The French Family in Newmarket

Text and courtesy photos of  Tereasa Guy

From the Obituary notices of Martha Brackett French

Martha A. Brackett French, b. 17 Mar., 1811, in Belfast, Me.; married 2 Nov., 1830 to Edmund Durell French, a carpenter, b. 25 Nov., 1805, in New Market, N. H., d. 6 Apr., 1858, son of Reuben French and wife, Lydia Churchill, of New Market.

Reuben was born in Stratham, and wife in New Market; Mrs. Martha French lived over 80 years in New Market, attained the
great age of 93 years, and had the unimpaired use of her vigorous mentality to the end.

She was very proud of her lineage and took great delight in the family history. During the last years of her life her friends and relatives would assemble at her home on the anniversary of her birthday much to her pleasure and enjoyment.

She compiled notes  relative to persons of  her family names, of whom she had read or had heard.  She would inform the listener of the  whereabouts of namesakes.  She supplied nearly all the data contained in this work relative to the descendants of her great-grandfather.

She was benevolent, sympathetic and charitable—humane characteristics that need no adorning. Her death was the result of a shock she had received a few weeks prior.

During her long, quiet lifetime, experiencing only those changes which are the lot of mortals living their fewer years, she saw more of those changes than they.

She saw her friends grow old and die with their children and grandchildren about them; saw their children grow old and pass away leaving two generations of descendants to mourn them; saw their grandchildren become men and women, who, with their children and their children’s children, followed her to the grave.  She died 9 Mar., 1905—lacked a few days of completing her 94th year. She had been a widow for over 45 years. Death came to her as sleep to a child.

photo of Lydia F. French on her Exeter Street porch

Martha’s daughter Lydia F. French  also lived a long life, until age 98.    On her 93th birthday in 1924  Miss French received many guests at the French family home on Exeter Street and entertained them with family stories and commentary on the news of the world.  She was very well read and conversant in a multitude of subjects.  The newspaper account of her birthday related that she was in complete control of her faculties except that of hearing.  She could read fine print without the aid of glasses.  She was much impressed with a poem written by her niece, Mrs. Mary M. Gray of Somerville, Massachussetts who arrived to help celebrate her birthday.  The 1870 cenus lists her occupation as “working on straw” ; however she and her two sisters Laura A.and Martha J. were “straw milliners” in 1860 and in 1880 she lists her trade as a dress maker.  The New England milliner of this time period was a businesswoman who created and sold many an item of fashion for her clientele, including men’s straw hats.

The Martha Brackett  French and her daughter Lydia French residence, 69 Exeter Street, Newmarket

DETROIT’S FAMOUS G.A. R.  VETERAN HAS BIRTHDAY

John O. French, Member of the Never-to-be-Forgotten “First Minnesota,” Hero and Dare Devil of Many Escapades, Both in the Civil War and on the Mins, is Remembered by Many Friends.

It is usually customary to await the demise. of noted citizens before  giving to the public the various details of their earthly career, but for once at least we are going to deviate from that custom and “”write up” a man who is very much alive, and whose deeds—if all recounted—make story almost as romantic as that of “Wild Bill,” “Buffalo Bill,” General Geo. A. Custer, and other noted characters  of Civil War history and pianeer days on the western plains.

We refer to John O. French, who resides just outside the city limits, ,and who recently celebrated his sev­enty-fourth birthday with as much relish and enjoyment as he has any anniversary of his long and somewhat turbulent life.  It has been rightly said of him that “probably  no other man in Becker county has had  a more adventurous career, or been through more dangers than he.”

Born at Newmarket, Rockingham county, New Hampshire, on the 31st day of October, 1842, he came to Min­nesota in early boyhood and when President Lincoln called, for volun­teers, Johnny French answered the call, and in April 1861, he became a member of the ­Minnesota Infantry, famous in the history of the state and nation for its great charge at the battle of Get­tysburg, when two-thirds of the men engaged were either killed or wounded.

(for additional Civil War info: see New Market Historical Society  Military - Civil War - Profiles: John O. French) 

His first enlistment was for three months but he re-enlisted and served for the full three-year period, being in twenty-six engagements and three Indian battles, during all of which time, he modestly declares, he “never missed a battle or a single meal.” He , served under Generals McDonald, McClellan, Burnside, Meade, Hooker and Grant.  He was in the first battle of Bull Run, Antietam, and all the other bloody battles in which the First Minnesota was engaged; and was honorably discharged in May, 1863,  almost immediately enlisting in Brackett’s Battalion for service against the Indians.-

Here he again distinguished himself,’ the only reprimands ever bestowed being for reckless bravery in the per­formance of whatever duty he deemed necessary for the benefit of the cause ’ engaged. He was with the Sully ex­pedition against the Sioux Indians which resulted in the famous battle of the Bad Lands on August 9-10, 1864.  Although often having his clothing pierced with bullets. and charging in the front line when men fell all around him, Mr. French seemed to bear a charmed life & never once was he wounded at all seriously.  As one of his comrades re­mared, “his very dash and deviltry seemed to carry him through places where men fell by the scores.”

After leaving  federal service Mr. French joined the Northern Pacific exploring party which located the right-of-way through Becker county, being assistant scout under Guide Perry Burtrurn in 1869 and 1870.  Later returning to Becker county he opened a hotel and meat market at Oak Lake.  He was elected the first constable of Detroit township, served the first war­rant ever issued in the township, arresting the Indian Boanece, who was one of  two men massacred the Cook family at Oak Lake on April 26th, 1872.  Mr. French had numerous experiences with men who had long criminal rec­ords, but his well known reputation for being unafraid of any living per­son or animal, made these so-called “bad men” very reluctant about starting anything with Constable French.  At one time he arrested a contracting  crew of seventeen men, but they were later discharged by an intoxicated justice.

Later Mr. French located to a farm near Floyd Lake, where he has since resided.  Mr. French was twice married, the second time in 1889, to which union twelve children have been born, of whom nine survive, as shown by the family photo shown here.

All Published


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