Tidbits "B"


Tribune (Belleville, IL) dated August 23, 1854: In this city, on Sunday evening last, by Rev. John Van Cleve, John M. Bevirt, formerly of the Daily Eagle, to Miss Elizabeth Sparks, of this city. We congratulate friend John on having so gloriously closed his chase after twelve month's composition of his thoughts on matrimony. We congratulate him not alone upon his having chosen a new 'Nonpareil' case, but on the good taste he has evinced, in the selection of a 'well cut font of letter.' And we hope that he will never so far forget the honor of a Typo as to knock such of a piece of composition into pi by breaking his stick in an unmanly impetuosity to correct it, when little gentleness might better amend the matter. The rule of his life should now be so adjusted as to leave no excuse for squabbles, and to enable his better-half to put a period to his outs. For a home, and not abroad, he will henceforth have to look for that perfection in his setting up which is denied to the sheep's fort bachelor. By always showing to her, a 'clear proof' himself, he may expect from her a fair supply of 'copy' after his own image.


One of the gallant soldiers of Colonel Clark who lived a long and eventful life in Illinois was William Biggs. He was born in Maryland in 1755. At the age of twenty-three, he enlisted as a soldier in the Revolutionary War and became a member of Clark's famous expedition. He was hardy, energetic and brave. He withstood the perils and hairbreadth escapes incident tot he Clark campaign with the heroism of a veteran warrior. He received no bounty in land in the grant made to Clark and his soldiers, but later the Congress of the United States, recognized the valuable services rendered to the colonies by Lieutenant Biggs, granted him in the year 1826 three sections of land. This was tardy justice rendered so late in life that it could be of little use to him for he was then seventy years of age. But it was no doubt a great satisfaction to him that the U.S. Government had finally recognized his service. Soon after the close of the war he went back to this old home in the east and married a wife who formerly lived in Virginia. Soon after his marriage he, with his two brothers, emigrated to Illinois and settled in Bellefontaine. In the spring of 1788 he and a neighbor named Vallis started one morning on horseback to take a supply of beaver fur which they had caught to Cahokia to market. They were proceeding along the road which is now Route 3 of the Illinois road system, but at that time much of the way was a trail through the woods, to the main road to Cahokia. When they were near Piggot's Fort in the Bottom, they heard the report of two guns. Biggs supposed the shots to be fired by some hunters, but in a few minutes they was sixteen Indians armed with guns. Biggs and Vallis immediately whipped up their horses, but it was too late. The Indians fired a volley at them and several of the bullets took effect, tho it might have been expected that both the men and horses would be killed immediately, yet it did not so happen. Vallis' horse carried him to the Fort with a severe wound of which he died after lingering six weeks. Bigg's horse was shot dead and four bullets went thru the rider's coat but he himself did not receive a single wound. Abandoning his horse and his furs he started to run. But with his winter overcoat and boots he was not equipped for racing and the Indians soon caught him and made him prisoner. When Vallis reached the Fort, signal guns were fired to alarm the community, and the Indians hearing it began a hurried march to get away with their prisoner. They started on a run and kept their prisoner going at that gait for five or six miles. They were Kickapoos and started at once for their village called Weastown on the Wabash river, a long distance above Vincennes. They traveled about forty miles the first day and that seems a good record for travelers on foot with no well-established road. They must have passed near where the towns of Belleville and Lebanon are now, but at that time there was not even a settlement at either place. The whole distance was somewhere about three hundred miles but they reached the village in ten days, with their prisoner. One of the Indians tried to kill Biggs, but the others seeming to have in mind a large ransom which they hoped to obtain kept the prisoner safe and killed the Indian who seemed to want to deprive them of the benefit of their successful capture. The Indians were rather severe in their treatment of him and tied him at night so securely that he had no chance of escape. Biggs was a fine specimen of physical manhood and unusually handsome. His manly beauty had its attraction for the feminine portion of this group of untutored savages. He claims that several of the Indian Belles of the Wabash offered him their hearts in wedlock, but he, hoping to return some time to his family remained true to the wife who was suffering the agonies of uncertainty as to the fate of her husband for she had no means of knowing whether he was dead or alive. But he had been in the camp only a short time when negotiations were begun at Vincennes for his ransom. These negotiations were carried on partly by John Rice Jones, who is mentioned elsewhere in this history and was living at Vincennes. An agreement was finally reached by which the Indians received the equivalent of two hundred and sixty dollars for the freedom of the prisoner, besides which Biggs had a promise thirty-seven dollars more for the means necessary to accomplish the journey back to Bellefontaine. He went down the Wabash in a canoe to the Ohio and thence to the Mississippi and up that river to Kaskaskia, whence he had only a few miles to travel overland to reach his home. His return to his family can better be imagined than described. They had mourned him as dead. At that day there was no way of sending word that he was coming so he walked unannounced one day into this grief-stricken home and brought hope and happiness and restored lasting-good cheer to his loved ones who had been sitting in the shadow of a great sorrow. Years afterward Mr. Biggs wrote an account of his experiences in captivity and had it published in the year 1826. In 1790 when St. Clair county was organized, Governor St. Clair appointed him sheriff, and he held the office for may years, as the records testify. He had received a common school education which had been supplemented by much experience including the dangers of war and pioneer life. He was popular with his fellow citizens and was twice elected to represent St. Clair County in the Legislature of the North West Territory. At the time when he and Shadrach Bond were serving together in Clark's expedition they said in a joke one day that they would like to represent this country in the legislature. Twelve years later their dreams were realized for they were both members of the first General Assembly of the North West Territory. Biggs also served as Justice of the Peace and Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, for many years and made a safe and acceptable officer of Justice. In 1808 he was elected to the Legislature of the Indiana Territory, and helped to secure the division of the Territory which was effected in the following year. In 1812 Biggs was elected to the Legislature of the Illinois Territory and held the office for four years. He made a solid and useful member of the Legislature Body as long as he was a member. Few men have had the good fortune to live in an age when they had so many opportunities to serve their fellow-men as he had. But in all these years of public service he did not allow his private interests to interfere with his duties to his country. He was never wealthy, but possessed only a reasonable competence. Towards the close of his life he engaged in an enterprise of manufacturing salt on Silver Creek within the present limits of Madison county. He died in 1827, at the home of Colonel Judy, an aged and well-respected pioneer of the first county of the great state of Illinois. (McKendree: p 454, 455)


October 27, 2002

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