Select French Miscellany

Here are some French stories and accounts over the years:

Origination of the ffrench or Ffrench Surname

The two small fs of the ffrench represented the appearance of the capital F in Old English script.  This had two vertical bars with one horizontal cross over both of them, looking like two lower-case fs.

The two small fs was the way in which the 16th and 17th century calligraphy appeared. When the typewriter was invented, an Irish family chose to keep the two lower-case fs.  And there were also families in the US which kept this tradition

Early French in Essex

The manor of Frenches was so called from a family of note that flourished in the reigns of the first two Edwards, Kings of England.  The manor house was situated on the great common at Felsted and was sometimes called Frenches at the Fairy.

John French, chaplain, and John French, clerk, had been licensed in 1369 and in 1373 to grant lands in the parish to the Priory of Lees. 

Subsequently there were:

  • William French who was born at Arkesden around the year 1460.  
  • Thomas French held the manor of Pitley in Great Bardfield in the 1530s.
  • Thomas French of Halstead who lived at Stansted Hall around the year 1620.  
  • and Thomas French of Birdbrook whose son Thomas died in 1629 held the manor of Harsted Hall.

French Among the Fourteen Tribes of Galway

Between 1450 and 1650 the town of Galway was run by fourteen merchant families, known as the Tribes of Galway.  Among them were the Frenches. 

Walter French was the founder of the line of the French Galway family.  He came from Wexford and settled in Galway around the year 1440 when his name appeared on a writ of Henry VI concerning "divers disputes." 

The best-known of these Frenches was John French, born in 1489, who was Mayor of Galway from 1538 to 1539.  He was known as Sen an tSalainn (John of the Salt) because of the immense wealth he accrued as a merchant.  A large stone building, known as John French's Chamber, was erected on arches just outside the town walls.  

Four of his sons later became Mayors of Galway - Dominick (156869), Peter (157677), Robuck (158283), and Marcus (16041605).  After Peter French died, the sum of 5,000 was spent on a marble tomb for him at St. Nicholas church. 

However, when Cromwells men arrived in 1652, this tomb was destroyed.  The power of the Tribes of Galway was also destroyed at this time

The French Family at Frenchpark in Roscommon

Patrick French who died in 1667 had six sons.  It was from his second son, Dominick, that the main line of the family was descended.

Dominick was succeeded by his eldest son, John, who in turn was succeeded by his eldest son, John (called Tiarna Mor or the Great Landowner).  His successor was Arthur, his eldest son, who was elected Knight of the Shire for Roscommon in 1721.

His successor was John (Shane Dhu), the MP for Roscommon from 1743 until his death in 1775.  In that year he and his brother Robert were drowned while crossing by boat to England (he had been on his way to London to be called to the House of Peers as Lord Dungal).  Shane Dhu was succeeded by another of his brothers Arthur who also became an MP.  

Arthurs successor at Frenchpark was his son, named Arthur again.  This Arthur was elected the MP for Roscommon in 1783.  Although popular in Roscommon, he incurred the wrath of the Chief Secretary of Ireland Robert Peel who called him "an abominable fellow" for his incessant demands for offices and favors.  He died in 1820.  One report at the time stated that he had died "from excessive fox hunting."

Arthur was in turn succeeded by his son also called Arthur, the third Arthur in a row.  He was ennobled as Baron De Freyne in 1839.

Charles French's Civil War

Charles French was a farmer and bootmaker in Pittsfield, New Hampshire when he enlisted in the Fifteenth New Hampshire Volunteers in October 1862.  He served in Louisiana.

In May 1863 he was detailed to the ambulance corps as a driver.  He became the driver for General Neal Dow, the celebrated apostle of temperance, who had been wounded.  The General commenced speculating in cotton and French drove him all over that section of the country so that he might secure a large quantity of that staple.

One day they came very near running into a large party of the rebels but escaped,as they supposed, unnoticed. After leaving General Dow at his quarters, a house far to the rear of the lines, French drove to the place where the ambulances were encamped.  That night the rebels captured General Dow and took him to Richmond where from neglect his wound grew so bad that his leg had to be amputated.

During his service French lost the Testament that had been presented him by the good people of Pittsfield.  This book was picked up by a member of a New York regiment who, a quarter of a century later, wrote to the address found on the fly-leaf.  In this way a correspondence was opened that led to the book being restored to the former owner.  Of course Charles French prized the book very highly, owing to its history.

Pittsfield sent 147 men into the army during the war.  Of these, fifty-nine either died or were discharged as permanently disabled, making over 40 per cent of the whole number.

John P. French's Life in Missouri

John P. French was born at Greeneville, Tennessee in 1836.  He married there in 1854 and the next year they moved to Missouri; settling in Franklin county.

In 1866 he left his home there and started on a prospecting tour of Texas.  For nearly two years not a word was heard from him, and his wife concluded that he must have been killed by Indians, that had at that time been attacking whites traveling throughout the state.  Having given up hope of seeing her husband alive again, she moved to Carroll County where she had relatives.

In 1868 he returned to his old home in Franklin county and learned that his wife and children were in Carroll county.  He at once went to be with his family there.  For more than forty years he made his residence at the Sugartree and Cherry Valley townships and then at Norborne in Carroll county.   In later life he was considered to be one of Norborne's best citizens. 

However, in February 1911 John French was stricken with partial paralysis, his tongue and vocal cords being so badly affected that he could not talk enough to be understood.  This seemed to worry him greatly and he grew morbid; taking but little interest in things around him.

His constant brooding probably unbalanced his mind and in September 1912 he committed suicide by hanging himself in the barn at his home.

William French Losing His Right Arm

The following article appeared in The Australian Town and Country Journal in April 1893:

"Tenterfield Accident  

William French met with a painful accident on Saturday while feeding a barkmill at Whereat's tannery, having had his right hand mangled in the cogs of the machine. A lad named Westbury saw the accident and pulled off the bolt, saving French's life.

The unfortunate lad was taken to the hospital, where Dr.Morice deemed it prudent to amputate the arm below the elbow. The youth is doing as well as can be expected."

However, William was not defeated by this accident, as shown by this report in the Maitland Mercury in December of that year:

"A few months ago a young man named William French, a resident of Tenterfield, met with an accident which deprived him of his right hand.  However, through the exertions o some friends, sufficient money was raised to enable him to start a small business. 

Since then French has mustered the mysteries of wood-carving, fret work, etc, and some specimens of his talent are said to be splendidly executed. He has also with his left hand alone constructed a richly carved chiffonier.  The steady pluck and industry which he has shown all round in overcoming trouble and pain is worthy of all commendation."

William, a carpenter, later moved from Tenterfield, NSW to Thornville, Queensland where he married in 1903.

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