The subject is the obliging and well known hotel proprietor, insurance
and real estate dealer of Kell, Haines township, Marion county, who has
spent his life within the borders of the same, having been identified with
the growth and taken no small part in the same. He was born August 4, 1861,
the son of Gilbert W. and Louisa (O'Bryant) French. John R. French's father,
a native of Tennessee, came to Marion county, Illinois, in 1835. He was a
native of Tennessee and the son of John P. and __ (Hartman) French. John P.
French was a native of Pennsylvania, who moved to Tennessee in an early day
and in 1835 came to Marion county, Illinois, locating in Tonti township;
where he devoted his life to farming, having died in the town of Alma. The
subject's grandfather was a soldier in the War of 1812. Gilbert French and
his first wife were the parents of four children, namely: Angie, the wife of
Mathew Organ; Louisa, who was the wife of J. N. Jones, is deceased; John R.,
the subject of this sketch; Amanda is the wife of J. W. Ross, of Centralia,
this county. The subject's father married Mary Howard, and three children
were born to this union, Thomas, living in Kinmundy, this county; Harry B.,
of Odin, Illinois; Rachel is the wife of E. W. Wilson, of Alma, Illinois.
The subject of this sketch was reared on a farm near Alma and was educated in the common schools. After farming for a while, he learned the plasterer's and bricklayer's trade. In 1891 he clerked in a store at Alma, this county, and in 1894 he entered business in a general store in Alma which he successfully conducted for a period of eight years, when he sold out and went back to farming, which he followed for a while, then he moved to Newton, Illinois, and bought a furniture factory and a restaurant, ice cream parlor and bakery, all of which he conducted with great success until in May, 1907, when he came to Kell and bought the hotel here, which he has since conducted in such an able manner that it has become known to the traveling public as a comfortable and well conducted hostelry, where no pains are spared to make guests feel at home and comfortable. He has built up a good business, which is constantly growing. He also finds time to do considerable business in insurance and real estate.
Mr. French was united in marriage in December 1886, to Etta Sweet, who was born in Alma township, the daughter of Samuel and Sarah (Carnes) Sweet, a well-known family of their community.
The subject and his wife are the parents of the following children: Edward is single and living at home and is engaged in the restaurant and bakery business. He has a modern and fully equipped bakery and does an extensive business, shipping bread to many outside towns; Cora, the second child, is living at home; Bessie is the wife of Wesley Howard; Gladys, who is living at home attending school; Clara is living at home; Clifford is a baby at this writing, (1908.)
Mr. French is a Democrat. He has ably served as Justice of the Peace for eight years in Alma township and he was School Treasurer for four terms of two years each. In 1892 he made the race for the nomination on the Democratic ticket for County Clerk, but was defeated, however, the results showed that our subject was a popular man in the convention. Mr. French helped incorporate the village of Alma. He was also a member of the first board that organized the Building and Loan Association at Alma, Illinois. Our subject is a member of the Modern Woodmen of America, being a charter member at Alma. His son, Edward, is also a member of the Modern Woodmen of America at Kell. Mr. French is known to be a man of strictly honest business principles, industrious, pleasant and agreeable, making both friends and visitors feel at home.
Extracted 07 Jul 2017 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 217-219