Samuel Franklin Emmons was born on March 29, 1841, in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. He was a descendant of Thomas Emmons, one of the founders of the Rhode Island Colony, who was “admitted to be an inhabitant of Boston” in 1648. His father was Nathaniel Henry Emmons, a highly respected and affluent Boston merchant engaged in the East India and China trade. His mother, Elizabeth Wales, was a descendant of Nathaniel Wales, who emigrated from Yorkshire to Boston in 1635. He was named for a great-grandfather on his father’s side, Samuel Franklin, a cousin of Benjamin Franklin.