Doctor Benjamin Bennett Briggs, MD

Male 1827 - 1893  (65 years)

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  • Name Benjamin Bennett Briggs 
    Title Doctor 
    Suffix MD 
    Birth 02 Jun 1827 
    Gender Male 
    Death 15 Feb 1893  Los Angeles Co., California, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Burial Sharon Center Cemetery, Sharon, Medina Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Although Benjamin Bennett Briggs, M.D. has a grave marker in Sharon Center Ohio, he was cremated by Rosedale Cemetery, Los Angeles. His ashes were not claimed and they were interred there without record.
    • There are three men most responsible for the development of the Crescenta-Canada Valley: Dr. Jacob Lanterman, Dr. Benjamin Briggs, and Senator Frank P. Flint.


      Benjamin Bennett Briggs was in terrible shape when he arrived here in 1881. Years earlier he?d been shot through the lung -- the bullet still lodged in his chest, leaving him in constant pain. He was among the very first to head west for the Gold Rush, leaving the East Coast in March of 1849.

      Near Salt Lake City, he and his brothers befriended some local Indians. While showing off their marksmanship, the 22-year-old accidentally stepped in front of his brother?s target.

      The bullet ripped through his right lung and imbedded in his spine, the tip just visible under the skin. His journal entry for the day reveals a stoic personality. After describing the terrain and location he merely adds, ?Got accidentally wounded.?

      In keeping with the medical practice of the time, he was bled. This complicated his condition, producing terrible sweats, fevers and chills. After a eight days the caravan moved on, leaving his brothers to tend to him.

      Fearing they wouldn?t make the Sierras by winter, the Briggs brothers had no choice but to continue west and if need be bury him along the way. When they arrived in California, to their utter amazement, young Benjamin stood up.

      His brothers worked the gold mines while he recuperated. With little to do but stare at the ground -- he became convinced that California?s soil would be perfect for growing citrus.

      After some serious cajoling, he persuaded his brothers to collect the proper cuttings. This required not only the arduous journey back to the east coast -- but ocean voyages to South America and Spain, the latter in which to learn the raisin business.

      Through painful trial and error -- and years of perseverance -- the Briggs brothers pioneered California?s fruit industry -- the first to plant citrus in the Sacramento Valley. George Briggs became one of the state?s first millionaires.

      The Mission Padres had experimented with fruit growing before, but never on a large scale. The Briggs ranch in Santa Paula was so vast that visitors were cautioned to carry guns as flares since many a worker got lost overnight in the endless maze of fruit trees.

      But a cloud followed young Benjamin. His wife Abby died of tuberculosis. Heart-broken and still suffering from his own lung injury, he abandoned the fruit industry for medicine.

      He became obsessed with finding a cure for tuberculosis and other lung diseases. Over the years he earned seven medical degrees including one from the Heidelberg Academy in Germany which at the time led the world in tuberculosis research.

      Despite a successful medical practice in Indiana, Brigg?s longed for a healthier climate. With his new bride (his wife?s sister) and his daughter Irene, he traveled extensively throughout Europe and America in search of the perfect climate. He found it in Rancho La Canada.

      Tall, angular and bearded, Briggs reminded locals of the late President Lincoln and they took to calling him Old Abe. After moving here, Brigg?s health immediately improved.

      Brigg?s purchased the entire western half of Rancho La Canada from Lanterman and Williams. He had the land surveyed and divided into ten-acre lots for sale as ranches. This included the future site of Montrose.

      From his perch atop Pickens canyon, the mountains made crescent shapes -- so he named the area La Crescenta. Before that it had been called simply ?The Big Rocks?.

      Brigg?s started the first school in the valley, the first town center, the first church, the first public park, and the first full-time medical practice. He also planted thousands and thousands of trees.

      Briggs? daughter Irene had married the Reverend Lawrence Ward. For over 20 years, they were missionaries in the Islamic country of Persia, part of modern-day Iran. While on furlough, Briggs asked them start the first church in the valley. They formed the First Presbyterian church in Dr. Brigg?s home.

      The church would later move to this cement structure on Foothill. A rare commodity in those days, Brigg?s bought the cement after it had been used as ballast on a ship from Germany. It was said to be the first cement structure in all of Southern California. The church would eventually move to its present location on Montrose Avenue.

      Briggs accomplished all this in less than 12 years. When he was 66 he decided to have the bullet removed from his chest. It had been lodged against his spine for 44 years. Shortly after doctors extracted the lead ball, Benjamin Briggs died.

      Col. Pickens and Dr. Briggs lived on the same piece of land for roughly the same amount of time -- during which the former chopped down an entire forest, damned up the canyon and forced others to pay him for the water -- while the latter planted thousands of trees, established a new town, and paved the way for future generations to move here.

      All that honors the memory of this extraordinary man is the name of the street which once led up to his home.

    Person ID I28452  OurNorthernRoots
    Last Modified 5 Nov 2015 

    Father Thomas Briggs,   b. 27 Jan 1790, Berkley, Bristol Co., Massachusetts, USA Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 02 Aug 1863, Sharon, Medina Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 73 years) 
    Mother Abigail Gregg,   b. 27 Oct 1795, Colrain, Franklin Co., Massachusetts, USA Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 27 Jun 1837, Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 41 years) 
    Family ID F655  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Abigail Crane,   b. 7 Oct 1824, Chatham, Barnstable Co., Massachusetts, USA Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 13 Jul 1862, Santa Paula, Ventura Co., California, USA Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 37 years) 
    Family ID F15272  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart
    Last Modified 5 Nov 2015 

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsDeath - 15 Feb 1893 - Los Angeles Co., California, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBurial - - Sharon Center Cemetery, Sharon, Medina Co., Ohio, USA Link to Google Earth
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