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Finding aid for the Dr. Benjamin Bennett Briggs family papers

Finding aid prepared by Jacqueline Morin, 2012

Summary Information

Repository
USC Libraries Special Collections
Creator
Briggs, Abby Crane, d.1863
Creator
Briggs, Benjamin , fl. 1873-1879
Title
Dr. Benjamin Bennett Briggs family papers
Collection no.
0394
Date [inclusive]
1849-1916
Extent
0.42 linear ft., 1 box
Language
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. 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.

Preferred Citation

[Box/folder# or item name], Dr. Benjamin Bennett Briggs Family Papers, Collection no. 0394, Regional History Collection, Special Collections, USC Libraries, University of Southern California

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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. 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.

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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. 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.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

USC Libraries Special Collections
2012
Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles, California, 90089-0189
213-740-5900
specol@usc.edu

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.

Acquisition

The collection was presented to USC Libraries by Benjamin Briggs' great-great-grandson, Dr. Chester Ward, and his wife, Sally Ward.

Processing Note

Assistance in processing the Briggs papers was provided by Tiffany Chu.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Presbyterian Church in the U.S.. -- Correspondence

Family Name(s)

  • Briggs family -- Archives

Genre(s)

  • Correspondence
  • Diaries

Geographic Name(s)

  • La Cañada (Calif.)--History--Archival resources
  • La Cañada Flintridge (Calif.)--History--Archival resources
  • La Crescenta (Calif.)--History--Archival resources
  • Panama--Photographs
  • United States--History--1849-1877--Archival resources

Personal Name(s)

  • Briggs, Abby Crane, d.1863 -- Archives
  • Briggs, Benjamin , fl. 1873-1879 -- Archives
  • Briggs, Irene Crane, 1853- -- Archives
  • Ward, Samuel Lawrence -- Archives

Subject(s)

  • Overland journeys to the Pacific--Archival resources
  • Pioneers--California--Biography
  • Pioneers--West (U.S.)--Diaries

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Additional Resources

Additional information on the Briggs family history:

La Crescenta History: http://www.freewebs.com/lacrescentawomansclub/lacrescentahistory.htm

Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley: http://www.cvhistory.org/histsites/histsites.htm

History of La Canada-Flintridge: http://pasadenahomesandlifestyle.com/surrounding-cities/la-canada-flintridge/

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Collection Inventory

Series 1:  Biographical Information 

Box Folder

 Family History 1962 

Scope and Content

This folder contains a photocopy of the work compiled by Irene Ward Kennedy in 1962: Family History of Ward, Briggs, and Allied Lines. Irene Ward Kennedy was the sister of Benjamin Briggs Ward, Sr. and the granddaughter of Dr. Benjamin Bennett Briggs. The manuscript documents the lineage of these families with "family tree" charts, photographs, and text from historical society records and genealogical registers. A portion of the document is Samuel Lawrence Ward's own recollections of his father's history.

In addition to the 225-page manuscript, the folder includes three pages of family information extracted and summarized from it, accompanied by the patent information and description of a 1959-1960 invention of Benjamin Bennett Briggs known as the "Improved Apparatus for Laying Drain Tiles."

1 1

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Series 2:  Personal Papers 

Box Folder

 Account Book 

Scope and Content

Account book of B.B. Briggs, 186?

1 2

 Diary [original] 

Scope and Content

Diary kept by Benjamin Bennett Briggs during his travels from Sharon, Ohio to Yuba City, California from March through December of 1849. Briggs was accompanied by two of his brothers, John and George, as well as a neighbor, George Case. They set out with a wagon and a team of oxen, stopping in small towns or unsettled areas to camp. Briggs makes note of the weather and road conditions, food conditions, creek crossings, and health conditions of him and his companions. A major delay in their journey occurred near the end of July when Briggs was accidentally shot through the lung and was laid up for about a month while some of his party went on ahead. Briggs was "put into a wagon" through most of August but continued to travel and to record short notes in his diary. The last entry of the diary is for December 31, 1849, in which Briggs writes, "Arrived at the Yuba pitched my tent there and [words erased]."

1 3

 Diary [transcription] 

Scope and Content

Facsimile copy of "Transcription of the Personal Diary of Benjamin Bennett Briggs: 1949 [1849] Cross Country Travelling from Sharon, Ohio to Yuba City, California; transcribed by Sally (wife), Katharine & Lynda Ward (daughters) of B.G. Chester L. Ward, M.D., the Great, Great, Grandson of Dr. B.B. Briggs, 1985-86."

1 4

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Series 3:  Letters 

Box Folder

 To nieces from Sophie Crane [original] 16 October 1853 

Scope and Content

Same page includes letter addressed to "Dear sister" from Abby C.B., dated December 19, 1853

1 5

 To nieces from Sophie Crane [facsimile] 16 October 1853 

1 6

 To sister from Abby [Crane] [original] 18 August 1853 

1 7

 To sister from Abby [Crane] [facsimile] 18 August 1853 

1 8

 To father from Abby Crane [original] 24 November 1861 

Scope and Content

Letter from Abby Crane to father, Marysville, California, November 24, 1861. Original letter torn into five pieces.

