Albert B Osborne.

Makers of America; biographies of leading men of thought and action, the men who constitute the bone and sinew of American prosperity and life (Volume 3) online

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Simmons' sister-in-law, Miss Fannie Spruill Alexander, Decem-
ber 29, 1870. Miss Alexander was the youngest child of Joseph
and Carolina Spruill Alexander, who were descended from An-
thonv Alexander who settled in Tvrell County, North Carolina,

7 t/ *_

previous to 1700. This gentleman was descended from Alexander,
of the aristocracy of Scotland.

For twentv-five years the business association with Mr. Sim-

t/ i/

mons was continued, after which Captain Biggs became a member
and manager of the Dennis Simmons Lumber Company whose
present head is Captain T, W. Tilghnian, of Wilson, North Caro-
lina. This organization grew to be one of the leading lumber
firms in the South, and has been very successful since its estab-
lishment.

During the administration of Governor Fowl, Mr. Biggs was
appointed a member of the Board of Directors of the Central
Hospital at Kaleigh. He soon became chairman of the Board
and for twenty-five years consecutively, he was reappointed, and
at his death Governor Glenn, in compliment to his splendid
service to the State, appointed his son, John Dawson Biggs, Jun-
ior, to the same position. Captain Biggs had become greatly
interested in the care of the insane, and spent much time in look-
ing after the affairs of this institution.

In politics Captain Biggs was a Democrat of the deepest
dye, wielding a wide influence, and contributing freely to the
needs of the party. He was never a candidate for office, being
too greatly occupied with his large business interests and his
farming operations, in which he was most singularly successful ;
though he was interested in politics from a citizen's point of view.

Captain Biggs' death occurred on May 22. 1905, and he died



JOHN DAWSON BIGGS 431

most highly respected in all parts of the State and country. Prin-
ciple and not policy guided all his acts. He helped the deserving,
not from hope or desire of eventual reward, but because of his
love of his own kind, and the desire to do all the good in his
power. He was a good judge of character and seldom was disap-
pointed in the objects of his sympathy and concern. Stern mor-
ality governed his every act and he was a thoroughly progressive
man ; generous, yet wise in his generosity, liberal in his views on
all subjects, he had the strongest faith in what he thought was
right.

Captain Biggs had three brothers. William was killed at the
battle of Bull's Run, and though his body was never recovered, a
monument was placed to his memory in the Biggs cemetery.
Just before the war he married Sophia Jewett, daughter of Mrs.
Martha Jewett, of New Hampshire. Eli Biggs married Martha
Steptoe of a prominent family of Virginia. Noah Biggs, the
youngest brother of Captain Biggs, accumulated a large fortune,
and at his death left the second largest gift of any citizen of
North Carolina to the Thoinasville Orphanage. Mr. Dennis Sim-
mons, with whom Captain Biggs was associated throughout his
career, himself left to the same orphanage the largest sum ever
devised by any citizen of the South for orphanage work. Noah
Biggs married Martha Lawrence, of Halifax County, and they
have one daughter, Annie, now Mrs. James H. Pittman, who re-
sides at Scotland Neck, North Carolina.

Captain Biggs was particularly happy in his married life,
and his union was blessed with five children :

Dennis Simmons Biggs, born August 8, 1872, educated in the
schools of Williamston and at Davis Military School in North
Carolina. He was married on December 24, 1902, and died March
21, 1907. At the time of his death he was President of The
Dennis Simmons Lumber Company and of The Farmers and Mer-
chants' Bank at Williamston.

Martha Alexander Biggs, born December 8, 1874, educated
at Williamston, married Asa Thomas Crawford, a grandson of
United States Senator Asa Biggs, of Williamston.

