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Biographical Review: Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York
Frank H. France

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[This information is from pp. 413-415 of Biographical Review Volume XXXIII: Containing Life Sketches of Leading Citizens of Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York (Boston: Biographical Review Publishing Company, 1899). It is in the collection of the Grems-Doolittle Library of the Schenectady County Historical Society at 920 BIO.]

Frank H. France, a native of Seward, now residing in the village of Cobleskill, was born on March 31, 1859, son of Gilbert G. and Angeline (Ottman) France. He is a great-grandson of Sebastian Frantz, one of the pioneers of Schoharie County.

Sebastian Frantz came from Germany in 1752, shortly after his marriage with Anna Fritz. He was born in Würtemberg, in the year 1732, and his wife was born in the same place in the year following. They were Lutherans, and, with three others of that persuasion, left their native land in order to secure greater freedom of worship. The little party landed in New York in November, 1753. Sebastian was sent ahead to prospect for a place in which to settle, and he eventually chose a location in this county in what is now the town of Seward.

He was a man of deep piety and great religious zeal, and his unflinching boldness in defence of his faith has borne fruit in the lives of his descendants. He brought with him from the Fatherland his German family Bible, the first Bible ever brought into the town of Seward, and this is now in the possession of the heirs of his grandson, the late Gilbert G. France. Seven tedious years were spent in clearing the land and making it capable of producing harvests, and at the end of that time the desire of the immigrant's heart was fulfilled in the erection, at what was called New Rhinebeck, of a Lutheran church. The structure was a frame building, and was the second house of worship reared in the town. The society was presided over by the Rev. Peter Nicholas Sommer, a travelling Lutheran preacher, who preached also to the Methodist congregation in the other church, which was located at Seward Centre.

The children of Sebastian Frantz numbered twelve, and were named as follows: Anna, Ernest Christopher, Eva, Elizabeth, Jacob, Margaretta, John, Catherine, Henry, Lena, Lawrence, and David. At the outbreak of the Revolution, the two elder sons, Christopher and Jacob, enlisted as soldiers, and were quartered with their company in the Schoharie Valley. On October 18, while Sebastian was away from home doing government service, his home was entered by an Indian chief who was in the employ of the British; two of the sons, John and Henry, were taken captive; and the barns and out-buildings were burned. Thus in a moment were destroyed the results of years of earnest toil.

Mrs. Anna Frantz, with her ten remaining children fled to Gravel Mountain, where she secreted herself for three days, not daring to make a fire for fear that her hiding place might be revealed. John, one of the captured sons, was scalped and murdered, but Henry fortunately escaped. On the same day, the young woman who was to have been the bride of Christopher in two weeks, was murdered. A pair of silver shoe buckles, her wedding gift from her lover, is still in the possession of her family. After the war Sebastian Frantz repaired and re-established his home, and subsequently remained there until his death in 1805. His wife survived him eleven years. Both were buried on the home farm, but in 1891 the remains were disinterred by Gilbert G. France and were removed to the Zion Rural Cemetery at Seward Centre.

The descendants of this worthy pair now constitute a considerable portion of the population of Schoharie, and members of the fourth and fifth generations have become residents in other parts of the State. Henry Frantz, who escaped from the Indians, spent his early life on the homestead, and later bought a farm near by, where he lived until his death, at the age of eighty-eight. He was a most active Christian, and both he and his good wife were members of the Methodist church. Her maiden name was Maria Horn. She was born in Albany, the daughter of Joseph Horn, a prominent clothier of that place. She had one sister, Margaret, who married David Frantz.

Of the fifteen children of Henry Frantz, fourteen grew to maturity, and thirteen were married and had children. There were eleven sons, and of these seven became class leaders in the Methodist church, and of the seven two became preachers. Gilbert G. France was the latest survivor of this large family. He had at one time a hundred cousins, but all, with one exception, are now deceased.

Gilbert G. France was born on the homestead on December 25, 1816, the youngest child of his parents. He remained at home until the age of seventeen, attending school and assisting on the farm. Then he learned the trade of tanner and currier. Subsequently he went with his wife and children to Wisconsin, and in company with three others took up some government land, and founded and named the town of Sharon. His title deed to this, signed by President Polk, is still in the possession of his family. After remaining there for seven years, he returned East and traded his land for a farm in Richmondville, where he lived for five years. In 1856 he came to his farm in Seward, and from that time devoted himself to general farming, hop-raising, and dairying. He had at one period a hundred and forty acres, but later he cultivated about sixty acres, having also some outlying lands. He built the farm buildings, as well as another house and a store in the town, and several dwelling-houses. During the last forty years of his life he was a leader in every advanced movement. He was one of the early promoters of the railroad which runs to Cherry Valley, twenty-five miles from Cobleskill, beginning to agitate the subject in 1867 in company with Judge Campbell and Judge Bates. Upon being appointed one of the commissioners, along with Abraham Sternberg and Leonard Wiland, he was able to make arrangements for bonding the town for twenty-five thousand dollars. He was Railroad Commissioner for fifteen years.

Gilbert G. France was married in 1840, his wife being the daughter of Christian Ottman, and a native of this region. She died at the age of sixty-two, having been the mother of seven children. Of these, six are living; namely, Augusta, Anna, Helen, Millard Filmore, Ida, and Frank H. Augusta married Peter Haines, a farmer in the valley, and has one child, Vergil by name. Anna, who married Hannuil Strail, has two children — Grace and Gilbert. Helen married David Berger, who was killed by a stroke of lightning. She has two children — Ina and Arthur. Millard F., who always resided with his father, married Mary Brown, and has one child, Leland. Ida is the wife of David Emerick, a travelling salesman in Western New York, and is the mother of two children — Bertha and Grace.

Gilbert G. France was actively interested in politics prior to the Civil War, and served as Collector and as Overseer of the Poor. So far as possible he refused public offices. He was a charter member of the Grange, and was one of its lecturers. He was ardently in favor of prohibition, and was a delegate to the State convention at Syracuse for the Prohibition party. On the occasion of the centennial celebration of the anniversary of the town, he was the president of the day, and had full charge of affairs. For fifty-eight years he was a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, and fifty-six years a church officer. Thirty-three years he was a class leader, and twenty years superintendent of the Sunday-school. The beautiful grove fitted up by him is largely used for Sunday-school gatherings. At the time of his death, which occurred on April 5, 1898, he was the oldest member of the charge, which includes Hyndsville, Seward Valley, and Seward Centre, and was probably the oldest church official in the State.

Frank H. France is by trade a carpenter and cabinet-maker. Since the death of his father he has purchased village property in Cobleskill, where he now resides. He has charge of his father's farm, and is doing a prosperous business. He married Carrie M. Ireland, daughter of Daniel Ireland, of Albany, and she has borne him four children, as follows: Lulu A., Gilbert D., Daniel D., and Melville D.

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