Edward Biggings - My Great Great Grandfather

Synopsis of Edward Biggings’ life. Written by his Granddaughter, Irene Hockridge Biggings. Irene is the daughter of Edward & Eliza’s son, John Cornelius Biggings.

Special Thanks to Donalma Shoust for sharing so many articles, photos, letterhead, etc., collected through the years 💕

“1830 – November 4, Born in a city (maybe Truro) Cornwall, England. The last of his line having had seven uncles killed in the French wars. 

1854 – Left England, arrived in Montreal. Left there after a short stay, for Oshawa, Toronto and Bowmanville. 

1859 – April 27th. Married Elizabeth (Eliza) Ann Hockridge of Plymouth, Devon, England, in Oshawa.

This Marriage certificate says that he was born in Ireland...

This 1861 Census says Edward was born in Ireland. Documentation afterwards states he was born in England.

Edward is 28, Eliza is 20 & Robert William was born Feb 27, 1860 – 1 Years old 

April 27, 1861 – John Cornelius was born in Bowmanville

1862 – Edward, Eliza, Robert & John move to Bruce Mines.

1866 – Served as Clerk of the Court for Judge (Col.) Prince in Bruce Mines. This same year his name appears in the Processor’s Book as having served a summons Oct 31, 1866 in Sault Ste Marie. Also another entry Aug 19, 1867. 

Edward Biggings Medal

While in Bruce Mines, they had 5 children ~ Aug 27, 1862 – Catherine (Charlotte Lottie), Nov 8, 1863 – Emily, Aug 7, 1865 – Samuel Edward, Mar 24, 1867 – William Edward and Feb 18, 1869 – Julius Charles. 

1869 – Moved his family from Bruce Mines to Sault Ste Marie — Occupied the residential quarters of the new 1866 gaol. He served as “Gaioler” “Governor of the Gaol”. He held this position until 1884.

Sault Ste Marie Jail & Courthouse

1871 Census shows that Robert Hartley was the Turnkey and also occupied the Residences at the Sault Ste Marie Jail & Courthouse. (This building was replaced with the Courthouse that stands today.)

1870 – Superintendent of the Methodist Sunday School.

1871- Member of the first school Board; was sometimes chairman and quite often Secretary Treasurer. He remains on this board until at least 1884. In 1887 Mr. Falkner was Treasurer.

1872 – Dec 24, was presented with a large pulpit and family bible by the Sunday School. All through the following years he acted as a lay preacher in Sault Ste Marie and the surrounding townships.

1875 – Friday Jan 8 (possibly Jan 1) presented his newspaper the “Algoma Pioneer and General District Advertiser” to the public. There is a copy No. 2 Vol. 1 in the Centennial Library and we assume the January 1st copy No. 1 Vol. 1 was given away as an advertisement. This was the usual procedure in the newspaper world. 

Algoma Pioneer Edward Biggings

(1885 – Edward Biggings and William H Plummer were founders of the Masonic Lodge in Sault Ste Marie)

"The Pride of the District " A letter written on the Algoma Pioneer Letterhead. Written by Edward Biggings (Editor and Proprietor), on April 22, 1891, addressed to Sir John MacDonald, the Premier of Canada.

Algoma Pioneer Letterhead

April 21, 1876 – Birth of son, Frank Adams, shows Edward’s occupation as “Gaioler” 

1877 – Built a larger home for the family on the north east corner of Biggings Ave. and Queen St. He still held the office of Governor of the Gaol and Clerk of the Court of Division. 

Edward and Eliza’s house (photo from a negative) on the corner of Front Street (Queen Street) and Bigging’s Lane. It faced the river. The foundation was ruined in 1900 when Edward tried to upgrade the plumbing. (It was demoed years later.)

Edward Biggings House

1885 – Edward had given up the office of Governor of the Gaol and was established in a large real estate business in preparation for the boom that would come with the building of the Canadian pacific Railway and its great international Bridge and its completion in 1887.

1888 – Jan 1, 1888 to Dec 31- 1889 he was Mayor of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.

1889 – As Mayor he turned the first sod for the Water Power Plant. This was needed especially in preparation for the building of the Sault Ste Marie Ship Canal.

Edward Biggings Turning Sod

Photo titled “Laying the Last Stone” 1893 (We believe Edward is 4th from the right)

The Last Stone for Soo Locks

1895 – Saw the completion of these great projects.

1897 – Again Mayor from Jan 1, 1897 to Dec. 31st 1898.

1898 – Was instrumental and very persistent in the founding of the General Hospital, the corner stone of which he laid.