John Dawson Biggs, born June 3, 1878, married Lucy Speed
Dunn, of Scotland Neck, North Carolina. This son is now Vice-
President and Treasurer of The Dennis Simmons Lumber Com-
pany and President of The Farmers and Merchants' Bank, and
is also interested in other business enterprises throughout the
State. He was educated at the schools in Williamston, at Lit-
tleton, North Carolina, and at Wake Forest College. Though he
does not practice his profession, he is a graduate of the Balti-
more College of Dental Surgery.

Harry Alexander Biggs, born January 2, 1884, educated in
the schools at Williamston, in Raleigh, North Carolina, in Balti-



t.">l! JOHX DAWSOX DIC(!S

more, Maryland, and at the University of North Carolina. He is
a stnrklioldcr of The Dennis Simmons Lumber Company, and
is interested in finance.

Carrie Alexander Biggs, born June 24, 1886, married Septem-
ber Id. 1910, Samuel Ferrebee Williams, Junior. Mrs. Williams
was ("incated at Williamston and at Meredith College, Raleigh,
North Carolina. She has one daughter, Frances Alexander Biggs
Williams, born November 1, 1911, who is the only grandchild of
John Dawson Biggs.

The Biggs family was originally from Wiltshire, England,
and was probably an offshoot of that of Dnraug le Bigre of Nor-
mandy who lived in the twelfth century.

In 1584 Thomas Biggs of Stapleford, Wiltshire, England,
entailed his estates upon John, son of John, a near relative, he
dying without issue. Christopher was the son and heir of this
last John. The family continued to live in the Parish of Staple-
ford (and were buried there) until Tristram Biggs removed to
little Langforcl. He was born in 1634 and died in 1704. The
principal seat of the family was Stockton, near Salisbury, County
Wiltshire. The house is an interesting specimen of the enriched
architecture of James I, and contains a most beautiful and curi-
ous drawing-room in the highest state of preservation. The wain-
scot is of dark oak, in parts very richly carved, and the ceiling
and chimney-piece are of a very elaborate character. Most of the
other rooms in the house have been ornamented in the same styh-
but some of them have unfortunately suffered under the hand of
modern reform.

This old manor may well be referred to with pride by the
many American descendants of the Biggs of Stockton, Wiltshire,
England.

John Biggs came to Boston, Massachusetts, in the year 1630.
He probably came with Winthrop, and is among the first hun-
dred members of the church of Freemen, March 4, 1034.

William Biggs, no doubt the son of John, settled at Wethers-
field, Connecticut, about 1649. His grandson John Biggs moved
to Maryland in 1741 settling on the Monocacy, about six miles
above Frederick. He had two sons, Benjamin and William;
the latter remained in Maryland, having a family of eight sons
and two daughters, whose descendants are now in Virginia and
North Carolina. In 1770 Benjamin sold his property and moved
into Virginia.

Thwaites in his "Early Western Travels" says : "The Biggs
family was an important one in the annals of West Virginia.
The father emigrated from Maryland about 1770 and settled on
Short Creek above Wheeling. There were six sons noted as In-
dian fighters of whom General Benjamin Biggs was the best
known, having served in Lord Dunmoris war and also in that



JOHN DAWSON BIGGS 433

of the Kevolution, and acting as Brigadier General of the Ohio
County Militia during the later Indian wars." This Benjamin
had two sons, Zacheus and William. The former was a surveyor
and he located mines over a large territory in Ohio. William
lived in Martin County in 1790, and was a member of the House
of the State Legislature of North Carolina in 1801. His father
was Kader Biggs, and his sons were Asa and Henry W.,
known as Harry Biggs. The wife of the latter was Christine
Gurganus, and they were the parents of John Dawson Biggs, who
was born November 17, 1839.

