Helen Briggs

Clarice Helen Briggs

Helen with father - 1908

Clarice Helen Briggs hated her first name and always went by Helen. She was born September 17, 1906 in Leesville, Henry County, Missouri. She was the daughter and second child of John Robert Briggs and Mary Ethel White. Her brother, Lester, had been born June 20, 1905.

Helen was born the same year as the Great San Francisco earthquake. Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was president. Leesville, where she was born, was a small farming community that had in part been founded by her ancestors on the Missouri frontier some seventy years earlier.

When she was five, the British passenger ship Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Two years later, the Panama Canal was officially opened and the "Great War", World War I, broke out in Europe.

The family had moved from Leesville to Rockville, in Bates County, Missouri, around 1910, where her parents opened a restaurant.

Helen performed chores at the restaurant and in the large vegetable garden her mother always planted.

Their home was in the town, yet they still had milk cows, chickens, pigs and a horse for their buggy. Rockville was a bit of a boom town at the time because of its nearby rock quarry.

The family lived in Rockville nearly twelve years before they moved to Fort Scott, Kansas in 1922.

By comparison, Fort Scott was a big town to the adolescent Helen.

A romantic young lady, Helen was undoubtedly inspired by the stars of the silverscreen of that time, such stars as Greta Garbo, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Rudolph Valentino who were so popular during the 1920's.

Helen (far right) with Lester at back - 1914

Although coming from a very religious background and being religious herself, Helen became enraptured by a young man the family had taken in as a boarder in early 1924. Louis Orville Graham had come to Fort Scott from Pittsburg, Kansas and the Briggs' had rented him a room. He was handsome and persuasive, and Helen was a young girl filled with dreams of love and romance. They often found themselves alone in the house. When Helen discovered she was pregnant Louis agreed to marry her. They were married in a civil ceremony on December 15, 1924.

Their son, Kenneth Lee, was born April 15, 1925. Although Helen was very much in love with her husband, Louis was not as enraptured. Louis worked in the coal fields around Fort Scott, and while at first Helen traveled with him, they separated several times over the course of their marriage. However, three more sons came their way. Robert Alford Graham was born December 29, 1926 in Arma, a small town south of Fort Scott. Harold Keith was born in Fort Scott on August 28, 1929. Billy Joe was also born in Fort Scott, on November 8, 1931. However, when Helen became pregnant with her fourth son, she and Louis separated for the last time, with Louis demanding a divorce. Although it's not known when that divorce came, it was taken care of sometime between the birth of Billy Joe and Louis' marriage to Nell Gust in January 1936.

Helen and Sons - 1945
Left to right: Billy, Harold, Helen, Robert and Kenneth

Even before the divorce Helen and her sons had been living with her parents. In 1938 the whole family moved into the home at 761 South Clark that would remain the Briggs' and Helen's home the remainder of their lives. Sadly, the house has since burned down.

It wasn't long before Helen was working for the Fort Scott Tribune, the town's newspaper, and would remain there over twenty years.

When World War II came, Helen was fearful her sons might get caught up in it. Her oldest, Kenneth, however, wasn't accepted for medical reasons. Robert was later drafted by the army, while Harold joined the Navy. Neither saw combat service. And, of course, Billy was too young. She felt very fortunate. She knew too many others that had lost sons during the war.

All of her sons were married by 1954 and it wasn't long afterward that she left the Tribune. She lived in Kansas City for awhile with her son Robert and his family. She was working for a company in Overland Park, but after a year or two, she returned to Fort Scott.

Back in Fort Scott, Helen began working for the Western Insurance company, where she remained for fifteen years before being forced into retirement.

Although she did date over the years since her divorce, it was very rarely. She always kept alive the hope that Louis would one day return to her. However, she was not morbid over that hope. Her life revolved around her family. Her mother had died in 1961, but her father lived until 1971, and her brother, Lester, had lived in the home for many years and survived her. She was also very close to her sons and thirteen grandchildren, and had many friends. She also had her hobbies. She was always kinting, cooking, crocheting, or finding some other craft to make something she enjoyed.

Helen died at the age of 69 on February 20, 1976. She was layed to rest on the 23rd in Evergreen Cemetery.

Helen - 1973

Helen's Father

Helen's Mother

E-Mail: [email protected]

Return to Briggs Ancestry

Return to Senzo Home Page