TRACY RIGGS, b. 6Jan1837


from Past and Present of Mahaska County, Iowa by Manoah Hedge The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. 1906

Tracy Riggs, a farmer and contractor, whose life exemplifies the term "dignity of labor," has through earnest purpose won success in the business interests which claim his time and attention. He was born in the village of Chardon near Cleveland, Ohio, on the 6th of January, 1837. His father, Dwight Riggs, was a native of Connecticut, born May 12, 1807, and was married four times, his first union being with Susan Page, who died in Ohio. One child was born of that union, Sarah, who became the wife of Curtis Ives and was a resident of Wapello county, Iowa, where her death occurred September 4, 1896. For his second wife Dwight Riggs chose Clarissa Makepeace, who was born in New York, March 9, 1818. By trade Mr. Riggs was a machinist and following his removal to Iowa in 1842 he located in Mount Pleasant, where he worked at the machinist's trade, giving considerable time to the task of setting up woolen mills for the purpose of carding wool. He also constructed the first woolen mills in Quincy, Illinois. After living for a time in Mount Pleasant he removed to Des Moines county, Iowa, where he resided for a year and in 1852 he came to Mahaska county, settling at Union Mills, where he purchased and for twenty years operated the woolen, grist and carding mill at that place. This was one of the pioneer industries of the state and for a distance of one hundred miles people brought wool to be carded by him. The wool was then made into yarn through the operation of a hand loom and was woven into cloth. The mill which Mr. Riggs owned was built in 1849, and his connection with the industrial life of the state made him very widely known. He located in Iowa three years before its admission into the Union and in those early days the work of progrem and improvement seemed scarcely begun, for there were great stretches of prairie land and also timbered tracts that gave no indication that a white man had ever visited them. Mr. Riggs of this review can remember going with his father to Agency when the Indians received their pay from the United States for the Iowa lands and has seen as many as three hundred red men at one time passing through Mount Pleasant. After operating his mill for a number of years Mr. Riggs purchased a farm in White Oak township, upon which he lived until the time of his death. His second wife, the mother of our subject, had passed away in Mount Pleasant on the 9th of October, 1841. There were three children by that marriage, namely: Tracy, of this review; Susan, who became the wife of Thomas Watson, of Stafford, Kansas, and died in the winter of 1905-6; and Carrie, who married George Wells and died in Oskaloosa thirty-eight years ago. For his third wife Mr. Riggs chose Mary E. Crandall, by whom he had two sons: Franklin, who was a soldier of the Civil war and died after its close; and Albert, who died November 6, 1898. The fourth wife of Mr. Riggs was Mrs. Mary Bridges, who is still living in Wright, Iowa. There were two children by that union: Hattie, now the wife of James Grigga, a resident of Cedar, Iowa; and Amy, the deceased wife of Carl Wendel, living in White Oak township. The father passed away in White Oak township at the very venerable age of eighty-one years and thus the county mourned the loss of one of its honored and representative pioneer men--one who had contributed in large measure to the early improvement of the state and who had aided in laying broad and deep the foundation for the present prosperity and upbuilding of Iowa. Tracy Riggs was a youth of only five years when brought by his father to this state. He continued with him until twenty-three years of age and assisted him in his milling opera- tions and in the farm labor. When a young lad he entered the common schools and afterward attended the high school at Mount Pleasant. Having mastered the milling business in principle and detail during his boyhood days, after leaving home he became proprietor of a mill at Union Mills, Iowa, which he owned and operated for twenty years. He then removed to a farm of one hundred and sixty acres in Pleasant Grove township. This was all raw land, most of it being covered with timber and a log shanty constituted almost the entire improvement on the place. Mr. Riggs at once began its cultivation and development and in the course of a few years where once stood the tall forest trees were seen waving fields of grain, giving promise of rich and abundant harvests. As year after year passed he continued the work of the farm, bringing his land under a very high state of cultivation and he continued to make his home thereon until about two years ago, when he removed to New Sharon. He also built and operated a sawmill on his farm, continuing the work of manufacturing lumber there for several years. For twenty years he has been engaged in building bridges in Mahaska county. which he constructs on contracts made with the board of supervisors. He formerly had contracts for building all of the county bridges but found that the amount of work required was too great for one man to handle and he is now bridge builder for the northern half of the county. Perhaps no man in the locality has greater appreciation of the value of the invention of the telephone than has Mr. Riggs, for he finds that it saves him many long drives, enabling him to superintend from almost any point the work of bridge building in its various stages. He has a private wire from his residence in New Sharon to the central office at Union Mills and from that point there is a mutual telephone service all over the eastern part of the county. Mr. Riggs was one of the promoters of the enterprise and aided in the construction of the first line. He favors every progressive movement that tends to prove of practical benefit along business, intellectual or moral lines, and he has wielded a wide influence, being pre-eminently a man of affairs. He still gives personal supervision to the bridge-building and does considerable work himself. He owns three good farms, comprising nearly two hundred acres of land, and his property interests are the visible evidence of a life of well directed energy and thrift. On the 1st of July, 1860, Mr. Riggs was married to Miss Phoebe C. Carver, who was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, May 24, 1842, a daughter of Pleasant and Mahala (Bodenhamer) Carver, the former born at Elizabethtown, Kentucky, May 10, 1819, and the latter in North Carolina, November 29, 1814. They came to Mahaska county, Iowa, in 1849, settling at Union Mills, where their remaining days were passed, Mr. Carver departing this life September 16, 1901, while his wife died at the age of forty-four years. For a long period he conducted a grocery store and was postmaster of Union Mills during the period of the Civil war. He also purchased a farm, upon which he made his home for some time, and he continued an active factor in business life until about five years prior to his death, when he lost his eyesight. In his family were four children, namely: Mrs. Phoebe C. Riggs; Jerel, who is living in Oskaboosa; Mrs. Elizabeth Wymore, a resident of Colorado; and William, who died in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1905. After losing his first wife Mr. Carver was again married, his second union being with Rachel Graham, who died at Union Mills, February 21, 1905. By that marriage there were born seven children, all of whom are living. The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Riggs has been blessed with nine children but three died in infancy. Those still living are: Addie, the wife of Newton J. Darland {name corrected} resident of Union town- ship; Horace E., who is living on a part of the old home farm; Howard A., who makes his home on a farm of his own in Pleasant Grove township; Oscar 0., a resident of Barnes City, Iowa; Walter H., a farmer of Pleasant Grove township; and Lucy, the wife of James Lammon, also of Barnes City. Two years ago Mr. Riggs removed to New Sharon, where he purchased a nice home, which he has painted and remodeled and converted it into a comfortable and attractive residence. In politics Mr. Riggs has always been a strong republican and for thirty years was a member of the township board of Pleasant Grove township. He belongs to the Masonic fraternity, with which he has affiliated for, a number of years. Both Mr. and Mrs. Riggs are enjoying good health and they have a pleasant and comfortable home, while by all who know them they are held in highest respect. Both are representatives of prominent old families connected with the county from pioneer times and they can well remember the early days when rattlesnakes and wolves were numerous and when various evidences of frontier life were to be seen. Their fathers used the flint and steel before matches were invented and candles were used before kerosene was placed upon the market. All of the clothing was homespun and the settlers were denied many of the comforts which are now deemed essential to life. Mr. Riggs rejoices in the changes which have occurred and has kept in touch with the trend of modem progress and improvement. He is a gentleman of genial disposition and pleasant manner and is an entertaining, companionable gentleman, whose reminiscences of pioneer life are most interesting.

Past and Present of Mahaska County, Iowa

Mahaska County, Iowa Genealogy

Iowa Genealogy

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