Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On the High Road to Ruin

For months I thought I had figured out how my Grandma, Alice (Muir) Jennings, descended from Teague Riggin, who lived in Somerset County, Maryland, by 1667. He came to the colonies as an Irish indentured servant and died owner of a significant estate. The person I thought was my fives great grandfather was Teague's great great grandson, James Riggin. He was born on a Maryland plantation and died in the mountains of Tennessee. He had been a tailor, a Methodist circuit-riding minister, and farmer.

In a book about the descendants of Teague Riggin, I came across a reference, "information that had been contributed to Mrs. Kelty's book on the Riggins family -- the only book on the subject in the Salt Lake City Library." I went looking for that book on FamilySearch.org. Index of Riggins Families was compiled by Mrs. Daniel Stone Kelty and is held by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. It is also available on FamilySearch.org.

The index included a fascinating biographical sketch about James Riggin written by his son John C. Riggin. Even though James Riggin is likely not a direct ancestor, though a DNA matches suggests we are related in some way, I wanted to share the sketch:

Memoirs of James and Mary Riggings (page 1)

Memoirs of James and Mary Riggins... from a manuscript (typed) in the Los Angeles City Library (Gen Dept.)

"J. M. Riggins was born on the 21st day of May, 1756, Somerset Co. Md. of English and Irish descent. His father dying while he was young, he was bound apprentice to learn the tailor's trade, for 3 years. His apprentice having expired, he continued to work at his trade and keep house for himself, for four years; and during this time, as he expressed himself, in the high road to ruin. About this time, a set of people called Methodist commenced dissembling their tenants in Maryland, and Riggins went to hear one of their preachers out of curiosity. The name of the preacher was Petticord. Riggins listened attentively, the preacher characterized the sinner, depicted the terrible consequences of sin, painted out the only remedy and exhorted sinners with great earnestness to seek that remedy and whilst thus engaged, fixed his eyes steadfastly on Riggins, and with a peculiar look and tone said, 'Tomorrow it may be too late for you.' Those words made a powerful impression on Riggins and he immediately determined to reform which he did, and joined the Methodists. His patrimonial estate consisted principally of negroes which he liberated. Feeling it was his duty, he procured a license to preach and commenced traveling the country in various directions, preaching with great zeal and effect.

While thus employed he became acquainted with Mary Howard, who then resided in Green River, Va. After an acquaintance of about 12 months they were married in Washington Co. Va. 27th day of Jan. 1791, where Miss Howard had gone to visit her sister. Riggins, having traveled and preached for about 8 years, now felt it his duty to locate and commence farming. For this purpose he removed to Tenn. and settled on the banks of the Little Pigeon, which is now in Sevier Co. While preaching, he had a spent most of his earnings. His wife had no money and their united means enabled them to purchase 12 acres of land. On this he remained for several years, working hard on week days and preaching on Sun.

At this time War broke out between the Cherokees and the whites, in consequence of which Riggin and his family retreated in the pickets of the fort every night. Upon the return of peace, he sold his plantation on Pigeon and settled on Waldrons creek, ten miles distant from his former place. This was his last removal. Here he became the owner of 300 acres of land and erected several good buildings. It was in a state of nature and he labored hard and cleared the land and annually raised good crops of all kinds and kept on hand a large stock of cattle, hogs and horses. In fact he lived as well as heart could wish, but this state of bliss was interrupted by a difference between him and the Methodist Church in 1810. One Clark Moore, a celebrated preacher of the Society, had swindled the public. Riggins complained to the Church of his conduct and they refused to reprimand Moore, so Riggins withdrew from the church, but continued to preach, as long as he lived.

His wife, Mary was born in Bedford Co., June 28, 1765 of Scotch and Irish descent. When six years of age her father moved to Green River Co. Va. at which time there were only six families in the County. Here she lived mostly within the walls of the fort until she was 14, as the Shawnee Indians at that time were very troublesome. Her father and brother were engaged in frequent skirmishes with them and while on an expedition against them in 1780 her father died. Soon after, all of her brothers and sisters married and settled themselves, some in Ky. and others in Tenn. In this situation she lived until her mother died and in 1788. She then resided with the family by the name of Scarborough until she married as above stated. After the death of her husband she lived mostly with her youngest son Ignatius and with her daughter Sarah in Bradley Co. Ten., where she died Nov. 21, 1836. She was buried in a valley 6 miles south of Cleveland in Bradley Co.

They had eight children, 4 boys and 4 girls, all of which grew to maturity. James Riggins died April 1, 1826, nearly 70 years of age. He was full 6 ft. tall, a man of great strength and commanding appearance. He is mentioned in Ramsey's Annals of Tenn.[1] as being one of the first Justice of the Peace of Sevier Co."

[1]Ramsey, James Gettys McGready. Annals of Tennessee to the End of the Eighteenth Century, (Charleston:John Russell, 1853) 
This book is available on Google Play.

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