Title Page vol 1 The New California

Biography of Ebenezer Biggs

Ebenezer Biggs, who is engaged in teaming and contracting at Napa, is a self-made man and all that he has enjoyed or possessed in life has come to him as the direct reward of his own labor. He started out for himself when but eights years of age. He was very young to face the world alone, but as the years have advanced he has progressed and his life has been characterized by industry, perseverance and steadfastness of purpose. He was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, January 10, 1826, and has, therefore, reached the seventy-eighth milestone on life’s journey at this writing in 1904. His father, James Biggs, was a native of England, while his mother, who bore the maiden name of Sarah Wilkins, was born in Scotland. They came to America from their respective countries in early life and were married in Allegheny county, Pennsylvania. The father was a wheelwright by trade and followed that pursuit in the Keystone state.

Ebenezer biggs had but limited opportunity to acquire an education, but attended school for a very brief period between the ages of six and eight years. At the latter age he began working for Judge Livingston, judge of Franklin county, Ohio, upon his farm on Alum creek three miles from the city of Columbus. There he remained between the ages of eight and fifteen years, and at the latter date entered the service of Edward Livingston, a son of the Judge, entering upon a plan whereby he was to work upon a farm on the other side of Alum creek for three years, to receive successively seven dollars and a half, eight dollars and a half and nine dollars and a half per month for the consecutive years. Thus the time passed until he was about nineteen years of age, when he went to the east with a drove of two hundred head of cattle, making the trip from Columbus, Ohio, to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He covered the distance in forty-two days and was paid for his services a dollar per day in addition to his expenses. From Lancaster Mr. Biggs made his way to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, afterward to Cincinnati, Ohio, and eventually returned to Columbus. In the year 1848 he went to Louisville, Kentucky, where his uncle, Hugh Wilkins, lived. They entered into partnership relations in the upholstering business, their specialty being the fitting up of steamboats, and the connection between them was maintained until March, 1849. In that year Ebenezer Biggs went to Missouri to purchase forty head of mules for a Louisville company to take them west to California under the leadership of J. B. Huey, who acted as captain of a wagon train. it was this business venture that brought Mr. Biggs to the Pacific coast.

The party left St. Joseph, Missouri, on the 29th of April, 1849. It was Sunday morning, but Mr. Huey was a sea-faring man and superstitious and believed that a Sunday start would prove a good omen for a safe and successful trip. They made the long journey across the plains, meeting the difficulties and hardships experienced by the travelers of that period when one might go for miles and miles without seeing any sign of human habitation. At length, however, they had crossed the hot sandy deserts and climbed the mountains and forded the streams until they eventually arrived at Sacramento on the 27th of August, 1849. Mr. Biggs had six mules in the bunch which he owned, and after reaching California he sold these to a Mr. Carroll, the purchase price being six hundred and fifty dollars. He also entered the employ of Mr. Carroll, who hired him to drive to Shasta and return, the team of mules which he had sold, paying him two hundred dollars per month. In the fall of 1849 Mr. Biggs went to Placerville, California, which was then called Hangtown–a name suggestive of an early condition in the country when life and liberty were menaced by a lawless class of desperadoes and when it often became necessary for the law-abiding element to take things into their own hands and to dispatch justice in order to quell the crime which became too prevalent. After spending the winter of 1849 and 1850 in Hangtown, Mr. Biggs, in the spring of the latter year, engaged to drive a team from Coloma, at which place gold had been originally discovered by Marshall in 1848. He was to take the team to Greenwood valley and in the latter place he engaged in general merchandising, opening a store there in 1851 in connection with a Mr. Brown, who in a short time purchased his interest. He then turned his attention to teaming in the employ of Samuel Ringgold, making trips from Greenwood valley. He was also associated with Mr. Ringgold in the buying and selling of hogs, and later he went to Sacramento, where he established a livery stable, but there he was overtaken by disaster, his barn being destroyed by fire in 1854. He thus lost almost every dollar he had earned in all these years, but while it was a bitter blow he did not become discouraged and disheartened, as many a man would have done, but courageously made a new start as foreman of a livery business at Folsom, California. In 1856 he returned to Sacramento and was engaged in driving a stage to Placerville until the following year. In 1858 he came to Napa, where he has since continuously made his home, covering a period of forty-six consecutive years. Here he was engaged in the livery business for a time and later turned his attention to teaming and contracting, in which he has continued down to the present.

Mr. Biggs was elected marshal of Napa and served for one year. He belongs to Napa Lodge No. 18, I. O. O. F., to Live Oak Encampment No. 40 and Canton Lodge No. 33. His political allegiance was given to the Democratic party prior to the Civil war, but at that time he became an advocate of Republican principles and has since been a strong supporter of the men and measures of the Republican party.

Source: Leigh H. Irvine; A History of the New California Its Resources and People, 2 Volumes; New York and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903.

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