1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


French, the Alderson Lion
Gailia Ann Johnson

Gailia Ann Honaker Johnson moved to Alderson around 1995, live several years at "The Cedars" and was part owner of the "Ol Victorian River House Restaurant. She has always been a story teller, making up stories to her children. During this time she could never forget the story of French and felt an urgency to write down the facts and weave in some fiction in a short story. This is that story.

Travel with me back to October 3, 1890 one hundred and twenty years ago to a small Appalachian town in WV called Alderson.

The town of Alderson is a beautiful valley divided by the Greenbrier River with a lovely arch walk bridge connecting the two sides.  The people who live in the small town are like family so the news has spread far and wide that French’s Great Railroad Circus is coming to town. 

The children can hardly contain themselves as they ready themselves for bed knowing that some time in the wee hours of the night  French’s Great Railroad Traveling Circus will be chugging down the railway into their beautiful town. 

Around midnight in the light of a full moon one could see the smoke flying into the night as the train rounded the hills.  The clowns, lions, and bears sleeping safely as the train came to rest at the Alderson Train Station.  It would not be quit dawn when the hustle and bustle of the circus family would begin preparation to rise the big top of the circus tent into the morning air. 
Alderson, today a famous little town home of the Alderson Women’s Prison Camp and for a short time the home of many famous celebrities, one being Martha Stewart is only minutes from the famous Greenbrier Hotel.  News travels fast even in those days when something as big as a circus is coming to town.  All over the county the women were preparing food to picnic and have a grand weekend at the circus. The show will be full of the “whose who” society so the town folks and the performers are anxious for show time hoping to be noticed by any famous people who may be at their performance.  The performers are practiced, skilled and ready as they prepare for their acts but tension is building for they know everyone will expect perfection.

It is now right before show time when  Sumatra the star lioness  begins to feel the pain of childbirth. 
Sumatra a proud beautiful lioness has hid a secret for some time and is now expecting to give birth to three warm cuddly cubs who would be the prize of not only herself but her husband King David the lion  famous throughout all circus’s in America. 

French’s Great Railroad Circus had a lion tamer named Scrapper, Scrapper was a big rough tough and sometimes mean man who trained the lions and he was not happy when he realizes the cause of Sumatra’s ailment was going to be the delivery of three cubs.  This truly was a grand event that he was now dreading, alas the birth day of the young lion cubs.
Sumatra’s becoming pregnant, carrying and now birthing new cubs was not in Scrappers plans, he knew that lion cubs can not survive in captivity how did this ever happen, he was always so careful to keep Sumatra and King David apart except right before show time.  It is well known to all lion tamers that cubs born in captivity develop a strange stomach ailments and will not live till maturity. Also another problem is the timing of their birth will it  also ruin the great show he had planned for the evening to impress the oncoming crowds.  How could Sumatra perform under the big top in her condition? Scrapper had to do something fast, he knew Sumatra could not care for them and they would die anyway so he began to devise a way to rid himself of them at their birth.
Somehow he would cause them to disappear  in such a way that she could not even get their scent, yes they would be gone and he would get rid of these untimely lion cubs as soon as they were born.
Suddenly Sumatra fell to the ground in pain for her time had arrived and the beautiful tiny cubs made their grand entrance into the world struggling for their first breath of air.
Three beautiful perfect little lives born into an environment that may cost them their lives before they were even able to stand to their feet.  Yet he had made up his mind and Scrapper was not about to allow these three to live and he was determined to rid himself of this problem, for the show must go on. These cubs are more than he has time to deal with he knew they would only distract Sumatra from her performance and he would not permit any distractions not even these newborn cubs.  He had to distract Sumatra from the cubs somehow and he only needed a few seconds to steal them from her and destroy them.  Scrapper had to be quick and take them far enough away that she would not hear their cry’s. Scrapper remembered Sumatra’s love for the father of the cubs, King David the great lion and was sure the if he brought him to Sumatra that she may be distracted for just the right amount of time for him to take them.

When Sumatra rose up to her feet to greet her love and friend King David the lion  Scrapper grabbed the three cubs and slipped away as quickly as possible.  He knew that he must dispose of them all  so he placed them in a basket and headed for the emerald waters of the Greenbrier River where the current was swift enough to envelope the cubs and carry them down river at a rapid rate.  No one would ever know of his dastardly deed.

