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Hi, My name is Vickie and to tell you a little bit about myself, I was born and raised in Kentucky and the majority of my ancestors have been in Kentucky since the 1790’s. I have always loved history, a good mystery and puzzles and that is what Family History Research is all about. As a child we would take day trips on Saturdays and head down some dirt road looking for old cemeteries. A lot of the time we weren't looking for anyone in particular, we just like to read the epitaphs. We would have a picnic lunch packed and have lunch at whatever cemetery we were at. If the weather was bad my Dad and I would go to a court house and dig through old records in musty old basements looking for our ancestors. So as you can see I have had an interest in Family History for quite some time.View my complete profile

Monday, May 4, 2015

Nathaniel Riggs

The ancestor I will be talking about this week is one of my husbands, through his mother’s side of the family.  The majority of my husband’s ancestors did not come to America until after 1855, but the man I am getting ready to tell you about was from early, I am talking 1633, Massachusetts Bay Colony settler, Edward Riggs, from Essex, England.  This man is my husband’s second great-grandfather, Nathaniel Riggs, who was born August 5, 1797 in Newport, Campbell County, Kentucky.  That must be one of the reasons why I fell for my husband, because he had a Kentucky ancestor, which is always cool in my book.  J

Nathaniel was the youngest child and son of Bethuel Riggs and Nancy Lee.  His father, Bethuel had served as a private, then lieutenant and finally a captain, during the Revolutionary War and was at the battle of King’s Mountain and was also according to many histories that have been found, “A fire and brimstone breathing, Baptist Minister”.  Other records say that Bethuel Riggs, became a Baptist at the young age of 18, so Nathaniel would have grown up in a very religious household.  Also a number of his uncles and cousins, as well as his grandfather, James Lee, all from his mother’s side of the family were Baptist ministers as well.

Nathaniel’s siblings were: Jane Riggs Webb 1781-1859, Elizabeth Riggs Smith 1783-????, Mary Riggs Shaw 1785-1855, Jonathan Riggs 1788-1834, Margaret Riggs Durham 1790-????, Sarah Bell Riggs Webb 1792-before May 1869, Rebecca Riggs Armstrong 1794-1871 and Samuel Riggs 1796-1835.  The first child was born in Pennsylvania, then North Carolina, then Georgia and then the rest were all born there at Newport, Kentucky at least according to all the different records that have been found over the years.  Bethuel’s pension records stated that he had lived in North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio since the end of the war.  Since he was a minister I am sure he was just traveling around to preach to different congregations or groups of people on the frontier.

Living on the wild frontier in those days, would not have been easy and a young man such as Nathaniel would have grown up quickly.  Indians would have been terrorizing the settlers that were starting to come into the dark and bloody grounds of Kentucky.  Then by the time Nathaniel was married things were starting to settled down some in Kentucky, but the family up and moved on to a new frontier that was still pretty lawless and had Indians to boot.  Can you just image taking a young family into a fairly new area and again beating down the brush, cutting timber and plowing up virgin earth in hopes of being able to eke out a living and grow the needed food to sustain your family?  I am glad it was them and not me, because I just don’t think I would have lasted long in those circumstances.

I have yet to find an actual marriage record for Nathaniel Riggs to his first wife Rachel Weldon 1797-before 1859.   They would have been married around 1818 to 1819, and their first three children were all born in Kentucky, so we can assume that is where they were married as well.  They could have even been married by Nathaniel’s father and maybe it just never got recorded at the local court house.  Either way Nathaniel and Rachel soon became the parents of eight children, the first three being born in Kentucky like I said previously and the last five being born in Missouri.  These eight children were: Samuel Riggs 1820-1853, Joseph Weldon Riggs 1822-after 1859, Margaret Riggs Stuart 1825-before 1859, Stephen Riggs 1829-before 1863, Elizabeth Riggs Campbell Tomlin 1830-1875, Leonard Riggs 1833-before 1859, Rebecca Riggs Parish 1834-after 1870 and Mary A. Riggs Fruit 1837-after 1853.

It was while living in the Salt River area of Missouri in Ralls County that Nathaniel first heard about the Mormon Church in the winter of 1830.  Coming from such a religious household is probably one of the reasons Nathaniel took note, when he first heard about some new ministers/missionaries in the area, especially since they were of a different denomination then his own family.  These missionaries had left New York in October of 1830 and were on their way to preach to the Indians in the Indian Territories of present day Kansas and Oklahoma when the winter storms probably caused them to stop for a while in Nathaniel’s area.   

