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Whitehall History: Henry Francisco

Henry Francisco Model
Henry Francisco
Model in Skenesborough Museum

Henry Francisco was born in France or England on May 31, 1686. Prior to Henry's birth, his father, of Portuguese descent, had lived in France, but fled to Holland to escape religious persecution under Louis XIV. He married Henry's mother, a Dutch woman, and eventually returned to France.

When Henry was 5 years old, the family left France again due to religious persecution. They moved to Holland and then to England, where Henry later enlisted in the army as a drummer boy and beat the drum at Queen Anne's coronation in 1702.

1939 Ripley's Believe It or Not Cartoon of Henry Francisco
"Ripley's Believe It or Not" Cartoon of Henry Francisco (1939)

Henry came to America with his father some time thereafter. He fought in Queen Anne's War (1702-1713) and in the French and Indian War (1754-1763). He was present at Braddock's Defeat (also known as the Battle of Monongahela) in 1755, where he was wounded and taken prisoner to Quebec. In addition, at the age of 91, Henry became the oldest person to enlist in the American Army in January, 1777 when he joined Captain Burrough's Company, Colonel Warner's Regiment of the Continental Army. During his enlistment, which ended upon his discharge on April 20, 1778, Henry fought in the Battle of Saratoga.

Henry married twice and fathered 21 children. His youngest child was born when Henry was 82 years old. Prior to the Revolution, Henry had been an innkeeper in Fort Edward, NY, but his buildings were burned by the British. In 1778, Henry moved to Whitehall to live with his youngest daughter, Ruth Wilson. His later years were spent spooling and winding yarn for his wife, a weaver. Henry died in Whitehall on October 25, 1820 at the age of 134.

Henry was mentioned in various newspapers around the country. News of his death appeared in newspapers in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and possibly others. A short biography of Henry appeared in a December 1881 Montfort Independent (Montfort, WI) article about long-lived individuals, and his longevity and dietary habits received a brief mention in the M'Kean Miner (Smethport, PA) in March 1866.

A model of Henry (pictured above right), made by the Whitehall Central School General Art Class several years ago, is on display at the Skenesborough Museum in Whitehall.

References: Skenesborough Museum; Day Before Yesterday, Second Edition, 2005, compiled by Doris Begor Morton; http://www.carlbeck.com/old_henry.htm.

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