Local History Collections

Collection ID: LH-45
Location: LH-45

(Description ID: 594758)

Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums

O. S. French Estate


Biographical Sketch
Scope and Content

The O. S. French collection was originally a part of the Rice Family Collection.

Biographical Sketch
Oratus Seba French was born November 25, 1837 in Painesville, Ohio. His parents both died of cholera when he was 9 years old and he went to live with an uncle in Mississippi. Oratus moved to Fremont, Ohio in September 1853 to serve as a machinist’s apprentice in the firm of June & Curtis, engine builders and boiler makers. (David June, one of the partners, had known Oratus’s father.)

After his apprenticeship Oratus sailed as an oiler on a lake steamer and served on the Union Navy ships Yunka and Fort Morgan during the Civil War. Following the war, he continued his work on Great Lakes ships. In 1871, he returned to Fremont and eventually became a partner in D. June & Co. which later became June & French and later still French & Holderman. The firm was nationally known for high quality products and as being technologically innovative. The firm also had a facility in Waco, Texas.

Oratus French died suddenly on the evening of April 2, 1908 after attending a local Masonic meeting. Having never married, his closest living relatives were second cousins. J. W. Pero, a local banker, was named administrator of O. S. French’s estate. Since French died intestate, an extensive search was undertaken to find all of the eligible heirs, the number eventually growing to more than 100. The estate was finally settled in 1916.

Scope and Content
Items in this collection span the years 1859 to 1917 with one additional letter written in 1950. The bulk of the material is correspondence of Oratus French and J. W. Pero. The correspondence of French runs from 1897 to 1908 and includes letters from cousins telling of family affairs. A portion of the correspondence relates to French’s business affairs, especially with I. J. Shifley of the Shifley Manufacturing Co., who invented a machine to make eaves troughs.

The correspondence of J. W. Pero begins after French’s death in April 1908 and extends to 1917. This correspondence is with heirs of O. S. French regarding distributions (partial distributions 1912, 1913, and 1915 and a final distribution in 1916) and the search for other heirs. Other estate matters that generated significant correspondence was the sale of land French owned in Texas, the sale of Northern Ohio Telephone Co. bonds, and a collection of several notes to various people held by French. This correspondence offers some insight into several Fremont, Ohio businesses including D. June & Co. (sometimes referred to as June Machinery Co.), the Fremont Yaryan Co., Hermon Dry Goods Co., and the Lincoln Stove & Range Co. Other local businesses include the Shifley Manufacturing Co., the Northern Ohio Telephone Co., and the Laning Co. of Norwalk, Ohio.

French and John W. Miller were granted a patent in 1896 for a Spark Arrester for use on traction engines as well as locomotives or stationary engines. The patent is included in the collection. Estate records consist of Cash Journals and Administrative Accounts books, canceled checks, and lists of heirs with their respective distributions. Other items of interest include genealogical information for the French family, financial records of O. S. French associated with the construction and furnishing of his house on Birchard Avenue (Fremont, Ohio) in 1897, a household inventory, and a detailed inventory of David June & Co.

2 ½ linear ft.

Box 1 - Correspondence

    1. Correspondence - 1859-1906
    2. Correspondence - 1907
    3. Correspondence - January-April 1908
    4. Correspondence - May 1908
    5. Correspondence - June 1908
    6. Correspondence - July-September 1908
    7. Correspondence - October-November 1908
    8. Correspondence - December 1908
    9. Correspondence - January-June 1909
    10. Correspondence - July-September 1909
    11. Correspondence - October-November 1909
    12. Correspondence - December 1909
    13. Correspondence - January-March 1910
    14. Correspondence - April-June 1910
    15. Correspondence - July-September 1910
    16. Correspondence - October-December 1910
    17. Correspondence - January-June 1911
    18. Correspondence - July-September 1911
    19. Correspondence - October-December 1911
    20. Correspondence - January-March 1912
    21. Correspondence - April-December 1912
    22. Correspondence - January-March 1913
    23. Correspondence - April-December 1913
    24. Correspondence - 1914
    25. Correspondence - January-March 1915
    26. Correspondence - April-June 1915
    27. Correspondence - July-December 1915
    28. Correspondence - January-March 1916
    29. Correspondence - April-December 1916
    30. Correspondence - 1917-1950
    31. Correspondence - Undated

Box 2 - Financial Papers & Miscellaneous Papers

    1. Financial Papers - Undated
    2. Financial Papers - 1900-1914
    3. Financial Papers - 1915-1917
    4. Inventories - 1906-1908
    5. Miscellaneous Deeds
    6. Miscellaneous Legal Papers
    7. Miscellaneous Material
    8. Patent for Spark Arrester - June 19, 1906

Box 3 - Financial Ledgers

Accounts Ledger - 1909-1911
Cash Receipts Ledger - 1908-1916
Colonial Savings - Checks - 1915-1916