From the following web site: https://history.lds.org/article/doctrine-and-covenants-lamanite-mission?lang=eng we read:  “Their travel in late December and through the month of January was difficult because of what has been called “the winter of the deep snow.” Parley P. Pratt described how the missionaries had to halt for a few days in Illinois on account of extended storms “during which the snow fell in some places near three feet deep.” With their original plans frustrated by ice in the river, they renewed their journey on foot, traveling, as Pratt wrote, “for three hundred miles through vast prairies and through trackless wilds of snow—no beaten road; houses few and far between; and the bleak northwest wind always blowing in our faces with a keenness which would almost take the skin off the face. … After much fatigue and some suffering we all arrived in Independence, in the county of Jackson, on the extreme western frontiers of Missouri, and of the United States.”

According to all of our family records and the membership records of the LDS Church, Nathaniel Riggs, listened and accepted the message that these missionaries were preaching and was baptized on January 17, 1831.  However, Nathaniel’s obituary states the year was 1834, either way, Nathaniel was a very early member of the LDS ‘Mormon’ Church.  Things were not all roses though, Nathaniel’s father was furious and tried to persuade Nathaniel to give it all up and come back to the Baptist Church.  His wife and his siblings, also tried to convince Nathaniel, but to no avail.  Nathaniel’s father even helped Rachel to start divorce proceedings, but he died before the divorce was ever finalized.  The final court dates that I have found in Monroe County, Missouri for the divorce, show that it was not until April of 1850 before the last records about the divorce are mentioned.  The record states that Nathaniel had left and gone with the Mormon’s out west.

Nathaniel stayed true and strong in the Mormon Church his entire life.  He was a member of Zion’s Camp, with the Prophet, Joseph Smith in 1834 and he attended most if not all of the reunions for surviving, Zion’s Camp members, which were held in Salt Lake City, after 1850 until his death in 1869.  For your information, Zion’s Camp was a group gathered by the Mormon’s as a means by which the Saints were to try and settle the Missouri dispute, which was caused by Missourians who had taken control of land that was bought and owned by members of the Mormon Church.  The Saints were warned that if all peaceful remedies failed they might have to occupy their rightful lands by force.  By the time Zion’s Camp crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri, it numbered 185 individuals.  In June, I believe is when Nathaniel joined up with Zion’s Camp as they were camped at the Salt River in Missouri, close to Nathaniel’s home.  Nathaniel previous to this time had gone to Kirtland, Ohio to meet Joseph Smith and others, so he was ready when the camp arrived in his area to travel on with them to Independence.  The Prophet, Joseph Smith had arranged to meet his brother, Hyrum Smith’s company from Pontiac, Michigan there at the Salt River.  The camp was now at its largest: 207 men, 11 women, 11 children, and 25 baggage wagons.  The Prophet explained that the only purpose of Zion’s Camp was to help their brethren be reinstated on their lands and that their intent was not to injure anyone.  He said, “The evil reports circulated about us were false, and got up by our enemies to procure our destruction.”  

Some information about Zion’s Camp was obtained from the following web site: www.lds.org. The following is a map of the route taken by members on Zion’s Camp on their way to Missouri.  Where the arrows join in Missouri is almost exactly the area where Nathaniel and his family were living when the camp came through and stopped for a short time.

Nathaniel continued living in Missouri and raising his family, even though his wife, Rachel, was constantly at the county court house trying to obtain a divorce.  By 1847, Nathaniel was living in Winter Quarters, Nebraska where he met and married Hannah Parsons Peck Page 1797-1861.  Hannah’s first husband, Warren Peck had apparently died in New York and she and her son, Thorit Peck, had gone to Missouri to be with the Saints there and then on to Nauvoo, where she then married Ebenezer Page in 1845 and who she was divorced from by 1847.

