McLallen House
The Biggs Family
Original owners of 30 McLallen Street
Melissa I. Pratt Biggs
1826-1910
Joseph Hunt Biggs
1827-1877
Hermann Michael Biggs
1859-1923

Joseph Hunt Biggs was born in Lodi, Seneca County, New York, and in his youth clerked at a variety of businesses, including a dry-goods store.  In 1848 at age 21 he took off on a 'wanderjahr' with his friend from Trumansburg, William McLallen.  They went as far west as Aurora, Illinois, by way of Chicago.  In Aurora they examined the local dry-goods trade, bought a horse and cart, and rode back to upstate New York.  Biggs then set up a partnership with McLallen and opened a book and dry-goods store in Trumansburg in 1849.  The dry-goods portion of the business was successful (the books were returned to the wholesaler) and by the early 1850s Biggs was an eligible bachelor.

When Joseph Biggs married Melissa Pratt of Covert in 1854 he had a business, but apparently no home suitable for raising a family.   His father-in-law, Chauncey Pratt, a successful businessman, built the house at 30 McLallen Street for his daughter and her new husband in late 1855.  In January 1856 the deed was transferred to the name of Melissa Biggs.  It seems to have been a common practice in the 19th century to place the deed in the wife's name.  It insured that she at least had some property in the event of a husband's early death, if not money.

Later that year their first son, Chauncey, was born and an addition on the east side of the house, consisting of two large rooms, one over the other, was added soon after.  On September 29, 1859 a second son, Hermann, was born.  Joseph Biggs died when his sons were 21 and 18 years old and both quit school to take over the running of the family business for a short time.  Apparently after insuring that their mother would be provided for, Hermann and Chauncey continued their own lives, attending Cornell and receiving medical training.

herman and chauncey

Hermann and Chauncey Biggs

While Chauncy Biggs remained in the Trumansburg area (eventually moving to California), Hermann went to Europe after graduation from Cornell to study the nascent 'germ theory' in the laboratories of Pasteur in France and Koch in Germany.  He returned to the United States and set up a practice in New York City.  He was soon, however, evangelizing for the cause of public health, campaigning persuasively for recognition of the role of microbes as the cause of epidemics.  He concentrated, in particular, on tuberculosis.  Biggs was an important Progressive Era voice in public health and was responsible for putting the germ theory to practical use in public policy.

Hermann Biggs (center left) with William Gorgas (center right) at the Rochester meeting of the American Public Health Association, September 1915
Like his father before him, Hermann Biggs was physically frail.  His dedication to the cause of public health taxed his own health and at the age of 63 he contracted pneumonia and died after a short illness.  His funeral was held in New York City, but he is buried in Grove Cemetery in Trumansburg, next to his parents.
Reference
C.-E. A. Winslow, The Life of Hermann M. Biggs, M.D., D.Sc., LL.D.
Philadelphia (Lea & Febiger), 1929
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:: McLallen House :: 30 McLallen Street :: Trumansburg, New York  14886 ::

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