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John Robert Briggs

John Robert Briggs was born May 29, 1882 on the family farm outside of Leesville, Henry County, Missouri. Chester A. Arthur was the 21st president of the United States.

John was born into a hard-line Baptist family. Strict discipline was the rule. Hard work and long hours in study of the Bible kept the body and soul strong, was the opinion.

John's early life was one of hard work, heavy religious study, and self discipline. Six days a week he worked in the fields and at study. He was given a good education and even graduated from high school, a feat not accomplished by many in those days.

John began courting sixteen year-old Ethel White in 1903. She was the daughter of Charles White and Sarah Larrimore.

John married Mary Ethel White on March 2, 1904. Preferring the name Ethel, she was also born in Leesville, on July 11, 1887.

The wedding was a double ceremony, with John's cousin Joanna Briggs being married to William DeLozier.


John & Ethel's Wedding Day - March 2, 1904

John & Ethel Briggs are in the center.
Lester and Helen are the two outer children.
Taken in front of their restaurant - 1914

John worked as a switchboard operator for the telephone company after his marriage. Both of their children were born in Leesville. Their son, Lester Marlin, was born June 20, 1905. Their daughter Clarice Helen was born September 17, 1906.

Around 1910 John moved his family to Bates County, Missouri where they settled in Rockville and opened the J. R. Briggs Restaurant. They remained in Rockville until 1922. Sometimes during the summers of these years John, in association with a Guy Evans, would operate a concession at the Missouri State Fair.

Rockville, a very small community today, was a bit of a boom town at that time. A nearby quarry harvested sandstone which was shipped all over the nation, and it was located near the Osage River, which was a highway for freight and passengers early in the century.

John moved his family to Fort Scott, Kansas in 1922, located in Bourbon County.

They first moved into a government building on the Plaza and later rented a house, before moving to the home they lived in at 761 South Clark in 1938, where he and Ethel spent the remaining years of their lives.

Over the years, John worked for a grocery store, the Interstate Garage and the YMCA. When in full retirement he worked for neighbors: mowing lawns, as caretaker of the Goser estate, and other odd jobs until he was too old to do so.


John Briggs and Family - circa 1920/1924

John & Ethel - circa 1930

John's daughter and her four sons moved in with them when Helen's marriage finally fell apart around 1931. The boys would remain with them until they married and Helen remained after he and Ethel had passed away. John became the father figure of his grandsons and helped them grow into fine young men. He was strict with them, but fair, and if they needed it, he wouldn't hesitate to use the razor strap hanging beside the kitchen door.

John's son, Lester, married and moved to Kansas City, working there in the 1930s and 1940s. Lester and his wife eventually divorced and Lester moved back to Fort Scott. He was a strong drinker and became an alcoholic and by the 1950s was living in the Briggs household. He also remained in the house until after his parents died, and survived his sister, after which he moved into a nursing home, where he died in 1978.

In 1954, John and Ethel got together with their cousins, William and Joanna DeLozier, with whom they were originally married, and celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary by taking their vows again in a double ceremony at the Fort Baptist church in Clinton, Missouri. William and Joanna DeLozier's son, the Rev. Homer DeLozier, officiated. In addition, John and Ethel were surprised by some eighty members of their church, the Church of God, Holiness, located at 6th and Wilson, on their return with a celebration in their honor.

In 1961, Ethel was hospitalized with cancer. After a thirteen day stay, she died on November 30. Services were held on December 2 and she was laid to rest in Oak Grove Cemetery.

In 1968, John's first great great grandchild, Reschin Graham, was born, making five living generations. Two more would be born before his death.


Five Generations - 1970
Left to Right: John Briggs, Reschin Graham, Robert Graham,
Denis Graham and Helen (Briggs) Graham

John Robert Briggs died of a heart attack on February 10, 1971. He was 88 years-old. At the time, he had five grandchildren, fourteen great grandchildren and three great great grandchildren. He was laid to rest beside his wife in Oak Grave Cemetery, located north of Fort Scott.


As his first great grandchild, I remember John, or Grandad as we called him, very well. He was a tall, skinny man, who always wore a hat when he went out of doors. Every summer I would spend three or four weeks in his home, as well as over Christmas vacation and weekends throughout the year.

He was a kind, loving man and always took time to do things with his great grandchildren. He would often take me to town with him where we would stroll the streets, stopping to talk to a friend for news or just to chew the fat. On Wall Street he would buy malts, which he loved as much as I. I often worked with him mowing neighbor's yards, working in their gardens, or taking care of odd chores at the Goser home. At other times he and Great Grandma Briggs would take me fishing.

When we stayed home, we'd watch television - he loved boxing and wrestling - or he'd play marbles or checkers with me. On warm summer nights, we would sleep out on the sleeping porch, above the back porch, where I would fall asleep listening to his stories of the old days when he was a boy. And in the mornings we'd sit in the swing on the back porch and read the morning paper together.

Tears come to my eyes remembering him. He was such a wonderful man. I can't express how much I love and miss him.

Denis Graham

John's Parents


E-Mail: denis@kcnet.com

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