There have been numerous writers of the name of Biggs,
probably of the same family. Caroline Ashurst Biggs was the
author of "White and Black," a story of the Southern States.
Doctor Herman Michael Biggs, 1859, wrote on the "Administra-
tive Control of Tuberculosis," also other medical papers. Charles
Lewis Biggs was author of "Hugh Latimer." James Biggs wrote
a history of Don Francisco de Mirandes, and attempted to effect
a revolution in South America through a series of letters written
by a gentleman who was an officer under that General. Mr. Biggs,
a historian, wrote "The Military History of Europe" from 1739
to 1748. Timothy Biggs was Comptroller of Customs and Sur-
veyor-General in North Carolina, 1679-1680.

Through all the centuries men of the Biggs family have been
among those who "do things," both in the old country and in
America, and there is no doubt that the present generation will
follow in their footsteps and be numbered among the Makers of
America.



JOHN MANLY FOSTER

IT was iii 1818 that James Foster came from Columbia County,
Georgia, to Alabama. He had acquired some eight or ten
thousand acres of land, and his settlement was naturally

called "Foster's." It was there, not a day's journey from
Tuskaloosa, his present residence, that John Manly Foster, grand-
son of the Alabama settler was born, November 5, 1860.

Tuskaloosa, because of the glorious old oaks that shaded its
streets, was known as the "Druid City." Situated at the head
waters of the Black Warrior River, whose name is the English
version of its own, it soon grew into importance. Its name was
well chosen, for the site of the old Capitol is upon the bluff where
once was the Council Wigwam of the Creeks and their grand old
warrior. Alabama has retained many of the old Indian names
beginning with the adjective "Tus" or "Tusk" Tuskegee, Tus-
cumbia, Tuscarawas and others, but none of them falls with such
soft cadence on the ear as does Tuskaloosa.

Within the first decade of the eighteenth century immigra-
tion began. Men and their sons who had already helped to build
a nation from the colonies came, from Virginia, the Carolinas,
Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, where they first went from
Virginia to found a new State ; men of education, refinement, and
of cultured antecedents, it was not long until their eloquence
was heard in the Capitol, and the State grew and flourished under
their guidance. When the Capital was moved to Montgomery,
naturally Tuskaloosa suffered. It was only the fact that it was
the seat of the State University that kept it from falling into
utter decadence. That old university was able to instil into its
students a spirit of loyalty and pride of State and a love for
science, sending forth from its portals some of the finest scholars
who have adorned the nation.

The best blood of the old colonials came to Alabama, and
many of their posterity are still there, among them John Manly
Foster, who comes by right to take his place among the Makers
of America.

Mr. Foster's education was begun in the county elementary
schools, continued at Howard College, Marion, Alabama, and at
the State University, he being graduated finally from the Law
University of the State with the class of 1883. In 1886 Mr.
Foster began the practice of law in Tuscaloosa. He removed
temporarily to Montgomery to take the position of Assistant

[434]





- . - .



JOHN MANLY FOSTER 437

District Attorney for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Com-
pany, where he remained for seven years. He returned to Tuska-
loosa early in 1916 and engaged in a general practice as senior
member of the firm of Foster, Verner and Rice.

He is a Director of the Merchants Bank and Trust Company,
of Tuskaloosa. Naturally, Mr. Foster is a Democrat of the Jef-
fersonian school. He has represented Tuskaloosa in the Legis-
lature in the sessions of 1890-91, 1903 and 1907, resigning to take
the position in Montgomery above mentioned. He was State Soli-
citor of Tuskaloosa County from 1896 to 1901, and a member of
the Constitutional Convention of 1901.

Following his father's teaching, Mr. Foster is a member of
the Baptist Church. He has been married twice; first on April
19, 1893, to Kathleen Mary Clarke, born near Dernopolis, Febru-
ary 3, 1872, and on October 12, 1898, to Mabel Radford Clarke,
born November 24, 1870, daughters of Richard Henry Clarke and
Mary Kate (Burke) Clarke. A son, Richard Clarke Foster, by
his first wife, born July 12, 1895, graduated at the University of
Alabama in June 1914, and studied law at Harvard, Cambridge,
Massachusetts. This boy, Mr. Foster's only son, is now in the
Field Artillery Section of the Citizens' Training Camp at Fort
McPherson, Georgia. Kathleen Mary Foster, born April 4, 1903,
the daughter of Mr. Foster's second marriage, studies at the high
school at Tuskaloosa.