1898 - Mayor Edward Biggings laid the first cornerstone for the General Hospital

Sault ste Marie General Hospital

1900 – The death of his youngest son Albert (age 18), the tragedy of Philip’s drowning (age 21), and in 1901, the sale of the newspaper and the home, the renovation of 118 Biggings Ave., intended to be their new home, all took their toll of his fading strength and on

1903 – July 11th he passed away aged 72 years and 8 months.

A public funeral service was held in the new Methodist Church on the corner of Spring & Albert. 

During his life in Sault Ste Marie, 1867 to 1903, he saw many great changes. Just across the St. Mary’s River, in Sault Ste Marie Michigan; the building of the Weitzel Lock 1881 and the demolition of the old 1855 Harvey Lock replaced by the Poe Lock 1896.

He saw the shipping industry develop from side-wheelers and sailing-ships to propellor driven, luxurious passenger boats and iron ore-carriers. It was a marvellous and interesting time. 

Further away from home, there was the Diamond Jubilee of queen Victoria and its emphasis on the might and influence of the Great British Empire.

From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:

Did you know that one of the narrowest streets in the city was named after Edward Biggings, a former mayor and businessman? Who was he and why did a street get named after him? 

Edward Biggings was born in Cornwall, England and his story is typical of many of the early immigrants who made their way from England to Canada to make a new life for themselves. 

During the mid-1800s, England was facing problems caused by overpopulation and high unemployment. This situation left very little opportunity for many in England to be able to build careers and support themselves. Newspapers in England were filled with advertisements about the abundance of land and the opportunities available in Canada and encouraging people to move to Canada. Of course, some of these articles may have built up expectations a little too high so that when people arrived they found things were more primitive than what they had been accustomed to in England. 

Edward Biggings had lost seven uncles in the wars between Britain and France, so he was the last one left in his family line. Deciding to embark on a new adventure, he left Cornwall in 1854 when he was just 24 years old. 

He had a contract to work for a businessman in Montreal. While on board the ship, he struck up a friendship with a young girl named Eliza Ann Hockridge from Plymouth who was travelling to Oshawa to live with her married sister. She mentioned that her brother-in-law hired men to work for the government. When Edward arrived in Montreal, he discovered that the business he had been hired to work for had gone bankrupt.

With no job and no other friends in Canada, Edward decided to travel to Oshawa to meet with Eliza’s brother-in-law. 

Through this contact, he was offered a job in Toronto and continued his friendship with Eliza and her family. Eliza and Edward married in April, 1859 and moved to Bowmanville where he had been transferred for his job. Although he now had a job, he was frustrated by the lack of opportunity for advancement in southern Ontario so he moved to the north, settling in Bruce Mines, which was a thriving mining town at this time. 

Eliza found conditions in this mining town very primitive, compared to southern Ontario. After a number of disasters struck Bruce Mines and the mines located there, Edward Biggings moved his family to Sault Ste. Marie in 1869. They found life to be much more comfortable in their new home. Upon arrival in Sault Ste. Marie, Edward and Eliza moved into the residential quarters of the new ‘goal’ and he assumed the role of Governor of the Goal. They also joined the Methodist church and became active members of the congregation. 

By 1877, Edward and Eliza wanted to have a home of their own, so Edward bought a piece of land on the northeast corner of Carney’s Lane and built the first house on this lane for his family, which included 13 children. This lane would later be re-named Biggings Avenue. Edward and Eliza suffered losses in their personal lives with a daughter and four sons dying before reaching adulthood. 

In 1855, Edward started a real estate business which was quite successful and he operated this business until he sold it in 1903. The coming of the Canadian Pacific Railway created a building boom in Sault Ste. Marie and Edward was able to capitalize on this as new people began moving into the area.

Edward entered the world of politics in 1888, when he was elected and served as Mayor with a term beginning in 1889. Elections were held each year so he held this office for just one year before being voted out. In 1897, he was elected to the office of Mayor once again and took up leadership of the town in 1898 once again. 

During his first term in office, Mayor Biggings supported a couple of contentious issues. The first was a bylaw that would prohibit cattle from wandering unrestrained throughout the city streets. A delegation of residents had come to City Council to complain about the ‘debris’ that was left on their streets by the wandering cows. The owners of these cows strongly opposed this bylaw. 

The second was a request for a $15,000 debenture to build a new high school in the town. There was significant opposition to this proposed plan and a public meeting was held on August 27, 1889.  The Secretary of the School Board led a delegation that appeared before Council to take a stand against this proposition. It took a number of years before the town eventually had their high school built and the cost ended up coming in at a much higher price. 