But God had a different plan so unknown to the lion tamer the town blacksmith, E. Bebout’s wife Mrs. Susan Bebout  was taking her usual evening  stroll by the edge of the river with her friends Allison Johnson and Katelyn Neshea Ward.  Scrapper was in a hurry and very nervous as he carried a small basket containing the three cubs, as he walked nervously closer to the swift moving rivers edge, the ladies noticed the basket in his arms and thought he was acting quite suspicious.  He tried to avoid them and look past their stares but to no avail.  Frantically they hurried down to his side at the river bank and demanded to know what he had in the basket that he was trying to throw into the river. The ladies first thought they heard the sound of kittens meowing and knew his intentions toward these tiny creatures was evil.  Mrs. Bebout told Allie and Katelyn that he must be going to drown the poor defenseless creatures.
Immediately Scrapper began to defend himself saying that he had no other choice than to dispose of  these  recently born lion cubs, as he uncovered the basket exposing these three beautiful defenseless faces.  “What?”  Mrs. Bebout shouted, they are not kittens? How could you?” Screamed Miss Johnson.    Mrs. Bebout quickly grabbed the basket from his hand and told him that she would take the cubs and care for them.  The lion tamer began to tell her that it would be of no use, lions just do not live when raised in captivity, that he had considered allowing Sumatra to raise her cubs but knew it would be of no use.  Mrs. Bebout would have none of that. There was no way she would take NO for an answer, so reluctantly, Scrapper the lion tamer gave way to her demands and allowed her to keep the basket full of new precious life.
Little did she know how this would change not only her life but also the life of the little town of Alderson, nestled in the mountains of WV forever as the future tails of French the Alderson Lion and his uncommon best friend Tabby would be roaming the streets of Alderson for hundreds of years to come in the stories of those who remembered.

Mrs. Bebout,  Katelyn and Allison were full of joy at the thoughts of this new adventure.  After all life can get pretty boring sometimes in a small town.  Little did they know the difficult task ahead of them but even if they had nothing could have stopped them or changed their minds.
They were going to attempt to raise three cubs that would soon be three full grown lions with help from the good Lord above but for some reason even the thoughts of them growing to maturity didn‘t scare them.   Mrs. Bebout decided to keep the lions at her home because she new her husband would help as much as he could and Allison would come over and help at feeding time. Mr. Bebout was the town blacksmith so he had plenty of room in the barn for the cubs to play as they grew and waxed strong.
One of the neighbors, Mr. Henry Cook noticed all of the excitement around the home of the Bebouts so he decided to see what all of the fuss was about.  When he saw the lions he almost swallowed his false teeth, he thought he had seen everything but this was a new one for even a man his age.   He was use to his wife bringing stray animals and sometimes people home to feed but never a lion. He got so excited and upset at first giving all the reasons why it would not work yet after a bit he calmed down, even he wanted to help with the feeding and care.  Mr. Cook said he could help them much more by taking one of the cubs home with him and this would help him as well  filling his lonely nights with the company of this beautiful helpless cub.  His wife, Ethel had recently passed away and he was so lonely.  Mrs. Bebout and Allison thought this would be a wonderful idea as well so off he went with his new found friend.  Night after night the would cuddle together, romp and play.

Mrs. Bebout began to take charge,  the lion cubs took to her as though she was missing Mom.  Mrs. Bebout would milk the cows and do her daily chores always setting aside milk for the young cubs and her cat Tabby who was rapidly becoming friends with one cub in particular.  Mrs. Bebout would have Jesse or Evan to step in and watch the cubs whenever she had to run errands, this way all of the cubs could play together.

Mrs. Bebouts two young playful lion cubs began to grow rapidly and Tabby her precious cat loved the company. They would all sleep together and romp around the barn like they were all kittens and very best friends. 

It wasn’t long though until one of the cubs became very ill and Mrs. Bebout was frantic!  How could she prevent the death of her precious lion cubs?  She believed there surely  must be a way to raise them  to be healthy and strong even in captivity.  Mrs. Bebout finally decided to ask the family doctor to help.  She sent for Dr. W. C. Beard to come immediately. She knew she could trust Dr. Beard to do everything possible to see these defenseless cubs make it to strong healthy full grown lions, oh how she prayed they would live.

Dr. Beard prescribed them a daily dose of castor oil and his brother Evan brought it to the Bebouts immediately.  This dose of castor oil was nasty indeed but helpful medicine and each day they seemed to grow stronger.

