William Madison French was born to William and Elizabeth (French) French on 20 October 1814 in Giles County, Virginia. William’s father, William, died just two years later on 22 July 1816. His mother remarried in 1818 to Joseph Fletcher in Giles County. The family was living in Tazewell County, Virginia during the 1820 census.
William married Rhoda Jane Caperton on 2 January 1839 in Mercer County, Virginia. Rhoda was the daughter of John Stodgill and Margaret (Shumate) Caperton. She was born on 17 January 1817 in Giles County. William and Rhoda had six children between 1840 and 1860.
On 26 August 1864 William signed up for the Confederate army in the 11th Battalion Virginia Reserves. He was in Company D under Captain Paine. A website, New River Notes, mentions a notation on the post-war roster at the Virginia State Library and Archives that reads:
“NOTE: This company was from Mercer Co. now W. Va. and was composed of men between 45 and 50 years and boys between 16 and 18 years old. The company served for some time in the trenches around Richmond in the fall of 1864 – a number of its members were transferred to Co. H, 60th Virginia Infantry.”
William would have been about 49 at the time he enlisted. He may have served for a time, but on 31 January 1865 a muster roll says that he was never paid and that he was “absent without leave.”
William was back in Mercer County, now West Virginia, by 1870. He is listed on the 1870 census with his wife, Rhoda, and three of his children, William O., Julia A., and George W.
Rhoda died of a fever on 13 December 1882 in Jackson County, West Virginia. She was buried in the French Family Cemetery in Jackson County.
On 10 October 1883, William married Matilda (Staats) Perkins. Matilda was born on 18 March 1820 in Jackson County, Virginia to Elijah and Mary Sally (Marvin) Staats. Matilda was married three times before she married William. On 9 December 1841, she married Jacob Hughes, with whom she had three children. She married Benjamin Flowers on 2 February 1854 and had at least three children with him. Matilda married George W. Perkins on 9 November 1882 in Jackson County. George was 75 when they married and he died less than a year later on 8 March 1883.
Matilda applied for a military widow’s pension in 1887 for George W. Perkins. However, there was not a certificate number so it does not look as if it was approved. Matilda died in November 1897. On 4 January 1898, C. J. Baker was appointed by Mason County Probate court to be her administrator.
William was living with his daughter, Sarah, and her family at the time of the 1900 census in Union, Putnam County, West Virginia. Sarah was married to William Woodall. I have not been able to locate any records for William after the 1900 census when he was listed as 85 years old. FindAGrave.com lists William as buried in the French Family Cemetery, but they do not have a specific location for that cemetery.
William Madison French and Rhoda Jane Caperton had the following children:
James Allen French was born on 25 December 1840 in Mercer, Virginia. He died about 1926.
Sarah Elizabeth French was born on 17 March 1843 in Mercer, Virginia. She died on 4 August 1922 in Charleston, Kanawha, West Virginia.
Andrew Jackson French was born 20 October 1846 in Princeton, Mercer, Virginia. He died 4 July 1934 in Liberty, Putnam, West Virginia.
William Overton French was born in September 1849 in Mercer, Virginia. He died 23 October 1930 in Jackson County, West Virginia.
Julia Ann French was born on 22 December 1851 in Virginia. She died 11 Mar 1921 in Jackson, West Virginia.
George William French was born on 28 July 1859 in Virginia. He died in 1914 in Kanawha, West Virginia.
William Madison French and Matilda Staats had no known children.
Notes and sources:
U.S. federal census. Year: 1820; Location: Tazewell, Virginia; p. 554.
U.S. federal census. Year: 1850; Location: District 42, Mercer, Virginia; p. 155B.
U.S. federal census. Year: 1860; Location: Giles, Virginia; p. 864.
U.S. federal census. Year: 1870; Location: East River, Mercer, West Virginia; p. 514B.
U.S. federal census. Year: 1900; Location: Union, Putnam, West Virginia; e.d. 0082, p. 11.
French, Mara. French Family Association. http://www.frenchfamilyassoc.com : 2018
Weaver, Jeff. New River Notes. http://www.newrivernotes.com : 2018
U.S., Confederate Soldiers Compiled Service Records, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Provided by Fold3.com (http://www.Fold3.com) Original data: Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers. The National Archives at Washington, D.C. William M. French, Virginia.
West Virginia Marriages, database and images online. West Virginia Division of Culture and History (http://wvculture.org). Wm M. French/Matilda Perkins marriage, 1883, FHL film #567,218.
West Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1724-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: West Virginia County, District and Probate Courts. Mason County Court, Bonds, Vol. 1-4, 1854-1903. Matilda French.
William Madison French, Memorial #5919029, database and images online. Find-A-Grave.com (http://www.findagrave.com).
Rhoda Jane Caperton French, Memorial #5013230, database and images online. Find-A-Grave.com (http://www.findagrave.com).