GEORGE W. RIGGS, a retired farmer and now a successful merchant of Saybrook, this county, has been a resident
of the Prairie State for fifty-seven years. During this length of time he has been an interested witness of the
remarkable changes which have occurred throughout the great West. He commenced life in a humble manner, but by
the exercise of his native industry and more than ordinary business ability, is now in the enjoyment of a competency.
He also long years ago established himself in the confidence of his friends and fellow-citizens and has built up
for himself a good record as an honest man and valuable member of the community.
Mr. Riggs is a native of Kentucky, and was born in Fleming County, Dec. 11, 1827. He is the son of William M. and Nancy (Pitts) Riggs, the former a native of Maryland and the latter of Kentucky. William M. Riggs was of English descent and was born Sept. 7, 1803. He received a common-school education, was reared to farming pursuits and from early youth was of a serious and religious turn of mind.
He was a Methodist exhorter for a number of years, and after coming to this county, in 1830, founded the Methodist Episcopal Church in Cheney's Grove and officiated as an exhorter here over fifty years.
He was married, Dec. 28, 1826, to Miss Nancy Pitts, who was born in 1806, and they became the parents of six children, all living with the exception of one, who died in 1884, when forty-six years of age. Those surviving are, George W.; Henry M., a resident of Oregon; Margaret P., Mrs. P. Lewis of this township; William H., living in Saybrook; Mary J., Mrs. Hall, of Texas, and Samuel R. William M. Riggs survived the death of his wife six years, and passed to his long home on Jan. 28, 1887.
George W. Riggs came with his parents to Illinois in 1830, when a child three years of age. He attended the district school and worked with his father on the farm until he was twenty-two years old. He was then united in marriage with Miss Minerva W. Lewis, Oct. 11, 1849. Mrs. R. was born in Kentucky, Dec. 28, 1827, and was the daughter of William D. and Nancy (Pitts) Lewis, both natives of the Blue Grass State. Her father was born in 1801 and died Oct. 14, 1872. He was a farmer by occupation and with his wife, in early life became connected with the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mrs. Nancy P. Lewis was born Jan. 30, 1806, and died Dec. 19, 1866.
Their family consisted of eleven children, of whom the record is as follows: Martin M., who was born Aug. 8,1826, died when one year old; Minerva W., Mrs. Riggs, was the eldest daughter; Lucinda was born Aug. 18, 1829, and became the wife of Reuben Coonrod; Louisa E. was born June 6, 1831; Mary A., in 1833; James A., in 1835; John, June 8, 1837; Nancy C., Oct. 5, 1840; Allen H., July 12, 1843; William R., Dec. 23, 1845; Margaret, April 14, 1849.
Mr. and Mrs. Riggs became the parents of eleven children, as follows: Olive J. was born Sept. 11, 1850; Nancy H., Dec. 1, 1851; William A., born Sept. 21, 1853, died June 27, 1855, from a rattlesnake bite; John W., born Jan. 26, 1855; Melville L., Dec. 17, 1856; Charles B., July 29, 1859; Martin Luther, Nov. 13, 1861; Mary L., Nov. 6, 1863; Ella C., born Jan. 18, 1866, died November 27 of that year; Eva M. was born May 24, 1868; and R. Bell, July 24, 1870. These children are all married and settled in comfortable homes of their own except R. Bell, and our subject and his wife are quite proud of the fact that they have eight grandchildren.
In 1881 Mr. Riggs retired from the labors of the farm and became a resident of Saybrook. With the assistance of his sons he is carrying on a profitable trade in dry-goods and clothing, the firm being familiarly known as G. W. Riggs & Sons.
Having been one of the earliest pioneers of Cheney's Grove Township, he is accorded that peculiar veneration and respect which are tacitly given to those who first ventured into the Western wilds and marked out a path for a later civilization. Since arriving at manhood he has been intimately identified with the agricultural and business interests of McLean County, has been active in the support of schools and churches, and interested in whatever enterprise was set on foot to advance the intellectual and moral well-being of the locality. Both he and his wife for many years have been connected with the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mr. Riggs has been an active Sunday-school worker and served in his church as Trustee, Steward and Class-Leader for many years. He has been a stanch Republican since the organization of the party and although never an office-seeker, has served as Road Commissioner and occupied other important positions in the affairs of his township.
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), 717. Transcribed by Judy Rosella Edwards.