Mr. Cooks cub was not as strong as the other two but seemed to be coming along when one day while playing outside, he was attacked by a rat terrier and just simply could not ever recover.  Mr. Evans felt so guilty and was deeply saddened at the loss and felt so responsible.  The cub had filled so many of his lonely hours with joy and now even he was gone, what would he do?
Mrs. Bebout quickly made him a part of helping with the surviving two cubs but before long another cub began to get weaker for what seem to be no reason and now they only had one cub left, Tabby‘s favorite cub. 
Perhaps Scrapper the lion tamer was right, maybe they can not live in captivity and perhaps it would have been more merciful to have allowed him to put them in the watery grave as he desired so they would not have to suffer. 
As time would have it now there was only one lion cub left in Alderson and he had always been the strongest of the three, maybe, just maybe he will make it.  Mrs. Bebout decided since he was doing so well and developing in strength everyday that it was time to give him a name.

After some thought she jumped to her feet and said I know, we will name him FRENCH after the railroad circus his mother was traveling with, his name will be FRENCH, THE ALDERSON LION.  From this time on he was known to all  in the small town of WV as FRENCH, the Alderson Lion.  This lion would change the history of Alderson forever in many ways and be one of the first things to put Alderson on the map. French quickly became close to Mrs. Bebouts house cat Tabby when he first began to grow and it wasn’t long till all knew them as uncommon best friends.  The two were inseparable and would continue to change the lives of everyone they came in contact with then and now or as long as the story is still told.

French immediately adapted to living in a small space in Tabby’s  cage and in the heart of Tabby.  Each night the two cuddled together sleeping safe and sound but when the sun would rise so did they romping playfully outside. The two were always together and had so much fun as the played, uncommon best friends indeed and much was the mischief they would get into together as French followed Tabby to all of his usual places.

French had the most wonderful personality, unlike his  friend Tabby the cat who could be pretty moody at times,  French was quite nurturing, gentle, loving and bashful.  He would hide behind the couch or if outside he would run if another cat or dog entered the yard but Tabby on the other hand was very mischievous.  Tabby wanted to toughen French up so she began to take him with her on her many adventures into the woods and into town. 
Inseparable they certainly were so most townspeople were use to seeing them as they wondered what seemed aimlessly through the city streets.   What they did not realize was that Tabby always had a mischievous little scheme planned to have some fun with the citizens of Alderson.  Many a person was given a mighty start when French reached maturity by simply turning a corner to find a full-mane, four hundred pound lion running up to play.  Fight or flight was a usual response from new comers and most of the time it was flight!

One hot summer day the two of them went to the Cedar’s Farm in Alderson. Behind the farm was a trail that many towns’ people travel to look for Indian arrowheads in some of the well hidden caves. There were many caves and a creek called Muddy Creek, such a peaceful place I will never forget. The deer and animals of the forest would go there to drink of the fresh water. It was even said in that day the spring at the Cedars Farm was called “The Healing Waters” and that people for miles around would come to drink from the spring because of its healing qualities, many would tote a bucket home. I find this easy to believe for Alderson was once a part of the Caspian Sea; this information came from a writer in Fayette County employed by the Fayette Tribune he would often write of the town and The Cedars. But on this particular day going for a drink of water or not French followed Tabby as usual down the near mile long trail to the creek. They were running as fast as they could go, jumping and tripping into piles of leaves as they tumbled down the hill. As the best friends approached the creek every deer, possum, raccoon and squirrel took off in a run seeing this fierce looking beast. French just strolled on down wondering why they all left so quick, he didn‘t realize how intimidating he was; after all a lion is known as the KING OF THE JUNGLE but French thought he was a cat like Tabby.

Just as French bent his head to get a cool drink, Tabby took a run at him and sunk his claws in his rear, causing French to roar and leap head first into the cold water. Tabby hit the ground rolling in laughter as French rose from the water, bating his eyes trying to focus on what went wrong.  He shook his mane and covered Tabby with water.  She didn’t find this to funny though because almost all cats hate water! When they got back home they were both wet and in trouble.

Then it was time for the annual big celebration for July 4th that Alderson has had probably since it first became a town.  No one can put on a fourth celebration like the small town of Alderson even to this day and the friendliness of town draws people from many counties.  The fireworks are usually put off right in the center of the river, what a show!

The vendors were all out selling their wares  ready for the train to stop and catch those traveling through.  the train brought many people from areas all over the US to Alderson some staying at the Victorian Boarding House.
This particular time a man called James Johnson and his sister Kim and her daughter Ashley came in to Alderson by train for the big fourth of July celebration.  James had already begun his celebration long before arriving to Alderson.  The train station set near the old hotel both being on the side of the river , the river being directly behind the station and hotel.

