My Father's 100th Birthday

Victoria, here, wishing Happy Birthday to Gerald Malcolm Biggers (1911-1979), my esteemed father, long gone to his Great Reward. He would have been 100 years old today.

Gerald M. “Jerry” Biggers, 1964

I have occasionally tried to trace the stories of our ancestors and, as you will see, I have had some successes.  But I have been unable to link the earliest Biggers I can claim –in Maysville, Kentucky, in the early decades of the 19th century — to his father or grandfathers who came originally from England and/or Scotland before 1776.  There were several men with the surname Biggers (or something very similar) in the Virginia Militia before the American Revolution, but I lack the link to the Maysville Biggers, specifically to Harvey Poindexter Biggers, born April 3, 1819 in Kentucky and died August 3, 1879 in Albion, IL. 

Gerald and Leone Lagerstrom Biggers, June, 1935

However, my cousin Shera Biggers Thompson (1939-2009) and I did find our connections to another branch of the family, the wife of our great grandfather John Biggers, Ellen Metcalfe. Her grandfather, Edward Barnard Metcalfe, was a map maker who traveled with the British Army in the Peninsular war, up to and including the Battle of Waterloo. After the war, he worked for the Ordnance Survey and taught at the Royal Engineers College.  About a dozen of his exquisitely drawn maps are in the UK’s National Archives at Kew, where Shera and I were privileged to see them a few years ago. The second son, Arthur, came to the US to farm in the 1820’s.  I assume Arthur was named in honor of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, for whom Edward Barnard Metcalfe had made most of his maps.

I have lots more research to do if I am to complete the picture of this family — other names that figure into my ancestry are Poindexter (familiar to many Virignians), Heck, and Stanley (supposedly shirt-tail relatives of the earls of Derby, but more likely just some poor Yorkshiremen who took the name of the local bigwigs).

Brothers Gerald and Hayward Biggers, c. 1916

One of my father’s grandfathers was George Washington Stanley, who was the sheriff of Edwards County, IL, before the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. Below, the Albion, IL, county courthouse of Edwards County and the location of this tiny county in southern Illinois, due east of St Louis on the Wabash River, the eastern boundary of Illinois with Indiana.

I think the greatest hero to my dad’s thinking was Winston Churchill, the man who saved civilization, in his opinion, with the assistance of the forces of the Commonwealth and the U.S. for sure.  I still have several volumes of Churchill’s series The Second World War that belonged to my father.

Jerry Biggers, Sr., my father, had a successful business career as a Chevrolet Dealer in Elgin, IL. He was, in my estimation, a perfect father.  He was devoted to his wife, to me and to my brother, Jerry Jr.  He loved our spouses and our children.  He was a member of many civic improvement organizations in Elgin and later in his life, in Key Colony Beach, FL, where he lived in retirement.  As his friends and colleagues knew, if you wanted a job done, Jerry would accomplish it.

Though he had a great interest in all things British, he and Mother traveled to Europe only once, visiting England, Scotland and Sweden, where my mother’s parents came from.  I particularly remember him talking about his visit to the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey as well as the town of Biggar in Scotland, from which he believed some of his ancestors had emigrated.

Biggar, Scotland

My father was a great devotee of classical music and loved to listen to his recordings in the evening with his bourbon and a detective novel.  We always wondered of the author Earl Derr Biggers, creator of Charlie Chan, was related to us somehow.  Probably his favorite writer was Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of Perry Mason, and perhaps another distant – really distant — Stanley relation.

To my darling daddy, Happy 100th Birthday!

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