It was felt that these were two of the main reasons that he was voted out of office the first time, after just one year.  The town solicitor, Henry C. Hamilton was voted in as mayor for the following year.  

Edward was not one to accept failure. He was described as a progressive thinker and “he had to fight all of his life to improve conditions in Sault Ste. Marie because the people were never as quick to see the advantages of his ideas.”  

He had one goal that he wanted to achieve for the people of Sault Ste. Marie and, although he was voted out of office after his first year, he continued to advocate for the establishment of a permanent hospital for the townspeople. Up to this point, medical care was paid for out of the indigent fund administered by City Council. Therefore, during the next decade he visited Toronto and Ottawa, served on hospital committees and met with senior government officials to try and persuade them of the need for a permanent hospital to be established here in Sault Ste. Marie. 

When he was elected as mayor once again in 1897, all of his hard work paid off and he was relieved to be able to officially lay the first stone of the permanent building that would become the General Hospital. 

On April 16, 1885, a newspaper was started called The Algoma Pioneer.  On the deed for the building housing the printing press, Edward Biggings is listed as the Editor and he continued in this role for 27 years. Although the population was still fairly small, Edward supplied jobs for the young boys in town to deliver the paper to homes and he wrote most of the content himself. When the Sault Star started publishing in 1901, The Pioneer was unable to compete and it shut down production soon after. 

It is fortunate that Edward Biggings didn’t accept his first political defeat and simply walk away from politics. His desire to see the city grow in size and strength meant that he continued to advocate for improvements to be made, including a permanent hospital building erected for the residents of Sault Ste. Marie.

Edward passed away in 1903 at the age of 72 years but his wife Eliza lived for many more years after his death, passing away in 1928. 

Family Birth & Death dates

Edward Russell Biggings  – Born in either England or Ireland on November 4, 1830. Died on July 11, 1903, In Sault Ste Marie

Eliza Ann Hockridge – Born in Kilkhampton, England on Oct 11, 1840. Died on June 22, 1928 in Tacoma, Washington

Married in Oshawa, on April 27, 1859

Robert William Biggings – Born in Bowmanville, on February 27, 1860. Died on Jan 22, 1935 in Ramsey County, Minnesota

My Great Grandfather – John Cornelius Biggings – Born in Bowmanville on April 27, 1861. Died on April 29, 1937 in Sault Ste Marie

Charlotte Biggings – Born in Bruce Mines on Aug 27, 1862. Died on Aug 5, 1935 in Tacoma, Washington. 

Emily Biggings – Born in Bruce Mines on Nov 8, 1863. Died on Apr21, 1879 in Sault Ste Marie.

Samuel Biggings – Born in Bruce Mines on Aug 7, 1865. Died Nov 20, 1951 in Sault Ste Marie.

William Edward Biggings – Born in Bruce Mines on Mar 24, 1867. Died on Dec 31, 1909 in Medford, Oregon.

Julius Charles Biggings – Born in Bruce Mines on Feb 18, 1869. Died Sept 29, 1941 in Sault Ste Marie.

Mark Henry Biggings – Born in Sault Ste Marie, on Apr 21, 1871. Died Oct 14, 1930 in Tacoma, Washington.

Jane Elcoat (Daisy) Biggings – Born in Sault Ste Marie on July 27, 1873. Died Jan 23, 1949 in Tacoma, Washington.

Frank Adams Biggings – Born in Sault Ste Marie on Apr 21, 1875. Died August 4, 1876 in Sault Ste Marie.

James Biggings – Born in Sault Ste Marie on Apr 9, 1877. Died Sept 9, 1883 in Sault Ste Marie.

Philip Hockridge Biggings – Born in Sault Ste Marie on Feb 1, 1880. Died July 15, 1901, in Sault Ste Marie.

Albert Thomas Biggings – Born in Sault Ste Marie on Apr 18, 1882. Died May 20, 1900 in Sault Ste Marie.

Some info on Edward & Eliza's Children -

My Great Grandparents, John Cornelius Biggings & his wife, Bessie Todd lived on 50 Wellington Street West, SSM. They had 3 Children – My Grandmother Meta, Irene & Cornelius.

Julius Biggings & his wife, Minnie Delayer lived at 137 Biggings Ave. They had 4 Children – Alma, Russell, Verne & Edna.

Samuel Biggings lived at 66 Wemyss Street with wife, Lillian Gibson & thier Children, Emily, Eva, Hilda & Edward.

Irene rented an apartment there, and mailed something to herself from Oriek California in 1949.

Philip Hockridge Biggings Drowns on July 15, 1901 

Their Granddaughter, Irene Biggings takes a 9,000 Mile Trip with 120 Ontarian School Teachers in 1949