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McLean County, Illinois
History and Genealogy



WILLIAM H. BRIGGS, ESQ., a prominent and influential farmer of Yates Township, is the proprietor of a beautiful homestead on section 4, where he has resided since 1868. He was born in Troy Grove, La Salle Co., Ill., April 17, 1841, being the son of Phillip Briggs, a native of New York. The latter grew to manhood in his native State, whence he journeyed westward and coming into Illinois, located first near Peoria. There he made the acquaintance of Miss Hannah Smith, who was born in Pennsylvania, and in due time selected her as his life companion. After marriage they settled in Troy Grove, La Salle County, and occupied a prominent position among the pioneers of that section.

Mr. Briggs, although a carpenter by trade, purchased a tract of land and engaged in farming, employing himself at his trade whenever time and opportunity afforded. Many of the early dwellings and other buildings in that section were the result of his handiwork. After a time he removed within the city limits of La Salle, where he lived about two years and until the cholera commenced its ravages in that portion of the State.

He then returned East with his family and resided in his native State for five or six years following. Thence they removed to Huron County, Ohio, where Phillip Briggs departed this life in about 1855, at the age of forty-seven years. He was a man of great force of character, a stanch supporter of the Whig party, and a worthy member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mrs. Briggs after the death of her husband resided in Ohio until 1861, then returned to Illinois. She is still living and makes her home with her daughter in Winona, Ill., having arrived at the advanced age of seventy years. The parental household included eight children, six of whom are yet living William H., Daniel B., James Franklin, Junius T., Marilla A. and Elnora.

The subject of our sketch received a commonschool education and being the eldest of the family, after the death of his father, was the chief supporter and advisor of his widowed mother. The elder Briggs had met with reverses and lost his health and property at about the same time. The family were thus left in straightened circumstances and it required the utmost care and good judgment on the part of the mother and son to keep the children together and minister to their necessities. William H. remained with his mother until he was twenty-six years old and until his brothers and sisters had grown to be of an age when they could take care of themselves. In the fall of 1867, he purchased eighty-nine acres of his present farm which was then uncultivated prairie. He set about its improvement industriously and energetically and in time received the reward of his labors. He now has a good homestead of 160 acres under excellent cultivation, supplied with a shapely and convenient set of frame buildings. Besides the homestead he also has 120 acres in Iroquois County, and devotes his time and attention to mixed husbandry.

On the 6th of February, 1872, Mr. Briggs was united in marriage with Miss Rebecca Eckert, who was also a native of La Salle County, Ill., and born Nov. 11, 1848. She is the daughter of Jonas and Nancy (Erb) Eckert, who were natives of Pennsylvania. Of the union of Mr. and Mrs. B. there were born four children, of whom the record is as follows: the eldest, a son, Jay Henry, born June 15, 1874, died Aug. 20, 1874; those living are Stella H., who was born March 4, 1876; Josie Perl, June 1, 1878, and Viola N., Dec. 14, 1880. Mr. and Mrs. B. are members in good standing of the Baptist Church, in the Sunday-school of which our subject has been Superintendent for several years. He has held many of the minor offices of his township, and at present is Justice of the Peace, having been elected in 1885. Politically he is a strong Republican and uniformly casts his vote in support of the principles of that party.

[SOURCE: Portrait and biographical album of McLean County, Ill. : containing full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county, together with portraits and biographies of all the governors of Illinois, and of the presidents of the United States. (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887). Transcribed and annotated by Judy Rosella Edwards.]


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