|A SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF
A. B. French
BY HUDSON TUTTLE
|Photos courtesy of Robin Crawford
The subject of this sketch was born in Farmington, Trumbull County, Ohio, September 13th, 1838. His ancestry were of
old Puritan stock, and were among the earliest pioneers in the wilderness of Northeastern Ohio.
He was a precocious boy, and at school far ahead of those of his age, and kept, without apparent effort, with his
classes. Soon after the spiritual rappings first startled the country at Hydeville, they were heard in his native town. The
French family appear to have been highly mediumistic, for his mother and sister were among the first to become
influenced. The boy, then only sixteen years of age, was attending the Western Reserve Seminary at Farmington, with an
enviable record; with and exalted ambition and brilliant prospects ahead. During the summer vacation he was at home
assisting his father on the farm the latter cultivated. Weary and thirsting he sought the house, and on entering found his
mother and sister entranced. To him it was a strange manifestation, which filled his mind with dread and awe at its
mystery. He attempted to leave them, but the invisible beings controlling them commanded him to star, for they had a
world for him too great to be revealed at that time. He sat down and soon felt a stranger feeling, like sleep, and yet not
sleep, steal over him. His mortification was great, and he strove to shake off the influence, to arise and go away, but he
found that he could not move and was powerless to resist. He began to talk, and continued talking and responding to his
destiny; he went out to the school houses and halls in the surrounding towns lecturing. He had entered the recitation
room for the last time. The inspiration of the spirit world was upon him; its broad education was to be his; he found no
rest unless he was doing its bidding.
He constantly rebelled against the influences pushing him forward, and every time he went out to fill appointments of
lectures, it was with fear and trembling, often vowing that he would never speak again. There was a public ostracism-
most silent- which the sensitive boy felt keenly, and he had not the prophetic eye to see the glorious results the years
would bring. He did not foresee, and rebelled against the power which set him up as a mark for public scorn and
ostracism. Before he attained his twentieth year, he had more calls than he could fill, and his fame was widely extended.
His audiences were spell-bound by the new thoughts and the charm of their presentation. He was greeted by crowds
wherever he went, who saw the revival of Pentecostal time there in their midst.
It may be well to illustrate psychic phenomena, and the great wave which swept over the country. When Mr. French
began to speak he was mostly unconscious and often stood before his audience with closed eyes. His condition slowly
changed until it became blended with the normal state, yet the peculiar feelings accompanying the inspiration are yet
retained. It comes on him like an overwhelming flood; he loses control of himself, and thoughts surge irresistibly for
utterance, at times carrying his audience to the heavens with cumulative energy. His powers have been mostly used for
speaking, but at times he engages in writing, and appears equally successful. His articles, practical and thoughtful, attract
In the summer of 1859 he moved to Clyde, Ohio, where he has since resided. In the year 1863 he there engaged in the
nursery business, which he has continued to the present time. The prospect of success was not flattering, as his means
were limited; but his liberal dealing and untiring energy have been amply rewarded. His business now ranks among the
largest in the State, employing more than fifty laborers and salesmen.
In the year 1870 he began reading law, and in the winter of 1871-2 he attended the law department of the University at
Ann Arbor, Michigan. While there he did not cease to make himself heard on the rostrum, lecturing every Sunday in
some of the towns of central Michigan. Returning home, in the spring of 1872, he was admitted to the bar in District
Court at Tiffin, Ohio, and entered into partnership with Judge J. M. Lemmon. For three years he engaged in this
business, which rapidly increased, and was retained in many, important cases. At the end of that time his health failed,
and he retired from the law and gave his attention to the nursery business, which he had continued in connected with all
his other responsibilities. He also continued to lecture on Sundays and various public occasions, where his services were
eagerly sought, and attend funerals. He has probably delivered more funeral discourse than any other speaker of his age,
and his happy manner of presenting the glorious truths of immorality pleases all, of whatsoever sect or belief. He gives a
new and fresh view of life beyond the fleeting shadows, freed from the dry and harsh bonds of creeds, which to behold
is a joy.
In 1876 he was unanimously chosen by the Republic party of his county to represent them in the General Assembly of
the State. The Democratic majority averaged about eight hundred, but Mr. French was defeated by a little more than two
hundred, receiving in his own township the largest vote ever given for a candidate. In 1878, when absent from home, he
was again unanimously nominated, but declined the honor. From 1881-1888 he gave almost his entire time to lecturing
and from 1888 to 1890 was a member of the Lyceum Bureau, of Chicago; and while lecturing Sundays before
Spiritualistic audiences, appeared before literary and church societies over a territory, reaching from Omaha to Boston,
with marked success.
He has every element of a popular orator, and the enviable reputation he was won has been attained under difficulties
known only to his most intimate friends, all of whom will rejoice to know that he soon expects to retire from active
business cares and complete his public work.
Mr. French has only reached the prime of life, and has abilities for better work than he has yet accomplished both as a
writer and speaker, excellent as his past labors have been. His contributions to the Spiritual journals are voluminous and
widely copied. His has been a busy life, and he well illustrates the blending of the psychic faculty with rate natural
Transcribed from the book: Gleanings from the Rostrum
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