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File 001 Ireland

Family Photo Album

Address of Judge Thomas M. Bigger


Martha Bigger, the mother of Thomas Bigger, dying in 1780, in the seventy-eighth year of her age, fixes the date of her birth in 1702.  Matthew, the father of Thomas, who died in Ireland, being probably somewhat older than his wife, we shall not be in much error if we put the date of his birth at or a little before 1700, probably somewhere between 1695 and 1700.


Upon the death of the mother of Thomas Bigger, whose Christian name was Martha, but whose maiden name is unknown, or at least not known to the writer, the question arose, as we learned from the old people, as to the place of her burial.  There was no church yet built in the part of the country in 1780, and no cemetery established.  Someone suggested that

they should bury her beside the graves of the three men who had been killed in a fight with the Indians at Fort Beeler, where the Village of Candor now stands.  There is no monument to mark the graves of these three men, but they are doubtless near to that of Martha Bigger, whose grave is marked by a substantial monument.  Carved upon this monument there are also the names of the other members of the Bigger family buried there.  The person who made this suggestion of a burial place also suggested that if she were buried there beside the graves of these three men, it would establish a burying ground and might lead to the building of a church at that place.  What influence, if any, her burial there had upon the subsequent location of a church at that point the writer does not know.  It may have been because of these interments at

that point that the Candor Presbyterian Church was built there, or one of the factors in fixing its location.  This Presbyterian Church at Candor was the first church in this country to which the Biggers belonged.


   Elizabeth Moore Bigger, the wife of Thomas Bigger, died on December 12th, 1836.  She is buried in the churchyard of Robinson U. P. Church.  The reason that she and her husband, who stood so long side by side in life, do not lie side by side in their long sleep, is due to the fact that Robinson U. P. Church was not organized at the time of the death of

Thomas Bigger, but was organized before the death of Elizabeth Bigger, his wife.  Upon the organization of Robinson U. P. Church, the Biggers became members of that church.  The burial ground, where Elizabeth Bigger and most of her children are buried, was donated to the Church for a burial ground by Matthew Bigger, the oldest son of Thomas and Elizabeth, belonging to him adjoining the Church property.


   The writer is uncertain as to which of the three sons of Thomas and Elizabeth Bigger, who were married, was first married, but it was either James or Andrew.  Andrew, after his marriage, established his home on the land of his father about a half-mile west of the ancestral home.  The grandfather of the writer of this sketch, Samuel Bigger, was the last of the sons to marry, and upon his marriage, an addition was built to the ancestral home, which addition was occupied by him and his wife.

Upon the death of Thomas Bigger, it was discovered that he had devised the land which included the ancestral home to his son, Andrew, and the land which included the home of Andrew he had devised to his son, Samuel.   Evidently, each of them desired to remain where he had established his home, and this led them to exchange deeds to have effect to this desire, and by which each of them became the owner of the land which their father had left to the other.  This fact was only learned by the writer two or three years ago when examining a copy of the will of Thomas Bigger, and other old documents in the possession of his brother, A. D. Bigger. 


   James Bigger, son of Thomas and Elizabeth, married Mary Biggart.  Her home, before her marriage, was somewhere on Miller's Run.  Although the name is spelled somewhat differently by her family, it was a spelling used by some branches of our family, but they were unable to trace any relationship between them.  Andrew Bigger married Sarah Campbell, whose

home, according to recollection, was somewhere in Beaver County, PA.  Samuel Bigger married Jane Wills, whose home was between the ancestral home and Pittsburgh.  The daughter, Martha, was married to Nathaniel McBride, a near neighbor of the Biggers, who was a son of either James or Samuel McBride, whom Washington ejected along with our ancestors from

the land on Miller's Run. 


   Our ancestors were thrifty people.  They owned a large body of land at the time of the death of Thomas Bigger.  Their children were industrious.  Saving their money, they invested it inland.  They not only accumulated much land in western Pennsylvania, but some of them invested in land in Ohio, which was then regarded as the far west.  The writer has a deed signed by James Monroe, President of the United States, and dated September 27th, 1819, which conveyed the title to 160

acres of land in Ohio to Thomas Bigger, one of the three who lived in our family, but Aunt Ann and Aunt Betsy their portion of their father's estate, coming to them at his death in Ohio lands.  This they sold to a man named Markle, and the writer distinctly remembers his being present when the deeds were executed for this land.

