Pictorial and Genealogical Record
of
Greene County, Missouri

Together with Bibliographies of Prominent Men of Other Portions of the State, Both Living and Dead


GEORGE J. BIGGS. In giving a history of the prominent citizens of Greene County, Mo., the biographical department of this work would be incomplete without mentioning the gentleman whose name heads this sketch, for he is deservedly ranked among its prosperous agriculturists. He was born in Montgomery County, Va., in 1827, a son of Moses and Elizabeth (Surface) Biggs, also of that county and State, the birth of the former occurring in 1792 and that of the latter in 1800. They were reared in the Old Dominion, obtained fair educations for that day, were married there and there several of their children were born prior to their removal to Johnson County, Ind., in 1830. After remaining there two or three years they removed still further westward to Jackson County, Mo., in which section Mr. Biggs paid the last debt of nature in 1848, having been an industrious farmer and blacksmith. He was a Jacksonian Democrat, a Presbyterian in his religious views, and was one of those rare men whose word was as good as his bond. He was one of seven children born to John Biggs, who was a Virginian by birth, in which State he spent his entire life, his death occurring at the patriarchial age of ninety-two years and was his first and last sickness, which then lasted only three or four days. He was a worthy tiller of the soil, was a soldier in the Revolution and was under Gen. Washington. His father was also a Virginian, but of Scotch blood. After the death of her husband Mrs. Biggs married a Mr. Bowlin and removed to Kansas, where she died in 1857 in full communion with the Methodist Episcopal Church. She was a daughter of George and Sallie Surface, natives of Virginia, where the mother died. Mr. Surface removed with his motherless children to Indiana, where be became wealthy and gave each of them a start in life. He was of German descent and, being a far-seeing man, gave all of his children good educational advantages, some of whom became lawyers, preachers and teachers. One of them, Prof. William E. Surface, was for some years principal of the high school at Independence, Mo. George J. Biggs was one of twelve children; Polly, widow of Chelsey Brassfield, who died while a tiller of the soil in Kansas; Susan, the deceased wife of a Mr. Owen of Texas; Oney, the deceased wife of Jonathan Peart, her death occurring in Kansas City soon after her marriage; Jane, who died in Kansas in 1866, the wife of John Brown; Amanda, who died at the age of nineteen years; George J.; Elizabeth, wife of John A. Spratt of Platte County, Mo., Mahala, who died in Kansas some years ago, the wife of F. S. Attaberry; James H., a carriage maker in the State of California; Lydia, wife of Michael Shannon, a miller of St. Joseph, Mo.; Allen, a carpenter of Independence, Mo., was a soldier in the Fourth Iowa Cavalry, was injured in battle at Pea Ridge and was discharged, and Thomas, who was also in the Fourth Iowa and was killed at the Siege of Vicksburg. He was commanding his company at the time of his death, having served from the beginning of the war. He had been a resident of Iowa. The early days of George J. Biggs were spent on his father's farm, and although he unfortunately received a limited education he has always been a great lover of books and has read extensively, thus becoming a well-informed man. At the age of sixteen he learned the wagon and carriage maker trade at Independence, Mo., and in 1848 be went to Kansas City, Mo., where he built the first wagon factory that was ever erected there. He followed this business exclusively until 1853, when he removed to Fremont County, Iowa, for the benefit of his wife's health which was at that time very poor. He continued his trade until 1856, when he was elected treasurer, collector and recorder of Fremont County, and was twice re-elected, holding the office for six years. In 1866 he came to Greene County, Mo., and located on his present farm near Willard, where he is the owner of a splendid estate amounting to 280 acres, all of which are well improved. He suffered the loss of a fine residence a few years ago but immediately replaced it by a new one. He was first married in 1849 to Miss Lovica Jane Barnett, a native of Giles County, Ky., where her father died of cholera in 1832, and her mother at her birth. She was reared by her grandmother, Mrs. Lovica Singleton, in Buchanan County, Mo. She died in 1872, after having become the mother of nine children: Mariah and Lovica, who died in infancy; James, who resides in this county; Charles H., of Iowa; Cora, wife of S. E. Lee, of Greene County; Ida and Alice, who died in infancy; William W. is living at home; Etta, who died in infancy. In 1876 Mr. Biggs married Elizabeth Ernest, who was born in Tennessee but came with her parents to Greene County, Mo., when small. She was a daughter of Wesley slid Nancy Ernest, natives of Tennessee, but in a very early day came to Greene County, where Mr. Ernest died, during the war and his widow a few years ago. They were Presbyterians and reared a large family of children, nearly all of whom are now deceased. One of the sons, James C., now of Dallas County, was in the Confederate Army and was on several occasions captured. Charles was in the Missouri Militia during the war and now resides at Cave Springs. By his second wife Mr. Biggs became the father of four children; Eva, George (deceased), Edith and May. Since his residence in this county he has devoted his attention to farming and stock raising and has always taken a deep interest in movements; tending toward the development of agriculture. He was a Democrat until 1876, when he left that party on account of its financial views and went with the Greenback party, and in the last campaign was an active Populist. He was made a Mason in 1848, in the Heroine Lodge, No. 103, at Kansas City, but now holds membership in the St. Nicholas Lodge, No. 435 at Willard, of which he is now secretary, having been Worthy Master for some years. He was a Union sympathizer during the war, and has ever been loyalty itself to his country, and one of its law-abiding and worthy citizens.

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