Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What Does the Headstone Say?

Reverend James Riggin was born on 21 May 1756 in Somerset County, Maryland, according to the Coventry Parish church records. His parents were Teague and Hannah (Harris) Riggen. Father Teague was a great grandson of the first Riggin to come to the American colonies. James Riggin converted to Methodism after hearing one of its preachers. He rode the circuit for eight years, preaching in various counties in Maryland and Virginia. Along the way he met Mary Howard and they were married in Washington County, Virginia, on 27 January 1791. Soon after their marriage the couple moved to Sevier County, Tennessee, near Pigeon Forge, and began farming.

A biographical sketch about Rev. James Riggin was written by his son, John C. Riggin. In it, he states that James and Mary had eight children, 4 boys and 4 girls, who all lived to adulthood. Only two are mentioned by name -- Sarah and Ignatius. My research indicates the children were:
  • Harry Riggin (1793-1875)
  • James Riggin (1794-1858)
  • Mary "Polly" (Riggin) Benson (1796-1838)
  • Sarah Smith (Riggin) Huffaker (1798-1881)
  • John C Riggin (between 1781 and 1801-1869)
  • Ignatius Riggin (1803-unknown)
You can see I am missing two daughters but the four sons are known. So my three times great grandfather, Alfred Riggin, can't be the youngest son of Rev. James Riggin. An 1820 census for Sevier County, Tennessee, would be a wonderful find. But it remains elusive to me.

Harry and James migrated to southern Illinois in 1818 and four years later, James and David Hendershott founded the town of Troy in Madison County. Harry moved on from Troy to what became Menard County, became quite the mover and shaker and lost an election to Abraham Lincoln. James moved to St. Clair County and became the first secretary of McKendree College, now known as McKendree University. John C. Riggin followed his brothers to Illinois and married, bought land, and died in Troy. Ignatius Riggin remained in Tennessee and practiced law. 

The problem is with son, John C. Riggin. His Find a Grave memorial lists his death date as 1 Aug 1869 and according to the person who created the memorial, he was 88 years old. This would make his birth year 1781, fully a decade before his parents married. If he was born then, his mother would have been 16 years old. Certainly within the realm of possibilities. However, according to son John, James and Mary knew each other only a year before they married. If John's headstone says 68 years and not 88 years, then he slots nicely into the birth order of the other known children.

Headstone of John C Riggin, which is located in the Reid-Riggin Cemetery in Troy,
Illinois; photograph courtesy of Find a Grave member Gwen Menz

John C. Riggin married Elizabeth Reid in 1824 and had three daughters and one son, who he named Ignatius. In a biographical sketch about Ignatius, which was included in the Illustrated Encyclopedia and Atlas of Madison County written in 1873, some information about his father was included:

"John C. Riggin was a native of Severe [sic] County, Tenn., and his wife of Blount County. He was married near Troy, Ill., August 26th 1824. His life occupation was that of a farmer, a business he followed with a full measure of success. He became a citizen of Madison County in the fall of 1822, where he first became acquainted with and subsequently married the estimable lady who still survives him. He commenced the struggle of life without other means than that of his own indomitable energy, and his labors have been crowned with success. Falling in with the tide of emigration which flowed toward the Galena Lead Mines, in 1828, he there became actively engaged in mining for upwards of fourteen months. During his experience while there, he was miraculously saved from the caving in of the mine in which he was working. Mr. Riggin was an active, energetic man, a good citizen, a kind parent, and an affectionate husband. His death occurred at his residence, near Troy, on the 1st of August 1869."

Biographical sketch of Ignatius Riggin, son of John C. Riggin, as published in the
Illustrated Encyclopedia and Atlas of Madison County, Illinois, 1873

No mention of other children was included in the sketch. By 1850, the first census to include all the names of members of the household, the children have left and John and Elizabeth lived alone on the farm. John's age was listed as 49, which would make an 1801 birth year more plausible. In 1840, there are seven people in the household:
  • One male under 5 years
  • One male 10-14 years
  • Two males 20-29 years (son Ignatius Riggin)
  • 1 male 30-39 years (John C Riggin)
  • One female 5-9 years
  • One female 40-49 years (John's wife Elizabeth)
I do not know who the other household members are. The three known daughters, Elizabeth, Mary and Rebecca, were supposed to be older than Ignatius.

Many public trees list John C. Riggin as the father of my three times great grandfather, Alfred Riggin. Possible if he was born in 1781, though the biographical sketch above does not mention two sons, only one. If John C. Riggin was born in 1801 then having a son in 1811 isn't possible.

So when was John C. Riggin born? If closer to 1781 he could be the father of my known three times great grandfather, Alfred Riggin (c1811-after 1850). If closer to 1801, not so much. I have a DNA match who is the three times great grandchild of Ignatius Riggin, John C. Riggin's younger brother, who stayed in Tennessee. So I am related. How I do not know.

Any thoughts?



  1. Schalene, you may have already come across this and I failed to include where I found the information. I also searched hi and lo for the 1820 census of an ancestor's son in Tennessee and finally learned:
    The 1820 Census was lost for all counties of the marshal's district of East Tennessee. Therefore, there are no 1820 census records for Anderson, Bledsoe, Blount, Campbell, Carter, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Greene, Hamilton, Hawkins, Jefferson, Knox, McMinn, Marion, Monroe, Morgan, Rhea, Roane, Sevier, Sullivan, and Washington.

    1. Thanks, Cathy! I had come to the conclusion the 1820 census for Sevier County, Tennessee no longer existed. I just didn't know why. Now, I do!

  2. Have you looked for him in the 1870 mortality schedule? That would list his age at death. If he died in August 1869, he should be included. (FWIW, I think it says 68, but I'm not positive.)

    1. I thought I had, but found no reference to the mortality schedule in my research log so I looked again. Nothing. Thanks, though!

    2. Schalene- I recently stumbled across your blog and have enjoyed reading about your adventures in discovering your Riggin ancestors. I am quite sure that Findagrave.com is wrong in reading John C. Riggin's headstone as aged 88 years. John was born in 1801. George Riggin

    3. George, thank you so much for reading my blog and for your thoughts on what John C Riggin's headstone says. After finding more biographies about this line of the Riggin family in old atlases and county histories in the State Archives, I agree with you. I have since learned the father of my 3X great grandfather, Alfred, was another John Riggin who also came from Tennessee to Madison County, Illinois. He was likely born in North Carolina and married Margaret Farris. He died in Missouri 1844. I'd love to hear from you. My email address is psd11719 @ gmail.com.

  3. Hello Schalene, I am reading your blog while researching my home in Lebanon, IL. It's reportedly the home of James Riggin c. 1838, I believe he's a grand-uncle to you? I'm currently trying to compile as much history on the previous owners as I can for the history tour our home is on. If you are aware of any information on James, I would love to hear it! Thank you!

    1. Michele, send me an email and I'll send you what I have. I think it's an interesting family.

      psd11719 @ gmail . com (no spaces)