery, no record of him being buried there was found in local archives. This was despite the fact the state of Minnesota Veterans records says he was buried there. They were wrong. He was not.

It was almost as though after the divorce from Georgeana, Ben fell off the face of the Earth.

But, I am happy to report, he has now been found.

Marlin Petersen, a history buff from Minnesota Lake, has also long been intrigued with the story of Ben Franklin. In fact, he plans to write a book about him.

Petersen has found out Benjamin Franklin remarried after the divorce from Georgeana, left Blue Earth and lived on a horse ranch in South Dakota for a while, then ended up in the town of Essex, Iowa, in Page County.

That is where he lived until he died in 1899, and that is where he is buried.

But, without a headstone.

So, Petersen decided to buy one for Ben Franklin, and will have it installed and dedicated the first week of May, in the Essex cemetery.

While Ben has probably been resting in peace for these past 100 years, those of us who have wondered about him can now rest easy as well.

The story of Ben Franklin remains one that has fascinated me since I first heard about it. I loved writing the story about this somewhat famous resident of Blue Earth.

If we had published the story on April 1st, I am sure everyone would have immediately guessed it to be a total fabrication by the editor and thought it was the annual April Fools Day story. I doubt anyone would have believed it.

Except for one thing.

It is all true.