Sperry French

Ebenezer Sperry French, father of Harriet French, was the principal of the grammar school in Exeter, NH for fifty years.  Elisha Lee has it on good authority that he was the basis for the character of “Old Francis” in Henry A. Shute’s The Real Diary of a Real Boy. (Free text available online here; a PDF of an original edition is available here; a copy can be purchased here).

Named after his father’s sister’s husband, Rev. Ebenezer Peck Sperry, he was called “Sperry” by family.  (In midlife, he went to the effort of actually dropping “Ebenezer” from his name– legally. There is a listing in the Laws of the State of NH announcing that “Ebenezer Sperry French may take the name of Sperry French.”)

It’s amazing to see him in photos with Nana (Helen Swain Burgin) and Aunt Magna (Margaret Swain Beecher), and think that his father was born during the American Revolution.

Time.

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Left to right: Helen Swain, Margaret Swain, and Sperry French

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Namesake: The Historic Harriet Atwood Newell

Harriet Newell Robinson French (1828-1907) had a daughter, Harriet French Swain (1868-1958), who in turn had a granddaughter, Harriet Swain Burgin Lee (1934-).

This name – Harriet – clearly has some history attached to it, but where did that history begin? How far back does it go?

The answer is that it all began with one Harriet Atwood Newell (1793-1812), no relation whatsoever, whose much admired life runs as follows…

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from Wikipedia:

Harriet Newell was born Harriet Atwood at Haverhill, Massachusetts on October 10, 1793.[1] She was part of the first wave of Christian missionaries to go overseas from the United States. She died less than a year into her journey. Following publication of her memoirs, she became a hero and role model for Christians during the nineteenth century. Many children were named for her over the following decades [emaphasis mine–LSL] including Harriet Newell Noyes who also went on to be a missionary.[2]

She married Rev. Samuel Newell in February 1812. Along with Adoniram Judson and Ann Judson [3] they went off to preach in India and Burma. They were expelled by the East India Company and sailed to Mauritius, where she died November 30, 1812. At sea she had given birth to a child who died after five days. Her memoirs were published posthumously,[4] going into a number of editions.

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Harriet Atwood Newell (1793-1812)

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