Nathaniel, Hannah and an Elizabeth Jane Riggs, who was born in 1840, were part of the Allen Taylor Wagon Company which left Council Bluffs, Iowa for the Salt Lake Valley in July 1849 and arrived in the Valley in October of 1849.   From a letter written by Allen Taylor to Brigham Young in September 1849, found at the following web site we read: https://history.lds.org/overlandtravels/trailExcerptMulti?lang=eng&companyId=298&sourceId=6195 “We have got along so far with good success, our teams are in tolerable condition. We have, however, had 2 or 3 heavy stampedes and unfortunately considerable damage was sustained and one life lost. Sister Wm. Hawk who was run over by the cattle and lived only 24 hours. The first stampede we had 2 wagons broke, 6 sheep killed and 20 horns knocked off cattle. The same morning, after we got them in the corral and yoked up, they started again and nearly killed 2 men, but are both nearly well. We feel, however, as tho' we had got thro' our stampeding, having had none since we left Chimney Rock and many in our companies [illegible] feel sanguine that they can go to the Valley without help, should they be so providential as to keep their cattle alive thro' the alkali regions. Many of us, however, would be glad of a little help and indeed will undoubtedly require it before we can climb the mountain heights.”

All records we have found to date say that Elizabeth Jane Riggs was a daughter of Nathaniel and Hannah, but Hannah’s son Thorit states in his life history, that he was the only child of Hannah Parsons.  I believe that Elizabeth may have just been an orphan child that Nathaniel and Hannah took to raise, but all her family records that I have run across so far, also say that Nathaniel and Hannah were her parents. 

Nathaniel and Hannah were divorced sometime in 1851.  Elizabeth Jane Riggs married Samuel Henry Smith who was from England, in 1857 in Salt Lake City.  By 1870 they had moved to Iowa and then by 1880 they had moved to Washington where they both died, Elizabeth in 1900 and Samuel in 1908.  Hannah remarried after her divorce from Nathaniel to James Mattison Hendricks in 1852 and had died in March 1861, in Salt Lake City and is buried at the Old Salt Lake City Cemetery up in the avenues.

Nathaniel after his divorce from Hannah met and married Anna Reynolds 1819-1904, who became my husband’s second great-grandmother.  They were married January 19, 1852 in Salt Lake City and they had four children together, making twelve children that Nathaniel had with two of his wives, Rachel and Anna.  Nathaniel also help raise at least four other children, Elizabeth Jane Riggs Smith 1840-1900, Polly Ann Reynolds Penrod 1836-1909, who was Anna’s daughter as well as Anna’s son who was actually the son of William Alma Young, who Anna was married to, but from whom she was divorced, when she was four months pregnant.  Nathaniel and Anna named this child Nathaniel Riggs, Jr. 1852-1903, as well as Thorit Peck 1826-1858, who would have been pretty much grown, when his mother Hannah, married Nathaniel.  Now that everyone is totally confused, I will go on with the children that Nathaniel and Anna had together.  J

Nathaniel and Anna’s children were the following:  Nancy Jane Riggs Boren 1853-1920, Susan Delithy Riggs 1855-before 1860, Rachel Isabel Riggs Kerby 1856-1922 (my husband’s line and who we named one of our daughters for) and William Lee Heber Riggs 1859-before 1870.  The following pictures are first, Nancy Jane Riggs and her husband Coleman Bryant Boren, and second a couple we have of Rachel Isabel Riggs and her husband, Francis Kerby III.  I have never seen any pictures of their two children who died young, but I doubt that any were ever taken, nor do I have any of Nathaniel’s children he had with Rachel Weldon.

Nathaniel and Rachel continued living in the Salt Lake Valley, but by 1856 they had moved down to Provo where they lived until the mid-1860’s, when they moved into the little town of Payson not far from Provo.  The next is a picture that my husband’s, Aunt Anna had and she was told by whoever gave it to her that it was Bethuel Riggs, Nathaniel’s father.  However I believe it is probably really Nathaniel himself, since Bethuel died in 1835 and Nathaniel did not died until 1869.  Also both of Nathaniel’s brothers died in 1834 and 1835, so I don’t believe it could be one of them either.  Photos were being taken in the early 1800’s, but they were very rare and on the frontier of Missouri, would have been very rare indeed.  I believe this photo was probably taken in Utah in the late 1850’s or early 1860’s.  I was told by my husband’s Aunt Anna, that at least one of Nathaniel’s sons, by his wife Rachel, actually came to Utah before Nathaniel died and visited with their father.  So far I have found no record to prove this, but it could have been a possibility.

