FRENCH, JOHN, M.A., first clergyman to serve with the HBC in the Bay; d. 1687.
He was sent to Albany in 1683 equipped with Bibles, prayer books, and homilies. Items like parsnips, rice, and French barley were provided for his personal use. The voyage outward with Governor Sergeant’s party was made eventful by the capture of an interloping ship – one trespassing on the company’s monopoly – the Expectation, commanded by Richard Lucas, a renegade HBC employee.
“Extravagant demands” and poor trade returns accounted largely for Governor Sergeant’s recall in 1686. Instructions to bring his family “and Mr. French, the Minister, too” had not arrived when Albany was captured by Pierre de Troyes. Articles of surrender were drawn up with much ceremony, clergyman John French acting as intermediary. He was despatched with a group of prisoners on the yacht Colleton to Port Nelson. While account books show him as being still alive on 7 Feb. 1686/87 he presumably died before returning to England. In January 1687/88 the balance of his salary was “accounted with Lawrence French, his executor,” an HBC stockholder.