Karen Jensen Kupel and Alice Lewis contributed to this family history.
Index Y-DNA Biggins/Beggan Irish Roots Naturalization Census Biggins Farm Descendants Home Page
Patrick Born in 1807
Ireland. Patrick Biggins was born in Ireland in 1807. Patrick's year of birth is based on his age in the 1870 and 1880 censuses and his obituary.
As indicated in Biggins/Beggan Irish Roots, Biggins is a relatively rare name. As far as we know, there never really was a Biggins clan, chieftan, or coat of arms. The name Biggins comes from the Gaelic word beag, which means little.
It seems likely that Patrick was from County Cavan. The register for St. Brigid's Church in Kill, County Cavan, shows a Pat Beggan born in Drumgill townland to Hugh and Ann Cusack Beggan in 1807. This is the same birth year as shown in the 1870 and 1880 U. S. census for Patrick Biggins and on Patrick's obituary. Patrick named his second daughter Ann. She in turn named her first son Hugh. See Patrick Beggan of Drumgill.
Bridget Born in 1805
Ireland. Bridget was born in 1805 in Ireland. Bridget's year of birth is based on her age in the 1850 census.
Bridget probably lived near Patrick Biggins.
We do not know Bridget's maiden name.
Patrick and Bridget Marry in 1825-29, Have 7 Children
Patrick and Bridget married sometime between 1825 and 1829. Their year of marriage is estimated based on the age of their youngest child in the 1840 census, which was 10 to 14. This indicates a birth year of 1826 to 1830.
Ireland or Ontario, Canada. Patrick and Bridget were married in County Monaghan or Cavan, Ireland, where Patrick was from, or Ontario, Canada, where their second child is known to have been born.
Patrick and Bridget's first child was a girl, born sometime between 1826 to 1830, based on the 1840 census, which included only the name the head of the household. This is all we know of their first child. She has not been found in future censuses.
Ontario. Sometime before 1833, Patrick and Bridget immigrated from County Monaghan or Cavan to Canada. They settled somewhere in Upper Canada, now known as the province of Ontario. At that time, Ontario extended along the St. Lawrence River from Cornwall, to Thousand Islands, to Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and the eastern part of Lake Huron.
In the years after the War of 1812, increasing numbers of Irish, a growing proportion of them Catholic, were venturing to Canada to obtain work on projects such as canals and roads. Settlement schemes offering cheap (or free) land brought over farming families. The Irish were instrumental in the building of the Rideau Canal and subsequent settlement along its route. The Rideau Canal, which allows ships to go from Lake Ontario at Kingston to the Ottawa River at Ottawa, was built from 1826 to 1832. Patrick and Bridget's first child was born around the same time.
Patrick and Bridget's second child, Anna, was born in Canada. The 1880 census for Rogers Township, Ford County, Illinois, says Anna Gaffey was born in Ontario. Her 1914 death certificate says she was born in Canada in 1833. Anna lived in Indiana with her husband John Gaffey and family after 1880. She died at the home of her daughter Margaret Gaffey Rowe in Chicago and was buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Collegeville, Indiana.
Lockport, 1833/38-1840/45. Sometime between 1833 and 1838, Patrick and Bridget immigrated from Canada to the United States. They settled in Lockport, DuPage Township, Will County, Illinois. In 1835, there were 24 states in the Union, the last being Missouri. Arkansas joined the Union in 1836 and Michigan in 1837. But Iowa and Wisconsin were not yet states. Andrew Jackson was President of the United States from 1829 to 1837. Martin Van Buren became President in 1837.
Abraham Lincoln, two years younger than Patrick, moved to Illinois in 1830. He became a lawyer by reading law books. He served in the Illinois state legislature from 1934 to 1842. He championed construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, and later was a Canal Commissioner. He married Mary Todd in 1842 in Springfield. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1847 to 1849. Lincoln was President of the United States from 1861 to 1865. He was Commander in Chief during the Civil War from 1861 to 1865. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in 1865, just five days after the end of the Civil War. At 11:30 pm on May 2, 1865, the funeral train of Abraham Lincoln passed through Lockport Station on its 1654-mile route from Washington to Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield.
In 1840, Will County had a population of 10,167, compared with 10,201 for Cook County, which includes Chicago. In 1850, Will County had a population of 16,703, compared with 43,385 for Cook County.
