In 1986, Sally Ward, the wife of Dr. Chester L. Ward, M.D., wrote a short description of Benjamin Bennett Briggs' life and his descendents based upon information compiled earlier by Irene Ward Kennedy, the sister of Benjamin Briggs Ward, Sr. The document that Sally Ward created is the first folder in the collection and helps to identify various family members through the generations as well as summarize the life of Benjamin Bennett Briggs specifically.
Benjamin Bennett Briggs was born on June 2, 1827 in Bristol, New York. The seventh of at least nine children born to Thomas Briggs and Abigail Gregg, Benjamin and his family moved to Ohio in 1835 where they farmed and where the children learned about horticulture.
In the spring of 1849, Benjamin and two of his brothers as well as a neighbor, set out for California (from Missouri) across the plains with an ox team. Benjamin was 22 years old; the youngest brother on the journey, John, was only 18. It took the group nine months to make the trip, during which time Benjamin was accidentally injured by a bullet which affected his health for the rest of his life. When the men arrived in California, two of them went to the mines as planned; Benjamin and his brother George became successful gardeners. Eventually, however, Benjamin's poor health led him to return to his Ohio home while George continued to plant orchards in Knights Landing, Oroville, and Marysville, California. Unfortunately the floods of 1861-62 destroyed the 300 acres of his Marysville orchard which was eventually completely covered by mining deposits.
Upon returning to Ohio, Benjamin married Abby Crane in 1852; their only child Irene was born in 1853 in Wadsworth, Ohio. Benjamin and his family later spent time in California again looking at property and prospects; Abby died of tuberculosis in Santa Paula in 1863. Benjamin and his daughter returned to Ohio where, at age 35, Benjamin enrolled in medical school. Continuing his medical studies in 1865, Benjamin traveled to Heidelberg, Germany and Paris, France, accompanied by his daughter Irene and her cousin Louise N. Crane, daughter of his oldest sister, Louise Briggs Crane.
After their return to the United States, Benjamin had a medical practice in Crawfordsville, Indiana for about 13 years. His daughter Irene married Reverend Samuel Lawrence Ward in 1873 and they went to Persia as missionaries of the Presbyterian Church for over twenty years.
In the early 1880s, Benjamin returned to California to continue with horticultural pursuits and was one of the founders of La Crescenta, where he hoped to establish a health resort. (Briggs coined the name "Crescenta" to indicate the crescent-shaped valley nestled between the Sierra Madre mountains and the Verdugo Hills.) Though he died before he could accomplish all his dreams, today's Crescenta-Cañada valley was home to many sanitariums and health resorts owing to its excellent air quality. Briggs is also remembered for having started the first school in the valley, the first church, the first public park, and the first full-time medical practice in the area. Dr. Benjamin Bennett Briggs died in 1893 at the age of 65.