John Foster, eldest son of Arthur, born January 18, 1761,
Southampton County, Virginia, at the age of sixteen entered the
Revolutionary Army, and was made Sergeant. While on duty on
a small colonial boat he was captured, with his younger brother
James, by a British war vessel, and was imprisoned on one of the
Bermuda Islands. He had matured a plan to seize a small boat
and escape, but before carrying it out was exchanged. He and his
brother arrived to take part in the siege and capture of York-
town, in which their father, Arthur, and two other sons were
engaged. After the end of the war, he removed to Columbia
County, Georgia. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Lovelace
Savage, in 1785. He served six months against the Indians as
First Lieutenant, was promoted to a Colonelcy, and was in both
houses of the Georgia Legislature for about twenty-four years;
part of the time being President of the Senate. He was senior
Judge of Columbia County for many years, and died March 6,
1821.

James Foster, eldest son of John, born July 1, 1786, in Colum-
bia County, Georgia, married, November 9, 1807, Ellen Hill of
Abbeville, South Carolina, and removed to Tuskaloosa County,
Alabama, in the fall of 1818, where he acquired large tracts of
land, amounting to eight or ten thousand acres. He died Janu-
ary 9, 1843.



438 JOHN MANLY FOSTER

John Collier Foster, eldest son of James, born in Columbia

County, Georgia, in 1S1:|, came to Tuskaloosa County with his

father, was a Baptist preacher, and married Georgia A., daughter

f Joseph Pigott Maharry and Mary A. (Barren) Maharry. John

llier Foster died July 23, 1892.

It is claimed that the Fosters scattered through the world
have a common origin in one Auacher, great Forester of Flanders.
The foresters who had charge of forests in the demesnes of the
kings, were always gentlemen or knights, and the patronymic
evidently evolved in this case from occupation. This Flemish
knight died in 837, and it was two centuries later, w r hen surnames
were first beginning to be used, that Richard Forestarius brought
the name into England in a Latinized form. As is the case with
all surnames, the changes were many : Forester, Forestier, For-
estarius. For several centuries it was spelled Forster, until in
the eighteenth it settled down into its present form ; though there
is one branch of the family in the old country that still retains
the "r." In the old records, even in this country, it is variously
spelled.

Anacher's posterity for four generations were represented by
the Baldwins. Richard was the second son of Baldwin IV; his
older brother being Baldwin V. With his father he accompanied
William the Conqueror, who had married his sister Matilda, into
England, and took part in the Battle of Hastings, when, though
a stripling of but sixteen years of age, he did valiant service and
was created a knight upon the field of battle. History repeated
itself seven hundred years later when a youngster of his lineage
joined the Revolutionary heroes. The mother of Sir Richard was
Adela, daughter of Robert, King of France. Sir Richard was the
ancestor of all the branches of the family in England, besides
two of the name in Ireland, and a number of descendants from
all the lines in America.

When Magnus, King of Norway, invaded England in 1101,
Sir Hugo Forester fought valiantly, assisting in his defeat. Sir
Reginald, his son, was knighted by King Stephen as a reward for
his bravery at the Battle of the Standard in 1138. His son, Sir

*> /

Hugo, was appointed Chief Guard of the Royal Forests in Eng-
land. The grandson of the last, Sir John, w T as with Richard I
in the Crusades and earned knighthood. He was among those
who wrested the Magna Charta from King John in 1215.

A Reginaldus le Forester w r as in the House of Commons in
1347. A Lord Mayor of London, in 1434, was a Foster. In the
time of Queen Elizabeth, Sir John Foster, Warden of the Marches,
was Governor of Bamborough castle and manor, w T here, although
the castle belonged to the crown, Sir John had inherited vast
grants made to his ancestors in the surrounding country.

