by Tim Auld
20th of June 2010
I have to say at the start, I'm mainly a stamp collector rather than a cover collector, but being a resident of Hastings, Minnesota I got excited when I saw this cover. Addressed to Miss LeDuc in 1898 in care of Mr Herman L. Riggs of Palmyra, NY, it just needed to be investigated. The LeDuc family was the cornerstone of the Hastings community for over 100 years.
Hastings was platted in 1853 by Henry H. Sibley, dividing the town between himself, Alexis and Henry Bailly and Alexander Faribault. Legend has it that the four men drew lots to decide on the name for the town and Sibley's middle name “Hastings” won out. In August of 1854 William Gates LeDuc (born 3/29/1823) bought Faribault's quarter share for $4,000 starting the LeDuc interest in the town.
William Gates LeDuc married Mary Elizabeth Bronson in 1851 and they had four children: Mary Elizabeth (1852), Florence Gray (1855), William Bronson (1857) and Alice Sumner (1868). The cover in question was most likely addressed to Miss Florence LeDuc as Mary Elizabeth married Vincent Gardner in April 1873 and so in 1898 would not have been eligible for being addressed as “Miss Le Duc”. It is possible that the cover could have been addressed to Miss Alice LeDuc, but in those days the elder unmarried daughter was given the “Miss” title as in Miss LeDuc. Alice would have been addressed as Miss Alice LeDuc.
The connection with Herman L. Riggs is an interesting one. Palmyra is located in upper New York State, near Rochester. From 1870 to 1872 Mary Elizabeth attended Wells College in Aurora, NY which isn't too far from Palmyra, NY. In 1873 Florence followed Mary Elizabeth to Wells College but had to withdraw in 1874 due to financial problems that William was having at the time. So the question for me was, what was the connection between the LeDuc's and Herman L. Riggs. There was obviously a geographical connection but I wanted to know of a more direct connection which I believe that I found through Stephen Return Riggs.
William Gate LeDuc was born in and grew up around Wilkesville, Ohio. The Riggs family lived in Steubenville, Ohio. Stephen Return Riggs (born 3/23/1812) was a relative of Herman L. Riggs. Stephen was a minister in the Presbyterian Church and worked extensively with the Sioux Indians in Minnesota for most of his life. We know that William LeDuc had dealings with Stephen Riggs as they were both recorded as being present at the signing of the 1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux with the Sioux (Dakota) tribes. I believe that William LeDuc built a relationship with Stephen Riggs through their dealings over many year, so that when William's daughters started going to school at Wells College in Aurora, NY, William made contact with Herman L. Riggs via his friend Stephen asking for Herman to keep an eye on his daughters seeing as Herman lived fairly close to Aurora where the girls were studying. So it seems quite reasonable that Florence LeDuc returned to Palmyra in 1898 to visit with Herman L. Riggs and his wife Margaret Turner Sexton.
Florence LeDuc in Washington 1878
Just an interesting side note, in researching the connection between the Riggs family and the LeDuc family, I discovered using Google searches that there has been a long and extensive connection between the LeDuc's and the Sexton's over the last 100 years.