Born on May 24, 1810 in New Rochester, Massachusetts, Dr. Caleb Briggs was the son of Caleb (b. December 28, 1769) and Deliverance “Delia” Burge Burgess (b. March 25, 1772) Briggs. Although little is known of Briggs’s early life, we do know he was educated as a physician, but he often worked as a geologist.
Dr. Caleb Briggs is given credit for being one of the people to recognize the possibilities in the Hanging Rock Iron Region. He assisted Professor W.W. Mather, the state geologist, in surveying Lawrence County as well as other areas in the Hanging Rock Iron Region. In June of 1837, Briggs explored Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson, Lawrence and Scioto Counties. After his exploration, he returned to his home in Massachusetts.
However, Dr. Briggs did not stay away long. In 1848, he returned to the area to invest in the Hanging Rock Iron Region. John Campbell, the founder of Ironton, talked him into remaining in the area. While in the area, he signed an agreement to buy land for Ironton. He also suggested that Ironton become the ending for the Iron Railway instead of Hanging Rock. He became a stockholder in the Ohio Iron and Coal Company and director of the Iron Railroad Company. In 1850, he contributed $10.00 to start a pioneer school in Ironton.
The founding of Briggs Lawrence County Public Library
Briggs said farewell in 1867 to Southern Ohio, but his largest legacy lives on. In 1881, Caleb donated $25,000 by way of a trust deed for a public library in Ironton. He did stipulate that a building could not be built until the fund reached $80,000. The library was originally located on the second floor of Memorial Hall. Unfortunately in 1905, the building burned and most of the volumes were lost.
Not to be defeated by a mere fire, Briggs Free Public Library reopened in February 1910. The library was started with a fund of $67,000. Miss Winifred Morton was the librarian. The building housed 4,000 volumes.
In 1920, Mrs. Harriet “Hattie” Burr willed her home to the library. This is the first permanent residence of Briggs Library. The building was located on the corner of Sixth and Jefferson Street. This location was the home of the library until 1960.