Transcribed by Mary Ann Kaylor
HENRY HARRISON BIGGS - In the contemplation of the life history of Henry Harrison Biggs, we note that while success has attended his efforts there are other points in his career equally noteworthy, among them being loyalty of citizenship and close adherence to the laws and rules that govern honorable labor, and the fraternal spirit which has made him a valued representative of different societies and organizations with which he is connected. Mr. Biggs located in Springfield in 1877 and has resided here continuously since. He was born in Cuba, Clinton county, Ohio, May 26, 1842, and traces his ancestry in both the paternal and maternal lines to England, where his great-grandparents were born. William Biggs, his great-grandfather, was a soldier of the American Revolution and members of the family today are connected with the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution. The grandparents of our subject on both sides were born in America and William Biggs, the paternal grandfather, served with the militia of New Jersey during the war of 1812, while Mr. Elkin, the material grandfather, was a member of the navy. Emigrating westward Mr. Biggs secured a large tract of land in Ohio which he afterward divided among his sons, who improved it. Both he and his wife died in the Buckeye state, while of the maternal grandparents of our subject one died in Ohio and the other in Indiana. Mrs. Biggs was almost a centenarian at the time of her demise. It will thus be seen that Henry Harrison Biggs was descended from a long-lived ancestry which was well represented in the ranks of those enterprising pioneers who in the first half of the nineteenth century left the security and comfort of their homes in the east and south and devoted their mature years to the development of the thriving civilization in the fertile valleys of the middle west.
Robert R. Biggs, the father of our subject, was born at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, in 1812, and at a very early day accompanied his parents on their westward emigration to Ohio, where the task of developing the new land soon became familiar to him, and with the work of improvement and progress he was closely associated for many years. He married Lydia Elkin, who was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, in 1819, and in 1853 they settled in Indiana, near Fort Wayne, where Mr. Biggs passed away in 1879, while the death of his wife occurred in the same state in 1896. Both were well educated people for their time, and had considerable influence in pubic affairs in the communities in which they lived. They were the parents of nine children, one of whom died in infancy, while Charles R. passed away in Indiana at the age of thirty years. Those who still survive are: James W., a contractor and builder of Petersburg, Illinois, who served in the Seventy-fifth Indiana Volunteer Infantry during the Civil war; Lucinda who remained with her mother until her death and is yet living on the old home place in Indiana; Sanford, who follows agricultural pursuits in the Hoosier state; Mary Ellen, the wife of John Funk, an Indiana farmer; and Jane, the wife of Samuel Hubly, who is engaged in the lumber business in Indiana. With the exception of the last two, all were born in Ohio and in the public schools of Cuba, that state, pursued their education.
Henry Harrison Biggs was a student in both Ohio and Indiana, living at home until nineteen years of age, when, with patriotic spirit, he offered his services to the government, enlisting in July, 1862, as a member of Company H, Seventy-fifth Indiana Infantry, being mustered in in August of that year. For about two years he served on detached duty and later took part in the battles of Stone River, Chickamauga and Atlanta, and went with Sherman on his celebrated march to the sea. Following the close of the war he received an honorable discharge in Indianapolis and then began learning the carpenter's trade. Later he engaged in teaching school through the winter months, following that profession for twelve years through the cold season of the year. In 1866 he arrived in Illinois, settling in Mason, where he followed carpentering and also engaged in school teaching until his removal to Petersburg, Menard county. There he engaged in contracting on a small scale, at the same time continuing his educational labors until 1872.
In 1877 Mr. Biggs arrived in Springfield, where he worked as a journeyman carpenter for a number of months, and in 1878 became associated with William Mayhew as a contractor and builder, this relation being maintained for six years, Mr. Biggs acting as foreman in charge of the shops for five years. In 1887 he made a trip to Kansas, superintending government contract work in 1888 and 1889. He then returned to Illinois and in the fall of that year became a contractor of Springfield. Rapidly he won his way to a creditable position in the foremost ranks of the builders of this city. He erected the Du Bois schoolhouse and took the contract for the woodwork in the governor's mansion, but has always made a specialty of residence building. Among the dwellings which he erected is a house at the corner of Seventh and Edwards streets for R. C. Rosebury; a house at the corner of Cook and Seventh streets for W S. Barber; on South Sixth street for Colonel John C. Drennan; on North Sixth street for Mrs. Stahl and A. Nebinger; on North Fifth street for E. S. Smith; on South Second street for Mrs. J. T. Wright; on Monroe street for W. F. Herndon; on Walnut street for Dr. I. H. Taylor; and another on the same street for Colonel E. R. Roberts. He has erected altogether over one hundred and fifty good residences here and has been the builder of some of the finest homes in Girard, Illinois, but his work is now confined to Sangamon county and he employs some fifteen men, giving his personal supervision to the execution of the contracts. Because of his practical and through understanding of building, he is capable of directing the labors of his men so as to produce the best results, and there is no man who enjoys a more enviable reputation because of fidelity to the terms of a contract than does Mr. Biggs.
In 1868, in Petersburg, Illinois, occurred the marriage of Henry H. Biggs and Miss Mary A. Waggoner, who was born there in 1843 and acquired a public school education. Six children graced this marriage, of whom four are yet living: Warren H., who is associated in business with his father; Mercer H. and Bascoe H., who are likewise members of the firm of Henry H. Biggs & Sons; and Bertha J., who is at home. The daughter is a graduate of the Bettie Stuart Institute, Mercer and Bascoe of the ward schools, and Warren of the high school.
Mr. Biggs purchased a lot and erected a small house, but in 1896 he remodeled this converting it into a pleasant and modern residence. He belong to Stephenson Post, No. 30, G.A.R., and in 1863, while in Indiana, he was made a Mason, his membership at the present time being in Springfield Lodge, No. 4, A.F. & A.M.; Springfield Chapter, No. 1, R.A.M.; Springfield Council, No. 2, R. & S.M.; and Elwood Commandery, No. 6, K.T. A leader in the ranks of the Republican party, he has frequently been chosen to serve as a delegate to the city, county and state conventions, and for fifteen years, he has been a representative member of the county central committee, his labors in this regard proving of marked benefit in advancing the interests of the Republicanism in Sangamon county. In 1895 he was elected one of the supervisors of Capital townships, and in 1897 and again in 1899 he was re-elected. Then after an interval of two years he was once more chosen to the office in which he is now serving, having been a member
of the board at the time the courthouse was remodeled and at the time that an addition to the poor farm, valued at sixteen thousand dollars was made. He has served on the committee on roads and highways, was chairman of the jail accounts committee for two years and is now chairman of the poor farm committee. He has also served on the elections and jury committees, the committee on paupers and on Springfield buildings. Mr. Biggs has been called to public office by the vote of his fellow townsmen, who recognized his ability and therefore desired his service. He is a popular man, quiet and unassuming, most temperate in habits, and sterling traits of character are his, commanding respect and admiration. He lives in a historical locality, for in the vicinity of his home the Union soldiers were encamped at the time of the Civil war, and just west of his place were the first state fair grounds, later utilized by the soldiers as Camp Yates. Two hundred feet east was the home of Erastus Wright, the co-worker of
Wendell Phillips in the establishment of the underground railroad, and the entire neighborhood was known as Wright's Grove. Where the convent now stands was the home of Senator De Bois, his residence being one of the landmarks of the city. In matters pertaining to the general good, Mr. Biggs has long been deeply interested and his co-operation and aid are never withheld from any measure or movement which he believes will contribute to the general good.