All of the children of Thomas Bigger and Elizabeth grew up in the home, with a single exception.  The son Thomas, familiarly known as Uncle Tommy in his old age, was indentured by his father to a man namedBurgett, who conducted a tannery on the site of the town of Burgettstown, which derives its name from this man.  He served Burgett seven years in learning his trade.  When this service was completed he went over the mountain to Chambersburg, where his Uncles James and John

lived, and worked for some time as a journeyman tanner.  He then returned home and built a tannery on his own, which was located just west and near to the land, which belonged to the brother Andrew.  For years he carried on a flourishing business the buildings, which were three in number, were still standing in the boyhood days of the writer, but have long since disappeared.  All of the sons were farmers.


   Of these children of Thomas and Elizabeth Bigger, only two of them, the oldest, Matthew, and the youngest, Elizabeth, were able to celebrate the anniversaries of their births.  A record was kept of the month and year when the others were born, but not the day of the month.  Thomas Bigger himself, in an account book, set down the day of the month and year when

his oldest son Matthew was born, but the record goes no further.  The writer has this old account book, which contains the following item:


   "Thomas Bigger.  I was born in Ireland in the County of Antrim.  I was married on the 23rd day of May 1773, and sailed from Londonderry on the 9th day of August 1773, and landed in Baltimore on the 16th day of October 1773.  My son Matthew was born the 9th day of March 1774."  Amid the excitements and labors of those early days, it is evident little attention was paid to making records for the benefit of their descendants.


   In the War of 1812, James Bigger enlisted, and served under General Harrison, in his campaign in Ohio against the French and Indians.  We have often heard Aunt Ann, who was a year and a half older than her brother James, say that she wove the blankets which he took with him on that expedition, and she frequently referred to the joy in the family when he returned in safety.


   Athletic sports are not a modern discovery.  They engaged in athletic sports in the early days of the frontier.  Uncle Tommy Bigger used to tell us something of the sports engaged in on the occasion, which he called the "Musters"- that is, the occasions when the militia was assembled for military training.  The sports were wrestling, running, and jumping.  He especially made mention of the athletic feats of a colored man named Nels Fullum, and among other things said he had seen him in a running jump clear two horses standing side by side.  On these occasions, Uncle Tommy was one of the musicians and played the fife, which he constructed himself from a hollow weed.


   Money, in the first years of the residence here of our ancestors, was scarce and of uncertain value, except, specie, the principal coin in circulation being the Spanish Dollar.   From the time the Federal Government went into operation in 1789, our coinage system was the decimal system, the being the unit of value, but all the entries in the account book of Thomas Bigger are in pounds, shillings, and pence, as late as 1796.  These entries are few, one or two a charge for weaving

cloth, and two or three for meat, without specifying kind.  This little

book is the only writing known to exist in the hand of Thomas Bigger. 


   In these prohibition days, one hesitates to call attention to the fact that most of the entries are for gallons, quarts, and pints.  Thomas Bigger at an early period, the exact date not being known, established a distillery, and the writer recalls the fact that Aunt Betsy, on one occasion at least, pointed out its location.  As the first organized opposition to the Federal Government occurred in the western counties of Pennsylvania and one of the Virginia counties, known as the "Whiskey

Insurrection" against the excise tax on whiskey, which President Washington promptly suppressed by sending troops against the rebels, the question becomes pertinent, did Thomas Bigger take any part in the insurrection?  It is the belief of the writer that he did not, and he bases his conclusion upon these facts: first, that he never heard anything said about it by the old people in the family, and second, that all the entries in this account book are for whiskey sold in the three summer months of 1796, which was two years after the whiskey insurrection, which occurred in 1794.  From the fact that all the

entries for whiskey sold are within the months of June, July, and August of 1796, it seems probable that it was in that year that he established his distillery, and that he soon ceased to sell to his neighbors, thereafter simply distilling for his own use.  Men would not work for an employer who did not furnish their whiskey.  It must also be remembered that no moral stigma was attached to either the manufacture or sale of intoxicating liquor at that time.  The statement of the old people is recalled that when the minister of the church made pastoral visits, the bottle and glass were always set before him and that a failure to do so would have been regarded as a serious breach of hospitality.

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