Bigger Head was born in Highland County, Ohio on October 12, 1812 to parents William and Mary (Elder) Head. According to the Head family genealogy, William and Mary were cousins and together they had fourteen children, with ten of them living to adulthood. Bigger was the second son named Bigger – the first died at the age of eight months in 1807.
I came across this family while researching a friend’s Head family line. I found multiple instances of the “Bigger” forename or middle name. First of all, I’ve never heard of anyone with the first name of “Bigger” so that alone was intriguing. Where did that come from?
I discovered that the name began to be used when William Head married Anne Bigger, the daughter of Colonel John Bigger. So perhaps to honor the “Bigger” surname they decided to name their son (born in 1698) “Bigger Head”. He was the fourth great-grandfather of the subject of today’s article (if my calculations are correct). What became confusing is that sometimes brothers would name one of their sons “Bigger” meaning there could be multiple “Biggers” around grandpa and grandma’s table!
According to The History of McDonough County, Illinois, Bigger I was born in Wales and immigrated to Pennsylvania. This differs from the Head genealogy I referenced above, which seems to indicate that Bigger I’s father William was already in America when Bigger I was born. Not really an important detail to quibble over for this article, however. I’ll just call today’s subject “Bigger” and never mind which number he is!
Bigger’s parents met in Kentucky, married and then removed to Ohio. Bigger was one of four children who later migrated to McDonough County, Illinois. Bigger married Mary Lucas in Ohio on June 28, 1835. To their marriage were born eleven children: Harriet, Lucretia Ellen, James, Mary Catherine, Maria, Renick Richard S., Jennie, Columbia Alta, Augustus Newton, John and Hettie. At the time The History of McDonough County, Illinois was published in 1885, five of their children were deceased.
After first settling in McDonough County, Bigger owned three quarter sections and retained 340 acres when he and his family moved to the Mound Township in 1876 where he purchased an additional 160 acres. In 1885, Renick, Maria and Hettie still lived in McDonough County and Bigger owned a total of 504 acres.
A school was established on the edge of the Mound Township in 1837. During the winter of 1838, Bigger taught the school that season. Bigger and Mary joined the Methodist Episcopal Church around 1840 and were faithful members. According to The History of McDonough County, Illinois, Bigger served in various offices in the church for over forty years. It appears that Bigger also had a “big heart”:
Mr. Head has assisted largely in building six churches. He is always a liberal subscriber to things of that character. He hewed the timber for three churches, while a resident of Ohio. He has always been ready to extend a helping hand to those in need, and when any one has the misfortune to lose his home by fire or other similar incident, Mr. Head always gives liberally.
In 1860 the value of Bigger’s real estate was $25,000. so he was no doubt prosperous. He had been blessed and gave generously to help others. It is unusual to be able to view 1890 census records as most were destroyed by fire. However, a fragment of that year’s census remains for Bigger and Mary. Bigger’s sister, Mariah who was 74 years old at the time, was either visiting or living with them.
By 1900 Bigger had retired from farming, living in the village of Bardolph which was located in the Macomb township. At the time of that year’s census he was 87 years old and Mary was 84. Their daughter Hettie and her family were enumerated in the same household, either living there or visiting. On February 17, 1905, Mary died just five months and ten days before her ninetieth birthday.
In 1910 Bigger was living with his daughter Marie Winter and his son-in-law Wilson in Bardolph. Bigger lived another two years, passing way at the age of 99 – just four months and eleven days short of his one hundredth birthday. He is buried in the Bardolph Cemetery alongside Mary.
Nancy Bigger Head
Bigger John Head
Thomas Bigger Head
Benjamin Bigger Head
William Bigger Head
Bigger Head nicknamed “Round Head”
One of the Bigger Heads married Lucy Sarah Livers (another unusual surname!)
Ireland Head – not Bigger but an interesting first name
Bigger Head of McDonough County, Illinois appears to be one of the last of a long line with that name, however. His was the only Head grave I could locate at Find-A-Grave with the “Bigger” forename. While researching this article I came across some interesting names with the “Bigger” surname, so next week I think I’ll tackle “Lycurgus Dinsmore Bigger” – stay tuned!
Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!