Many years ago I was able to find Nathaniel’s obituary in the Deseret News.  The issue is dated June 16, 1869 and is located in Volume #18, page #217, SLFHL Microfilm #26591 and reads the following: In Provo City on the 5th ult., Nathaniel Riggs, of neuralgia of the bowels.  Deceased was born at Newport, Cammell (Campbell) County, Kentucky August 5, 1797.  He was baptized Jan 17, 1834 (1831) in Monroe County, Missouri and soon after made a visit to Kirtland, Ohio where he met with the Prophet Joseph, and made arrangements to go up to Jackson County.  He then returned home and when the Camp of Zion came along he joined it, on Salt River, Missouri.  He accompanied the Camp to Clay County, and afterwards shared with it the trials of the return journey, during which, through exposure and privation, he contracted diseases which he carried to his grave.  He came with the church from Missouri and settled in Nauvoo from thence to the Bluffs in Iowa and from the latter place to Salt Lake City in 1849.  He moved to Provo City in 1851.  He was taken sick December 1, 1868, and has endured a great deal of pain and misery for the last five months.  He went to sleep rejoicing in the new and everlasting covenant.---Com

I do not know for certain where he was buried and unfortunately his obituary did not say where either.  However after doing some research, I believe that he may have been buried at the Temple Hill Cemetery.  The proximity to where he lived, and his being part of Zion's Camp, make me believe that he could have very well been buried at this cemetery.  I also found a listing of just a handful of names of known burials for this cemetery and Katherine Radford was buried there.  The Radford family married into Anna Reynolds Riggs family and Anna and her daughter Polly were living with John Radford and his family in 1850, after she had arrived here in the valley and before she married Nathaniel Riggs in 1852.

A little history of the Temple Hill Cemetery, was that it was located on the bluff above the intersection of 800 North and 200 East in Provo, and is now occupied by the Karl G. Maeser Memorial Building on Brigham Young University.  Temple Hill Cemetery was rejected as a cemetery in 1880 and approximately 60 bodies were still buried there at that time.  These bodies were relocated to the Provo City Cemetery, but some had already been moved by families to that cemetery as early as 1854.   Block 5, Lot 62 of the Provo City Cemetery was reserved for bodies removed from this and other cemeteries in the area as well as private isolated plots.  Some headstones are present in Block 5, but most are unmarked graves.  I talked to a sexton there at the Provo City Cemetery on July 31, 2013 and she said there was never any record of the actual burials that took place at Temple Hill, Fort Field or Grandview Cemeteries in the area.  Every now and again a church record, family bible or a newspaper obituary will mention that a burial had taken place at one of these cemeteries, but without a record like that saying that Nathaniel was buried at Temple Hill or one of the others we cannot have a marker placed for him at the Provo City Cemetery.  One of these days hopefully I can find a record of where Nathaniel’s burial actually took place so that a marker can be placed for him where ever that may be.

Nathaniel’s wife Anna and their two daughters Nancy and Rachel all ended up moving to Arizona before 1900, where they died and many of their descendants still live to this day.  Also Anna’s oldest child Polly and Anna’s son, Nathaniel Jr. also moved to Arizona where they died as well.

Nathaniel Riggs, a good and faithful servant to the Lord until the very end, died June 6, 1869.  He was truly a man who endure many trials for the new faith, which he had embraced 38 years before.


  1. Wonderful story as usual!

  2. My husband is a descendant of Samuel Riggs 1820-1853. Would you like info?

    1. I would love to add Samuel's descendants to my files. Thank you

  3. My children are a descendant of Samuel Riggs. I enjoyed reading your blog. Our family joined the LDS church 8 years ago...and were very excited to find an ancestor that belonged to the church, as we thought we were the first. Thank you for your story.

    1. Thanks so much I would love to add your descendancy info to Nathaniel's file. THanks for making contact.

  4. Nathaniel Riggs is my third great grandfather.

    Thank you for writing and sharing this.

    1. Thanks and thanks so much for making contact, which child of Nathaniel's do you come through?

    2. Samuel Riggs....from Nathaniel's marriage to Rachel Weldon Riggs. My former in-laws (who this line is connected to me through) told me that to this day the family knows "something" happened in Nauvoo generations before that was a "scandal" and nobody would talk about it....apparently the scandal was Nathaniel joining the church and leaving to Utah.

    3. Thanks so much I am sure it was a scandal and Nathaniel and Rachel were divorced because of his involvement with the Mormon Church. His name is recorded in the 70's Hall in Nauvoo as attending meetings there, we have seen it when we were visiting Nauvoo.