Sunday, March 9, 2014

52 Ancestory Week 10: Thomas Briggs and the Twice Buried Leg

Thomas Briggs is my 3x Great Grandfather.  Lucky for me - he was a prolific writer, and prominent in Utah history - so there is a lot written by and about him.  One of my favorite stores started as old family lore and was so outrageous that it seemed unbelievable.   Then - I found it in one of the books written about him as well.

Thomas Briggs had issues with one of his legs since he was a small child - perhaps even since birth.    His condition is described as a "withered limb" which had stopped growing and was very painful.   His parents had consulted many physicians, but nothing was able to help.

In 1848 the Briggs family was living in Hull, England.  That year, yet another doctor was consulted about Thomas' withered limb.  The diagnosis was that nothing could be done and the child would not live much longer.

In reading about Thomas Briggs, I learned that faith healing is something that he believed in strongly.  The first mention of healing by faith in his life - was his withered limb.      The Briggs family joined the Mormon church earlier in 1848.  The story goes that upon hearing the doctors prognosis that year he decided to pray for healing, and asked that the Mormon Elders join him in prayer, and if his prayer was not answered, resign himself to death.

The Briggs home was the meeting place for many Mormon meetings, and the next time the elders convened in the Briggs home, a special prayer was said for Thomas.    The next morning, he awoke and his withered leg (his left) was the same length as his right leg, and within a few weeks was equally strong.

There are many other stories of healing by faith in his writings, but my story is about his leg.   The next time we hear about the leg is in 1855.   By this time Thomas and his family had left England for Utah.  While they arrived in America as expected, it took several years before Thomas made his way from Missouri to Utah.    In 1855 Thomas was married and living in Missouri.  He fell and hurt his leg.  Initially thought to be a minor injury, the leg quickly became infected and he almost died.   In 1856 he had a relapse of the infection in his leg and was was once again declared on deaths doorstep.   He declared to his wife that he had a vision telling him that he would live in the mountains and build a large house, and not to worry.     

Thomas, now living in Bountiful, Utah, re-injured his leg in 1885 and was once again told that he would die.   Once again he reported a vision.  This time the vision directed him to have his leg removed.    He asked his son to take him to Salt Lake City, and on December 15, 1885 had his leg removed.   He had his whole leg removed and was left with only a 6 inch stump.    Once again - nobody expected him to live - but he did.

Thomas had arranged to have his leg buried in the cemetery.    For months after his leg was removed, Thomas experienced severe discomfort in the missing leg.  In particular from the foot.    Thomas convinced his sons to exhume his leg.  While he sons were out digging up his leg, he experienced some discomfort and then the remaining part of his leg turned ice cold.  Thomas reported to his wife that he knew that his sons had just removed the leg from the box.      The sons straighted out the leg, uncurled the toes, and then wrapped it carefully in cotton and placed the leg in a larger box, allowing it to be in a more "comfortable" position, and then re-buried the leg.    From that point on, Thomas no longer experienced any discomfort.

Precious Memories, Sixteenth Book of the Faith Promoting Series.  George C Lambert, 1914, Salt Lake City Utah

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