In the reign of James I, Claudius, grandson of Sir John,



JOHN MANLY FOSTER 439

received from the crown the grant of the castle and manor. It
was this branch of the family which acquired such large posses-
sions in Jamaica.

General Sir Thomas Foster, who took part in the Kebellion
of 1715, escaped from Newgate by the help of his sister Dorothy,
and fled into France, where he died in 1738. His remains were
brought back and interred among those of his people at Barn-
borough church.

In fiction is not exactly the place to look for lineage, but
there is an exception to the rule in the novel "Dorothy Foster/ 7
written by Sir Walter Besant, the celebrated English novelist,
no doubt founded upon incidents in the life of the sister of the
rebel General. He gives us items of the family which are proved
by old records. He says : "The ancient and historical seat of the
Fosters from time immemorial has been at Etherston, which
being interpreted is 'the adder's stone.' An old ring of the family,
now in possession of John Forster, Esquire, of Etherston, com-
memorates the origin of the name, being shaped like a twisted
viper, with tail in mouth, and set with a precious stone."

The present parish church, Saint Aidau's, is a very fine speci-
men of the thirteenth century, which had replaced the ancient
Saxon structure, said to have been the first Christian edifice
erected in England. Mrs. Sophie Foster Symes visited Kani-
borough in 1895, and though the estate had passed from the fam-
ily, she was received most graciously by the present occupants,
in remembrance of her ancestors, who were held in high esteem.
About six years before the Kebellion, Bamborough Castle and
Manor had been sold to Nathaniel Crewe, Lord Bishop of Dur-
ham, whose wife was aunt to the rebel General.

From the history of the family since that date, about 1708,
the Forsters seem to have lost or disposed of the greater part of
their immense holdings. Mrs. Symes attended service in Saint
Aidan's where, under the chancel and crypt are the dust of more
than sixty of her kindred. Her description of her visit is very
entertaining. The present owner of the property, Lord Arm-
strong, is still renovating and restoring the church, and would no
doubt give welcome to any Foster who should visit the old halls.

In the churchyard is the grave of Grace Darling, over which
is to be raised a bronze canopy to replace one of stone demolished
in a storm.

John Forester, of Walling Street, County Salop, held from
Henry VIII a grant of the privilege of wearing his hat in the
royal presence. The original grant is now in the possession of his
remote successor, Lord Forester.

One of the Fosters was Lord Chief Justice of England, one
a puisne judge; sheriffs and knights of their shires they were
found galore.



440 JOHN MANLY FOSTER

Colonel Jolm Foster was in command of a military expedi-
tion under Penn and Yi'iiable in 1005 to Jamaica. Sir Thomas
Foster perished in the earthquake there in 1002. The son of
Colonel John Foster of Egliam, Surrey, and of Elim, the Bogue,
Millwood, Lancaster, Waterford, the Island and other estates in
Jamaica, resided in Elini, was born in 1001, married Elizabeth
Smith of Barbados and died in 1731. And so the Fosters came
down through the centuries, distinguished in war and in Council.

Early in the seventeenth century, four sous of Allan Foster
of England, came over to America : Jonathan, David, Ephraim,
and Samuel. One settled in Maine, another on Long Island, one
in Northern New Jersey, and Samuel settled in Cape May County.
In all probability Mr. Charles L. Foster of Tuskaloosa, now de-
ceased, was descended from Ephraim, as he went to Tuskaloosa
from Philadelphia. One of Samuel's sons was Nathaniel, his
sou was Nathaniel; he had a son and a grandson, both Reuben.
This last married in 1804 at Cape May, Nancy Edmonds, who died
in her seventy-fourth year, in 1855. Reuben, her husband, died
in 1870 in his ninetieth year, leaving Robert Edmunds Foster,
who was still living in 1899.