James Johnson decided to take his bottle of whisky and go down to the river edge and watch the festivities from a key location.
Of course Tabby noticed him right away and followed closely and quietly behind him waiting until Mr. Johnson was situated and comfortable, bottle in hand.

Then she eased up behind him, with French right by her side wondering what she was up to this time.  She crouched down beside Mr. Johnson slowly stretching out as though she was going to take a nap so French mimicking everything he saw her do  slowly  crawled up close to other  side of Mr. Johnson stretched out in the same manner.  Mr. Johnson was so intrigued in watching the river frolics he didn‘t even notice that a lion had lain down close to his side.  He took his bottle up to have a drink and French raised up his head to watch. 
Mrs. Bebout always gave him a drink of her soda pops so French watched and waited patiently then  French peered around at the man and gave him a big lick across his mouth. Needless to say Mr. Johnson then became the center of the July 4th celebration.  He let out a scream the whole town could hear and leaped into the river.  It wasn’t long until he had reached the other side.  He swam from one county to the next in record time.  French looked at Tabby as if to say, “What is wrong with him?”

After this serious turn of events it aroused the town’s people, even though it was quite funny actually.  On the return home Tabby couldn’t resist going through the alley where all of the stray dogs were digging in the trash cans.  In the past the dogs would always give her a hard time when she would go back to the cans to look for some fish but she thought today would be different so Tabby decided that today is a good day for some fish for her and a lesson for the dogs.  Of course she told French to wait on her and she would meow loudly when it was time for him to come, they had grown up together and had their own distinct way of understanding one another..

Tabby sit it up good and  let the dogs chase her to the end of the alley and then loudly “MEOW!”, French stepped around the corner and she leaped to his back with a big smile, her teeth gleaming.  The dogs slid to a stop and then froze, they were so afraid they could not move.  Tabby was hysterical and could hardly wait until the next adventure.

Many were the adventures of the uncommon  best friends.   Late one night the sound of Tabby’s meow awakened French.  French hushed Tabby, suddenly Tabby said “Wake up! Someone is in the house.” French reluctantly followed Tabby.  As they entered the room where a burglar was loading up his empty bag full of Mrs. Bebouts valuables.   Tabby said, “French when I meow, you roar!”
Tabby waited until she was by the side of the robber before she meowed softly.  As the burglar turned to Tabby and said, “shut up cat!”, French roared so loud the curtain waved in the air.    The robber dropped everything and made a hole where there was a window.  Needless to say it didn’t help at all because French leaped through the opening and landed on top of the burglar .  They both waited until the police arrived.

French loved people so much, his beastly instincts just never took over so he would walk around town like a stray cat, rubbing on the legs as people passed by.  This was great while he was a young people loved him back but French had now grown into a mature lion, and the towns folk were growing a little fearful of his size and had began to wonder if he would one day awaken as the wild beast he truly was inside and hurt those he had once been kind to as many can and will do.

I know it sounds strange that Tabby would talk to French but animals all have a way to communicate with one another and they certainly had their way.  One particular day Tabby talked French into going to Wayne the barbers house at the neighboring town to play a trick on his wife Brenda
Brenda loved Tabby and when she heard her outside her window she always took her a bowl of warm  milk but she had not seen French for such a long time and did not know how much he had grown.

Tabby begin licking the milk then when Brenda went back into the house she called for French to come out of hiding.  After a while Brenda stepped by out to get the bowl and French was licking it dry.  With a scream Brenda fainted on the spot and controversy begin to once again

French and Tabby always visited the Alderson School play ground at recess, the children would take turns riding on his back as their teacher Heather followed along.  They always missed the two if they didn’t show up.
The little kids would chase French and corner him to tickle him and hug his neck.   But the people in the town and the Mothers and Fathers were beginning to fear for their children and rightfully so, could French or would French someday turn on their children.

People were beginning to make threats that if they ever saw French out again, they would shoot him.  Mrs. Bebout began to worry for his safety.  She had to stop him from freely roaming all over town.  She  was broken hearted yet understood the towns fears for themselves and their children.

One day Allison and Katelyn came to see her.  Neither wanted to tell her the things that had been said at the town meeting.  They hated to tell her the bad news but knew she had to be told.  Katelyn began to tell Mrs. Bebout that an emergency town meeting had been called to make a decision concerning what to do with French.  All the town folk had forced the Mayor to adapt a town leash law for French so if he was ever allowed to roam the streets of the town, he must be attended by an adult, as if that would contain him but never the less it was adapted into the law book.  If he came into town any more he must be  tethered on a leash or he would be destroyed
This is what led the small town of Alderson to be the only town in North America to have a leash law for lions as is recorded at Ripley’s Believe It or Not.   Unfortunately the small town has had several floods since the law was written in their City Law Book  and one of the floods destroyed the book but is verified as truth.

