Updated: Apr 28, 2021
The youngest child of Rev. Jabez Chickering and his wife Hannah Balch Chickering (See June 6, 2020, post), Hannah Chickering was born in August of 1802. The granddaughter of Rev. Thomas Balch, Hannah was educated at a school run by the clergyman, Joseph Emerson, in Saugus. There she met Zilpah P. Grant (later Banister), an American educator and early promoter of women’s education; she founded the Ipswich Female Seminary in 1828. Grant often visited Hannah Chickering and after Chickering married, she and her husband kept a room in their home ever ready for a visit from Miss Grant. Zilpah Grant introduced Hannah Chickering to Mary Lyon, a well-known educator who founded Mount Holyoke College.
In 1820, at the age of 18, Hannah Chickering married Dr. John Kingsbury Briggs (1794-1843). The youngest of twelve children, Briggs was born in Halifax (Plymouth County), Massachusetts, studied medicine under the tutelage of several practicing physicians and received his MD from Brown University in 1820. Hannah and John Briggs settled in South Dedham where he built a large home and office at the corner of what today is Washington and Winter Streets.
(The house later became the nucleus of George F. Willett’s original Civic Association complex. The 2020 site of Norwood Hospital.)
Briggs was reputed to be a worthy and successful physician for more than 20 years. The couple had 4 children: John, Richard, Francis, and Mary.
Richard (1829-1893) became a successful merchant with a China-trade importing house in Boston. Francis Chickering Briggs (1831-1908), their youngest son, was born in South Dedham in 1831, and educated at Phillips-Andover Academy. He worked with his brother, Richard, for several years, before moving to Hampton, Virginia to become the business agent of the Hampton Institute. Founded in 1868, Hampton Institute was chartered to train African Americans (many of them former slaves) as tradesmen, agricultural workers, and elementary school teachers, who would, in turn, educate other black children throughout the South. A decade later the school expanded its mission to admit Native Americans. Francis Briggs worked at Hampton for 29 years.
Mary Balch Briggs, the youngest child of Hannah Chickering Briggs and Dr. John K. Briggs, left a position at Wheaton Seminary in Norton to join her brother at Hampton as a teacher. In 1905, Fred Holland Day, an acquaintance of the family, visited Hampton and took photographs of Francis and Mary Briggs as well as students at the Institute.
In 1843, when Francis and Mary Briggs were still teenagers, Dr. John Briggs died of tuberculosis at the age of 49. In 1847, Hannah Chickering Briggs married Samuel Fletcher (1785-1858). An 1810 graduate of Dartmouth College, Fletcher practiced law in New Hampshire. Eventually, he and Hannah settled in Concord, Massachusetts, where Fletcher died in 1858. Twice widowed, Hannah Chickering Briggs Fletcher returned to South Dedham where she died in 1876, four years after Norwood was incorporated.