Sepia Saturday: Little Mr. and Mrs. Biggs
In one of my first Sepia Saturday posts, I wrote about my paternal grandparents Acy and Cassie Biggs. Acy (above, around 1949) was the eldest son of his nearly dozen siblings but was paralyzed in a farming accident when he was in his 30s and was confined to a wheel chair for the remainder of his life. Like many families struggling through the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma, most of his siblings and his parents -- John and Mattie Biggs below on their wedding day in 1888 -- migrated to California.
The two branches of the family -- the large one in southern California and the smaller branch remaining in Oklahoma -- had little connection during the 70 years after the separation began. Although I met a few of them through the years, most of their names and stories were mysteries to me.
When my mother died in 2004, I got an email from a second cousin who said that he had been building a family website chronicling the history and that he wanted to connect the Oklahoma and California branches. I was the living bridge, a member of the Oklahoma branch who had been living in California for ten years. Slowly, I have had the chance to meet more and more of the California cousins and have learned first hand stories and histories that had been vague memories and legends up to then.
The cousin who contacted me, Mike, has the diligence of a reporter, reaching out to many long disconnected family members, and the site he built is quite detailed and organized. One of the most interesting tidbits is that although I am a bit over six foot two, I am the exception to my namesake, and my great grandfather John stood just under five feet, often referred to as "Little Mr. Biggs". I've since had the chance to visit the neighborhood in Torrance where the family settled. Ironically, one of my closest friend's family settle just a few blocks down the street, having migrated there in the 1940s from China.