Birthday Greetings

Postcard to Mrs. Nellie French, 1924. (Author’s collection)

Mrs. Nellie French,
Kezar Falls,
Maine

Post marked South Hiram, Maine, December 19, 1924

12-19-1924
Wishing you a very happy day and many more to follow. From your friend Alice
[B. or D.?]

Nellie G. Ridlon French was born on November 28, 1867 in Parsonfield, York County, Maine to Magnus and Emily Emery Ridlon. She was one of eight children, including: Emery Stephen, Elizabeth R., John F., Stillman, Emily F., Mary F. and Marcia E. (later Hardy).

Nellie married Frederick Merl French, also from Maine. They moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts and together they had two children: Clayton Hurd (also spelled Herd or Heard) (1895) and Emery Ridlon French (1901).

It was in Cambridge, at their home at 4 Leonard Avenue, where in 1908 Emery died at only seven years old. The cause? Diphtheria. He has a headstone in the cemetery in Kezar Falls, with other members of his family.

“Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915, 1921-1924,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NWYZ-P7Z : 2 March 2021), Emery R French, 13 Oct 1908; citing Cambridge,,Massachusetts, 71, State Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 2,257,001.
Google street view of 4 Leonard Avenue, Cambridge, MA.
Screenshot captured 12 Dec 2021.
Headstone of Emery Ridlon French. Source: findagrave.com

Little Emery was likely named after his uncle, Emery Stephen Ridlon, who had died in 1887 at the age of 45, (and who had been given his mother’s maiden name.) Nellie’s eldest brother attended Parsonsfield Seminary in Maine in 1859 and was one of its prominent former students from that year:

[…] Emory S. Ridlon, who later attended Albany Law School and eventually took his place as one of the best lawyers at the Cumberland County Bar.

History of Parsonsfield Seminary. Accessed 12 Dec 2021.

He was also a Mason, initiated in 1863 and made a Member of Honor in 1883 — four years before his passing.

Records list the young lawyer’s cause of death as “Paralysis of Brain.”

Death record of Emery S. Ridlon. Source: findagrave.com

Nellie’s eldest son, Clayton, remained in Massachusetts. As reported in the Cambridge Tribune at the time, he married Gertrude Eleanor Hampson in Watertown on January 17, 1917. Rev. Vincent Ravi Brooth officiated. Described as a “Forwarder & Machine Mover,” Clayton lived at 47 Mt. Vernon Street in Cambridge.

Less than five months later, he registered for the United States World War One Draft. He stated on the draft registration card that he had a wife and child to support, and that he worked for the T. Libby Co., 39 Hartford Street, Boston, as Manager of the Truck Department. His eyes were grey and his hair brown.

“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918”, database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZJM-ZRZ : 23 February 2021), Clayton Hurd French, 1917-1918.

Clayton wasn’t the only member of the family working at T. Libby. The 1925 Cambridge Directory lists his father Frederick as a teamster at the company (at a different location: 186 Fifth), together with proprietor Tobias Libby. In fact, Frederick’s mother was a Libby, so perhaps there was a family connection.

The Cambridge Directory, 1925

Frederick and Nellie lived at 182 Upland Road, Cambridge in 1925. And yet, the postcard sent to Nellie in Kezar Falls was dated December 1924.

The Cambridge Directory, 1925

Maybe the discrepancy wasn’t that curious, though. Nellie’s connection to Kezar Falls was strong, despite having lived in Cambridge for many years. The book History of Porter, published by the Parsonfield-Porter Historical Society in 1957, explains:

Mrs. French was a native of Kezar Falls, the daughter of Magnus and Emily Emery Ridlon. She was the widow of Frederick M. French of Cambridge, Mass. She and her husband lived at Cambridge for 38 years, then returned to live on the family homestead here until the death of Mr. French. Mrs. French later went to live in Bangor, Me., for some time, then returned to Cambridge where she remained until her death.

History of Porter (1957)
Houses along a street in Kezar Falls, 1944. Photo by George French. It is quite possible that Mr. French was a relation of Nellie’s.
(Maine State Archives G547-210842-CF106)

On June 26, 1949, she died at the age of 81 and is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Kezar Falls. (Other records show her final resting place as Nathan Hale Cemetery in Porter, Cumberland, Maine; with the same birth and death dates). She was predeceased by her parents, husband (1933), all of her brothers and sisters, and her children — Clayton died in 1935 at age 40. No further record of his child (her grandchild) — the one mentioned in the WWII Draft Registration — was found during this research.

Nellie’s headstone. Source: findagrave.com
French family grave marker in Kezar Falls, Maine. Source: findagrave.com
“Maine, Nathan Hale Cemetery Collection, ca. 1780-1980,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVJ5-7158 : 1 March 2021), Nellie G. Ridlon French, ; citing Porter, Cumberland, Maine, United States, Porter Village Cemetery, Maine State Library, Augusta; FHL microfilm 1,315,207.

When her friend Alice sent the postcard in 1924, Nellie would have still had her husband and son and other family members in her life. Happier times, indeed, even though the “Birthday Greetings” postcard was nearly a month late. It was mailed on December 19, and her birthday was November 28.

But of course, it’s the thought that counts, after all.

Front of postcard to Mrs. Nellie French, 1924. (Author’s collection)

Do you have information or photos to share relating to the French family? Are you a descendant? If so, I would love to hear from you! Please reach out via the Contact page.

Success! I’m pleased to report that this postcard has gone to Nellie’s grand-nephew.

Published by Sonia Nicholson

Sonia Nicholson is an archivist, executive assistant, and writer. She was born and raised in Osoyoos, British Columbia, Canada and studied French and Spanish at the University of Victoria. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia with her husband, two children, and two rescue dogs. Follow her on Twitter @nicholsonsonia_

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