Mayhew Folger

Mayhew Folger (March 9, 1774 – September 1, 1828) was an American whaler who captained the sealing ship Topaz that rediscovered the Pitcairn Islands in 1808, while one of HMS Bounty's mutineers was still living.

Early life and family

Mayhew was born on March 12, 1774, in Nantucket, Massachusetts, the second child of William Folger and Ruth Coffin. Mayhew was a member of the Folger whaling family of Nantucket, who were prominent Quakers. He was the great-great-great grandson of Peter Foulger and Mary Morrill Foulger and, through them, is the first cousin, three times removed, of Benjamin Franklin.

He married his second cousin, Mary Joy, on March 7, 1798, on Nantucket. Mayhew was the uncle of Lucretia Coffin Mott, daughter of his sister, Anna Folger, and Thomas Coffin. Folger's grandson, William Mayhew Folger (1844-1928), became a United States Navy rear admiral.[1]

Rediscovery of the Pitcairn Islands

Mayhew Folger captained the ship Topaz that left Boston on April 5, 1807, hunting for seals. They rediscovered the Pitcairn Islands on February 6, 1808. At that time, only one of the original HMS Bounty mutineers, Alexander Smith, whose real name was John Adams, was still alive. Topaz remained at the island for only ten hours.

The Bounty's Chronometer

Captain Folger was given the Bounty's azimuth compass and Larcum Kendall K2 marine chronometer by Adams. The K2 was the third precision marine chronometer made after the H4, designed by John Harrison. The chronometer was taken by the Spanish governor at Juan Fernandez Island. The chronometer was later purchased by a Spaniard named Castillo. When he died, his family conveyed it to Captain Herbert of HMS Calliope, who had it conveyed to the British Museum around 1840. The chronometer is now in Greenwich, London.[2]

Accounts of the rediscovery

The discovery was reported by Folger to the Royal Navy in 1808, a report of which reached the British Admiralty on May 14, 1809, which was then published in the Quarterly Review in 1810. Captain Folger also related an account of the discovery to a friend, Captain Amasa Delano, who published it in his book, A Narrative of Voyages and Travels in 1817; the narrative is also included in the book Pitcairn's Island, written by Charles Nordoff and James Hall.

Later years

Folger and his family migrated to Kendal, Ohio in 1813. He became the first postmaster of neighboring Massillon, Ohio when the post office was created there in 1828.[3] He died September 1, 1828 in Massillon.

See also


  1. Neff, William B., Bench and Bar of Northern Ohio: History and Biography, Cleveland, Ohio: The Historical Publishing Company, 1921, p. 125.
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-09-05. Retrieved 2015-07-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) The story of the Bounty Chronometer
  3. Footprints: Presbyterianism in Massillon, Ohio by R. Paul Hildebrand & Virginia Hildebrand
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