Henry F. French

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Henry Flagg French, c. 1880

Henry Flagg French (August 14, 1813 – November 20, 1885) was an agriculturist, inventor, lawyer, judge, postmaster, assistant district attorney, and assistant Secretary of the United States Treasury.[1]

Early life[edit]

Henry Flagg French was born in Chester, Rockingham County, New Hampshire on August 14, 1813, to the Honorable Daniel French (1769–1840), who was attorney general of New Hampshire and a judge on the state’s Supreme Court[2] and Sarah Wingate Flagg Bell French (1782–1878). He died November 20, 1885, in Middlesex County, Concord, Massachusetts. He is buried at Exeter Cemetery, in Rockingham County, New Hampshire.[3]


He received his general education at Pinkerton Academy in Derry and then at Pembroke, and after that at Hingham, Massachusetts. He first studied law at the law office of his father Daniel French, and attended Harvard Law School.


On October 9, 1838, he married Anne Richardson (1811–1856), daughter of William Merchant Richardson (1774–1838), chief justice of New Hampshire. They had four children: Henriette Van Mater French Hollis (1839–1911), William Merchant Richardson French (1843–1914), Sarah Flagg French Bartlett (1846–1883), and Daniel Chester French (1850–1931).[4]

Three years after Anne Richardson's death, on September 29, 1859, he married Pamela Mellen Prentice, (1821–1895). They had no children.[5]


He was admitted to the bar on August 14, 1834. He practiced law in Chester for five years, until his father's death in 1840. In 1839 he succeeded his father as postmaster in Chester. He then moved to Portsmouth, where he lived for one year, and then in 1842 he moved to Exeter and continued to practice law there until August 1855. He was a county solicitor from 1838 to 1848 and a bank commissioner from 1848 to 1852. He was justice of the court of common appeals from 1855 to 1859. He was district attorney for Suffolk County from 1862 to 1865. From 1852 to 1859 he was president of the Rockingham Agricultural Society. From 1865 to 1866 he was president of the Massachusetts Agricultural College.[6] In 1852 he received honorary Master of Arts degree from Dartmouth College. On August 15, 1855, he was appointed justice of the court of common appeals. He held that office until August 1, 1859.

In September 1859 he opened a law office in Boston. In 1860 he moved his family to Cambridge, where he continued to live for some years. On November 19, 1862, he was appointed assistant district attorney and held that position until July 1865. In September 1865 he moved to Amherst. In 1867 he resumed his law practice in Boston. In 1876 he was appointed by President Grant as 2nd assistant secretary of the United States Treasury, where he served until 1885.[7]


He authored the book Farm Drainage: The Principles, Prospects and Effects of Draining Land with Stones, Wood, Plows and Open Ditches and Especially Tiles: Including Tables of Rain-Fall, Evaporation, Filtration, Excavation, Capacity of Pipes, Cost and Number to the Acre of Tiles. (New York: A. O. Moore, 1859). This book is credited with popularizing the French drain.


  1. ^ Owings-Stone Family Page
  2. ^ "Ever wonder why it's a 'French drain'? It's got nothing to do with France". The Washington Post. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  3. ^ Owings-Stone Family Page
  4. ^ Rootsweb Ancestry
  5. ^ Rootsweb Ancestry
  6. ^ Massachusetts Education
  7. ^ Rootsweb Ancestry

External links[edit]