First Congregational Church of Pittsfield

Biographical research and written profiles by Larry Berkson, Historian, Pittsfield Historical Society

Select a profile: Deacon Adams | Captain Clark | Abraham French | Hannah French | John Johnston | Lydia Johnston | Reverend Sweet | Maria Thorndike | Mary Tuttle






Hannah (Lane) French was born in Stratham, November 12, 1772, the daughter of Samuel and Hannah (Cate) Lane. Little is known of her early life or when she came to Pittsfield. She had at least two brothers who lived and raised families in Pittsfield: Ebenezer, who had nine children, and James, who married Leah Prescott and had five children. Ebenezer served as town moderator, as a state representative and as a Pittsfield selectman for 16 years.

On January 11, 1796 she married Abraham French. That year the couple moved into the Congregational Church Parish House, a home that Mr. French had erected after completing the interior of the Old Meetinghouse. Today, the building is occupied by Scott and Arlene Brown.

Almost nothing is known of Mrs. French's domestic activities. According to one of her grandsons, John Swett, she was a good homemaker and likely performed all of the duties expected of housewives in those days. Between October of 1796 and February of 1816 she had 11 children.

Several of her daughters married prominent men of Pittsfield, including Mary who married William Berry, Jr. and Lucretia, who married Eben Swett. The Swetts had only one child, John, mentioned above, but he became a nationally famous educator. 

 Hannah French
Hannah French

John gained great notoriety when he became California's first professional educator to be elected as Superintendent of the California School System. In this position he fought for and succeeded in having the legislature adopt the nation's first state tax system for schools.

Several sons became prominent in local affairs. Son Enoch married Eliza H. Cate of Epsom and one of their children was the renown John Cate French who helped found and later became President of the New Hampshire Life Insurance Company. He also founded the Suncook Valley Times newspaper and was instrumental in bringing the railroad to Pittsfield. Son Charles, a shoe manufacturer who purchased the Johnson Farm on Catamount Mountain in 1876, later the property of E. P. Sanderson, was prominent in the Calvinist Baptist Church serving as clerk for 30 years.

Mrs. French was described by her grandson, John Swett, during the elderly years of her life as "a venerable old lady, small in stature, nervous in temperament, and [as noted above] skilled in housekeeping." Hannah also must have been a very tolerant person. She was a devout Congregationalist, admitted to the church in 1801, and regularly attended its meetings. Her husband, on the other hand, regularly attended the Calvinist Baptist Church, as did several of her children. According to her grandson John, Hannah "delighted in reading the Bible, Scott's Commentaries, and various volumes of theological sermons."

Mrs. French passed away on January 1, 1854, at the age of 81, four years after her husband.  She is buried next to him in Floral Park Cemetery in the Tuttle Circle area.  Her son Abraham, Jr., who died at the age of 33 and daughter Eliza, who died at the age of 25, are buried in the same lot.


Biographical research and written profile by Larry Berkson, Historian, Pittsfield Historical Society

Bacon, George F. Manchester and Its Leading Business Men (Boston: Mercantile Publishing Company, 1891), p. 54.

Chapman, Jacob and James H. Fitts. William Land of Boston, Mass. (Exeter: John Templeton, 1891), Vol. 1, pp. 30-32.

Clarke, John B. Sketches of Successful New Hampshire Men (Manchester: John B. Clark, 1882), pp. 156- 59.

Early Vital Statistics, Pittsfield, New Hampshire, in the possession of the Pittsfield Historical Society. Floral Park Cemetery Records, in the possession of Larry Berkson.

French, John C. Grace Fletcher, pamphlet, November 1896, in the possession of the Pittsfield Historical Society.

Manual of the Congregational Church, Pittsfield, New Hampshire, May 1, 1899, no place, no publisher, p. 43.

Merrimack County Registry of Probate, Concord, New Hampshire, Abraham French #3465. Pittsfield Tribune, August It, 1883.

Suncook Valley Times, April 22, 1869.

Suncook Valley Times, August 19, 1869.

Swett, John. Public Education in California  (New York: American Book Company, 1911), pp. 34-35. Valley Times, June 18, 1909.

Willey, George B. (Ed.). State Builders (Manchester: The New Hampshire Publishing Corporation, 1903), pp. 342-43.

Young, E. Harold. History of Pittsfield, New Hampshire (Concord: New Hampshire Bindery, 1953), pp. 560-71.

First Congregational Church | 24 Main Street, Pittsfield, NH 03263 | Office: 603-435-7471

Last revised 03 May 2014