The venerable pioneer, whose name and history are so intimately connected with the city of Lansing and the township of Aurelius, where he was one of the first settlers, was born in New Brunswick, N. J., July, 11, 1798. His father, Robert French, was a native of New Jersey, and followed the avocation of a carpenter. He was a steady, industrious man, of good principles. He married Mrs. Rachel Bend, and reared a family of three children, John M. being the oldest. In 1806 the family removed to Cayuga Co., N. Y., where the elder French purchased a farm, on which he resided until his death. He apprenticed himself to a tanner and currier, and completed indentures about the time he was twenty-one years of age. He then worked as a journeyman in various towns, and in 1820 entered the employ of one Tillman. The following year they formed a copartnership and commenced business in Canandaigua. From Danandiagua he went Seneca Falls, where, having dissolved partnership with Mr. Tillman, he took charge of his business. After several changes of location he went to Ludlowville, Tompkins Co., N. Y., where he made the acquaintance of Joseph L. Huntington, and between the two a warm friendship sprang up, which continued unbroken for over forty years. In 1838 the two resolved to come West. Mr. French had disposed of his property for lands in the towns of Aurelius and Onondaga. They arrived in April, 1838, and Mr. French immediately commenced to prepare for thecoming of his family, which he had left behind. He built a log house, clearned and sowed thirty acres to wheat, and in the autumn of that year returned for his family. The following spring he made a permanent settlement. He resided in Aurelius until his removal to Lansing in 1866, where he has since resided. Mr. French has been prominently identified with Aurelius and its development. He served the town as its supervisor for a number of terms, and also officiated in varous minor positions. In 1842 he was elected to the representative branch of the Legislature. In 1823, Mr. French married Miss Sarah Herrington, of Canandaigua, N. Y. She was born in 1804, near Albany, N. Y., and came to Michigan in 1839. She has shared with her husband the privations of early days, and has been his faithful friend and companion for over fifty-seven years. The life of Mr. French has been comparatively uneventful. His early days were full of trials and toil, but his life has been a success. He has acquired a competency and perfected a valuable record as a citizen. Although he has always shrunk from prominence and had led a quiet home-life, still, throughout the length and breadth of Ingham County, he is known as one of its founders, and his name is associated with the best men that they country has produced.
Taken from: "History of Ingham and Eaton Counties Michigan, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Their Prominent Men and Pioneers", by Samuel W. Durant.
Published by D. W. Ensign & Co., 1880.
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