In 1816, two years before Illinois became a state, Congress decided to construct a 97-mile canal to facilitate greater non-Indian settlement in Illinois. The canal would connect the Chicago River at what is now called Bridgeport in Chicago with the Illinois River at LaSalle, allowing travel from New York City through the Hudson River, the Erie Canal, and the Great Lakes to the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers and New Orleans. The Federal government negotiated with the Potawatomi and other Indian tribes to sell their land to the Federal government and leave for lands west of Illinois.
Illinois land was surveyed and divided up into square townships, six miles by six miles. The townships in turn were divided into 36 square sections, one mile by one mile, which amounts to 640 acres. The sections could be further divided into 160-acre quadrants or half quadrant (80 acres) or quarter quadrants (40 acres). In 1827, the U.S. Congress gave the Canal Commission alternating sections of land five miles on either side of the Illinois and Michigan Canal to finance construction.
Lockport is 35 miles southwest of downtown Chicago. The town got its name and its start in 1836, when the Commissioners of the Illinois & Michigan Canal selected it as headquarters for the canal and site of Lock No. 1.
The Irish began arriving in northern Illinois in large numbers in 1836, to work on the I&M Canal. A history of St. Dennis Church in Lockport (150 Years of Faith by Georgene McCanna Bankroff, 1996) says newspaper ads in Ireland offered good wages for canal workers, $26 a month, food, and lodging. Thousands of men were attracted by this offer during a depression caused by the Panic of 1837. Most Irishmen were uneducated farm workers who were looking to better their station in life.
The Illinois and Michigan Canal was constructed from 1836 to 1848. In 1838, there were 2,000 men employed on the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Patrick could have been employed by the canal as a laborer. The Census shows that he and Bridget could not read or write. Or, he could have been a supervisor or a supplier.
The History of St. Patrick’s Church in Joliet dates back to 1838 with the arrival of the Reverend John Francis Plunkett, an Irish immigrant who came in answer to the call of the dying canal workers during the malaria epidemic of 1838. Father Plunkett was appointed the first pastor of the future St. Patrick’s Church by Bishop Simon Bruté of Vincennes (now Indianapolis), Indiana.
With the building of the I&M Canal, many immigrant families had come to the area, most of whom were Catholic and many came from the Emerald Isle. As the community grew, Father Plunkett began construction of a new church on Broadway Street just west of the Canal and south of Jefferson Street. Thus was born St. Patrick Church, the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the Diocese of Joliet and the second oldest in the whole Metropolitan Chicago area. It is now considered a landmark of Joliet.
The history of St. Dennis Church, 150 Years of Faith, includes a drawing of the first church. In 1838, St. Dennis was a missionary church in a small frame shanty located in Haytown, also known as Emmetsburg, in Cook County adjacent to the Will County line, on the bluffs of the DesPlaines River about three miles north northeast of the present-day village of Lockport. The structure had been St. Patrick's Church in Lemont. In 1846, St. Dennis became a parish with a resident pastor, and the small wooden church was moved from Haytown to Lockport. In 1879, it was replaced by the present large limestone church.
Patrick and Bridget's third child, Francis, was born in 1838 in Lockport.
Patrick and Bridget's fourth child, Catherine, was born in 1840 in Lockport.
Patrick and Bridget's fifth child, Philip Leslie, was born in 1841 in Lockport or DuPage Township.
In 1842, Patrick and Bridget Biggins were godparents at the baptism of Michael Crowley at St. Patrick Church in Joliet. (St. Patrick's, the first Catholic Church in Joliet, opened in 1838. St. Dennis had no resident priest until the wooden church was moved from Haytown to Lockport in 1846.) The parents were Henry and Rose Fitzsimmons Crowley. An 1845 report from school district No. 4 to DuPage Township shows a Mr. Crowley with three children under age 20. The 1860 census shows the family under the name Crawley with Henry as a farmer in DuPage Township and Henry and Rose both age 40 and born in Ireland.
Patrick and Bridget's sixth child, Rosanna, was born in 1843 in Lockport or DuPage Township.
Romeoville, 1840/45-1850s. Sometime between 1840 and 1845, Patrick and Bridget moved from Lockport to DuPage Township. An 1845 report from school district No. 4 to DuPage Township shows P. Biggins with three children under age 20. These would be the girl born in Ontario, 15+, Ann, 10, and Frank, 7. This is the first evidence that Patrick and Bridget had moved from Lockport to DuPage Township. It is possible that they were farming the land that they later purchased in 1848 prior to the purchase.
