Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Know Your Ancestor-Day 4

And the winner today is...Nathaniel Riggs (1796-1869). Nathaniel was Stephen Riggs' father, and Lucretia Jane "Jenny" Rigg's grandfather. Jenny Riggs was my grandfather Joseph Agnes Helm's mother. Does that clear it up? So he was my great-great-great grandfather. Anyways, there's plenty of info on him. Here's what I dug up:

Nathaniel Riggs was born in 1798 in Kentucky. Nathaniel's father, Bethuel Riggs, served in the American Revolution and became a famous Baptist preacher. He preached in North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri. Bethuel Riggs' wife was Nancy Lee and her father, James Lee, was also a Baptist preacher. Bethuel, after preaching in North Carolina and Georgia, crossed the mountains into Kentucky (Indian country, and quite dangerous at the time), and settled across from Cincinnati, where Nathaniel was born. {Peggy, this is close to where you live, right?}  Nathaniel married Rachel Weldon in about 1818 in Kentucky. They had 7 children together (including Stephen, my great-great grandfather).
From {gen 035 in the Riggs folder}

Nathaniel Riggs joined the Mormon (LDS) Church or Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1831, around the time that his fifth child was born. He was baptised by Joseph Smith. He left with the first Mormon wagon train for Salt Lake with Brigham Young. He was a High Priest in the Mormon Church and died in Provo, Utah. He was also on the Zion March. Before leaving for Salt Lake, he publicly stated that he was leaving with the Mormons for California and was never coming back. His first wife, Rachel Weldon Riggs, and her children including Stephen Riggs, never became Mormons. After Nathaniel left, Rachel Weldon Riggs filed for divorce in Monroe County, Missouri. The divorce was granted.

From the divorce petition {gen 040}: 1846

Your Oratrix [Rachel] represents that she and her said husband [Nathaniel] had accumulated and become possessed of comfortable property and were prospering, when some 13 years since her said husband joined the Mormons, since which time he has spent much of his time with said church and people and away from his family, and has lavished much of his property and means upon them, to the inconvenience of his family and your Oratrix. Your Oratrix represents that after spending the time her said husband has been identified with the Mormons she has been in great apprehension for her family and herself, and her said husband about the first of this month gathered together a part of their provisions and other moveable property and left for the Mormon city of Nauvoo, and perhaps from there to California, or wherever the heads of the church may order or direct. ...
Your Oratrix now expressly charges that under the repeated soliciting of some of the apostles and leading men of the Mormon connection and the delusions of your Oratrix's said husband, he had been and is induced thus to abandon your Oratrix and his helpless children and has neglected to maintain and provide for her without any good cause whatever, for she avers that since her said intermarriage as aforesaid, she has always endeavored to perform and she avers that she has ever reasonably performed her various duties, to her said husband as wife and mother, all which acting out the part of your Oratrix's said husband ...


These documents are a little difficult to muddle through, but still fascinating. The divorce was granted, and Stephen (Nathaniel and Rachel's son) went on to marry Lucretia Jane Sparks. Her namesake, Lucretia Jane Riggs (Jenny), married James Guinn Helm, II, and had many children, among them my grandfather, Joseph Agnes Helm. Here's the tree that shows this line:

I always knew that we had ancestors that were Mormon pioneers that came over pushing handcarts. But, that was from Grandma Helm's line. Did you also know that Nathaniel, a direct ancestor from Grandpa Joe's line, crossed the plains and migrated to SLC with Brigham Young himself, after being baptized by Joseph Smith? Very interesting, isn't it? After a little bit of research, and just in case there's any question, here's the link that shows Nathaniel Riggs' name on the roster of the Allen Taylor Company, which departed 5-6 July, 1849, and arrived 10-20 October, 1849. Also on the roster is the name of Nathaniel's second wife, Hannah Parsons Riggs, who brought her nine-year-old daughter Elizabeth Jane Page with her. Hannah and Nathaniel were married in about 1838. Nathaniel and Hannah were divorced, and in 1852 Nathaniel was sealed to Anna Reynolds in the Salt Lake Temple. However, the church webpage does clear up one issue. According to the webpage, the Allen Taylor Company was not the "first wagon train" with Brigham Young- the Brigham Young Pioneer Company departed on 14 April 1847 and arrived in SLC on 21-24 July 1847. I am unsure of whether the baptism by JS was also accurate, or if he was baptized by someone else. It is possible.

I hope you enjoyed this latest installment of Know Your Ancestor. Stay tuned for more info on where you came from! I'm taking requests for ancestors...let me know who you want to know more about! ~Pam


  1. Wow Pam, Just saw the blog. Didn't know any of this. Did he have any other children with the other wives? If so, could we have some long lost cousins out there in Utah? It could be interesting!

  2. so, dad was right! we DID have an ancestor who came across the plains...maybe not in a handcart like he always said, but i think this is WAY cooler!
    and we always felt left out living in chesterfield..ha! beat that!

  3. I know! I felt the same way, Kate! Our ancestor was right there during the early church history. :) Makes you feel a little special, doesn't it?

  4. Weldon Clan in MissouriJune 17, 2010 at 9:25 AM

    Wow? Cool? Special? Don't mean to rain on your parade, but the man abandoned his wife and children! The Weldon side of the family doesn't hold Nathaniel in high regard.

  5. @weldon clan: I agree. Not too impressed with him, either. I see the irony in finally finding a Mormon pioneer ancestor in the family and having him be kind of a jerk. I know that others in my family DO feel special inspite of that, though. Thanks for looking at my site, though! How exactly are we related?