Allison cried because she knew things would now quickly change forever for French and Mrs. Bebout.  The two women called Katelyn, Mr. Bebout, and Mr. Evans and together they begin to look at different ways to contain him but they wanted him to still feel like he had plenty of freedom.  They wanted him to be happy above all but safe.

Evan and Mr. Bebout constructed a big bed for him in a special room they built onto the back of the house. He even built a huge fence to keep him on the grounds unless they took him to town themselves

He made a special leash to walk French to town.  Evan even had Mr. Bebout to help him build a small wagon and make a special harness so French would enjoy the fun of pulling them into town for groceries and leisure.  This way he got a lot of exercise as he enjoyed the outing, he also got to see many of the towns people who had missed what had become their trademark, FRENCH, the Alderson Lion.

Once more the people just could not get use to his intimidating presence so they continued to complain to the town council. Even though French was a playful, lovable lion and had not ever been any harm to people, which is rare the people just could not take the chance that he could change at the drop of a hat and turn violent.    But  French just could not stop being French and he loved to travel with his friend Tabby, he didn’t know they were any different; he believed he to was a house cat as well and he still wanted the freedom to roam the town as he always did with Tabby so he would get out of the fenced area built especially for him and other than caging him completely, options were running out.

Some of the more wealthy people in Alderson began to feel they had suffered enough because they were the object of literary snipers in every state because of the new ordinance for lions on a leash, tired of being laughed at they wanted him gone.
They did not want to be made fun of, not knowing they may someday be famous for this incredible true story of love and a union of peace between man and beast. 
The towns folk believed that unless something was done soon it would continue to worse until possibly someone was hurt.
  If only they had realized that French added to the appeal of the town then and now as the story is told again and again.  The Alderson Federal Prison Camp would later also bring much attention to this little town due to  the many famous and infamous people who have been behind its gates for short or long term stays as Tokyo Rose, Bobby Brown, Squeaky Frome and as late Martha Stewart to only name a few but none have topped the story of French, The Alderson Lion.

Never the less the chairman of the city council, Ashley Johnson  was under more pressure every day to do something permanent about French and as stated before though she had already proclaimed that hence forth no lions were to be allowed to run loose on the public streets and that whenever a lion made an appearance on public thoroughfares he must have a collar and be tethered to a leash  causing Alderson to enter the annals as the only town in the Eastern Hemisphere to have an anti-lion ordinance the town was furious, divided and demanding that more be done.

After this serious turn of events, the Bebouts realized that no matter how hard the decision one must be made to find a way to make the town and French happy so the quest began to find a new home for French and it may not be easy.  They began to search for a buyer at first, not just any buyer for this buyer must have adequate space, knowledge of how to care and feed a lion and the love and compassion that French so desperately needed to survive, so the hunt began.

Mrs. Bebout was very reluctant because they loved him so much but now there was no longer a choice, she refused to cage her beautiful, humble FRENCH but now that he was mature what if any would be their options.  The Bebouts had to do the right thing for all concerned especially French.  The joyful day of French coming to maturity soon appeared to be a sad one, until fate stepped in just in time.
Mr. and Mrs. Bebout realized that the Greenbrier Fair at Lewisburg-Ronceverte was getting ready to start so she decided to enter FRENCH into the livestock show where he would obviously get much attention and possibly a new home.  Low and behold French took a first premium in livestock and other honors.

It so happened that the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. needed a tame, housebroke lion and of coarse the news of French being in a livestock completion at the Greenbrier Fair spread fast and for even to Washington, DC.
They contacted the Bebouts and made an offer.  The National Zoological Park purchased French for what was reported to be the amount of $400.00.  Mr. Bebout and Evan constructed an iron cage for French to travel safely. This cage was quite larger than the one that was once shared with his friend Tabby growing up so Tabby and French knew something was seriously wrong.  Tabby was feeling so guilty that perhaps all of his pranks had been the cause of what appeared to be  trouble.  French would consol his buddy and they got to where they would not leave one another’s side for fear of what was to happen next.