Patrick and Bridget's last child, James A., was born in 1846 in DuPage Township.
The Canal Commission report to the Illinois State Legislature for the year ended November 30, 1848 indicates that a P. Beggins sold oats to the Commission for $9.97 on January 18, 1848.
The first barge came down the canal on April 19, 1848. Barges were powered by mule. Traffic increased until the mid-1850s when the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad was completed far enough to make shipping and travel by rail more attractive than barge.
On September 11, 1848, Patrick Biggins purchased 160 acres of land from the Illinois & Michigan Canal Commission for $640. The land was on the south side of Normantown Road in Romeoville, Illinois. The western 80 acres is now a subdivision called Lakewood Estates. The eastern 80 acres is now the Beverly Skoff Elementary School and the John J. Lukancic Middle School.
On June 23, 1866, Patrick purchased 160 acres on the north side of Normantown Road, kitty-corner from the original 160 acres, for $6,500. The Thos. J. Sprague farm, on which the Sprague school stood, abutted the east side of this plot. The western 80 acres was developed as Misty Ridge, a community of 166 homes, built by Beechen & Dill Builders, Inc. The eastern 80 acres was developed earlier in 1963 as a residential subdivision, part of Hampton Park 2 West.
The Will County Historic Preservation Commission has undertaken a Rural Historic Structural Survey that includes DuPage Township (completed in 2001). In Chapter II, pages 24-26, there is a section on Significant and Contributing Farmsteads in Du Page Township, starting with the photos and a buildings diagram of the "Amsden-Biggins-Mather farmstead" on Normantown Road.
On the same date as Patrick in 1848 and for the same price, Owen Biggins purchased 160 acres of land on the other side of Normantown Road kitty-corner to the west from Patrick’s original land. Owen Biggins (1825-1885) was 18 years younger than Patrick. In the 1850 census, Owen was living with another family in Mission Township in LaSalle County, about 40 miles west of DuPage Township and 20 miles north of the canal at Ottawa. He married Rosanna O’Callaghan, who was born in Ireland, in 1855 in Lake County, Illinois. He was listed as married to Rosanna in the 1860 and 1870 censuses and divorced in the 1880 census. No children are shown. Owen died on April 20, 1885.
In 1851, James Biggins purchased 80 acres of land that abutted the west side of Owen’s land. James Biggins (1822-1884) was 15 years younger than Patrick and three years older than Owen. In the 1850 census, James was living with another family in Northville Township in LaSalle County, which is just north of Mission Township. He married Catherine Prior (1830-1913) in 1861 in Will County). Catherine was born in Ireland. They had five children: Owen Biggins, Eugene A. Biggins (1863-1937), James B. Biggins (1865-1908), Edward M. Biggins, and William F. Biggins. James died on June 15, 1884, at the age of 63, and left everything to his wife Catherine.
The 1890 Portrait and Biographical Album of Will County contains a biography of James Biggins on pages 568 and 569. It states that James and Owen were brothers born in County Monaghan, Ireland, and they emigrated in 1840. It also states that James' widow, Catherine Prior Biggins, owned 240 acres in Will County. There is no mention of Patrick Biggins.
Patrick became a naturalized citizen of the United States by order of the Will County Circuit Court on October 16, 1860. Richard Hanrahan testified on his behalf. As part of his naturalization, Patrick renounced allegiance to Victoria, who was then the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland.
In 1855, Patrick and Bridget's daughter Ann married John Gaffey. They had eight children: Hugh in 1858, Jennie in 1860, Alice in 1862, Carrie in 1864, Ann in 1867, Kate in 1868, Maggie in 1873, and John in 1876. In the 1880s, the family moved to Jasper County, Indiana.
Patrick Widowed at Age 43-53
Romeoville, 1850s-1882. With the death of his wife Bridget in the 1850s, Patrick was widowed at age 43-53. He had five children living with him: Francis, Catherine, Philip, Rosanna, and James.
On May 12, 1863, Patrick purchased 80 acres in Lockport Township for $1,600. Lockport is the next Township south of DuPage Township. This land was originally purchased from the Federal government on June 22, 1835 for $100 by Robert Jones. It is the eastern half of the northwest quadrant of Section 6. It is now part of the Carillon subdivision in the Village of Plainfield, which was built in 1990 and includes the first two holes of the White Course at The Links at Carillon, a public golf course. The address of the golf course is 21200 W. South Carillon Drive in Plainfield. The 1873 plat map shows the land owned by M. Bagen.
