Frederic Augustus Briggs, a well-known hotel man of Claremont, N.H., was born in Charlestown, this State, September 9, 1838, son of Joseph Gilman and Abigail (Woods) Briggs. Some interesting facts concerning the origin of the Briggs family may be found in Burke’s “Peerage” and in the History of the County of Norfolk, England, by Bloomfield. It is shown that before the time of Edward I. (1272 ) the representatives of the family assumed the surname of De Ponte or Pontibus. Many of them from the time of de Ponte de Salle, whose son John was born in 1383, became men of mark, and held high and responsible positions in church and State, or accomplished deeds of renown. One Thomas Brygge, of Holt, in 1392, in company with Sir Thomas Swinbourne, made a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre; and an account thereof, written by himself, is still extant in a manuscript preserved in the library of Caius College, Cambridge University, England.
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Thomas Bryggs, Rector of Risingham in 1539, subsequently became Chaplain to Lady Mary, sister of King Edward VI. He was also Vicar of Kenninghall and later Vicar of Windham. Henry Brygge, born at Halifax, Yorkshire, in 1556, was a mathematician. In 1617 he visited Napier at Edinburgh, and induced him to make an important change in his recently invented system of logarithms. Augustine Briggs, a determined Royalist, fought for Charies I., joining the Earl of Newcastle’s forces, and taking part in the siege of Lynn in 1643. His son William became Sir Isaac Newton. In 1682 he published a work entitled “Theory of Vision,” and three years later a Latin version of the same, to which Sir Isaac Newton wrote the preface.
The earliest mention of the name Briggs in this country appears in the records of the Plymouth Colony, wherein one Clement Briggs is said to have arrived in the good ship “Fortune,” November 9, 1621. Mention was made of him by Bradford in his letter to John Winthrop in 1631. He settled in Dorchester in 1630-31, and married Joan Allen. Two years later he removed to Weymouth. He had children as follows: Thomas, Jonathan, John, David, Clement, Redmond, all of whom, together with his second wife, Elizabeth, executrix, are mentioned in his will. He was born, it is positively known, in Barmundsey Street, Southwark, England, and died July 28, 1659.
The line was continued as follows: Jonathan, the second son of Clement, married and had a son Jonathan, whose son John married Ellen Hewitt, and had William, who married Ellen Rice; and their son Eliphalet, born in 1734 at Norton, Mass., settled in Keene, N.H., and married Mary Cobb. At the time of his death, October 11, 1776, he was Chairman of the Board of Selectmen of Keene, one of the Town Committee of Safety, and had been a delegate to the Safety Convention held at Walpole. This convention was called by order of a subcommittee of the several Committees of Safety in the county. He was Captain in the Indian War. His wife died June 9, 1806, and left Eliphalet, Jr., born in Keene in 1765, who died in 1827. He married Elizabeth Stiles, daughter of Captain Jeremiah Stiles, one of the early settlers of Keene and one of its most prominent citizens. He was Captain of the Keene company in Paul Dudey Sargent’s regiment, and was at the battles of Lexington and Bunker Hill. He was continually in office from 1765 until his death in 1800. He was Keene’s delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1778.
Joseph Gilman Briggs, son of Eliphalet, Jr., and Elizabeth, and father of Frederic Augustus, was born in Keene, N.H., June 10, 1805. He served an apprenticeship as a cabinet-maker with his eldest brother, Eliphalet, in Keene. He was a gifted and an accomplished singer. He taught the first singing-school in Keene, and for several years was the leader of the First Congregational Church choir; and Miss Woods, who became his wife, was his leading soprano. After his marriage he removed to Montpelier, Vt., where he went into business, but by the urgent request of his uncle William, of Charlestown, N.H., he was induced in 1828 to go to that town. William Briggs, of Charlestown, a graduate of Dartmouth, class of 1799, was a lawyer by profession and a stanch Whig. In 1824 he was appointed a committee to build the vault and stone work of the first Connecticut River Bank, and was a Director of that institution during its existence. He was President of the new bank from its beginning until his death in 1847. In that year Joseph G. Briggs removed to Claremont, where he engaged extensively in the manufacture of furniture, looms, school furnishings, etc. He built many houses in town, including the Terrace School-house. He was liberal, and encouraged everything that tended to the growth and prosperity of the town. Briggs Street was named in 1860 by the Selectmen in his honor. He married Abigail Woods, daughter of Elijah, who was the son of William and Naomi (Langley) Woods, the former one of the early settlers of Keene. Elijah Woods married Sally Brown, who was of the sixth generation in descent from Peter Brown, one of the Pilgrim Fathers who landed from the “Mayflower” at Plymouth in 1620.
Joseph G. Briggs died November 12, 1876. His children were: William Henry; Joseph G., Jr.; Juliet Elizabeth, born in 1831, died in 1832; Sarah Louisa; Charles Lyman; Samuel Edgar; Frederic Augustus; Abba; and Mary Elizabeth. William Henry Briggs, born in 1827, married Mary Augusta Anderson, of Boston, Mass. Joseph G., Jr., born 1830, married Ellen L. West, of Charlestown, N.H., was a famed hotel man in his day, and died February 10, 1894. Sarah Louisa, born in 1833, married Francis R. Stebbins, of Adrian, Mich., one of the pioneers of that city and founder of the Adrian Expositor, who died in 1892. Charles Lyman, born in 1835, married Maria Hall Tripler, of New York, and is proprietor of the Clarendon Hotel and manager of the “Florence” in that city. Samuel Edgar, born in 1836, who was graduated at Norwich University, Norwich, Vt., married Mary A. Hoover, of Los. Angeles, Cal., and died at Fitzwilliam, N.H., in 1888. His two children were: Mary Louisa, who died; and Lillie, who married Dr. MacGowan in 1890, and resides in Los Angles, Cal. Abba Briggs, born in 1841, married Stephen Batcheller, of Fitzwilliam, N.H., son of Dr. James Batcheller, of Marlboro, N.H. They have one child, Fanny, who married Donald McIver Blair, of Boston. Mary Elizabeth Briggs, who was born in 1844, and died in 1874, married George W. Merrifield, of Claremont, N.H.
Frederic Augustus, the seventh child of his parents, and the subject of our sketch, married Juliette Rebecca Cowles, daughter of Albert and Rebecca (Wark) Cowles, granddaughter of Leman and Clara (Bunnel) Cowles, and great-grand-daughter of Timothy and Sarah (Stilson) Cowles, of Farmington, Conn., who settled in Claremont in 1780. The children, all born in Claremont, except Robert Percy, are as follows: Abba Louisa, born April 16, 1863; Frederic Augustus, Jr., born August 8, 1864; Mary Rebecca, born March 27, 1866; Joseph Albert, born December 24, 1867, who married Margrette Surrette, April 12, 1889, and has a child, Bertha Augusta, born March 6, 1890; Julietta Augusta, born October 29, 1869; Sarah Eunice, born August 30, 1872, who married Charles S. Wilson, December 6, 1893, and had a child, Paul Dunbar, born in Claremont, October 22, 1894; Robert Percy, born in New York City, October 2, 1875; Lilla Stebbins, born June 19, 1877; Justina Adeline, born February 26, 1879; Emily Victoria, born May 23, 1884.