James Louis Briggs

James Louis Briggs
& Nancy Collins

James Louis Briggs, son of Daniel Briggs and Jane Greene, was born April 11, 1825 in what is now Rhea County, Tennessee. John Quincy Adams was president of the United States.

James grew into adolescence in the hills of Tennessee before the family moved to Missouri in 1838. Missouri had become the 24th state of the Union in 1821 and the country was still very much a wilderness area. The family settled in what became Henry County, just outside of what is known today as the town of Leesville, along Thibeaux (Tebo) Creek.

There is a mystery as to whether James was married prior to Nancy Collins or not. In all likelihood he was. He had a son, Thomas Denton, who was born January 8, 1848 three months before he married Nancy. James was nearly 23 at the time, so it is likely that he was married and that this unknown wife died in childbirth or shortly afterwards. However, it is of course possible that this son was a child by Nancy out of wedlock.

In either case, James married Nancy Collins, daughter of William J. Collins and Margaret Cybord Collins, on March 30, 1848. Nancy was born November 13, 1826 in Howard County, Missouri. This marriage produced eleven children: Sarah Elizabeth in 1849; Robert Allen in 1851; William Henry in 1853; Nathan Henry in 1854; Daniel in 1856; Margaret Jane about 1858; Tabitha Ann in 1860; James Louis in 1861; Mary Caroline in 1864; Lavina Permilia in 1864; and Fannie Briggs in 1872.

James' father was a Baptist minister and James set out to follow in his father's footsteps, as did his brother, Thomas. James and Thomas both became ordained ministers in the 1850's. The log Tebo Baptist Church, which James helped build fifteen years earlier, was replaced by a 24x40 foot frame church 1n 1855. James' father pastored the church until his death in 1863 and was replaced by William A. Gray. James, however, became its third pastor in 1869.

James pastored the church until 1871, when his brother, Thomas, took over. On October 16, 1872, a Masonic lodge, the A.F. & A.M. Leesville Lodge No. 406 was organized. Thomas became a member of this fraternity, along with other men of the church. This Masonic cult caused a division within Tebo Baptist Church in 1876.

The Masonic issue became quite heated within the church. Most of its male members were Masons and the anti-Masons withdrew from the church and formed their own. It also caused a rift between anti-Masonic James and Mason Thomas. The anti-Masons, led by James, met in the original log church for two years, when they built a new church fifty yards from the Masonic church.

James remained pastor of this church until his death in 1887, at which time the two churches united under Thomas. Freemasonry slowly died out in the church after that, until by 1930 it was only a dim memory.

James is to be credited with fighting against Masonry and its mystic, anti-Bible practices. He opposed it until his death on November 26, 1887. James' wife, Nancy, had died August 16, 1884. Both are buried in Leesville on the family homestead. James had been a wealthy man. The 1870 census shows his property to have been valued at $45,000, a considerable amount for the time. Most property in the area was valued at $300 to $800. By today's standards, he would have been a millionaire. Another indication of his wealth is that all his children attended school. Most schools of the time were based on subscription, or tuition, and many families had to decide which of their children would attend school and whether they could afford the full term or not. Only the wealthy could afford to send all their children to school for full terms.

In a side-note, Jennie Briggs Sheek, grandaughter of James and Nancy, donated the ground on which the present Tebo Baptist Church now stands, and which was occupied in April 1970.

Also see the story on Tebo Baptist Church.

James' Parents

Nancy's Parents

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