As given in Hotten's lists, Christopher Foster, Frances, his
wife, aged twenty-five, children: Rebecca, aged five; Nathaniel,
aged two and James, aged one year, came to Virginia in 1635,
before the New England contingent arrived. James, aged twenty-
one, probably brother of Christopher, came in the same year, as
also Richard, aged sixteen.

In 1023, John Foster of James City was living at "Indian
Thicket;" a John Foster, owning twenty-five acres of land and
ten Negroes, at Barbados, and in 1035 Sylus Foster, aged twenty-
two, and Thomas, aged twenty-seven also are mentioned.

In 1079, the ship "Society," which was a regular transport,
was commanded by William Foster. In the Parish Church at
Barbados is a register of baptism of William, son of William
Foster, in 1078.

John Foster, in his will proven 1754, mentions son Thomas
and wife Elizabeth.

Robert Foster was Clerk of the Court of Exchequer and Clerk
of the Council.

Francis Foster proved six head-rights : William, John, Eliza-
beth, Francis, Jeane Sweatman and a negress, Hannah, in Per-
quimans County. Francis Foster in 1779 was one of the judges,
and Alexius Mason Foster, a member of the House of Delegates.

Showing the prominence of the Fosters in Colonial times, a
few excerpts are taken from the Virginia State records.

In 1052, George Foster had a land grant of twelve hundred
acres. In 1050, Captain Richard Foster was Sheriff of Lower
Norfolk. Francis Foster, probably the son or grandson of Fran-
cis the emigrant, was one of the Judges of Perquimans in 1700



JOHN MANLY FOSTER 441

and 1701. William Foster, of Brunswick, in 1758, was a creditor
of the State for supplies furnished the Militia. In 1779, Court
was held at the house of Francis Foster, one of the judges, no
doubt the grandson of the Judge of 1700. James Foster was a
Trustee in 1780 for Hampden Sydney College. In 1792, Charles
Foster was one of the Trustees to establish a town at the County
Seat of Patrick ; the next year he was a Trustee for the work of
opening for navigation the Mouougahela River. The lands of
Arthur Foster and others in 1794 were ordered to be re-valued.
These are only a few items concerning the activities of the family.

Quite a prominent character during the Revolutionary
period w^as Captain John Foster. He fitted out a privateer, the
General Washington, and provided for it entirely until his death
in 1777. Francis Brice, writing to Governor Caswell says : "The
public have lost a warm friend to American liberty, and the priva-
teer 'General Washington/ is left without any one to procure the
necessary articles for the ship's use. 77 Captain John Foster was
the Commander of the ship. He had also contributed largely
toward the providing of munitions for South Carolina. He must
have been a man of considerable wealth, as his estate in 1780 was
heavily taxed by the State. There were two Fosters with per-
sonal name John, who were settlers in Virginia in 1665, as also
a William.

Lieutenant Robert Foster served in the Continental line for
three years, 1776-1779. Among the Virginia pensioners of the
Revolution living in 1835 were Crosby Foster; Thomas of Flu-
vanna, aged eighty ; James of Monroe, aged seventy-seven ; Larkin
of Amelia; James of Berkeley, aged seventy-seven; James of
Frederick, aged seventy-two; John of Monroe, aged seventy-five;
Peter of York, Lieutenant; Joshua of South Carolina, Marion
District, aged sixty-seven. From the various branches of the
family in the North, the Fosters were quite as patriotic, and
gathered together they would have perhaps formed more than a
regiment.

Thomas, Edmund, and Sergeant Anthony Foster are among
the Revolutionary pensioners, of North Carolina living in 1835.
In the Revolutionary report of troops of North Carolina are the
names of George, Joshua, Thomas, Nathaniel and James. Thomas



Online LibraryAlbert B OsborneMakers of America; biographies of leading men of thought and action, the men who constitute the bone and sinew of American prosperity and life (Volume 3) → online text (page 33 of 48)