Will Francis: The Executioner

 

Will Francis was recruited by Sam Francis, but he may have known Nat Turner long before. Born around 1794, he was one of the oldest members of the inner circle.

 

  • “I saluted them on coming up, and asked Will how came he there, he answered, his life was worth no more than others, and his liberty as dear to him. I asked him if he thought to obtain it? He said he would, or lose his life. This was enough to put him in full confidence.”

- Thomas R. Gray, The Confessions of Nat Turner, 1831

 

How did he know Nat Turner?

Will Francis most likely met Nat around 1807 when Esther Francis was married to Samuel G. Turner (Nat’s second master) and their slaves started to commingle.

 

Who were Will's owners?

Will Francis's original master was Samuel Francis Sr., but he died in 1815. Will was retained by Samuel’s widow until she bequeathed him to her younger son Nathaniel Francis.

 

What happened to Will?

It’s hard to say what happened to Will Francis during the revolt. He never went to trial and was mostly likely killed in one of the skirmishes.

 

 

Information about Will Francis was retrieved from David F. Allmendinger, “The Inner Circle,” in Nat Turner and the Rising in Southampton County (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2014), 98.