Aaron French (1823-1902)

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Aaron French

"Notable Men of Pittsburgh and Vicinity," Percy F. Smith

Aaron French was born on March 23, 1823, in Wadsworth, Medina County, OH, to Philo and Mary (McIntyre) French.

He attended school until the age of 12. After working on the family farm, he took up the trade of blacksmithing at the age of 13. He then went to work for the Ohio Stage Co., at Cleveland, working there for two years. He then went to work in the Guyoaso House Memphis, TN and then as agent in the west by the American Fur Company. Realizing that a full education, or rather, as full an education as possible would be beneficial, French entered the Arch McGregor Academy at Wardsworth, OH, when he was 20 years old. He stayed here until 1844, when he left to vote for Henry Clay. In 1845, he went to St. Louis, then was employed in wagon making with Peter Young in Carlyle, Clinton County, Illinois. He became ill, was taken back to Ohio, and spent four years resting, being too ill to resume work. When he was able to resume working, he became employed with the Cleveland, Columbus and Lake Shore Railroad Co. at Cleveland. He worked for this company until 1854, when he went to Norwalk, OH to work as a blacksmith. A cholera epidemic kept everybody-except for Aaron French-from working. The following year, he was put in charge of the blacksmith department at the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Railroad at Wellsville. He then went to work as superintendent of the blacksmith business of the Racine & Mississippi Railroad at Racine, WI.

He attempted to enlist in the Civil War, however he could not pass the physical examination. He ran for Sheriff of Racine County, WI, won that election, and served in that capacity for two years.

It was during his term as Sheriff that he started manufacturing car springs in Pittsburgh with Calvin Wells (also a member of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club). They formed the A. French Spring Company. Starting off with meager means, by 1893, the company was employing 300 men, manufacturing all kinds of springs for wheels of locomotives and passenger cars. For some time, A. French Spring Company manufactured springs for all Pullman cars in Europe. The works took up two blocks between Nineteenth and Twenty-First Streets, Pittsburgh, PA. He retired after 20 years with the business.

In 1843, he married Euphrasia Terrill of Liverpool, Medina County, OH. She gave birth to five children: Lucy, Ida, Clara, Philo N., and Aaron. Euphrasia died in 1871. He later married Caroline B. Skeer of Chicago, and she gave birth to Mary A. who died at age 18.

Aaron French was a Whig in politics and became a strong Republican. He was a Free Mason. In addition to the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, he was a member of the Duquesne Club. He and his wife attended the Calvary Episcopal Church of Pittsburgh.

In 1880, the French's lived in Allegheny, not far from South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club members James W. Brown and A.V. Holmes. On March 24, 1902, at the age of 79, Aaron French died.

Last updated: March 18, 2017

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