MILES RIGGS, son of Joseph Riggs (perhaps by Joseph's known wife Sarah), was born circa 1705 in New Jersey; fell overboard from and drowned in New York Harbor while his sloop was docked during a gale on Christmas Eve 1753. His body was presumably never recovered, and his burial place, if any, is unknown. Miles, a sailor, married on 26 June 1735 in Norwalk, Fairfield County, Connecticut, to ELIZABETH WHITNEY, born 1717 in Norwalk, Connecticut, died Aug. 1815 in Norfolk, Litchfield County, Connecticut, daughter of Joseph and Hannah Whitney. The marriage of Miles and Elizabeth, along with the births of their first four children, are recorded in Rev. Elijah B. Huntington's Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths of Stamford Families (Stamford, 1797). Miles died without a will, and his estate was administered on 1 Jan. 1754 in Newark, New Jersey -- his widow Elizabeth and his younger siblings Joseph, Daniel, and Sarah are named in the legal records pertaining to the disposition of his estate, and the first item in the inventory of Miles' estate is "one Boat With all the furniture" with a value of 48 pounds.
Numerous wild tales and spurious traditions about Miles Riggs have been very popular among his descendants. For example, The Whitney Family of Connecticut (1878), by S. Whitney Phoenix, says:
"[Miles'] grandson, Miles Riggs, had an old manuscript book, in which was recorded the fact that 'he was of Irish extraction, born in the Isle of Wight, 7 June 1687; followed the sea till late in life; then settled at Norwalk, Conn., where his son Miles was born 20 May 1748.' Unfortunately, this book fell into the hands of a woman who had no love for 'old things,' and she burned it, within a few years past."
This story is not particularly credible, and it seems very convenient that this precious old manuscript cannot be examined on account of its having been burned by an unnamed woman. But even if this manuscript actually existed at some point, the traditions it allegedly related about Miles' Irish extraction and birth on the Isle of Wight are demonstrably false. Miles was born in New Jersey, not on the Isle of Wight, and he could not have been born in 1687 when his own father Joseph was only 12 years old. John H. Wallace's Genealogy of the Riggs Family has more to say about the spurious Miles Riggs tradition, and also gives valuable details about his life and how he came to his death:
"From several causes the descendants of Miles seem to have believed he was the progenitor of all bearing the Riggs name in this country, and the wild and improbable stories told of his origin and early history have had an astonishingly wide circulation in all the different branches of the Riggs family. The story that I met with most frequently when I commenced this compilation, and often from very intelligent people, was to the effect that Miles was not only the progenitor of all the tribe, but that Riggs was not his name. That he was picked up in some foreign port and taken as a cabin boy on a ship, and he was so fond and successful in playing tricks and 'running rigs' on everybody about the ship, that the sailors named him 'Rigs,' and hence the supposed patronymic of the whole tribe. Now the truth is that Miles was born in Newark, and his paternal ancestors had lived there through three generations before he was born. He was a sailor, but it is not known that he ever was in a foreign port. By the merest accident I discovered in the New York Historical Society the date and circumstances of his death. He lived in Newark with his wife Elizabeth and a houseful of children, and he owned and ran a sloop for the purpose of carrying freight between New York and Newark. He was in New York on the night of December 24, 1753, and a heavy gale springing up, he left his lodging about midnight and went to look after the safety of his vessel in Peck's slip, where she was lying. By some misstep he fell overboard and was drowned. He died intestate, and his brother Joseph administered on the estate. The names of other brothers and sisters, as well as that of his wife Elizabeth, appear in the settlement of his affairs. His sloop was his chief possession in the line of personal property. His widow returned to Connecticut with her family, and in 1759 married David Rockwell."
A deed in the Norwalk land records, dated 5 Aug. 1754, states that "Elizabeth Wriggs, widow, of Norwalk" joined her Whitney brothers and sisters in conveying land at the upper end of Clapboard Hills, to Ebenezer Benedict. Elizabeth later remarried in 1759 to ENSIGN DAVID ROCKWELL, and lived with him at Ridgebury, in Ridgefield, where he died 30 May 1788. Elizabeth then married a third time circa 1791 to AGUR FAIRCHILD, who died in 1797. She then went to live with her youngest daughter, Esther (Riggs) Rockwell, in Ridgebury, until she was 94 years old, when she went to live with her son Miles Riggs in Norfolk, Connecticut. There she died at the age of 98.
The children of Miles and Elizabeth (Whitney) Riggs were:
-- JOSIAH RIGGS, born 18 May 1736, md. Experience Davis.
-- JOSEPH RIGGS, born 18 May 1738.
-- SARAH RIGGS, born 22 Oct. 1740.
-- ELIZABETH RIGGS, born 17 Dec. 1742, md. Mr. Stewart.
-- MARY [POLLY] RIGGS, born circa 1744, md. Ephraim Kimberly.
-- MILES RIGGS, born 20 May 1748, m1. Martha (Patty) Bull, m2 Abigail (Cowles) Mills.
-- PRUDENCE RIGGS, born circa 1750, m1. Samuel Northrop, m2. Mr. Leason.
-- ESTHER RIGGS, born Nov. 1752, md. Abraham Rockwell, her second cousin.
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