Then the day come when Tabby was taken and set in the cage to lure French to come in with her.  Tabby couldn’t understand what was happening.  As soon as she was set in the cage, French followed and the decision was made to allow Tabby to travel with French in the cage that French may remain calm.  When they arrived at their destination Mrs. Bebout then would remove Tabby from the cage
Mr. and Mrs. Bebout, Allison, Evan, Katelyn and Ashley were all distraught but Mr. Bebout and his friend Evan took him on to the train station reluctantly before they changed their minds. 
While waiting at the train station a familiar feeling come over French and he began to weep for his friend and mother like companion Mrs. Bebout somehow he knew soon he may never see them again.  French had seen her tears and suddenly the sound of this train seemed familiar and he had a slight recall of his real Mother whom he had not seen since shortly after his birth.

In September 1891 French was brought back to make a command appearance at the Greenbrier Valley Fair where he roared so unhappily that Mrs. Bebout was called to come and see how well he was doing.  Quickly she came to French and brought Tabby with her,  Tabby wanted to get inside of French’s cage and much to his delight, the old friends were reunited for a short while.  Yet it is said that French lived happily at the Zoological Park as the first lion resident to ever live there.

But I myself will always believe the UNTHINKABLE did happen for it was also told that French the Alderson lion became a star when he was sold to Barnum & Bailey Traveling Circus in 1894.  Performing was an easy task for French, he had been the star attraction for years in his hometown of Alderson.  How could performing in a circus act be any different?  From pulling a wagon, to having a cat as his best friend, or letting a child pet his head, these were all everyday tasks to French. This natural act for French could be the most stunning performance for a lion that Barnum and Bailey Circus had ever seen.  I understand that he even became a proud Father himself having a little lioness called KYHANNA and son named Jamison.

Could it be possible that by some divine intervention that French now being himself in the razzle dazzle world of the circus find his Mother and will she meet her surviving son and French’s daughter, her own Granddaughter KYHANNA? Would a situation that seemed to be for the worse, actually be turned for the better?  Would French be given precious time with his Mother who had grieved for him and his brothers all of these many years?  Would the lonely howl of French arouse the senses of his own Mother under the same big top?  I can not help but believe that it is so, that dreams do come true and the impossible does become possible.

But it is said for sure that the few years French was at the Zoological Park that a Mrs. Susan Bebout would visit on a regular basis with her cat named Tabby.  It is also said that people nearly had heart failure when she would stroll up to his cage and stroke the big cat, rubbing his head as Tabby slipped through the bars of his cage to snuggle with his old friend.  Of coarse there was no danger for her; they were old good friends.
One hundred and twenty years have passed since French first came to Alderson, WV.  The ordinance banning lions was not   removed from the old Council Minute Book, although as I said earlier a flood destroyed the original ordinance book containing the law. 
A new resident of Alderson in 1998 was when I first heard this true story by someone thinking I lived in the historical home it all took placed.  I was so charmed by the story that I had to research and find out everything I possibly could because I wanted everyone to know about French.  At the time we owned a local restaurant so I had a French toy carved and coloring pages made for the children’s menu. The story of French is still alive in my heart today  and in the hearts of all who read his story or perhaps watch it on the big screen someday, this is where I believe French, The Alderson Lion is meant to do his last performance.
I believe it adds a fantastic revelation of the love that can develop between man and beast.
This is just one of the beautiful stories that tell of our lovely WV Mountain State heritage.

The ordinance remains as one of the most ridiculous laws in the archives of Ripley’s Believe It or Not to this day.

The good Lord willing French will now roam the world, traveling through the hearts, imaginations and stories of children and adults who read this story or hopefully one day see the movie dedicated to the small town of Alderson.
It will once more come alive in the small country town that is divided by the Greenbrier River, only minutes from the world famous Greenbrier Hotel and the infamous Alderson Federal Prison Camp for Women.  As I stated before this camp has housed many residents famous some infamous as Tokyo Rose, Squeaky Frome legendary blues singer, Billy, and Martha Stewart and many, many more.

French’s life and escapades continue to live on and on in the imagination of all who hear of him.  Sit down, close your eyes and I am sure you will sense the presence of French.

Weaving fact with fiction  you can still see him today in your imagination walking up to you on a street in Alderson nudging your hand for a scratch on the head or strolling down to the riverside to watch the fourth of July fireworks.   You can see him pulling a wagon full of straw and children pilled up in the hay.  Well if you really look closely you will see him looking at you.
He has touched my heart and continues to touch it and I believe he will touch the hearts of millions and be in the room of many children just as my grandchildren for when I told them the story of French the girls had to have a stuffed lion to name French and a stuffed cat named Tabby so he would never be alone again!