Photography didn’t begin until the late 1820’s or early 1830’s. A Frenchman by the name of Joseph Nicephore Niepce is generally credited with taking the first photo. While I have many photos of family members, one of my favorite photos is not of an actual person, but instead of a simple military stone placed in his memory.
- Michael France was my 4th great grandfather. Born 6 October, 1776 in Frankin County, Virginia to John France and Mary “Polly” McTier. Michael France was born into the American colonies – a country that was in turmoil.
- The United States of America wasn’t formed yet.
- Nathan Hale had been executed a mere two weeks prior to Michael France’s birth.
- George Washington had finally won his first battle victory in the War for Independence at The Battle of Harlem Heights.
- The Marquis de Lafayette wouldn’t show up on the scene for another six weeks to assist the fledgling rebels.
Michael’s father, John France, later served in the Virginia Line of the Continental Army from March 1781 until September 1783 during the American Revolution. John was later awarded a pension of $76 per year beginning in 1818 when John France was 73 years old. (U. S. Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications from 1899 to 1970 for Michael France)
Michael France married Rebecca Henry 5 February 1798 in Franklin County, Virginia. They later had eight children – four boys (Orville, John, Jesse, Thomas Henry A.) and four girls (Anna, Elizabeth, Susannah and Jennette). Michael was mustered into service of the Haines’ Ohio Mounted Militia in 1812, leaving Rebecca with eight small children to care for.
In 1835, Michael and Rebecca moved to Illinois where they lived until their deaths. Michael died in 1867 at the age of 91 years old. He had lived through the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and came to Illinois soon after the Black Hawk War. In his lifetime, he’d seen the Mexican War in 1846 to 1848, the American Civil War and the beginning of the Indian Wars out west.
So what was the significance of the photo of the military stone for Michael France? To me it is a simple reminder of a sacrifice my ancestor made to develop this strong country. It reminds also that John France served the new nation when Michael was only five years old. Michael France served his country when six of his eight children were age 10 and younger. It reminds me of how much history passed his eyes during his lifetime. It reminds me of the sacrifices of many military men during the many battles and wars America has fought.
It reminds me those sacrifices are honored with a simple stone – strong, graceful, unyielding to wind, water and time. The photo reminds me I come from Patriot blood.