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Dr. Benjamin Bennett Briggs family papers

 Collection
Identifier: 0394

Scope and Content

This small collection of family papers centers around Dr. Benjamin Bennett Briggs (1827-1893) whose 1849 diary chronicles his account of moving from Ohio to California by covered wagon. Briggs was the great-great-grandfather of the collection's donor, Dr. Chester Ward. In addition to the diary, the collection includes a small account book/diary from 1862--also kept by Briggs--as well as a number of letters to and from family members and photographs of family members across multiple generations. There are also a few Presbyterian missionary materials because Benjamin's daughter, Irene, married Samuel Lawrence Ward; they went to Persia as missionaries of the Presbyterian Church from 1876 to 1897. Other noteworthy items in the collection include a very small (and fragile) Arabic prayer book and an 1896 book of "pressed flowers from the Holy Land" in excellent condition.

Dates

  • 1842 - 1975
  • Majority of material found within 1850 - 1920

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Biographical Note

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. In 1870, Benjamin married Caroline A. Crane -- his first wife Abby's sister. Benjamin's 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.

Extent

2.88 Linear Feet (5 boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Dr. Benjamin Bennett Briggs was a horticulturist and medical doctor who originally came to California from Ohio during the Gold Rush but returned to Ohio where he married and established a medical practice. He later 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. Though he died before he could accomplish all his dreams, today's Crescenta-Canada valley was home to many sanitariums and health resorts owing to its excellent quality of air. 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. The Briggs family papers contain correspondence to and from various family members, photographs of family members spanning multiple generations, Dr. Benjamin Bennett Briggs' 1849 diary, ephemera, collected publications, and realia. Shedding light on the daily lives of one of Southern California's pioneer families, the Briggs family papers is a small but historically important resource.

Acquisition

The collection was presented to USC Libraries by Benjamin Briggs' great-great-grandson, Dr. Chester Ward, and his wife, Sally Ward. In 2019, Lynda Ward Pierce donated additional family papers, which have been added and described as part of this collection.

Processing Note

Assistance in processing the Briggs papers was provided by Tiffany Chu.
Title
Finding aid for the Dr. Benjamin Bennett Briggs family papers
Status
Completed
Author
Jacqueline Morin
Date
2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States