A native of St. Louis, Missouri, John Riggin was described as one of the city’s “high rollers.” As a young man, Riggin operated a successful real estate business and was a member of the “Cyclone Club,” the first organized baseball team in St. Louis. In 1861 he volunteered for service in the Civil War becoming a major and aide-de-camp for Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant by December of that year. Grant referred to Riggin as “military superintendent of telegraphs within this department.” Riggin served in this post through 1863. On March 13, 1865, he received a promotion to brevet brigadier general for “gallant and meritorious services during the war.”
Post war, Riggin took up business in New Orleans where he met his future bride, Fannie Lamb. Fannie was a widow from a prominent South Carolina family. Both her brother and father served as officers in the Confederate Army. After marrying, Riggin relocated to St. Louis, but in 1874 moved to Florida due to a bronchial problem related to a war injury.
John Riggin was part of one of the most infamous stories from Manatee County’s history. In 1884, a group known as the Sara Sota Vigilance Committee killed Harrison Riley and Charles Abbe in broad daylight. Their deaths soon became national news. Riggin rode out as part of the Sherriff’s posse to apprehend the killers. He arrived with Sherriff A. S. Watson not long after the murder took place and testified during the proceedings that followed as to what he witnessed at the scene. In all, three men were given the death penalty and several others were given life in prison for the crime. Soon afterwards, Riggin’s health began to decline. In the summer of 1886 he died and was interred at the old Manatee Burying Ground. His wife Fannie is said to have been buried next to her husband in 1930 but there is no marker to offer confirmation.
General John Riggin,1860-1870, Courtesy of Library of Congress
John Riggin - Grave #83
All images taken by MVHP staff in 2022 unless otherwise noted.