In 1874, Patrick's children bought his land for $13,700.
Rosanna last appears in Patrick's 1874 Will.
In April 1875, Patrick's son James married Elizabeth Healy. James and Elizabeth had two children: Rosanna in 1876 and Virginia in 1878. Following their wedding, James and Elizabeth lived on the family farm in Romeoville.
On August 26, 1875, Patrick's son Philip, 34, married Sarah Ella McNally, 29, at Sarah's home in the Bridgeport section of Chicago. They were married by Father Edward Joseph Dunne, pastor of All Saints Church, which had just been carved out of St. Bridget parish in Bridgeport. The marriage took place at Sarah’s mother’s house at 228 Archer Avenue (2321 S. Archer Avenue after 1881) in Bridgeport. Witnesses were Sarah’s sister Kitty and her brother James, in addition to Joseph and Brigitta Cunningham. Following their wedding, Philip and Sarah lived on the family farm in Romeoville. Although the farm had been split up among the children a year before the marriage, they probably continued to operate it as one farm. Philip and Sarah had two children: Leslie in 1877 and Arthur in 1880.
The 1880 census shows Patrick's children living in various places.
In 1881, the Will County Commercial Advertiser included an item in the DuPage Township section about Patrick’s son Francis: “Frank Biggins is the happiest man in town. It’s a boy.” We do not, however, know who the mother was or the name of the child.
Bridget Dies in the 1850s at Age 45-55
Bridget Biggins died sometime in the 1850s. She appears in the 1850 census but not the 1860 census.
Bridget was survived by her husband Patrick and six or seven children. We do not know whether her first child was still living
Patrick Dies in 1882 at age 75
Will County Commercial Advertiser, April 13, 1882
Probate records for Patrick were obtained from the Illinois Regional Archives Depository at Northern Illinois University. Patrick’s son James A. Biggins was executor of his estate. Patrick’s will, dated 1874, left $75 to his daughter Ann Gaffey and $5 to his son Francis. Then, the remainder was to pay off two loans: $1,000 secured by the land Patrick sold his son Philip Biggins and $500 secured by the land he sold his son James A. Biggins. Then, the remainder was to be paid equally to four of his children Philip, James A., Catherine, and Rosanna.
On May 16, 1883, Ann Gaffey's daughter Frances Jane “Jennie” married Edward Roades. The Will County Commercial Advertiser reported the marriage took place at the home of her aunt Catherine “Kate” Biggins in DuPage Township (Patrick’s home before his death a year earlier). They were married by Rev. Dr. James J. McGovern, pastor of St. Dennis Church in Lockport. The newspaper reported that “as both parties were young folks of worthy popularity, a large number of friends and relatives were present to congratulate and witness the happy event. After the ceremony a bountiful repast was spread, to which all paid due tribute.”
In 1885, Patrick and Bridget's granddaughter Carrie Gaffey married Edward Healey.
In 1885, Philip and Sarah moved 10 miles north to the east side of Naperville with their sons Leslie, 8, and Arthur, 5. They still owned the 80 acres of farmland in DuPage Township. Naperville is in DuPage County. The Biggins farm was in DuPage Township in Will County.
Also in 1885, Catherine Biggins and Francis Biggins moved to Joliet. They lived at 406 Western Avenue.
James Biggins and his wife Elizabeth remained on the family farm.
In 1889, the Will County Circuit Court ordered the Sheriff to sell Philip’s 80 acres and Francis’ 40 acres to Fithian & Cowing to settle debts. Each had 15 months to redeem the property. Philip’s debt was to the estate of Barrett B. Clark. Francis’ debt was to the estate of George J. Munroe.
On March 16, 1890, Patrick and Bridget's son James A. died at age 44. He was buried in St. Dennis Cemetery at 17th and Jefferson Streets in South Lockport in a plot that is separate from his father's. His wife Elizabeth continued to operate the farm. The 1900 census shows her as a farmer. The Joliet city directory shows her as a resident starting in 1904.
The Will County Coroner’s Record of September 24, 1891, which is in the files of the Will County Historical Society, reported that Patrick and Bridget's son Francis was run over by a Chicago & Alton railroad train in Lockport while trying to board it under influence of liquor. There were three local newspaper stories about the death of Francis Biggins.
In 1893, Patrick and Bridget's granddaughter Catherine "Kate" Gaffey married John Christian Jensen.
Patrick and Bridget: 7 children, 12 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren
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