1 9

 To father from Abby Crane [facsimile] 24 November 1861 

1 10

 To husband from Abby C. Briggs [original] 1 September 1861 

1 11

 To husband from Abby C. Briggs [facsimile] 1 September 1861 

1 12

 To "My dearest one" from B.B. Briggs [original] January 1863 

Scope and Content

Letter in poetic form "A sort of Lament while passing some lone hours in Unionville Nevada in Jan 1863," from B.B. Briggs to "My dearest One"

1 13

 To "My dearest one" from B.B. Briggs [facsimile] January 1863 

1 14

 To brother from John Briggs [original] 12 October 1877 

1 15

 To brother from John Briggs [facsimile] 12 October 1877 

1 16

 To sister from Abby Crane [original] 16 March 1881 

1 17

 To sister from Abby Crane [facsimile] 16 March 1881 

1 18

 To Louise from Irene B. Ward [original] 13 August 1882 

1 19

 To Louise from Irene B. Ward [facsimile] 13 August 1882 

1 20

 To Louise from Irene B. Ward [original] 17 March 1882 

1 21

 To Louise from Irene B. Ward [facsimile] 17 March 1882 

1 22

 To father from Irene B. Ward [original] 5 December 1890 

1 23

 To father from Irene B. Ward [facsimile] 5 December 1890 

1 24

 To Carrie from Abby Crane 

1 25

 To Mr. & Mrs. Chester Ward from Eleanor Huskins 15 September 1975 

Scope and Content

Letter dated September 15, 1975; to "Family and Friends" concerning the death of Bill Huskins signed by Eleanor, Vickie, David, Doug Huskins. (Bill Huskins gave the book "History of the American Presyterian Mission to Iran, 1834-1960" to Dr. C.L. Ward in 1972 during his visit to Tehran, Iran.)

1 26

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Series 4:  Photographs 

Box Folder

 Briggs, Benjamin Bennett 1890s 

Scope and Content

Man looking at object on ground; transcription on the bottom margin identifies the object: "B?? that Coyote is caught in the trap. B.B.B."

1 27

 Briggs, Daniel 186[?] 

Scope and Content

Portrait of Daniel Briggs; L.N. Sackett, Photographer, Medina, Ohio

1 28

 Briggs, Irene [tintype] 1870 

Scope and Content

Photograph (tintype)- portrait of Irene Briggs, 1870; identification obtained from leaflet "Sunday Postal Labour" in which photograph was enclosed.

1 29

 Briggs, Rhoda 186[?] 

Scope and Content

Portrait of Rhoda Briggs; L.N. Sackett, Photographer, Medina, Ohio

1 30

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Series 5:  Negatives 

Box Folder

 Panama to Valpariso, Chile circa 1914   28 items

Scope and Content

28 negatives in an envelope; photographs of Panama Canal on way to Valpariso, Chile 1914(?) taken by Seymour Paul Ward (grandson of Dr. Benjamin B. Briggs).

1 31

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Series 6:  Ephemera 

Box Folder

 Admission Ticket 1868-1869 

Scope and Content

Ticket to Bellevue Hospital Medical College, City of New York, Session 1868-69, Lectures "The Principles and Practice of Medicine"

1 32

 College Commencement Invitation 1903   3 items

Scope and Content

Wabash College, Crawfodsville, Indiana, June 12-17, 1903; in envelope addressed to Rev., & Mrs. S.L. Ward & Family; insert: Mr. Benjamin Briggs Ward

1 33

 Promissory Note 1916 

Scope and Content

February 28, 1916, in the amount of $1300, to the Bank of Glendale, signed Irene B. Ward

1 34

 Receipt 1866 

Scope and Content

in German, Heidelberg, 31.??? 1866; Briggs

1 35

 Register Ticket 1883 

Scope and Content

"Registered on the Great Register," County of Los Angeles, to B.B. Briggs, May 25, 18(?)3

1 36

 Testimony of Appreciation [original] 15 February 1875 

Scope and Content

Certificate, form Wabash College, February 15, 1875, acknowledgment of Dr. B.B. Briggs as a "gentleman of great[?] worth and a physician of great[?] ability."

1 37

 Testimony of Appreciation [facsimile] 1875 

1 38

 Facsimiles 

1 39

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Series 7:  Publications 

Box Folder

 Arabic Prayer Book 

Scope and Content

Arabic prayer book of Samuel Lawrence Ward, husband of Irene Briggs (daughter of B.B. Briggs). Acquired during a mission involved with the Glendale Presbyterian Church; Samuel Lawrence Ward founded the La Crescenta Presbyterian Church.

1 40

 History of the American Presbyterian Mission to Iran, 1834-1960 

Scope and Content

Compiled by John Elder, published by the Literature Committee of the Church Council of Iran. Bill Huskins gave the book to Dr. C.L. Ward in 1972 during his visit to Tehran, Iran.

1 41

 Leaflet: "Sunday Postal Labour" 

Scope and Content

Sabbath Observance Society, Edinburgh

1 42

 Pressed Flowers from the Holy Land 

Scope and Content

Hand crafted book "Pressed Flowers from the Holy Land: Flowers Gathered and Pressed in Palestine by Rev. Harvey Greene," introduction by Rebv. Smith Baker, D.D.; published and sold by Harvey B. Greene, Lowell, Mass.

1 43

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Series 8:  Audiovisual 

Box Folder

 Dictabelts   4 items in 1 envelope

Scope and Content

Debrief/comments by Dr. Chester L. Ward following his 1968-1969 tour in the Republic of Vietnam.

1 44

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